Thursday, February 23, 2017

UPS Drones

United Parcel Service sees a day when your latest purchase may be dropped off not by a brown-clad delivery driver, but by an octocopter drone.

The world’s largest courier took a step closer to that future on Monday, launching an unmanned aerial vehicle from the roof of a UPS truck about a quarter-mile to a blueberry farm outside Tampa, Florida. The drone dropped off a package at a home on the property, and returned to the truck, which had moved about 2,000 feet.

The test shows how UPS is looking to drones as a way to cut costs and ease delivery in hard-to-reach places. Deploying the aircraft in rural areas -- where the distance between stops drives up fuel and labor costs -- is one of the more promising applications.

“Drones won’t replace our uniformed service providers,” says Mark Wallace, UPS’s senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “That’s key, but in this case, it really is there to assist.”

Monday’s trial was the clearest indication that Atlanta-based UPS wants to use drones for home delivery, as do internet retailer Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. Those companies and others still must overcome significant regulatory hurdles before delivery-by-drone becomes the norm.

UPS says it hasn’t calculated how much the potential shift could help cut costs, but estimates in general that reducing each driver’s mileage by a mile a day could save $50 million a year. The company operates more than 100,000 road vehicles, according to its website.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Xiaomi Update

In a nearly 5,000 square-foot ballroom at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on a Thursday morning in early January, Xiang Wang walked onto the stage to represent a young company that had been in the limelight for the past six years: Xiaomi.

As vice president for global business and intellectual property strategy, Wang is one of the people responsible for introducing the company to new markets. And on this day, at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, he was there to make perhaps the company’s most ambitious pitch to date: selling Xiaomi to the U.S.

“Most of you may know Xiaomi as an innovative smartphone company,” he said, addressing attendees that included media from around the world. “But we are so much more than that.” Wang highlighted the company’s involvement in smart TVs, internet services such as gaming, video, and financial products, as well as its work with connected devices. And while Xiaomi has already expanded beyond China into 20 countries worldwide, including India, it elected CES to educate the American public and press about what it does, even though there are no current plans to really set up shop in the country.

“Xiaomi is a six-year old company, and it’s reached a certain scale…Although there are a lot of people that know about Xiaomi, there are those that don’t fully understand Xiaomi,” explained Donovan Sung. As the director of product management, he oversees the creation of new products that are designed to appeal to specific markets, such as an air purifier for China and India. “We’ve reached a certain point in China and other global markets, and we want our story to be told in one of the most influential markets in the world,” he said, describing why Xiaomi is making its inaugural appearance at CES.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pokemon Go News

Pokémon Go is getting a whole lot bigger very soon. Today developer Niantic announced that 80 new pocket monsters are coming to the mobile game later this week. The new recruits will be culled from the Johto region from Pokémon Gold and Silver, and will include the likes of Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile. Unlike previous additions like Pichu and Togepi, players will be able to encounter the new pokémon in the wild, instead of just hatching them from eggs.

The update will cover more than new creatures to collect. Pokémon Go will also be getting what developer Niantic describes as “new encounter gameplay,” as well as two new types of berries — including one that slows down opponents — and additional outfit options to deck out trainers. There are also new evolution items that can be used to evolve the new additions to the game.

This is one of the biggest updates to the game since its debut last summer, and according to Niantic CEO John Hanke, there’s more to come as well. “Pokémon Go is a live experience which we’ll be continuing to support and evolve in new and interesting ways for years to come with new gameplay features, in-game and live events, more pokémon to discover, and much more,” he said in a statement.

Over the last few months the game has seen a number of new updates, including the addition of sponsored gyms and limited time in-game events. It also made its long-awaited debut on Apple Watch and launched in new markets like South Asia in December.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Huawei Voice Assistant

Huawei Technologies Co., the third-largest smartphone maker, is preparing to enter the competitive world of digital assistants with its own voice-powered service, people familiar with the matter said.

