Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Apple updates MacBook Pro, but where’s the Retina MacBook Air?

Where is it?

At long last, Apple has finally gotten around to updating its line of Retina MacBook Pros. The CPUs are getting a nice boost across the board, and the amount of RAM on offer has doubled. Even better, the high-end and low-end MacBook Pros have dropped in price by $100 each. Hardware bumps and price dips are certainly welcome, but how long are we going to have to wait around for Apple to release iMacs and MacBook Airs with Retina displays?

Sewing an invisibility cloak with a needle made of light

But is it true invisibility?

Cloaking devices are the stuff of science fiction, and while the reports of revolutionary new invisibility cloaks have a grain of truth to them, these are still just very basic (tiny) prototypes. However, researchers at the University of Cambridge may have made a breakthrough that will allow us to begin building materials that could one day form the basis for a Star Trek-style cloaking device. The technique relies on lasers to thread chains of nanoparticles together like a needle so we can take advantage of their unique properties on the large scale.

Mysterious fast radio bursts from outer space: Astronomers baffled, admit they could be alien in origin

They've made contact?

Since 2001, the Parkes radio telescope in Australia has been picking up mysterious, unidentified bursts of energy that astronomers have since dubbed “fast radio bursts.” At first, because no other telescope in the world had ever seen these bursts, it was assumed that these FRBs were probably just glitches in the telescope’s electronics — but now, 13 years later, a telescope on the other side of the planet in Puerto Rico has detected an FRB. This second FRB detection means that it isn’t just a fluke — and more importantly, that astronomers have absolutely no idea what’s causing them. Some theories have suggested that FRBs originate from an evaporating black hole, or perhaps solar flares from nearby stars, or — and this is coming from one of the astronomers who first recorded the FRBs — they could even be “signatures from extraterrestrial civilizations.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Galaxy F, Galaxy Alpha and the mystery of the premium Galaxy S5

Just what's going on with Samsung's secretive smartphone?

It probably won't look like this.

We'll admit it, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha (or should that be the Galaxy F? Or the Galaxy S5 Prime?) has left us confused.

Normally when rumours of a new phone appear they quickly start to line up even if they're not always entirely accurate, but with the Galaxy Alpha it's not only gone through at least three different names but there's also a whole heap of conflicting leaks and rumours.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini release date and price: where can I get it?

Who's stocking it, and for how much?

Will you buy the Galaxy S5 Mini?

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini was announced on July 1, boasting a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 1.5GB of RAM, 4.5-inch 720p Super AMOLED display, waterproof chassis and fingerprint scanner.
It also sports 16GB of internal memory, a microSD slot, 8MP rear camera, 2.1MP front camera and a 2100mAh battery.
If the smaller version of the Galaxy S5 whets your appetite read on to find out where you can get it, and how much it'll set you back.

Phones 4U

Phones 4U was the first major retailer to throw its support behind the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and confirm that it would be stocking it.
We haven't had any movement since that announcement however, with the S5 Mini still listed as "coming soon" and your only option for now is to register for updates.

Carphone Warehouse

Carphone Warehouse is yet to reveal its plans for the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini.


Three has confirmed that it will be stocking the handset, and has given TechRadar a Galaxy S5 Mini release date of August 22 - which is a lot later than we were expecting.


O2 has also confirmed that it'll be stocking the Galaxy S5 Mini, although a spokesperson for the network was unable to provide us with any price or release date information.

EE and Vodafone

Neither EE or Vodafone have currently confirmed whether or not they'll be carrying the Galaxy S5 Mini.
We have contacted both of them and will update this article as soon as we hear back.

Online retailers

If you fancy getting hold of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini SIM-free there are a number of online retailers who have the handset on their books.

You can pre-order the Galaxy S5 Mini on Expansys for £389.99, although the site provides no information on when it expects stock to arrive.

Over on Unlocked-Mobiles the S5 Mini is a little more expensive at £394.98, but with stock expected from July 28 you could be one of the first to get their hands on the smartphone.

