Friday, August 08, 2014

Smartwatch pioneer Meta returns with a premium alternative to Pebble


Back in the days when Pebble just made a BlackBerry accessory called the inPulse, the biggest name in wearables was MetaWatch, the smartwatch firm that spun out of Fossil. After a few years of seeing other people's devices hog the limelight, the company has shortened its name and is now ready to make a comeback. The Meta M1, designed by Nokia and Vertu legend Frank Nuovo is launching this September, but pre-orders for the unit are opening today. It's the same piece of hardware that we saw back at CES but -- unsurprisingly for a company with a background in watchmaking -- with a wider variety of cases and straps for fashion-conscious consumers including rose gold. For instance, the base model comes with a natural black rubber band, setting you back $250, but those with fancier-pants can slam down $450 for an all s tainless steel variant. Either way, we're looking forward to getting this piece of gear in for review.

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Acer C720 review (Core i3): a more powerful Chromebook


Acer C720 review (Core i3): Chromebooks just got a little more powerful

Whether rightly or wrongly, Chromebooks have earned a reputation for being the new netbooks. Slowly, though, things are starting to change. The designs are starting to feel less cheap -- at least if you're Samsung. Battery life is getting longer, sometimes even better than on full-fledged laptops. And now, performance is getting stronger, too: Acer just became the first company to release a Chromebook with a Core i3 processor, one that can better withstand multitasking, gaming and whatever rich websites you're likely to visit. The C720, as it's called, is actually the same 11-inch Chromebook Acer's already been selling, just with a beefier CPU inside, and theoretically longer battery life -- 8.5 hours, up from 7.5. As ever, though, Acer kept the price down: This guy starts at just $350, just a little more than what you'd pay for a much lower-powered system from some other brands. The question is: Does processing power trump everything else? And if it does, are you better off waiting for other Core i3 models to come out?


I'm sure Acer will eventually redesign the C720 from the ground up, but for now, it's clear the company's main priority is to improve the performance -- and be the first with a Core i3 Chromebook. For now, then, the C720 is as compact, plain-looking and -- I hate to say it -- netbook-like, as it always was. The entire thing is made of plastic, with a rough-feeling bottom edge and a palm rest that flexes when you grip it. The keys are made of scratchy plastic, too, and the underlying panel will bend a bit if you type vigorously enough. And indeed, you might well need to start pounding the keyboard: The buttons are so shallow that if you hit them too gently, you're likely to suffer some missed key presses. There were instances when I had to type my long Google password as many as three times before I could successfully log in; unless you type everything slowly and deliberately, the keyboard probably won't recognize every single keystroke.

On the inside, the 11.6-inch display has a category-standard resolution of 1,366 x 768. Want something sharper? Tough noogies, kiddos: There currently isn't a single Chromebook this size with a sharper screen. What you might find elsewhere, perhaps, are better viewing angles. Before you settle in to stream a movie, you'll want to adjust the angle very carefully; dip the screen too far forward, and everything very quickly becomes washed out. Fortunately, viewing angles are better from the side, and it helps that the (non-touch) panel has a low-glare, matte finish. On a similar note, the sound coming from the two speakers will do in a pinch, but if ever I had a second, more full-fledged laptop lying around, I'd use that for music playback in a heartbeat.

On the plus side, the machine's smooth lid hasn't picked up scratches yet on either of the units I've been testing, and it does a relatively good job masking fingerprints, too. The trackpad also works well -- no small feat, given how often laptop makers seem to screw that up. Also, as shallow as the keyboard is, it's at least more spacious than it used to be. Remember how cramped the original C7 was? Yeah, well, it's probably good you forgot.

And now, we get to the part where I call a 2.76-pound laptop "heavy" and feel like a big jerk. And really, it's not even heavy, per se; it's just weighty compared to the competition. And slightly thicker, too. The C720 measures 0.8 inch thick, whereas rival machines from Samsung and HP weigh 2.65 and 2.26 pounds, respectively, and come in at 0.7 inch thick or less. Even the ASUS C200, which is also around 0.8 inch thick, is lighter at 2.5 pounds. That being said, none of this negates the fact that this is a compact system. It's easy to stuff inside a backpack or even a shoulder bag, and carry from room to room. You want a light machine? Boom: You've got a light machine.

