Friday, June 27, 2014

Android L: the 10 things you need to know

Android Lollipop?

ChromeOS and Android finally play nicely together.

It's ahead of schedule, but we've already got an early look at Android L before it rolls out to the consumers properly - Google wants to attract the developers, and this is the way to do it.

Sadly, the most important thing about the next version of Android remains a secret. We don't know what the 'L' stands for. Google abandoned its pudding and confectionary-based development naming system at 2014's Google IO developer event, revealing that the next big Android release is known simply as Android L.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How to watch hacking, and cyberwarfare between the USA and China, in real time

watch hacking in real time

You've no doubt heard countless stories about how the internet is rife with hackers and ruled by malware-peddling malcontents. You’ve probably read dozens of paragraphs on how the next great theater of war will be online rather than offline, and how China and the US are already battling each other for cyber supremacy. The truth is, though, unless you've actually been hacked, it’s hard to appreciate just how real the prospect of cyberwar actually is; after all, the effects of hacking are mostly invisible to the untrained eye, with the exception of very-high-profile database breaches. Now, though, a security company has produced a fascinating geographic map that shows you global hacking attempts in real-time — and sure enough, you really can see China waging cyberwar against the US.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Supercomputer stagnation: New list of the world’s fastest computers casts shadow over exascale by 2020

Supercomputer stagnation

Top 500 released the updated list of the world’s fastest supercomputers, and it revealed a rather worrying trend: Supercomputer performance gains are slowing down, rather than speeding up. When most of the world’s computing superpowers have announced their intentions to create exascale (1000 petaflops) supercomputers by 2020, this would appear to be a bit of a problem.

Einsteinian error: The 25-year-old supernova that could change the speed of light forever

the speed of light

If you know any pedantic science nerds, you've probably been corrected at some point about c, the speed of light, the velocity Einstein famously said could never be surpassed. “It’s not the speed of light,” they’ll say. “It’s the speed of light in a vacuum!” Well, soon you may be able to come right back with this: “No it isn’t.” Physicists have long held that photons should move through a vacuum at a final velocity of 299,792,458 meters per second, but a fresh look at a supernova first seen more than 25 years ago may now contradict that. If confirmed, these findings would mean that our existing theories of light depend on idealized thought experiments even in a vacuum, and that the intrinsic physics of light actually cause it to slow itself down from the predicted ideal. After all these years, the speed of light may actually be significantly slower than we thought.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dalvik is dead: Next version of Android uses new ART runtime to boost speed, battery life

new ART runtime?

The next major version of Android, which will probably be unveiled at Google I/O next week, will remove the Dalvik runtime and replace it with ART — the new Android Runtime. The main purpose of ART is to improve performance and smoothness of the core Android platform and stock apps, and third-party Android apps. Battery life and other core metrics should also be significantly improved. Brian Carlstrom, a member of Google’s Dalvik engineering team, announced the Dalvik-ART switch-over with this rather amusing patch note: “Dalvik is dead, long live Dalvik! DO NOT MERGE.”

Google first debuted ART back in November 2013 with the release of Android 4.4 KitKat. At the time it was an experimental feature that you could enable if you were feeling adventurous (Settings > Developer Options > Select Runtime). With lots of extra feedback from the community, and hundreds of patches since then, Google now seems confident that ART is ready to replace Dalvik entirely.

Dalvik and ART are fundamentally different beasts, compiling and executing code in very different ways. Dalvik primarily uses a just-in-time (JIT) compiler that compiles code when you run an app; ART uses an ahead-of-time (AOT) compiler that compiles to machine code when you install the app. In theory this can speed up execution time significantly, and thus also increase battery life and some other important metrics. ART also introduces better garbage collection, which should improve performance and responsiveness. For more technical details, the Android ART developer pages are pretty good. Developers may have to make a few changes to their apps/processes, but ART is mostly a drop-in replacement.