The cheapest SIM-free price at the moment though can be found on Clove, which is asking just £360 for the Galaxy S5 Mini. Stock is expected "late July".


The Chief Technomancer
VB Kid

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Microsoft will unify Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox into ‘one converged operating system’


Microsoft’s Satya Nadella has confirmed that the next version of Windows, probably Windows 9, will unify the Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox operating systems into “one single converged operating system.” Microsoft had previously made some moves towards unification with Universal Windows Apps that run across all three platforms, but this new version of Windows will go a lot further: “This means [we'll have] one operating system that covers all screen sizes.”

The solar storm of 2012 that almost sent us back to a post-apocalyptic Stone Age

Stone Age

While you didn’t see it, feel it, or even read about it in the newspapers, Earth was almost knocked back to the Stone Age on July 23, 2012. It wasn’t some crazed dictator with his finger on the thermonuclear button or a giant asteroid that came close to wiping out civilization as we know it, though — no, what nearly ended us was a massive solar storm. Almost two years ago to the day, our most bounteous and fantastical celestial body — the Sun — kicked out one of the largest solar flares and coronal mass ejections ever recorded. And it missed Earth by a whisker. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” says Daniel Baker, who led the research into the massive solar storm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seagate starts shipping 8TB hard drives, with 10TB and HAMR on the horizon

Oh, nice...

Seagate, after hinting in May that it would release 8TB and 10TB hard drives in the next 12 months, has started delivering early samples of its 8TB hard drive to “major customers” (i.e. enterprise customers). Curiously, while Western Digital hit 6TB last year by filling its drives with helium, Seagate appears to be pushing the 3.5-inch spinning disk storage envelope by simply increasing areal density. Western Digital, incidentally, despite being the first to 6TB, hasn’t announced anything new since November 2013. Maybe helium wasn’t quite ready for prime time?

Verizon caught throttling Netflix traffic even after its pays for more bandwidth

Funny.. Not satisfied?

Netflix has recently begun paying both Comcast and Verizon to improve network performance and carry its video streams at higher bandwidths, but so far only Comcast has reciprocated with better service. Not only has Verizon’s performance become dramatically worse, the company has continued to try and foist the blame for the problem on Netflix, claiming that the online streaming giant is deliberately degrading performance by attempting to stuff data down specific congested Verizon pipes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pyrrhic victory: Intel forces its way into mobile, but might destroy itself in the process

Greedy... That is all...

Earlier this week, we covered Intel’s determined push into mobile phones and its willingness to spend billions of dollars in a loss-making push designed to ship Bay Trail to as many customers as possible at price points that compete directly with ARM-based Android tablets. Left undiscussed was the question of whether the tablet market will support a business model Intel finds attractive. It’s a question that’s increasingly important given the rapid commoditization of tablets and smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 'going metallic and bendy in a premium version'

Flexible display and camera specs crop up again

Samsung might be reserving the best for the prime Note 4

It sounds like Samsung's packing a lot of tech into the Galaxy Note 4, but some of that may be reserved for a second premium version of the handset.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Microsoft slashes prices to compete with Chromebooks: The second coming of the netbook

The second coming

The behemoth flails wildly. At its Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft has finally decided to compete with Chromebooks at the very lowest end of the PC market. Come fall, you’ll be able to get your hands on an HP Stream laptop running Windows 8 for just $200 — a Windows price point that we haven’t seen since the last time the PC market scraped the barrel (netbooks). With Chromebooks quickly gobbling up market share, and Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 failing to gain a significant foothold, Microsoft has clearly decided it’s time to resort to desperate measures.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Acer launches the first useful Chromebook with an Intel Core i3 CPU

the first useful

Chromebooks just became a lot more interesting! Acer recently announced that it will be shipping the first Chromebook featuring an Intel Core i3 processor, and it will only cost about $350. As Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware both become more capable, the more Microsoft and Apple need to worry. Combined with Intel’s dogged support for Chromebooks, this latest push by Acer shows that Chromebooks can be much more than just cheap laptops for kids. As it stands, the Chromebook might just be Google’s most intriguing initiative to date.