You've also got the usual array of ports. On board, you'll find two USB connections (one 3.0, one 2.0), a full-sized HDMI socket, an SD card reader, a headphone jack and a standard lock slot -- a must-have for school districts planning on locking these down inside computer labs. You'll find the exact same spread on most other Chromebooks, so of all things, don't let this sway your purchasing decision.

Performance and battery life

SunSpider v1.0.2 Google Octane Mozilla Kraken
Acer C720 (Core i3-4005U, 4GB RAM) 289.4ms



Acer C720 (Celeron 2955U, 2GB RAM) 342.2ms



Dell Chromebook 11 (Celeron 2955U, 4GB RAM) 339.8ms



ASUS C200 (Celeron N2830, 2GB RAM) 482.8ms



Toshiba Chromebook (Celeron 2955U, 2GB RAM) 323.6ms



*SunSpider and Kraken: Lower scores are better.

**We regrettably didn't run enough of these tests on the Samsung Chromebook 2 when we had a unit in our possession; otherwise, we would have included it in this table.

For some time now, I've been saying Chromebook performance is good enough. Not great, but good enough. Even on the lowest-powered machines, you can get by checking email, surfing the web, working in Google Docs and streaming the occasional Netflix movie, all with a pretty low chance of a browser crash. And I still believe that. But here's the thing: Some people like to push their machines harder than I do. Some people want to play games. Others -- particularly teachers -- will be interested in interactive web apps as a kind of modern-day textbook. For those folks, "good enough" is a nebulous concept. Plus, once you've had the chance to try a Chromebook with a little more kick, you might not want to go back.

That's how I feel about the C720 with Core i3. It's still not a perfect device by any means -- Acer should really revisit that display and chintzy design -- but the performance is noticeably stronger than anything else currently on the market. Everything just feels slightly faster. It boots up a few seconds faster, and is also quicker to sign out -- a boon if you frequently let your boyfriend/girlfriend/roommate/whomever use your computer in guest mode. Browser games like Plants vs. Zombies feel a tad more responsive, and in rich websites like BioDigital Human, motions like zooming in and spinning 3D objects feel ever-so-slightly smoother. With the adventure game Assassin's Creed: Pirates, game play was a touch choppier on the Celeron-based C720. The benchmarks tell a similar story: The Core i3 model swept its competitors, but the margins were modest.

In any case, I think you get the picture: Performance here is better, but the difference isn't what I'd call dramatic. If you ripped the Core i3 machine out of my hands and told me I had to use the Celeron version, I'd carry on without suffering a huge impact in daily use. That said, if it were me shopping, and I saw a Core i3 machine for a reasonable, I'd choose that in a heartbeat.

Battery life

Acer C720 Chromebook (Intel Core i3) 7:53
ASUS C200 11:19
Dell Chromebook 11 8:37
Samsung Chromebook 2 (13-inch) 8:22
Toshiba Chromebook 8:15
Acer C720 Chromebook (Intel Celeron) 7:49
Samsung Chromebook (2012) 6:33
HP Chromebook 11 5:08
Chromebook Pixel 4:08 (WiFi)/3:34 (LTE)
HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook 3:35
Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 3:23
Acer C7 Chromebook 3:16

As you'd expect, a heavier-duty processor doesn't exactly help battery life, but if these test results are any indication, it doesn't hurt, either. With WiFi on and the display brightness set to 10 out of 16 bars, the C720 with Core i3 managed to last through seven hours and 53 minutes of continuous video playback. That's not too far off Acer's claim of 8.5 hours, and it basically matches the C720 with Intel Celeron. As for everything else on the market, most Celeron-based machines tend to cluster around the eight-hour mark, with the exception of the new ASUS C200, which somehow manages to last an insane 11 hours. Basically, then, if you go with a Core i3 Chromebook, you can expect roughly the same battery life as you'd get on a less powerful machine. Kind of a big deal, that.


Surely you've heard by now: Chrome OS is basically like using a computer with only the Chrome browser installed. That's frankly sort of true, but even so, I'd be doing you a disservice if I left it at that; Google continues to make lots of improvements to the software. In particular, many of you may be confused about how much you can do offline, without an internet connection. At this point, some three years after the first Chromebooks came out, you can use Gmail and Google Drive offline. Ditto for many third-party apps in the Chrome Web Store. As of two months ago, you can also watch Google Play Movies and TV offline, too. See? The list keeps growing, albeit at a fairly gradual rate.

