Archive for July, 2013

 

2013 appears to be the year of the alternative smartphone OS, with Tizen, Ubuntu Touch, and Firefox OS throwing their hats in the ring.

By the end of this year, big name mobile operators like Telefonica and manufacturers including Samsung will have worked together to get devices running those operating systems into the market.

But it’s not just the big guys who want to upset the Apple-Android duopoly. Finnish startup Jolla is taking aim too.

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Scientists have developed a virtual model of the brain that daydreams like humans do, a finding that can help better diagnose and treat brain injuries.

Researchers created the computer model based on the dynamics of brain cells and the many connections those cells make with their neighbours and with cells in other brain regions. They hope the model will help them understand why certain portions of the brain work together when a person daydreams or is mentally idle. This, in turn, may help doctors better diagnose and treat brain injuries.

“We can give our model lesions like those we see in stroke or brain cancer, disabling groups of virtual cells to see how brain function is affected,” said senior author Maurizio Corbetta from the Washington University. “We can also test ways to push the patterns of activity back to normal,” Corbetta added.

Researchers identified several “resting state” brain networks, which are groups of different brain regions that show activity levels which rise and fall in sync when the brain is at rest.

They have also linked disruptions in networks associated with brain injury and disease to cognitive problems in memory, attention, movement and speech. The new model was developed to help scientists learn how the brain’s anatomical structure contributes to the creation and maintenance of resting state networks.

The researchers began with a process for simulating small groups of neurons, including factors that decrease or increase the likelihood that a group of cells will send a signal.

Based on data from brain scans, researchers assembled 66 cognitive units in each hemisphere and interconnected them in anatomical patterns similar to the connections present in the brain.

Scientists set up the model so that the individual units went through the signalling process at random low frequencies that had previously been observed in brain cells in culture and in recordings of resting brain activity.

Researchers let the model run, slowly changing the coupling or the strength of the connections between units. At a specific coupling value, the interconnect

German inventors have developed a new pen that gently vibrates every time it senses a spelling mistake or sloppy handwriting.

Lernstift is a regular pen with real ink but inside it, is a special motion sensor and a small battery-powered Linux computer with a Wi-Fi chip.

These parts allow the pen to recognize specific movements, letter shapes and know a wide assortment of words. If it senses bad letter formation or messy handwriting, it will vibrate, ‘ABC News’ reported.

Users can choose between two functions: Calligraphy Mode pointing out flaws of form and legibility or Orthography Mode recognizing words and comparing the word to a language database. If the word isn’t recognized, the pen will vibrate, according to Daniel Kaesmacher, the 33-year-old co-founder of Lernstift from Munich. The other co-founder , 36-year-old Falk Wolsky had the idea for the pen last year while his 10-year-old son was doing his homework.

“His son had been struggling with his work and staying focused and Falk thought there should be a pen that gives him some sort of signal so he stays focused ,” Kaesmacher said.

After a year and a half in development, the founders have now brought Lernstift to Kickstarter to begin raising money and gauging interest.

 

Using ‘miracle material’ graphene in telecommunications could dramatically make the internet a hundred times faster, a new study has found.

Researchers the Universities of Bath and Exeter have demonstrated for the first time incredibly short optical response rates using graphene, which could pave the way for a revolution in telecommunications.
Every day large amounts of information is transmitted and processed through optoelectronic devices such as optical fibres, photodetectors and lasers. Signals are sent by photons at infrared wavelengths and processed using optical switches, which convert signals into a series of light pulses.
Ordinarily optical switches respond at rate of a few picoseconds – around a trillionth of a second. Through this study physicists have observed the response rate of an optical switch using ‘few layer graphene’ to be around one hundred femtoseconds – nearly a hundred times quicker than current materials.
Graphene is just one atom thick, but remarkably strong. Scientists have suggested that it would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil to break through a single sheet.
Already dubbed a miracle material due to its strength, lightness, flexibility, conductivity and low cost, it could now enter the market to dramatically improve telecommunications, researchers said.
“We’ve seen an ultrafast optical response rate, using ‘few-layer graphene’, which has exciting applications for the development of high speed optoelectronic components based on graphene,” lead researcher Dr Enrico Da Como said.
“This fast response is in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum,many applications in telecommunications, security and also medicine are currently developing and affecting our society,” said Da Como.
“The more we find out about graphene the more remarkable its properties seem to be. This research shows that it also has unique optical properties which could find important new applications,” Co-Director of the Centre for Graphene Science at Bath, Professor Simon Bending added.
In the long term this research could also lead to the development of quantum cascade lasers based on graphene.
Quantum cascade lasers are semiconductor lasers used in pollution monitoring, security and spectroscopy. Few-layer graphene could emerge as a unique platform for this interesting application.
The study was published in Physical Review Letters