Early Dalvik vs. ART benchmarks, showing improvements in some areas, slowdowns in others

From an end-user perspective, the introduction of ART as the default Android runtime probably won’t blow you away. Early benchmarks show performance improvements (~10%) in some applications, but slowdowns in other areas. By the time ART is officially introduced, those slowdowns (due to bugs and incompleteness) should be gone. As with any big change, ART’s benefits won’t really shine until Google and third-party app developers optimize their apps. Presumably the next major version of Android (4.5 or 5.0) will be optimized for ART, and will thus the interface and stock apps will be very fast and efficient. The next major version could be unveiled at Google I/O next week (though I reckon the 4.4 branch still has a ways to run).

The ultimate goal of ART is to make Android a slicker, more responsive platform — an area where iOS has historically dominated. There’s also the possibility that ART is a reaction to the ongoing court case between Oracle and Google over Dalvik — Oracle claims that Dalvik infringes on its Java IP, and so far it looks like Oracle will win the suit. By moving away from Dalvik, Google might save itself (and its developers) a lot of expensive, litigious hurt.

Stay tuned for lots more Android news next week. Google I/O runs from June 25 to 26, with a big two-hour keynote on the 25th that should cover a lot of ground.

Source: EztremeTech

Your VB Kid

US Supreme Court deals major blow against software patents and patent trolls

patents and patent trolls

The current US Supreme Court is one of the most divided in history, but the justices managed to come together for a unanimous decision this week to strike a blow against software patents. The Court has narrowed the definition of an invention in the US to exclude abstract ideas that have simply been implemented on a computer. Some were hoping that the Court would make broad statements about the (in)validity of software patents in general, but this is still a step in the right direction.

The case in question pitted Alice Corp against CLS Bank Int, both financial institutions of which you’ve likely never heard. Lawsuits between banking companies have the potential to be tremendously boring, but this one could have ripple effects through much of the tech industry. The Court’s decision today basically says that tacking on “then do it on a computer” to an existing idea is not patentable.

It sounds a little bizarre on the face of it. Surely people would not be so bold as to simply toss in a generic computerization step and apply for a patent, right? It’s actually a well-known loophole and a favourite of patent trolls. In this case, Alice Corp claimed a patent on escrow services, which have existed for centuries. Oh, but Alice had the brilliant idea of doing escrow on a computer. The ruling striking down Alice’s patent is 20 pages long, which is short for a Supreme Court opinion. In it, Justice Clarence Thomas attempts to set a standard by which these fringe software patents can be judged — generic computer implementation doesn't make an abstract idea patentable.

The reasoning used in the opinion is strikingly similar to another of the Court’s recent patent cases, that of Myriad Genetics. In that case, the Court unanimously decided that human genes cannot be patented, and invalidated the Utah-based company’s claim on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are important for diagnosing breast and ovarian cancers. It’s the same deal — you cannot apply a common technique to a non-patentable idea and magically have a patent (even if it was hard to do).

We’re probably not looking at the end of patent trolling, but some of the particularly egregious patents out there are in trouble. True patent trolls often rely on incredibly broad business method patents that use the “do it on a computer” loophole. For example, sell a thing, but do it with a computer. Or distribute a newsletter on a computer.

These exceptionally lame patents aren’t instantly dead, but lower courts could easily point to the Supreme Court ruling and toss them out. This screws up the business model of patent trolls, which relies mainly on intimidating people with protracted and expensive legal battles. The trolls lose their leverage when many of these generic software patents are likely to be invalidated the first time they come before a judge.

Source: ExtremeTech

Your VB Kid

The first ‘unfeelability’ invisibility cloak will please campers and princesses everywhere

invisibility cloak

You know how a princess can feel a pea through 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds? Well, not any more. Researchers in Germany have created the first mechanical invisibility cloak. When this cloak is placed over an object, the object cannot be felt at all — either by your finger, or a more sensitive measuring device. This has obvious repercussions for the authentication of fairytale princesses, and also in the realm of camping (die, tree roots, die) and carpeting (cabling begone!) Personally, I hope someone takes this mechanical invisibility material and creates the world’s first sock that is immune to the terrifying strength of errant-in-the-night Lego bricks.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hacker hijacks thousands of Synology storage devices, forces them to mine 500 million Dogecoins

let's talk security...