Other new features include full pinch-to-zoom support (revolutionary!), improved file management and background uploading for Google+ photos. As ever, the ability to minimize and maximize windows, as well as launch apps from a desktop, makes this feel more like a "real" OS, even if it is based on the Chrome browser. If it weren't for the fact that I prefer Skype to Google Hangouts, and need certain desktop apps like Photoshop, I might actually buy a Chromebook myself. As it is, I can see owning one as a secondary computer, maybe just for travel. And hey, depending on your needs, you might actually find a Chromebook is enough for everything. To each his own.

Configuration options and the competition

There are lots of different versions of the C720, including the older, lower-powered version I keep mentioning. I still recommend that, mostly because the performance isn't that much worse, and the price is fair -- $300 with a touchscreen, $200 without. For the Core i3 model, meanwhile, there are just two configurations to choose from: one with 2GB of RAM, for $350, and another with four gigs, for $380. Other than the memory, they have the same specs -- namely, a Core i3 processor, 32GB of solid-state storage and an 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 display. Unfortunately, there aren't any Core i3 models with a touchscreen, and Acer says it currently has no plans to release one either.

The Acer C720 already stood out for being one of the most affordable Chromebooks, despite being one of the only ones to include a touchscreen option. Now it's among the first with a Core i3 processor and, yes, it's still reasonably priced. Even more important: It's the only Chromebook with that kind of horsepower that's even available right now. Dell, for instance, will sell a Core i3 version of its Chromebook 11, but it's not out yet. Ditto for Toshiba's 13-inch Chromebook, which is also being refreshed with Core i3.

Otherwise, you'll need to settle for something a little less powerful, and consider the trade-offs. These days, everyone and their mother is selling Chromebooks with Intel Celeron processors. They're less robust than Core i3 machines, obviously, but they're cheaper, and the battery life is often longer. Similar to Acer, Dell and Toshiba each sell Intel Celeron systems for around $300 (Acer's is actually $200, though). Lenovo has a bevy of offerings too ($330 to $479), some with funky, rotating screens. Ditto for HP: The company has 11- and 14-inch models on offer, for $280 and $299-plus, respectively. Meanwhile, ASUS just entered the market with the 11-inch C200 and the 13-inch C300 (both around $250). The point is: You have no shortage of options here, so long as you're willing to sacrifice a little power.

Or what about sacrificing a lot of power? The Samsung Chromebook 2 ($320-plus) has a tablet-grade chip inside, making it even lower-powered than Intel Celeron models. That said, you should still be giving it a close look. For starters, that mobile chip translates to best-in-class battery life -- over eight hours, according to our tests. This Chromebook is also the best designed, with a comfy keyboard, reliable trackpad and a fake-leather lid that makes the whole thing feel less like a netbook and more like a proper laptop. And though the 11-inch model tops out at 1,366 x 768 resolution, the 13-incher goes up to 1080p, making it one of just two 13-inch Chrome OS devices, and one of the only ones with a full HD display (I'm barely counting the ridiculously expensive Chromebook Pixel). And considering the performance is still good enough for basic tasks like web surfing, the weaker processing really needn't be a dealbreaker.

But what about Windows laptops?

"But hey," some of you are saying, "I can get a full-fledged Windows laptop for the same price." Yes, you can. Just not one that's this powerful and this portable. In my research, I mostly found 15-inch laptops at this price -- bulkier machines with Celeron processors. So, you get lots of built-in storage and the ability to install any Windows app you like (performance limitations not withstanding). It's all about your priorities. If you can do without a DVD burner and don't tend to download lots of apps or media, you might appreciate the simplicity, portability and longer battery life of a Chromebook.

Still, there are a few exceptions. Dell's 11-inch, Celeron-based Inspiron 11 brings a Yoga-like design with a lid that flips back into tablet mode. And at $400, it doesn't cost that much more than a similarly specced Celeron Chromebook, though the design is much more interesting. It's a similar story with HP. For $250, you can get the Pavilion 10z, which runs on an AMD E-series chip. Lenovo's 11.6-inch S215 is similar: It starts at $379 with an AMD E1-2100 processor. In Acer's own lineup, meanwhile, there's the 11.6-inch Aspire E3 ($250), which runs on a Celeron CPU. Most compelling of all might be ASUS' Transformer Book T100, a 10-inch tablet running full Windows that comes with a keyboard dock for $400. The performance on a Core i3 Chromebook like the C720 will naturally be superior to any of these alternatives, but there will of course be folks who need the full Windows experience. If that's you, this is the best you can do at that price, at least in this size category.