Hardware Is The New Software

Nest. GoPro. Beats. Jawbone. Oculus. All hardware companies and each of them accorded multi-billion-dollar valuations either in private investment transactions or acquisitions by some of the largest technology companies on the planet.

When the deals first surfaced, more than a few people were puzzled. Hardware hasn’t exactly been sexy for the past decade or so. Until last year, VC and tech talent have been fawning over software companies, which attracted nearly $11 billion in venture capital and saw 1,523 deals in 2013. And how did consumer electronics makers do with VCs in 2013? A paltry $848 million and 31 deals.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Shutting Down Tumblr

So, I have decided to take down my Tumblr blog [ ]. The site is not working the way I like, so I have no reason to keep it any more. I have enough blogs as is. Any site that takes that much effort is not worth it to me.

In the upcoming days, I am going to be taking down anywhere I have linked to my Tumblr.

Just thought you should know.

Your VB Kid

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Google’s Dart Language Is Now An Official ECMA Standard

A new language...

Google’s Dart language is now an official ECMA standard with the catchy name of ECMA-408. ECMA may not be a household name, but if you’re reading this, your browser is using ECMAscript to render at least some parts of this page. That’s because ECMAscript is the official standard body behind JavaScript. In the past, the organization has also been behind the specs for JSON, C#, the Office Open XML format and various CD-ROM specs.

Since the Dart team, which is led by Lars Bak (the Danish programmer who also worked on the V8 JavaScript engine, not the bicycle racer), decided that the language was stable enough for a 1.0 release last year, he and his team have been working on the standardization process with ECMA. A few days ago, ECMA formally approved the Dart language specs, which are based on Dart 1.3, the team shared on Google+ today.

While this may seem like a minor development for a relatively new language, standardizing Dart could help the team create a more active ecosystem around the language. With the specs stabilized, it’s also now easier for others to implement Dart now that it isn’t as much of a moving target.

While the Dart team considers its language general purpose, its strengths are clearly in writing web apps. Right now, however, not even Google’s own Chrome supports Dart by default. Instead, developers have to resort to either using a special build of Chrome that includes the Dart virtual machine, or they have to compile their code to JavaScript (though when I talked to Bak, he gave me the impression that Google could start supporting Dart directly in Chrome soon). Maybe now that it has become standardized, other browser vendors — and more developers — will take a second look at Dart.

Even though ECMA has now ratified the 1.0 standard, though, the team isn’t standing still. As Bak told me when I talked to him at Google I/O last month, support for enums and deferred loading, as well as at least some basic support for async, are on the group’s roadmap and could become part of the next revision of the Dart spec by the end of the year.

Source: TechCrunch

Your VB Kid

And The First Game To Find Its Way To Android Wear Is… Yep, You Guessed It.

The first shall be...

Quick! Take a guess: which endlessly ported/cloned game is the first to have made its way to Android Wear watches? Doom? Tetris? Far Cry 3?

Nope! It’s Flappy Bird. Yaaaay.

This is where I’d normally place a few dozen words explaining the game, but you already know pretty much everything there is to know: Flopsy Droid is Flappy Bird. On your wrist. Instead of a bird, it’s a Droid. Pipes are bad.

Is it perfect? Nah. Even the game’s creator, Sebastian Mauer, calls it completely experimental. The physics are a bit wonky, and even getting the game to start is kind of weird — you either need to say “Okay Google — start Flopsy Droid” (which we actually couldn’t get to work) or press a button on your phone (which sort of defeats the point of having a game on your wrist).

But it’s a start! If Android Wear watches manage to find a large user base, it’s a whole new platform/form factor for game developers to explore and battle over. Android Wear game developers just have to answer the same question that most developers are still working out: what can I do on a watch that my phone can’t do just as well or better?

Source: TechCrunch

Your VB Kid

Twitter Tanks More Than 7%

Are tech shares really down?

Following more executive changes, Twitter’s shares are down sharply today, sliding nearly 8 percent in morning trading. The company, which saw its share price soar following its IPO to more than $70 per share, is back under the $40 mark.