You’ve seen the awesome statistics that accompany each video on YouTube. Some folks can post a video in one day and see millions of views within a week. Others get only a handful to tune in.

How and why does this happen? And what can small businesses, fledgling producers and all-around hams do to increase their numbers?

YouTube, the world’s most popular video site, has distilled best practices down to a science with what it calls the “Playbook.

Ben Relles, YouTube’s head of programming strategy, travels around the country meeting with young producers to explain the Playbook and how their videos can rise to the top.

YouTube puts ads on all of its videos and shares more than 50% of the revenue with its top creators, so there’s a financial incentive for anyone making videos on YouTube to see better results.

During a recent stop at YouTube’s splashy new production space here, Relles discussed the top seven ways video creators can get better seen.

— Think viral: Ask the question before you start shooting, “What will make people share this?” Relles says. “And what is it about this video that you think people will watch and immediately want to put on their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and e-mail and everywhere else.”

— Have a great hook. On YouTube, views matter, but more important is that the entire video has been watched all the way through. The channel doesn’t want a basic click and folks turning away within seconds. How to keep them hooked? The Playbook recommends opening big. “Personalities should address/welcome the audience, ask a question, spark the viewer’s curiosity, or tease the rest of the video.”

— Take the time to optimize.”How you title the video, the thumbnail you choose and the tags you compose all play a big part in the video being discovered,” says Relles. Google-owned YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine; effective titling helps the video get discovered. The headline should use keywords first and branding (the show or channel name) at the end. Beyond the headline, tags are another tool for discovery. And a good thumbnail image of the video — which also shows up in search results — can help direct viewers to the content. When you upload videos to YouTube, after the video is processed, tools are available to change the thumbnail to your liking.

— Collaborate. One big trick of YouTube stardom is that the audience likes to see their favorites appear with other stars, just like the comic book days of yore that saw Superman interact with Batman or the Incredible Hulk meet up with Iron Man. No tool will do more to build your views and online standing than joining forces with another creator, Relles says. “If you work with somebody else on YouTube that has a similar subscription base to yours and you do something really creative together, (their viewers will) recommend others to check out your channel.”

— Subscriptions. Encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel, because that in turns builds a recurring audience.

— Connect with viewers. Social media starts with a basic question: “Will the video I’m making be shared?” and if so, “how?” From there, encouraging feedback and responding is vital. “How you create a dialogue with (viewers) goes beyond the content,” Relles says. “It gives the audience an opportunity to feel they’re part of the conversation.”

— Respond to comments. Relles suggests answering comments shortly after the video is posted. The first commenters are the core audience; keeping them engaged builds loyalty, he says. Prepare to have a thick skin — comments can be raw.

“People, especially, if they’re disappointed, will let you know this isn’t up to snuff. No matter what media it is, people are saying these things. When they’re home and watching TV, and they don’t like a scene, they tell the person they’re watching TV with. The exciting thing about online video, is you get to have this dialogue with people. If you’re open to this kind of feedback, you can use it to direct your content, or say, `That’s great, that’s your opinion.'”

Apple is investigating an accident in which a Chinese woman was killed by an electric shock when answering a call on her iPhone 5 while it was charging, the US technology company said on Monday.

Last Thursday, Ma Ailun, a 23-year-old woman from China’s western Xinjiang region and a flight attendant with China Southern Airlines, was electrocuted when she took a call on the charging mobile telephone, the official Xinhua news agency quoted police as saying on Sunday.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and offer our condolences to the Ma family. We will fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter,” Apple said in an e-mail.