It seems I end almost every Chromebook review with the same disclaimer: They're not for everyone. And I stand by that. As I wrote the above section on Windows alternatives, I was reminded that I cannot, in good faith, recommend a Chrome OS device to everyone. There will always be people who need to do more offline, and who need the flexibility to install whatever apps they want (Skype and iTunes come to mind).

But for folks who can get by doing everything in the browser -- and using Google services like Hangout -- Chromebooks are getting cheaper, more functional and more powerful. The refreshed C720 in particular is a bit snappier than older-gen Chromebooks, thanks to a Core i3 processor, and yet the battery life doesn't really take a hit on account of that heavier-duty CPU. And despite the improved processor, it's still reasonably priced, at $350. Good luck finding a Core i3 Windows machine at this price, especially one this portable.

My main reservation in recommending this is that other PC makers are on the cusp of coming out with Core i3 Chromebooks, and in the meantime, Acer's is held back by a poor-quality display and cheap, netbook-like design. I'm curious to see what other companies have to offer -- perhaps someone else will present us with something a little more well-rounded. Even then, the price would have to be fairly low -- the performance gains here aren't so huge that laptop makers can get away with price gouging. And as the price does get higher, you'll have to work harder to justify buying a Chrome OS device instead of a Windows machine. In any case, until those other models go on sale, the C720 remains a good value. And if its performance is any indication, we should have high hopes for everybody else, too.

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You can now watch YouTube videos in 1440p on the LG G3


LG's new flagship phone, the G3, stands out for its Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) display, and the handset is taking advantage of all those pixels to offer a high-res YouTube experience. As was first reported by TalkAndroid, G3 owners can now watch YouTube videos in 1440p, a welcome bump up from the usual max resolution of 1080p. This feature reportedly comes via a recent update, and it's still in the process of rolling out to all G3 handsets. If you're currently using LG's latest flagship, let us know if you're seeing the 1440p options by commenting below. If you don't have a G3, don't despair; we're bound to see a slew of new phones sporting Quad HD screens in the months to come.

[Photo credit: Phone Arena]

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Via: Phone Arena

Source: TalkAndroid


Here's how you make your own 3D-printed virtual reality goggles


3D-printed video goggles

So you couldn't get your hands on a nice virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift, but you'd still like something a little fancier than a cardboard display. Are you out of luck? Not if Noe Ruiz has anything to say about it. He has posted instructions at Adafruit for do-it-yourself 3D-printed goggles that can be used for either VR or as a simple wearable screen. The design mates an Arduino Micro mini computer with a display, a motion sensor and lenses; the 3D printing both adds a level of polish and lets you tailor the fit to your cranium. This definitely isn't the cheapest project (about $231 in parts) or the easiest, but it will give you head-tracking VR without having to wait for Oculus, Samsung or Sony to put out finished devices of their own. If you're up to the challenge, you'll find everything you need at the source link.

[Image credit: Noe Ruiz]

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Source: Adafruit


MAP: This Is The Worst Ebola Outbreak The World Has Ever Seen


This year's Ebola outbreak in Africa is by far the worst the continent has seen since 1976, when the virus was first discovered.

The first outbreak in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo claimed 280 lives, and subsequent outbreaks saw similar numbers of cases and deaths. 

This year, however, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 961 people so far, according to the most recent numbers from the World Health Organization, with 1,779 suspected and confirmed cases. To put that into perspective, this year's outbreak accounts for about half of the total number of Ebola cases seen since 1976.

Ebola is extremely deadly, with the fatality rate as high as 90% in some outbreaks. (While the fatality rate in the current outbreak is expected to rise, it now hovers at just under 60%.)

There is no cure.

The chart below shows the history of the virus as well as the scale and reach of the current outbreak:

Ebola map Africa

As you can see in the graphic, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea — countries that hadn't previously seen Ebola outbreaks — have the most cases, and the death rate in Liberia is staggeringly high.

An Ebola outbreak isn't a real threat in the U.S., but the virus has taken hold in West African nations and a few scattered cases will likely show up in the U.S. eventually.

! Ebola is a virus that can easily be mistaken for the flu at first, but it progresses quickly, often causing excessive bleeding, organ damage, and death.