If you have a device that connects to the internet on a regular basis, patch it. That’s the big-picture takeaway from today’s news of a hacker who convinced Synology DiskStations (a type of network-attached storage device) to mine more than 500 million Dogecoins for him — and made out with an estimated $620,000 in cash in the process. Much of the focus has been on the size of his haul, which may represent the largest sum of cash ever mined by unwitting dupes, but Synology got in touch with us to point out that hey — they actually patched the hole used by the hacker quite some time ago.

Intel unveils new Xeon chip with integrated FPGA, touts 20x performance boost


Earlier, Intel quietly announced one of the biggest ever changes to its chip lineup: It will soon offer a new type of Xeon CPU with an integrated FPGA. This new Xeon+FPGA chip will fit in the standard E5 LGA2011 socket, but the integrated FPGA will allow each chip to be customized to specific workloads. This move is almost certainly intended to make Intel-x86 a better all-round platform for a wider variety of workloads in enterprise and data center settings, and to dissuade customers from switching to GPGPU accelerators from the likes of Nvidia.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Could a PS4 and PlayStation TV bundle take out Xbox One and Apple TV at the same time?

That would be something

The PS4 has sold very well so far, but Sony needs to do something to keep consumer interest strong until more AAA exclusive titles hit store shelves. It’s too early for a price drop, so hardware bundles make the most sense right now. A recent rumor has the PS4 and PlayStation TV bundled together in the UK, and this could be a sign of a number of meaningful bundles coming this year — in the UK, as well as the US and other territories.

ChargeAll: A portable battery pack with a 120V AC wall plug outlet, so you can power all your things

Meh, I speculate...

Have you ever wanted to recharge your laptop or phone while you sit on the beach – or at the coffee shop, when all the power outlets are being used by people who have been nursing the same cup of coffee for two hours? Have you ever wanted to curl your hair or charge your smartphone while sitting on a bench in the park,  or while camping in the wilderness? Well, now you can with ChargeAll — the first portable battery pack that has both a USB charging socket and a 120-volt wall plug outlet. Yes, you can just plug just about any 120V device into the ChargeAll — and in many cases, thanks to the inclusion of a huge lithium-ion battery, power that device for hours.

New solar power plant is the first to go ‘supercritical’, but solar’s long-term cost and efficiency still questioned

Still less risky than nuclear power plants.

Earlier this month, Australian scientists at CSIRO (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization) announced a milestone for solar energy. For the first time, solar concentration technology has been used to create so-called supercritical steam. The term refers to the fact that water above a certain pressure (3208 PSI) no longer exists in a separate phase state from steam. Compress water that much, and the fluid becomes steam. This improves power plant efficiency — a modern fossil fuel power plant with supercritical boilers is typically 3.5% more efficient than a subcritical design. Supercritical designs also produce less air pollution, though that’s not applicable when discussing solar power.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cortana's man cools iOS and Android talk, promises UK launch within weeks

UPDATE: Responding to a Twitter question, Marcus Ash said Cortana will be arriving on Windows Phone devices in the UK and China in "weeks, not months."

Original story continues below...

Microsoft's personal voice assistant for Windows Phone, Cortana, is not currently in line for a port to iOS and Android, despite hints suggesting otherwise this week.

Android 5.0 may be closer than you think

Google drops a tasty hint that Android 5.0 is coming soon

Android Lollipop time?

Google might have just dropped a big hint that Android 5.0 will be the version of its operating system, which we expect to see rear its head at Google I/O later this month - not 4.5.

The teaser came in the form of a tweet from Google regarding a new World Cup feature, which shows the system clock as 5:00. That sounds like we might be reading too far into things, but since Android 2.3 Google has used the clock as an indicator of whats its next OS will be.

And if you go check out the devices on the Google Play Store you'll see they all read 4:40 as the current time.

