Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gmail will start blocking JavaScript attachments in February


If you want to email a .js file to somebody for any reason, you only have a few more days to do so through Gmail. The service will start blocking JavaScript file attachments starting on February 13th, adding it to its list of restricted file types, which includes .exe, .msc and .bat. If you try to attach a .js file on or after the 13th, you'll get a notification that says it's blocked "because its content presents a potential security issue."

JavaScript files aren't inherently bad, but people could attach them to emails so that when you click on one, it acts as a downloader for a ransomware or other types of malware. Gmail can detect .js files even if they're sent as a .zip, a .tgz, a .gz or a .bz2. In case you really have to send one to a friend or a co-worker, the big G recommends uploading it to Google Drive instead.

Source: G Suite updates


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Japan Display battles Samsung's OLED with curved LCD screens


One of Apple's main screen suppliers, Japan Display Inc. (JDI), has revealed a 5.5-inch LCD smartphone screen that can be bent like OLED displays from Samsung and LG. While not quite as flexible and thin as OLED, the "Full Active Flex" 1080p screen could be used in phones with curved screens like the Galaxy S7 Edge, the company told the Wall Street Journal. LCD is a lot cheaper than OLED, so you could see a lot more curved phone designs when it starts manufacturing the panels in 2018.

Since LCD displays usually have a glass backing, it's been difficult to curve them until now. Japan Display got around that issue by using plastic for both side of the liquid crystal layer. That allows not only a flexible screen, but could also help "prevent cracking from occurring when the display is dropped," the company said. It also hopes to adapt the screens for other products, including car displays and laptops.

Japan Display also told the WSJ that it has launch customers for the screens, though it wouldn't say whether Apple or any other company was among those. Rumors of an OLED iPhone have been bubbling up recently, but some analysts think that all the OLED suppliers combined couldn't meet Apple's needs until at least 2018. If Cook and company decided to try curved screens, however, the LCD models from JDI now give them a future option besides OLED.

Source: Japan Display


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How an animated-GIF camera morphed into a nascent chip empire


Not many computers can thank GIFs for their existence. In 2013, Dave Rauchwerk worked on a San Francisco art installation that allowed people to record and project a GIF of themselves onto a building. It was popular and led to Rauchwerk joining with two friends to start a hardware company called Next Thing Co. Their aim? To create a camera that can capture GIFs for $100.

After a long stay in China with the HAX Accelerator, Next Thing Co. launched OTTO, a $250 "hackable GIF camera" in 2014. It was the first product to integrate Raspberry Pi's Compute Module, and generated a lot of interest. Keen mathematicians may have noted the discrepancy in the intended and actual price -- $250 is many more dollars than $100 -- and the public did, too.

"We had as many articles written about it as we did products sold," said Rauchwerk. "That turns out to be a really impressive number of articles and a really unimpressive number of units. About 400." People wanted it, it seemed, but not for $250. "We always had this dream that distributors and retailers would call us and want it in stores," he continued. They did call, but when it became clear that OTTO was being sold for cost, interest quickly dried up.

Next Thing Co

Next Thing Co. had a problem, and it wasn't unique. Any hardware startup will face the same struggle: How do you build a computer with storage, battery power, charging, WiFi, an operating system and web services without spending a fortune? In 2014, there was no clear answer. "It was sort of akin to building a web service in 1996," Rauchwerk said. "You had to build the web server and the infrastructure before you could even think about building your product." Modern-day developers have access to a vast library of tools that make building out a web service far easier.

The cost of building a product should be around a third of its retail price. That meant, in order to build the OTTO at $100, the bill of parts and assembly should have been around $33. That left, by Rauchwerk's estimate, $10 for the computer inside. The Raspberry Pi Compute Stick was, and even in its latest iteration remains, a $30 computer. With no clear option available, Next Thing Co., in startup parlance, "pivoted," resolving to find a solution to building cheaper computers. "We'd seen those $50 Android tablets that were around a few years ago," Rauchwerk said, "and we wondered why we couldn't we take those parts, throw away the bits we don't need and build a $10 computer?"