The World Health Organization is attempting to contain the disease, but so far the outbreak is outpacing its efforts.

SEE ALSO: Here's How Ebola Affects The Body

Don't miss: Our ongoing Ebola coverage

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Apple Has A Deeply Discounted Collection Of Apps To Make Your Life Easier รข Grab Them While You Still Can (AAPL)


App Store sale

Looking to be more productive?

Luckily, Apple has deeply discounted a collection of apps to help you tackle your daily tasks in a faster and more efficient way.

Some of the discounts offer up to 75% off the usual price, but it's only for a limited time. Apple doesn't specify how long these offers will last, so make sure you grab these while you still can.

From apps to help you organize your thoughts and events to an app that will instantly translate your voice, you're bound to find something to improve your life.

Research and create your family tree with "MobileFamilyTree 7"

"MobileFamilyTree 7" ($6.99) helps you create and explore your family tree with charts, reports, and integration with "FamilySearch," the world's largest genealogy archive.

Keep your writing focused and without distraction with "Writer Pro"

"Writer Pro" ($4.99) gives you the tools to concentrate on simply writing. Great features such as Syntax Control helps you discover bad writing habits and can even fade out all text but your current sentence to keep you honed in and focused.

Talk into your phone and hear another language come out with "iTranslate Voice"

"iTranslate Voice" ($1.99) truly lets you instantly speak 42 languages, making it a fantastic tool for traveling to new places.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider


Desktop-sized laser supercomputers could be coming by 2020


Small, eco-friendly optical supercomputers may soon be crunching quadrillions of calculations per second (exaflops) if a company called Optalysys has its way. It claims to be months away from demonstrating a prototype optical computer that will run at 346 gigaflops to start with -- not as fast as the best supercomputers, but pretty good for a proof-of-concept. Here's how it works: low-intensity lasers are beamed through layers of liquid crystal grids, which change the light intensity based on user inputted data. The resulting interference patterns can be used to solve mathematical equations and perform other tasks. By splitting the beam through multiple grids, the system can compute in parallel much more efficiently than standard multi-processing supercomputers (as shown in the charming Heinz Wolff-hosted video below).

It also uses very low amounts of power, with exascale-level systems capable of running for mere thousands of dollars a year, compared to millions a year for the Tinanhe-2, the current supercomputer champ. After launching the prototype system, the company plans to build two products: a "big data" optical co-processor that can work with existing supercomputers, and a standalone optical solver supercomputer. It expects the latter to launch as a product in 2017 at 9 petflops, with up to 17.1 exaflops (17,100 petaflops) by 2020. By way of contrast, the Tianhe-2 does about 34 petaflops. It all sounds pretty pie-in-the-sky at this point, but we should have a better idea of the feasibility when the prototype arrives in January.

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Via: HPC Wire

Source: Optalysys


Experts Say This Dodge Supercar Is Almost Unhackable



Chrysler got some bad news and some good news this week, as far as cybersecurity in cars is concerned.

First the bad: A research report concluded that the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is among the "most hackable" vehicles in the market.

Now the good: The 2014 Dodge Viper is among the least hackable.

You've probably seen a Cherokee or two on the highways and byways of your daily life. But chances are you haven't spotted all that many Vipers. The 640hp all-American supercar is Chrysler's answer to not just General Motors' Corvette, but to European brands such as Ferrari and Lamborghini.

According to Reuters, the authors of the study — Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek — "cautioned that since they had not actually attempted to hack the cars, the ones designated 'most hackable' might actually be quite secure," and that they "released their assessments of 'hackability' to create what they say they believe is the first general benchmarks that consumers could use to compare the cybersecurity of vehicles."

So let's say you want Chrysler's least hackable car. A 2014 Viper will set you back $102,000.


SEE ALSO: The New Dodge Viper Is Built To Be A Beast On The Track

SEE ALSO: High-Speed Video Shows How The Viper Gets Made In Detroit

Join the conversation about this story »


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Roving Robots Can Look Through Buildings Using Nothing But Wi-Fi


Roving Robots Can Look Through Buildings Using Nothing But Wi-Fi

Previously, we've seen researchers use everyday Wi-Fi signals like radar , able to detect shapes through a door or wall. Well, here's the logical next step toward the robot overthrow: Putting that tech on top of wheeled robots. You can run (okay, walk), but hiding behind a brick wall is futile.