A team of more than a hundred engineers is in the early stages of developing the technology at its Shenzhen, China offices, one of the people said. The efforts are extensive and are aimed at Apple Inc.'s Siri, Inc.'s Alexa, and Alphabet Inc.'s Google Assistant, not smaller players, the person said.

Huawei's assistant would communicate in Chinese languages and target domestic users while the company will continue to work with Google and Amazon outside China, one of the other people said. They asked not to be identified as the details are private.

Building its own answer to Siri may help Huawei devices stand out in a crowded Chinese market, where many Google services that come with the dominant Android smartphone operating system are blocked.

Huawei is targeting $33 billion in sales from its consumer business this year. The company trails only Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. in global smartphone shipments as it pushes upmarket with premium features.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

MSFT Scraps Security Update

Microsoft this week canceled February’s slate of security updates for Windows and its other products, including Office, just a day after saying that the fixes would only be delayed.
Patch experts struggled with the decision, pointing out that known vulnerabilities will go unpatched and that IT planning had been disrupted.
“I was shocked,” said Chris Goettl, product manager at patch management vendor Ivanti, formerly Shavlik. “I was really expecting [the patches to release] next week.”
On Tuesday, just hours before the month’s Patch Tuesday updates were to appear, Microsoft announced a delay. “We discovered a last-minute issue that could impact some customers and was not resolved in time for our planned updates today,” the company said at the time. The implication was that February’s security fixes would ship as soon as that “last-minute issue” was resolved.
But in a Wednesday revision to the original announcement, Microsoft said, “We will deliver updates as part of the planned March Update Tuesday, March 14, 2017.” (Microsoft prefers the label “Update Tuesday” to the more universal “Patch Tuesday.”)
Skipping a month’s update slate was unprecedented. Although Microsoft has not issued updates on four Patch Tuesdays since the 2003 debut of regularly-scheduled updates—most recently in March 2007—those were instances when no patches had been prepared. It has never missed a month when there were clearly fixes prepped and ready to go.
“This isn’t like before when no updates meant nothing was ready,” said Susan Bradley, the moderator of the mailing list, where business IT administrators discuss update tradecraft. “Patches were ready. They just—for whatever unknown reason—couldn’t be delivered.” Bradley also writes about Microsoft’s patching processes for the Windows Secrets newsletter.
Microsoft has not said what prompted the delay, or what triggered the expansion of that into the month’s cancelation.

What Are They Afraid Of?

We recently heard on Facebook of a company called Sentio that makes a product called the Superbook. It sounds like the perfect product for the modern user whose phone is their life. It’s a laptop computer that connects to your phone and turns the smartphone into a full sized laptop. What a great idea!

We contacted them and received a reply almost immediately: they will not be sending out review units! All we can say is what do they have to hide? My guess is that the device doesn't work as advertised. Why else would that not want free publicity?

Friday, February 17, 2017

The End of the Home Button

The iPhone's home button may not be long for this world.

Apple has been granted a patent for an "interactive display panel with IR diodes" -- a method that would let users activate a device through a virtual home button placed within the touchscreen. The technology, described in a filing made public Tuesday by the US Patent and Trade Office, could replace the physical home button that's traditionally occupied the space below the iPhone's screen. The patent was first spotted by Apple-tracking site AppleInsider.

Ever since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, the round home button has been a focal point for navigating the gadget. But rumors of its demise began to swirl in 2013, when Apple introduced Touch ID, a fingerprint security sensor that allowed users of its iPhone 5S to bypass typing in a password. The Touch ID sensor is built into the home button today.

That speculation only increased in 2015, when Apple filed a patent application to move the fingerprint sensor beneath the glass of the touchscreen, eliminating the need for a home button.

As Apple marks the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone, the rumor mill is being fed by reports about big hardware changes expected on the next-generation phone many are calling the iPhone 8. The elimination of a physical home button is one of the rumored changes, as is a glass and steel body with a curved edge display; wireless charging; and even using an iris scanner as one way to unlock the device.