Apple declined to comment on details, such as whether this was an isolated case.

Ma’s sister tweeted on Sina’s microblog saying that Ma collapsed and died after using her charging iPhone 5 and urged users to be careful, a message that went viral on the site.

In April, Apple apologized to Chinese consumers and altered iPhone warranty policies in its second-biggest market after its after-sales service suffered more more than two weeks of condemnation by the state-run media.

Internet giant Google is reportedly planning to develop its wearable computing device Google Glass for dogs with occupation.

According to New York Post, Google has teamed up with Georgia Institute of Technology, in order to develop a wearable computer system that could give bomb-sniffing and cadaver dogs an easier way to communicate with their handlers, or even let man see the world through an animal’s eyes.

The project called FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations) could allow pooches to bite down on or otherwise activate a sensor which can send information to its handler.

Google Glass is expected to be released to the mass market next year and its technical lead Thad Starner, has joined professors at the Georgia Institute to develop a computerized harness to assist working dogs.

Associate Professor Melody Jackson said that the dogs being tested for devices which could activate sensors have been found to have quickly got the hang of the sensors, which they activated using their mouths.

Jackson added that the gear is being eyed for everything from the deadly-serious business of bomb detecting or helping the blind to letting owners know when a dog has to go out or when it’s time to be fed, the report added.

The Texas teen facing a felony terrorism charge over an alleged threat on Facebook has been released on bail after an anonymous donor posted a $500,000 bond.

Justin Carter, 19, had spent five months in prison for posting, during an argument about a video game, what he said was a sarcastic comment about how he was going to “shoot up a kindergarten.”

“I just think it got taken out of context, and it’s been blown out of proportion,” Carter told Kate Bolduan on “New Day,” CNN’s morning show. The brief interview marked Carter’s first public comments since he was jailed in February.

Carter’s case has received widespread media attention and alarmed free-speech activists. His arrest came amid heightened concerns over school violence since December’s mass shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

In February, Carter and a friend were arguing on Facebook with someone else over the online video game “League of Legends.” His father told CNN that other gamer called Justin crazy and his son responded with sarcasm.

According to court documents, Justin wrote, “I’m f***ed in the head alright. I think I’ma (sic) shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them.”

Jack Carter said his son followed the claim with “LOL” and “J/K” — indicating that the comment wasn’t serious.

“Any clear reading and full reading of the context of that statement would make it obvious that this was just a sarcastic joke,” Chad Van Brunt, one of Carter’s attorneys, told CNN on Friday. “If we get to trial … it’s just going to be abundantly clear, if it’s not already.”

Authorities said someone reported the comment — which came about two months after the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School — leading to Carter’s arrest February 21 on a felony charge of making terroristic threats. In Texas, that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The teen had remained in jail because Jack Carter and his wife, Jennifer, said they couldn’t afford to post the bond required to free their son. The family’s attorney, Don Flanary, told CNN that Justin Carter had suffered abuse while behind bars, and his parents had expressed concerns about his safety.

Carter was released Thursday to his home near New Braunfels, Texas, after an unnamed donor came forward and posted the bond, Flanary said. He said the donor wishes to remain anonymous.

“For now I’m over-the-moon happy. I just want to spend all my time talking to him and looking at him,” mother Jennifer Carter told CNN on Friday. “There’s been a lot of hugs going around and crying. We don’t have to worry anymore about him being hurt (in jail) … and for any parent that’s just such a relief.”

An online petition seeking Justin Carter’s release from jail had received more than 126,000 signatures.

A pretrial hearing for Carter is scheduled August 12. Flanary told CNN he will be filing a motion to dismiss the charges because they violate Carter’s First Amendment rights.

The Comal County district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment.

The case is viewed by some as a cautionary tale about the repercussions of controversial statements posted online.

Asked by CNN’s Bolduan what he might have done differently, Carter said, “I certainly would have thought a lot more about what I said and how permanent my writing — and everyone’s writing — is (on the Internet). People should be very, very careful of what they say. It’s being recorded all the time, if you say it on any website, anywhere.