Sony joins Samsung and LG with its first curved 4K TVs


Sony's just announced its first large, curved 4K HDTVs, but is doing things a bit differently from its competitors. The new 65- and 75-inch S90 models have less curve than Samsung or LG's offerings, because Sony says that gives better viewing angles and a more immersive experience. Otherwise, they're packed with the kind of tech you'd expect: an UltraHD Triluminos display with "X-tended dynamic range" for better blacks, active 3D, advanced 4K-to-HD upscaling and angled speakers and subwoofers with 4.2 surround sound. Sony's also baked in social viewing, live football mode for instant tweeting and photo sharing. There's still no pricing, but Samsung's curved 65-inch 4K model is $5,000, and its 78-inch model is $8,000 -- despite Sony's smaller curve, we'd expect at least that.

Update: Just for reference, in China, Sony is offering the 65-inch version for 32,999 yuan or about $5,360, and the 75-inch version for 49,999 yuan or about $8,110. Fret not, chances are these will be cheaper when they land in the US.

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Via: Pocket Lint

Source: Sony


IBM's new supercomputing chip mimics the human brain with very little power


A lot has changed in the three years since IBM first unveiled a prototype of its human brain-inspired SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) chip. That single-core prototype has now been significantly scaled up, leading to a new, production-ready SyNAPSE chip that blows past its predecessor with 1 million neurons, 256 million synapses and 4,096 neurosynaptic cores, all the while only requiring 70mW of power. Though the numbers are impressive, it's what they translate to that holds even greater prominence: the ability for devices to process various sensory data in parallel just like the human brain, by merging memory and computing.

Traditionally, faster processing has always meant greater power consumption, but IBM's new SyNAPSE chip flips that paradigm on its head. To give you some perspective of just how low-powered this supercomputing chip is, IBM's Chief Scientist Dr. Dharmendra S. Modha says it requires power equivalent to that of a battery from a hearing aid. It's an achievement that's merited IBM the cover of the journal Science; it also has the potential to drastically alter conventional approaches to computing. In fact, the new SyNAPSE chip is so disruptive to the current computing landscape that IBM's created a new programming language to go along with it and an educational outreach program called SyNAPSE University. It's no wonder why the project received $53 million in funding from DARPA.

IBM's Chief Scientist Dr. Dharmendra S. Modha says [the new SyNAPSE chip] requires power equivalent to that of a battery from a hearing aid.

IBM hasn't publicly announced any partnerships to leverage its new SyNAPSE chip yet, though discussions are surely taking place. Currently, the company's been able to build a programmable, working board with 16 of these chips working in concert -- that represents 16 million neurons capable of processing instructions that, Modha says, would traditionally be carried out by "racks and racks of conventional computers." Again, this is all done at an extremely low-powered state, which means the chips produce way less heat. It's not hard to imagine some of the immediate benefits this could bring to consumers: for instance, laptops that don't burn your lap; or even mobile phones that run for days and can process extreme amounts of environmental data.

But Modha sums up the magnitude of IBM's new SyNAPSE chip best with this simple analogy: "You can carry our board in your backpack. You can't carry four racks of conventional computers in your backpack."

[Image credit: IBM]



Tour college campuses from the couch with Google Maps Street View


The time for choosing a college to attend this fall may have long passed, but you can get a jump start on next year with Google Maps. Street View added 36 more campus tours in the US and Canada, including a look at Georgetown University's Healy Lawn that's pictured above. University of Miami and University of Regina are also included in the tally, allowing you to familiarize yourself with prospective surroundings ahead of that formal campus visit. Or if you just really fancy an academic summer vacation.

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Source: Google Maps


CHART OF THE DAY: Netflix Is Finally Becoming HBO, Like It Said It Would (NFLX)


Last January, Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the company’s “goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” Well, mission accomplished. According to the latest data provided by the company, which was charted for us by Statista, Netflix has finally passed HBO in subscriber revenue ($1.146 billion vs. $1.141 billion).

Netflix says it has 48 million total paid subscribers, with the vast majority of those customers — 35.1 million, to be exact — in the U.S. HBO actually has more paid subscribers than Netflix with 127 million worldwide, but that figure also includes various channels owned by the company, including HBO 2, HBO Family, and Cinemax.