A leak from earlier this year indicated that Google is plotting to bring Android, Chrome and Search all closer together in 5.0.

As for the name, the new Android is currently going under the sweet moniker of Lollipop, but who knows which delicious treat will get its moment of fame?

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mortal Kombat X Gameplay Demo: E3 2014

Oh yes! This is going to be the most EPIC ever!!!

Ed Boon, you are a madman!

Hail NetherRealm!

The Chief Technomancer
VB Kid

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Toshiba’s new MRAM cache could reduce CPU power consumption by 60%

That would be lovely

You probably don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how efficiently the CPUs in your devices are caching data, but it keeps computer science researchers up at night. Caching is one of the few places we can realize significant power savings with the right tweaks, and that’s increasingly important as mobile devices continue to demand more juice. Toshiba says it has taken a big step in that direction by coming up with a new design for STT-MRAM (spin-transfer torque magnetoresistive random access memory). By replacing the traditional SRAM-based L2 cache on a processor with STT-MRAM, Toshiba believes CPU power consumption can be reduced by a whopping 60%.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Microsoft begs devs to pay attention to Kinect 2 for Windows, even after Xbox One de-bundling

They need to just let go of Kinect.... Or let Sony design it. Hahaha!

Microsoft’s Kinect 2 for Windows went on pre-order this weekend, and Microsoft has published an extensive piece on how it built Kinect’s capabilities, functions, and sophisticated software body tracking. For showcasing the system’s impressive capabilities, Microsoft picked developer Freak’n’Genius — a developer whose previous YaKit application is designed to animate the mouth of a still photo to make it look like a painting or animal is actually talking.

Microsoft's Entire Press Conference - E3 2014

For those that missed it

So... that was Microsoft

The Chief Technomancer
VB Kid

Monday, June 09, 2014

Mozilla Continues To Bet On Firefox OS Even As Android Encroaches On The Low-End Market

It's this same type of arrogance that brought down BBM...

Firefox OS is a tough project to evaluate. Mozilla’s phone operating system is meant for developing countries and first-time smartphone owners. To keep the price of the phones down, the hardware it comes on doesn’t really compare to today’s flagship phones, either. Instead of native apps, Firefox OS runs web apps written in HTML5 and JavaScript, which naturally incurs a performance penalty.

With iOS 8, Apple Stands Ready To Ramp Up Consumer Purchasing Power

Of course they would. It's the one thingthey know how to do...

Apple’s various additions to iOS 8 mean we’re going to see a big shift come September, in terms of what’s available to both consumers and developers, but the group that should be most excited might be marketers and others trying to get users buying things on and with their devices. A few of the new features in iOS 8 make it much easier to shop on and with your iPhone, and since Apple already has a mobile user base that’s shown its willingness to spend, that’s very big news.

One such feature was uncovered through the beta late last week: with iOS 8, the iPhone’s camera can snap pics of credit cards to automatically populate credit card information fields in Safari. That means no more arduous copying out of your card number, cardholder name and expiration date every time you want to complete a transaction online – instead it’s a single-click thanks to optical character recognition, and it works automatically with existing web forms, so there’s no work required on the part of web devs.

That’s only one of the new features that could lead to increased ecommerce activity on iOS 8-powered devices; previously, we saw how iOS 8 can use indoor positioning systems to direct shoppers within a large retail environment. And Continuity can play a big role in helping purchases take place online, too – Handoff lets a user move from doing something on their phone to completing it on the desktop, and vice versa, and that includes a browsing session. You can easily imagine how that might work with shopping online, as a user browses on their device and then moves to the web to do more in-depth research, or shifts back to the iPhone to take advantage of credit card scanning to complete the check-out.

Apple has a lot more going on in iOS 8 besides these changes, but they make it just that much easier for those trying to use mobile devices to encourage sales and commerce activity. It’s still unclear what, if any kind of mobile commerce push Apple will make itself – I’ve heard rumors about iTunes becoming a platform for much broader types of payments for a while now – but in the meantime, it’s clear it still wants to be the best mobile platform for those looking to drive pay-based engagement.