The company making those parts was AllWinner Technology, and the relationship between Next Thing Co. and the chip company led to C.H.I.P., a $9 computer that raised $2 million on Kickstarter. C.H.I.P. essentially took an old processor, worked out how to make it support mainline Linux (i.e., the latest version) and added it to a PCB with some extras.

Including the Kickstarter orders, Next Thing Co. has sold over 100,000 C.H.I.P. computers. But despite this success, the company still hadn't reached its goal. People were building prototypes, sure, but when it came to actually turning those early designs into products, there was no path forward. "People started saying, 'Well, I have a couple of these, but I want 10,000 of them, or even more, I want 50,000 or 100,000 of them and I want to put them in my product,'" Rauchwerk said.

The original C.H.I.P. may have been perfect for tinkering, but it wasn't ideal for consumer products. And so Next Thing Co. built C.H.I.P. Pro, which solves pretty much all of the issues the original has. It's 72 percent smaller, it's optimized for mass production, even supporting robot placement on assembly lines, it's reliability tested and it's FCC-certified. C.H.I.P. Pro costs $16 and can be built at that price in quantities from one to a million. Rauchwerk claims there's no upper limit on the number Next Thing Co. can produce, adding that you can go from prototype to product in 60 days.

Next Thing Co.'s computer offers a mediocre level of power compared to the chips inside a smartphone or tablet, but that's not really a problem. The chip powering it is called the GR8, a custom system-in-package (SIP) containing a 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor with ARM's NEON architecture extension, 256MB or 512MB of high-speed RAM and a Mali-400 GPU. According to Rauchwerk, it's "quite a bit faster, in application, on a single-core basis than a Raspberry Pi." It's also, depending on the software, able to sip power frugally. Rauchwerk said that people have used C.H.I.P. Pro to build devices that only need charging once a year.

Next Thing Co

In addition to selling the complete package in the form of C.H.I.P. Pro, Next Thing Co. is also offering the GR8 separately. It can be integrated into products that don't need the extras on the Pro's circuit board. All you really need to turn the GR8 into a functional computer is storage and power, so if a product calls for a different WiFi module, power supply or more storage than the Pro offers, you can design your own circuit board and add the GR8 chip to it for just $6 per unit. "The really fun thing," Rauchwerk said, "is that you can start your product on C.H.I.P. Pro and switch to GR8 and not really have to change the software. They run the same chip and they're software-compatible."

Both C.H.I.P. Pro and GR8 can be flashed with a user or company's software inside the factory. "This sounds like a little detail, but in practice, this is one of the most time-consuming parts of building a device," Rauchwerk said. "If you order 10,000 modules then you'd have to spend 20 minutes putting the software on each one." This service is available for orders of more than 1,000, putting it within the reach of those considering smaller hardware projects.

Support for mainline Linux was useful for C.H.I.P., but it's way more important for Pro and GR8. You probably heard about Mirai -- a botnet made of over 100,000 Internet of Things (IoT) devices that briefly brought the internet to its knees last year. Mirai, and botnets like it, exist because millions of devices are connected to the internet using software with huge flaws. Running mainline Linux doesn't magically make a device secure, of course, but there are internet-connected cameras, DVRs and other IoT devices that are running versions of Linux that are several years old. This makes them much more vulnerable than an up-to-date device.

Next Thing Co. also has cloud-based tools for security and device management that are in the hands of early partners but aren't yet publicly available. This suite of software is intended to take make pushing security and feature updates to devices simple for companies. "We want people to focus on building their products, not working on how to keep them secure," Rauchwerk said. "Leave that up to the experts."

One thing that sets C.H.I.P. Pro and GR8 apart from other chips on the market is the lack of a nondisclosure agreement. While the Raspberry Pi Foundation is an extremely open organization, the company that supplies its SoCs, Broadcom, is not. There are NDAs in place to prevent Pi from making Broadcom's system architecture public, making it harder to develop for. In contrast, the GR8 is open-source hardware -- you can even look through Next Thing Co.'s GR8 architecture document on Github.