The slide comes on the heels of news that the social company has made Katie Jacobs Stanton its new global media boss, and made Gabriel Stricker its new chief communications officer. Twitter has a history of management changes. Investors could be skittish at the latest shifts.

Twitter is not the only technology company to retreat today, with Tesla and Netflix also taking firm whacks. Technology as an industry is down more than the larger market, which is having an off day.

Twitter will report its earnings on July 29. Investors expect the company to lose $0.01 per share on revenue of $282.44 million.

Source: TechCrunch

Your VBKid

Sony plotting a swift post-IFA release for Xperia Z3 and Compact companion?

When September ends?

 Z3 and younger brother should be on sale by the end of September

The rumoured Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact smartphones will be on shelves before the end of September, according to reports on Tuesday.

Now you'll have to bear with us a little bit here, but the tidbit of news comes from purported leaked details of a competition being held by Vodafone in Germany. OK, are you ready?

Basically the network is said to be holding a raffle between July 1 and September 30. Two of the devices you can purchase in order to earn points for the raffle are, you guessed it, the as-yet-unofficial Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact.

So, it stands to reason that those devices would have to be on sale, at least in Germany, by the last day in September, right?


The smartphones are expected to be unveiled at IFA tech show at the beginning of September, where Sony has traditionally launched its flagship mobile phones in recent years.

Early leaks have pointed to a slight Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor bump for the full-size Z3, a 1080p display and a 7mm thick chassis, along with an upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat.

At this point, the Z3 Compact looks like it may be the winner with a more powerful 2.5GHz quad-core processor, a larger 4.5-inch display, 2GB of RAM and a 20.7-megapixel camera.

What would you like to see? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

Monday, July 07, 2014

Scientists discover the on-off switch for human consciousness deep within the brain

Turn it off...

Researchers at George Washington University are reporting that they've discovered the human consciousness on-off switch, deep within the brain. When this region of the brain, called the claustrum, is electrically stimulated, consciousness — self-awareness, sentience, whatever you want to call it — appears to turn off completely. When the stimulation is removed, consciousness returns. The claustrum seems to bind together all of our senses, perceptions, and computations into single, cohesive experience. This could have massive repercussions for people currently in a minimally conscious state (i.e. a coma), and for deciding once and for all which organisms are actually conscious. Are monkeys conscious? Cats and dogs? A fetus?

Friday, July 04, 2014

Android L headed to Nexus 4, 5, 7 and 10

Got a Nexus 4 or original Nexus 7? Good news: Android L confirmed!

Google has posted source code for more devices

Android L for the Nexus 4

We can now safely say that Android L will be rolled out to the Nexus 7 (2013), the original Nexus 7 (2012), Nexus 5, Nexus 4 and Nexus 10.

That's because Google has released source code for more Nexus devices to developers, allowing them to install the early version of Android L on more handsets.

During Google I/O the search giant announced source code for the Nexus 7 (2013) and Nexus 5, which left many wondering if older devices would see Android L at all.

The new code releases also support the Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi + cellular Nexus 7 tablets - both new and old - ensuring every base is covered.

Drawing the line

There's no word on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or the Nexus S, and we suspect that Google may well have drawn the line here and won't be supporting the handsets which launched with Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread respectively.

While the code may be available to developers, Android L isn't due to launch on consumer devices until September or October this year - so you'll have to wait patiently for a few more months.

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

NVIDIA Shield Tablet breaks cover certified for LTE

Is the chip maker making a play for tablet gaming?

Your next Shield could be a tablet.

NVIDIA may want to brush up on how to plug internet leaks following the release of yet another online document providing new confirmation the graphics chip maker has a gaming tablet on the way.

Android Community reported that a certification registered last week with the Global Certification Forum (GCF) provides the most compelling evidence yet that NVIDIA is about to bring its A game to the tablet market.

Dubbed the "Shield Tablet," the 3G and LTE-capable hardware was registered with the GCF on June 27, suggesting NVIDIA could be prepping the device for a summer release, with rumors pointing at a July 22 launch.