Source: TechCrunch

Your VB Kid

Spotted: Samsung's 12-inch 4K tablet prototype

Not any time soon.

You might not be able to walk into a store and buy a 4K tablet just yet (well apart from Panasonic's crazy 20-inch offering), but we've spotted a 12-inch Samsung prototype.

It was being used as part of a LTE Broadcast demonstration during the French Open at Roland Garros.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Tetris is 30 years old today: The history of the world’s most successful game


Tetris, the world’s most successful game, is 30 years old today. Thanks to its simple and addictive gameplay, the massive popularity of the original Game Boy and mobile phones, an estimated 170 million copies of Tetris have been sold since its debut in 1984. Not bad for a game that was originally written at the height of the Cold War in the USSR on an Electronica 60 — a rack-mounted computer that lacked the ability to output graphics (the blocks were instead formed out of the Russian equivalent of ASCII).

Intel partners with Samsung to halve the price of 4K monitors, but it’s useless without support from GPU vendors and Microsoft

A collaboration that isn't well thought out.

Intel wants to halve the price of current 4K monitors, and it’s partnering with ViewSonic, Samsung, and a number of all-in-one (AIO) manufacturers to make that happen. The company has set a target price of $400 for PLS (Samsung’s version of IPS) 4K panels at 23.6 inches, and claims it wants to drive Intel 4K AIOs down to the $1000 mark. Current, low-end 4K monitors are priced at around $800. This is a lovely idea, but it’s going to take heavy lifting from far more companies — and a better effort from Intel to certify its entire product stack.

Hubble captures the first full-color, high-res photo of the very early universe

The early one. Earliest pictures. Cool.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured the most colorful and detailed image of the early universe — officially dubbed the Ultra Deep Field 2014 — with galaxies that date back to just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. While many of the blobs in the photo might look like stars, every single point of light is an entire galaxy — around 10,000 of them, in case you were wondering — each containing millions or billions of stars. The photo is the culmination of over 10 years of observations, totaling around 600 hours of exposure time, made during 841 orbits of the Earth.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

How Long Before Apple Gets a Search Engine?

Possibly never, considering the way they love revenue

With a search engine, Apple could retain the walled-garden approach and avoid working with Microsoft or Google.

Watching Apple roll out its new software offerings this week, especially its updated Spotlight search with the Bing search engine supposedly running the back end, makes me wonder how long Apple will use a Microsoft search product before it decides to go it alone.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Intel’s new 14nm Core M chip will finally bring big-core x86 CPUs to fanless tablets

This should be interesting.

At Computex yesterday, Intel President Renée James showed off a new 14nm tablet design that showcased Intel’s Broadwell CPU. Dubbed the Core M, this chip could be a fundamental game changer for Santa Clara, for one simple reason — it will allow the company to finally build big-core x86 devices that fit into form factors thin enough to compete with current Android, Apple, and Windows tablets based on its own Bay Trail.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Scientists discover the reason that batteries lose capacity over time: Nanocrystals!

Why you're always buying new ones...

In the struggle to develop better batteries, it’s the overall capacity that tends to get most of the attention — we marvel when a new smartphone crams in a few more milliamp-hours. Capacity is nothing without the longevity to survive a large number of repeated charging cycles, though. Even the most advanced lithium-ion batteries still lose capacity as they age, and there’s no way to prevent that until we know the cause, which we might thanks to two new studies from the US Department of Energy. These studies point to tiny nanoscale crystals as the culprits for reduced capacity over time.

Windows XP rises from the grave: Simple hack gives you five more years of updates

Arise XP! Arise!

With a simple registry hack, you can net yourself five more years of official Microsoft updates for your aging Windows XP machine. Microsoft, though, says you really shouldn’t do it — and that you ought to be a good little boy and “upgrade to a more modern operating system” instead. Read on, to find out how to enable the Windows XP updates — and whether you should do it or not.