With C.H.I.P. Pro and GR8, companies and individuals can take a prototype based on C.H.I.P., Raspberry Pi or any microcomputer, and quickly turn out a product that can be sold at scale. Rauchwerk said "thousands of companies" are doing just that, but he can talk about only a couple of products: TRNTBL and Outernet. TRNTBL is a smart turntable that can identify songs and stream vinyl to wireless speakers, using C.H.I.P. Pro as its foundation. Outernet is a kind of wireless library. It downloads data from Khan Academy, Wikipedia and others via satellite link, and creates a WiFi hotspot so people without an internet connection can still access some of the knowledge on the web.

In addition to enabling companies to build products, Next Thing Co. is also building its own. Its first since announcing the C.H.I.P. Pro is a $49 voice assistant for use in a car, called "Dashbot," which is powered by the GR8. The developer kit for C.H.I.P. Pro comes with a pair of MicroElectrical-Mechanical System (MEMS) microphones on the board to help people prototype voice-based interactions. "We're seeing people use it with [Amazon] Alexa voice service and different APIs to build AI-connected devices at a price that's never been seen." You can think of Dashbot as almost a call-to-arms for companies looking to build low-cost voice assistants.

Next Thing Co. is working with everyone from tinkerers building projects in their garages all the way up to "brands with products you can find at Best Buy," and hardware will start hitting shelves this year. Becoming a chip giant is a far cry from Next Thing Co.'s original mission to build an animated GIF camera. Rauchwerk said that, if he wanted to, he could now sell the OTTO camera for substantially less than $99.

As if to prove a point, at CES earlier this month the company brought along a functional prototype OTTO with a C.H.I.P. Pro debug board inside. There doesn't seem to be much of an interest in moving forward with that product anytime soon, but who knows? Maybe the dream of an animated GIF camera isn't dead yet.

Image credits: Next Thing Co (OTTO camera); Richard Reininger (C.H.I.P. Pro images); VNYL (TRNTBL).


Agencies should start doing F.R.A.U.D today!

No, in seriousness, this is NOT about "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em"

Dear Agency Media Buyers,

Would you rather your clients call me up to do measurement to help explain a problem they detected or an anomaly related to ad fraud in their media? Or would you rather get out in front of that and double check it for yourselves, before that inevitable call happens? I have the privilege of working with two good media agencies that genuinely care about their clients' investments and are already way out in front of the latest attacks and advanced bots. But, still, they are the exception rather than the rule.


Monday, January 23, 2017

ASUS' Raspberry Pi rival can play 4K video


Homebrew-friendly boards like the Raspberry Pi are great for do-it-yourself projects, but they seldom have the oomph needed to handle intensive tasks. That's where ASUS hopes to do better -- it quietly released its own device, the appropriately named Tinker Board. It's almost the same size as the Pi, but its quad-core Rockchip processor has the power to play 4K video and 24-bit audio. This might be your ideal hardware if you're building your own mini media center.

The board touts other perks you don't usually see on these boards, including 2GB of RAM (twice as much as the Pi), gigabit Ethernet and the latest generation of SDIO for add-on boards.

ASUS' hardware is not surprisingly more expensive than its rival at about £55 ($68). However, the bigger question is software. Like the Raspberry Pi, the Tinker Board runs on a variant of Debian Linux and supports Kodi for around-the-home media streaming. As Liliputing notes, though, ASUS doesn't have the Pi's years of developer support and fandom behind it -- you can accomplish more, but you won't have as much help getting started.

Via: Hexus, Liliputing

Source: CPC


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Burner's virtual phone lines add automatic robocall blocking


When it debuted in 2012, Burner's virtual phone number app promised to help privacy-minded folks shield their private digits with temporary phone numbers while adding a few useful cloud-based integrations at the same time. Today, Burner announced a new integration with Nomorobo -- the winner of the FTC's Robocall Challenge -- to eliminate another major phone-related headache: Rachel from Card Services.

The Burner and Nomorobo partnership adds the latter's call-blocking features and "massive" blacklist of known telemarketers to prevent those calls from ever reaching your phone. (Or, in this case, your temporary Burner number.) Incoming calls are checked against Nomorobo's database and then automatically screened. Although you can blissfully ignore those calls if you like, the Burner app places them in a "Filtered Calls" section of your call history so you can review them later. Incorrectly filtered calls can be whitelisted and moved to the Inbox just like checking your email spam folder.