Although this isn't NVIDIA's first foray into the tablet world, the forthcoming hardware is noteworthy due to the very specific Shield branding, implying its next device might be a tabletized version of the company's popular handheld gaming console.

Tegra tablet

While there's no official confirmation of hardware specs beyond the cellular connectivity options and "Notebook/Tablet" classification outed by the GCF, earlier rumors have pointed to a 7.9-inch tablet powered by the company's Tegra K1 processor and Android 4.4 KitKat.

The screen resolution apparently won't quite hit the lofty heights of QHD, but the report notes it will come pretty close at 2048 x 1536, with 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage rounding out the package.

The mere concept of a gaming-centric tablet is certainly enough to raise a few eyebrows, although the report posits the Shield Tablet could be a "combination of gamepad and tablet" instead.

It remains to be seen if the world is ready to get their game on with a tablet form factor or not, but we may only have three weeks or so to embrace the concept.

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

iPhone 6 release date may be later than originally thought

The iPhablet gets a name

Apple's secretive headset is becoming less shrouded in mystery by the  day.

We're fairly confident that the iPhone 6 will launch in September, but the exact date in September remains under wraps. Previously September 19 was rumoured, but a new rumour points to September 25 for the launch, following an announcement on September 15.

This latest claim comes from 'inside sources' picked up by various Chinese media outlets and spotted by G4Games.

The sources claim that China will be one of the first places to get the phone, but not necessarily the very first, so even if it's right it's still possible that the iPhone 6 will launch on September 19 in some regions.

Convincing price

As well as a possible release date the sources also reveal the supposed Chinese pricing of the handset. The 4.7-inch model will apparently start at 5,288 yuan (around £496, US$851.20 and AU$910.87), which lines up with previous pricing rumours for a 32GB model of the handset.

The 16GB model of the 5.5-inch model may retail for 5998 yuan (roughly £563, US$965.49 and AU$1033.17). Of course in both cases the final price over here is likely to be higher once VAT has been added.

Interestingly the larger model will apparently be called the iPhone Air, which would certainly differentiate it from the smaller handset, but also suggests that it's slim and light for its size.

That could actually add up as a previous leak suggested that the 5.5-inch iPhone would come in at a sleek 6.7mm thick, while the 4.7-inch model would be a slightly thicker 7mm.

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

Plasma TVs ascend to silicon heaven as Samsung bows out of production

Samsung follows Panasonic's plasma exit

The end is near

Samsung has announced plans to exit production of plasma televisions, a sure sign that the end is near for the display technology.

The Korean firm will build its last set on November 30 this year in order to switch focus to 4K and cuved television sets, it said in a statement.

The decision, it says, comes due to changes in the market.

A statement provided to CNET read: "We plan to continue our PDP TV business until the end of this year, due to changes in market demands. We remain committed to providing consumers with products that meet their needs, and will increase our focus on growth opportunities in UHD TV's and Curved TV's."


Samsung's plans to shut down plasma production follows Panasonic's October 2013 decision to do likewise.

Panasonic bowed out after deciding production of 4K plasma panels was too expensive compared with
LED LCD technology.

Reports in Korea claim it won't be long before LG follows suit.

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Samsung’s 850 Pro is the first consumer SSD to use 3D NAND

This should be interesting

Samsung is taking the lid off its new 850 Pro SSD — the first consumer drive to use 3D NAND and the replacement for the 840 Pro, which debuted in 2012. The launch of a 3D NAND drive is particularly important given that vertical NAND is believed to be the future of NAND design and the only possible way to continue pushing SSD drive sizes upwards without compromising reliability or performance.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

New, security-minded Blackphone is ready to ship, and it’s packing Nvidia hardware


One of the lasting impacts of the Snowden revelations last year has been a renewed focus and interest in smartphones that can actually secure user data from various prying eyes. The Blackphone purports to be one such device with a custom Android fork, dubbed PrivOS, and a collection of default applications that give the user a great deal of control over how information is used. Many of the tools are available from the Amazon App Store or on Google Play, but the Blackphone includes a two year subscription to Silent Circle’s Friends and Family privacy services (Silent Circle is an encryption communication provider).