“And you can get in trouble for something that’s not something you should get in trouble for. I just want people to be warned.”

Infosys’ first earnings announcement after the return of N R Narayana Murthy is expected to put the retired cofounder under a sharp spotlight as analysts seek clarity on milestones that could signal the company’s return to health.
Murthy, who was recalled by the board last month, may have the unenviable task of paring the growth forecast for India’s second largest software services exporter as cross-currency swings shave off gainsthe rupee’s depreciation against the dollar. The industry veteran has sought three years to “rebuild a desirable Infosys” but an anonymous ET poll of 15 brokerages shows that analysts would want to know sooner that the rebuilding is indeed taking roots.
Analysts said that they expect signs of revival and return of growth momentum in about three quarters. The majority of analysts said that they expect the software exporter to pare its growth guidance6-10% given at the beginning of the fiscal. That pales in comparison with Nasscom’s projection of 12-14%.
“Infosys guidance is likely to take centre-stage,” wrote Rumit Dugar and Udit Garg of Religare Institutional Research in a note to clients on earnings expectations. For the April-June quarter, Infosys’ revenue reported in dollars is expected to grow at a tepid pace of 1-1.5%, which is estimated to be well below that of Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant and HCL Technologies but likely better than Wipro.
Given Murthy’s philosophy of predictable growth, there is also an expectation that Infosys may bring back the practice of giving earnings guidance, which it stopped last quarter. At least two analysts polled said they expected Infosys to reintroduce earnings guidancethe next quarter, if notthe current one.
Despite the currency depreciation, which is expected to trickle down to the bottomline, Infosys is expected to report a marginal fall in net profit as it absorbs the effects of an unexpected June wage hike. Falling pricing will also add to pressure on profitability, analysts said. Given that rivals such as Cognizant and TCS are capturing a larger share of the market, Infosys is unlikely to be able to maintain pricing levels, leading to erosion in profit margins.
While the expectations are high, it is not so much about the first quarter numbers, but about visibility into future growth. “NRN’s return implies that any disappointment in first quarter may be overlooked,” said Sandeep Muthangi, an analyst with IIFL. “What analysts will be watching out for is details on the roadmap and the specifics on the changes that Murthy is seeking to bring about.”
The ET poll showed that only a few analysts expect Infosys to return to industry leading growth before the next fiscal or the one after that. Accenture and Oracle performing below expectations has also sobered expectation levels among industry observers.
“Accenture’s weak consulting growth indicates that there is still no improvement in the discretionary spending environment, which is likely to hurt companiesInfosys more due to its relatively high exposure to discretionary segments,” Nomura analyst Pinku Pappan wrote in a recent note to clients.

 

iPhone owners, be jealous: Android users are getting a Vine feature you can’t have.

The Vine app for Android received an update Thursday afternoon that brought it up to date with many new features that were also recently added to the iPhone version of the app.

Those features include a new look for the camera interface that lets users place grid lines; channels that users can categorize their videos into; and the ability to “revine,” where users share others’ videos with their followers — much like a retweet on Twitter.

But perhaps the most interesting new feature for Vine on Android is the addition of a quick-capture widget. That feature lets users place a second icon for Vine that looks like a video camera on the home screen of their devices. When Android users click on that icon, they will instantly go into Vine’s video recording page, rather than the default feed that users see when they open the Vine app normally.

The new quick-capture widget should make it easier for users to record video for Vine of things happening at that moment. But sadly for iPhone users, this is one feature they won’t be able to have.

Unlike Android, Apple doesn’t allow app developers to create widgets that run on its smartphone. The only widgets Apple users do have, such as the ability to quickly tweet or post a Facebook status from the Notification Center, come when Apple works directly with app makers.

For Vine to create something similar to the new quick-capture widget on Android, the Twitter-owned app would have to get creative. Vine could release a second app that opens from the recording screen, or perhaps it could let users set the recording screen as their default page when they launch the Vine app.

Regardless of whatever Vine chooses to do, Android users should feel special:  the quick-capture widget is one feature iPhone users won’t get to try.