Burner users with a Premium $4.99 monthly subscription can add Nomorobo's services to their account simply by updating to the latest version of the app. Nomorobo will be enabled by default in both the iOS and Android versions.

Source: Burner


Zotac's tiny gaming PC is powerful enough to play in VR


A major obstacle currently facing VR is the fact that the headsets themselves (generally) have to remain tethered to a bulky desktop tower. With the new Zbox Magnus EN1070K from Zotac, however, that tower is now barely bigger than a Mac Mini.

The EN1070K is part of Zotac's gaming line of ultra-compact PCs, but don't let its miniscule footprint fool you. It offers the current Intel Kaby Lake Core i5 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 GPU and can accommodate up to 32GB of RAM. That's more than enough processing power to run a VR setup such as the Oculus Rift.

There's no word yet on when the EN1070K will be released, or for how much. Given that the last generation E-series cost around $1,500, you can pretty safely bet the new one will retail for roughly the same, depending on the specific components you elect for. So even though it may be small enough to fit into a VR backpack, the EN1070K's price tag may be too big to fit into your budget.

Via: The Verge

Source: AnandTech


Raspberry Pi gives its PC-on-a-stick a big speed boost


Raspberry Pi has taken its latest computing board and squished it onto the stick-sized Compute Module 3, giving it about ten times the power of the original Compute Module. Unlike the Raspberry Pi 3 upon which it's based, however, the device is built for industrial applications, prototypers and advanced hobbyists, not students or casual users. It can now play that part a lot better, thanks to a 1.2GHz Broadcom processor, 1GB of RAM (double that of the original) and upgradeable storage.

Raspberry Pi points out that NEC used the device in its latest signage and presentation monitors (below), giving you an idea as to the intended market. It fits into a standard DDR2 SODIMM form factor, making it easy to find inexpensive sockets from several manufacturers. Developers will also want the Compute Module IO Board, giving you Pi-like pin and flexi connectors, MicroSD, HDMI and USB "so that you have an entire system that can boot Raspbian (or the OS of your choice)," the organization wrote.

The idea with the Compute Module is "to provide the 'team in a garage' with easy access to the same technology as the big guys," Raspberry Pi wrote. As such, manufacturers can add it into a dumb device to make it smart, since it can single-handedly do processing, memory and routing chores. At the same time, it should be relatively easy to program for anyone with some Pi experience.

The Compute Module 3 with upgradeable MicroSD storage runs $30 (£27), but if you're fine with 4GB of fixed flash memory, you can go for a $25 (£22) "Lite" module. The IO board is sold separately for £96 (around $116) or together with the Compute Module 3 for £126 (about $143). For details on how to get it in the UK, US and elsewhere, hit Raspberry Pi's announcement post.

Via: PC World

Source: Raspberry Pi


Saturday, January 07, 2017

I Am Lusting Over Sony's New Paper-Thin E Ink Watch


Despite the added functionality that manufacturers keep trying to cram inside them, watches have always been, and will always be, a fashion accessory first. And that’s why we’re lusting over this new concept E Ink watch from Sony that can instantly change its design, but is also thinner than a credit card.



Thursday, January 05, 2017

Intel just announced a perfect way to upgrade smart gadgets


If you really think about it, "smart" devices today can also count as computers. They have processors, memory and other hardware similar to what you'd find in a PC. But the problem with embedding computing hardware in devices like TVs and refrigerators is that they'll quickly grow obsolete. Simply put: to get a faster TV, you have to buy a whole new TV.

Intel is hoping to change that with Compute Card, a new platform for credit card-sized modular computers that can easily be swapped in and out of smart devices. The idea is that when new Compute Card hardware is available, you should be able to just plug it into your TV or refrigerator. They include Intel SOCs (system on chips), memory, storage and networking capabilities.

"Device makers simply design a standard Intel Compute Card slot into their device and then utilize the best Intel Compute Card for their performance and price needs," the company wrote. "This reduces the time and resources needed to design and validate the compute block and helps speed up innovation to bring the power of intelligence into an ever wider range of devices."