20140807 BI_HBO_Netflix

SEE ALSO: CHART OF THE DAY: The Worst Company Data Breaches Ever

Join the conversation about this story »


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The FBI uses malware to combat online anonymity


CE53N2 Hacker using laptop. Lots of digits on the computer screen.  Stealing; Thief; Identity; Laptop; Hacker; Computer; Securit

Online anonymity is a beautiful, terrible thing, so naturally governments and law enforcement types are eager to see what happens behind the web's closed doors. Naturally, that includes the folks at the FBI: According to Wired, the FBI has been using "network investigative techniques" -- like highly specific, purpose-built malware -- to help peel back popular anonymizing service Tor's layers of obscurity to catch criminals.

The bureau's efforts began in earnest with an involved child pornography investigation dubbed Operation Torpedo back in 2012. They eventually lucked out by gaining access to a CP site called Pedoboard, arresting the operator, taking over the servers, and delivering malware to visitors who thought they were protected by Tor.

There's no denying that some good has come from the bureau's use of malware, as Wired's Kevin Poulsen points out that more than 12 child porn aficionados are headed to trial as a result. The flip side of that coin is that the FBI's success with Operation Torpedo led to another effort to bypass the anonymity that Tor provides... and possibly exposed some innocent people's information to the FBI's eager eyes. With a little Javascript, understanding of Firefox and Tor security issues and a "tiny" Windows program, users of some Tor-hidden services like Tormail (hosted by an outfit called Freedom Hosting, which itself was being investigated for "tolerating" child porn) essentially had their IP addresses unmasked.


Source: Wired


This is why Facebook bought WhatsApp for $16 billion: because its throughput of shared photographs i


This is why Facebook bought WhatsApp for $16 billion : because its throughput of shared photographs is astronomical, and rising at an insane rate. (See also, the purchase of Instagram and the crazy offer for Snapchat .) [KPCB]



13 European Dream Homes You Can Actually Rent


13 European Dream Homes You Can Actually Rent

It's no secret that Europe is full of magical places. However, you're probably never going to stay in Windsor Castle or sleep in Rapunzel's tower. You might, however, enjoy a similar brush with a fairy tale thanks to this architecture-loving travel agency in Germany.



Visual microphone can pick up speech from a bag of potato chips


MIT's visual microphone snoops on a bag of potato chips

You may want to be careful about the conversations you hold in the future; if you're near a window, someone might be listening in. A team of researchers from Adobe, Microsoft and MIT have developed a visual microphone algorithm that picks up audio by looking for microscopic vibrations in video footage. The technique exploits the rolling shutter effect in digital cameras (where the sensor reads pixels one row at a time) to detect sound-related movements that might otherwise be invisible; the only gear you need is a camera that can record at high frame rates. It's good enough to capture singing from a bag of potato chips, and musical tones from a potted plant.

Don't worry about optical eavesdropping just yet. The experiment only got accurate reproduction with specialized cameras that shoot at up to 6,000 frames per second; an off-the-shelf device with 60fps recording can identify people's voices, but it's hard to make out words. Provided the technology reaches fruition, it would most likely be used by investigators that want to hear what suspects say when they're not on the phone. It would be useful for more than surveillance, too, as team member Abe Davis believes the visual mic could identify a material's properties without making contact. It's definitely clever tech -- let's just hope that it's used more for science than snooping.

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Source: MIT (1), (2)


Xiaomi, not Samsung, makes China's smartphone of choice


Xiaomi Mi3

Xiaomi has been a significant contender in the phone world for a while, but it's now safe to say that the Chinese device maker has joined the big leagues. Canalys estimates that Xiaomi shipped more smartphones than Samsung in China during the second quarter of the year, making it the top vendor in its home country. Simply put, Xiaomi is a champ at making cheap yet desirable handsets -- its budget Redmi series has done a lot to boost sales, and even range-topping devices like the Mi3 (and now Mi4) are much more affordable than alternatives from the likes of Apple and Samsung.

The surge might have even been enough to make Xiaomi one of the biggest phone builders on the global stage. While IDC's data still doesn't include Xiaomi in the top five, Strategy Analytics believes that the company jumped into fourth place ahead of LG. Whichever study is on the mark, the data makes it easier to understand why Samsung's profit took such a big hit in the spring -- the Korean firm is up against at least one Chinese rival that's firing on all cylinders.

Smartphone market share in China during Q2

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Via: Wall Street Journal

Source: Canalys