Given just how powerful mobile hardware is becoming, and the ongoing problem of smart devices becoming obsolete, it makes sense for Intel to pursue the Compute Card. It's also teamed up with the likes of Dell, HP, Lenovo and Sharp to develop the platform, and its early hardware partners include Seneca Data, Infocus and others.

Source: Intel


Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Intel gives its NUC mini-PCs new processors, new ports and a new design


When you're looking for a tiny desktop, Intel's NUC computers are something of a standard. These bare-bone PCs have made a name for themselves as affordable, reasonably powerful and adorably small. Now they're even better: Intel is gifting its line of tiny computers with new seventh-generation desktop CPUs, a fresh design and Thunderbolt 3 ports.

All told, Intel is introducing five new NUC models: two using the new Core i3 desktop CPUs, two with Core i5 processors and a single machine with a Core i7. There are also two different case sizes: a larger version that supports 2.5-inch SATA storage devices, and a shorter enclosure designed for PCI Express SSDs. It's a little confusing, but at least they all look the same, sharing the same dark finish.

Intel's NUCs are, by definition, compact. But they offer plenty of connectivity too. Each model boasts four USB 3.0 ports, as well as connections for Ethernet, HDMI and audio, not to mention a microSD card reader and a Thunderbolt 3.0 capable USB-C socket. Not bad. Now if only Intel would tell us how much they'll cost.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

Source: ArsTechnica


Monday, January 02, 2017

LG's latest 4K TVs deliver better color through 'nano cells'


If your TV line already has 4K, HDR and all the other buzzwords that promise top-tier image quality, what do you do next? For LG, the answer is simple: make sure everyone sees those colors. It just unveiled its Super UHD TV line for 2017, and all three models (the SJ8000, SJ8500 and SJ9500) revolve around Nano Cell LCDs whose uniformly-sized particles promise more accurate and consistent colors, even when you're watching from an off-center position. The technology absorbs excess light wavelengths, preventing unwanted color bleeding (such as from green to blue or yellow), fading and other effects that reduce the vibrancy of the picture.

The company is even going so far as to partner with Technicolor in a bid to improve accuracy through both a special Technicolor Expert Mode and support for Advanced HDR. When combined with Dolby Vision, HDR10 and Hybrid Log Gamma support, you shouldn't have to worry about whether or not you're getting the most faithful colors.

LG is also promising a more sophisticated approach to high dynamic range imagery regardless of the format. All of the Nano Cell sets tout an Active HDR feature that inserts HDR data into specific areas in each frame -- you don't need to worry about what kind of HDR data is included in the raw material. An HDR Effect feature, meanwhile, punches up the quality of standard images.

The webOS software on the new TVs isn't a revolution, but it still promises to make your life easier compared to last year's models. A Magic Link button on the remote both gives you quicker access to favorite material (such as Amazon and Netflix) and details about what you're watching, such as the actors. You can watch 360-degree VR material if you plug in a computer or phone through USB, and it's easier to zoom into a scene to see something you'd otherwise miss.

You aren't getting many details about the lineup at this stage, alas, but it's evident that the SJ9500 is the darling of the bunch with a frame that's just 0.27 inches thick at its slimmest point. The big question: what are Samsung, Sony and other heavyweights doing this year? While Nano Cell, Active HDR and other perks may help, it'd likely be wise to wait for LG's rivals to show their cards before you commit to buying a set.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

Source: LG Newsroom


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Google's Jamboard is a 4K digital whiteboard for collaboration


It's hard to recall today, but being able to edit a document at the same time as others was a transformative feature for Google's suite of online office apps. That feature debuted a decade ago, though; these days, it's something most of us take probably take for granted. And as useful as real-time collaboration is in Docs and Sheets, it's not as organic as throwing ideas up on a physical whiteboard. So, in a bid to evolve the way we work once again, Google is unveiling Jamboard, a cloud-connected digital whiteboard that lets teams collaborate together no matter where they are.

At its core, Jamboard is basically just a 55-inch 4K display that you can use like a typical digital whiteboard. You can sketch out your ideas with a stylus for a small conference room full of coworkers. But what makes it quintessentially a Google product is its cloud connectivity. Whatever you draw on the device -- which the company calls your "jam" -- gets saved to your Drive folder automatically. You can pull in content from the web or other Google apps to buoy your ideas.

Most importantly, there are multiple ways for colleagues to collaborate on your work in real-time. Remote teams can use their own Jamboards to tune and contribute to your sessions as if they were right next to you. You can also pipe your jam to a Hangouts call, allowing you to potentially broadcast it to the world. And there are companion apps for Android and iOS that allow colleagues anywhere in the world to follow along. If you have an iPad or Android tablet, you'll be able to take advantage of all of the editing tools available to Jamboard devices. Phone collaborators, on the other hand, will be able to see everything going on and input data. (You can also pipe your jams to the web, but there's no online editor yet.)

The Jamboard itself basically looks like an oversized Nexus 10, right down to the thick bezels and the webcam above the screen. There's a small tray at the bottom for the passive stylus and eraser, right below the downward firing speakers. You can mount it to a wall, just like any other flatscreen TV, or you could opt for the stand that sits atop four large caster wheels, which makes it easy to move about your office. There are USB and HDMI ports along the side of the Jamboard (yes, you can use it as a standard 4K display), along with volume controls and an input select button right behind the bottom-right corner.

In many ways, Jamboard is a physical extension of Google's office suite. But it's also a way for the company to promote freeform brainstorming without tying users to specific apps. "From the beginning... we were putting people in sort of productivity boxes from the start, you had to choose right away, are you going to use Docs, a spreadsheet, or a slide deck," G Suite product director Jonathan Rochelle told Engadget. "We thought that might somehow limit creativity."

Though the Jamboard's stylus looks like a fat crayon, it's capable of drawing lines up to a fine 1mm. There's also a round eraser that also helps to clear off smudges from the screen. Both of those devices are passive, meaning you won't have to worry about battery life or even pairing them. Any stylus-like device will let you draw on the Jamboard, and, just like a real whiteboard, you can also use your finger to erase things as well.

In my brief hands-on time with the device, I was impressed with the responsiveness of the stylus, which felt almost as fast as drawing on a real whiteboard. Jamboard is capable of detecting up to 16 touch points at once, so you and a few colleagues will be able to use the screen at once. Clearly, Google is targeting the same market as Microsoft's Surface Hub, but it could be even more appealing to companies already tied to Google's apps.

Google plans to release Jamboard for under $6,000 in the first half of 2017 for G Suite customers. The company has already started testing the device out with big companies like Netflix, Spotify and Instrument, and is accepting signups for an early adopter program for companies who are eager to start jamming sooner.


Sunday, October 09, 2016

Brain-like memory gets an AI test drive


Humanity just took one step closer to computers that mimic the brain. University of Southampton researchers have demonstrated that memristors, or resistors that remember their previous resistance, can power a neural network. The team's array of metal-oxide memristors served as artificial synapses to learn (and re-learn) from "noisy" input without intervention, much like you would. And since the memristors will remember previous states when turned off, they should use much less power than conventional circuitry -- ideal for Internet of Things devices that can't afford to pack big batteries.

It's still early days for this technology. If you wanted AI that could replicate the brain in its full glory, you'd need "hundreds of billions" of synapses (if not more). The far-simpler memristor array in this test was limited to looking for patterns. However, the Southampton group is quick to note that you wouldn't need to go that far for narrower purposes. You could have sensors that know how to classify objects and identify patterns without human help, which would be particularly helpful in dangerous or hard-to-reach places. You might just see IoT gadgets that are not only connected to the outside world, but can make sense of it.

Via: ScienceDaily

Source: University of Southampton, Nature


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Panasonic's new prototype TV can hide in plain sight


Panasonic showed off an early transparent TV before, but the company has now improved the image quality to the extent that the idea of a TV built into your furniture's glass panes is not only possible -- it's right here. The OLED screen is made of a fine mesh, embedded into the glass sliding door. While the TV image is visible even with the backlighting on, once it's dimmed, the image is clear and bright enough to be almost indistinguishable from existing TVs. (The last model was a bit too dim, and required undershelf lighting to boost the image.) Turn the TV panel off, however, and it's hard to tell it was ever there to begin with. Want one? Panasonic's spokesperson says the TV is likely to stay in development for a few years longer: at least another three years.