Monday, October 31, 2016

Energy Use

The Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) recent report citing LG, Samsung and Vizio for allegedly using more energy than is stated on Energy Guide labeling and advertising, has started influencing a series of class-action lawsuits from disgruntled customers.
Three recent cases have been filed against the companies following the NRDC report issued on Sept. 21, 2016 stating that the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)-standardized test that Department of Energy (DOE) uses in its test procedure is not representative of how people view programming. The NRDC alleged that “Samsung and LG appear to be exploiting these anomalies to achieve lower energy use levels during the test than in real-world viewing.”
LG and Samsung TVs, specifically, were said to use energy-saving motion-dimming functions that automatically darken the screen during frequent scene changes or fast-action scenes.
Pat Remick, an NRDC spokesperson, told HD Guru: “We have no association with any class action lawsuits or the parties who filed them. Nor do we have a financial or legal stake in them. However, we completely stand behind our research and will continue our advocacy efforts to update the Department of Energy’s TV testing method and improve the energy efficiency of new TVs.

Friday, October 28, 2016

New Xiaomi Phones

Chinese device maker Xiaomi has announced another clutch of mobile hardware, including a concept smartphone developed in collaboration with designer Philippe Starck.
Xiaomi CEO and founder Lei Jun dubbed it “a glimpse at what the phone of the future looks like”.
The near edgeless 6.4in, 17:9 display on the Mi Mix covers 91.3 per cent of the available surface area. So if you really hate bezels you’re going to be really smitten by this vision of edgeless loveliness.
Don’t get too excited, though. While the phone is due to go on sale in China early next month a Xiaomi spokesperson stressed there will be “limited availability” — and would not confirm how few phones that means.
It is also unclear which other markets, if any, the device will be offered to. Xiaomi has yet to bring any of its smartphones to the US — although it continues to eye the market with interest. Perhaps even more so in the wake of Samsung’s problems with exploding batteries on the Note 7.
The price-tag for the Mi Mix is RMB 3499 (~$515), for a 4GB + 128GB “standard version”. The body of the phone (back, sides, buttons) is made of ceramic. Inside there’s a 2.35GHz Snapdragon 821 processor, and a 4400mAh battery.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

SmartWatch Sales

Bought a smartwatch recently? How very 2015 of you.
The number of smartwatches shipped over the most recent three months has declined 52 percent compared with the same July-to-September period last year, according to a report by IDC wearables analysts.
Apple remains the leading smartwatch maker, but it has also seen fewer people interested in its tech-enabled timepiece this year than in 2015. It has lost significant ground to Garmin, thanks to that company's growing portfolio of fitness-focused smartwatches.
In 2015, Apple owned more than 70 percent of the smartwatch market and Garmin only 2 percent. Garmin now owns more than 20 percent, and Apple 41 percent.
Samsung has remained on pretty much an even keel, even though its newest watch, the Gear S3, hasn't yet gone on sale. Motorola, on the other hand, has been a victim of its own success, given that many vendors sold out of the first and second generations of its Moto 360 device -- and that for the first time in several years it has not released a smartwatch in the run-up to the holidays.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

With the Galaxy Note 7 still making headlines, Samsung is ready to divert some of America's attention to another big screen with a pen: the 10.1" Galaxy Tab A will be available stateside starting October 28th. Samsung's latest tablet to hit American shores comes with a slightly larger, slightly higher definition screen than last year's model, and the company's S Pen stylus now comes standard.

Powering the new 1920x1200 WUXGA screen is an Octa-core Exynos 7870 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 16 GB of on-board storage, with support for up to 256 GB more in the microSD slot. There's an 8 megapixel camera for photos, plus a 2 megapixel front-facing camera for selfies and video calls. Weighing in at 1.22 pounds, Samsung claims you'll get around 14 hours of internet time out of the 7,300mAh battery -- or about an hour less if you're binge-watching video. For connectivity, the Tab A gets all the standard WiFi protocols, Bluetooth 4.2 LE and USB 2.0 for charging, but there doesn't appear to be an LTE version available just yet. Finally, for excited Android Nougat adopters, the Tab A ships with 6.0 Marshmallow so you'll have to wait for the update from Samsung at some point in the future.

The Tab A comes in two colors – your standard black and white – and will retail for $349.99 starting this Friday at and select shops.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

EA Mobile

Electronic Arts has struck gold with Madden NFL Football on mobile, where it has consistently been in the top-ten grossing games and making a ton of money. But FIFA Mobile isn’t even in the top 100. If the company can change that, the financial impact could be huge, as FIFA is by far EA’s most valuable sports game franchise, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t grab a bigger part of the $36 billion mobile game industry.
Madden (in its refined form) has had a head start for three years, but FIFA Mobile debuted in October, and it is holding the No. 7 position in the U.S. iOS app store as far as top downloads go. It’s not a bad start for a title that carries such high hopes.

EA has been making FIFA mobile titles for a half-dozen years, but it hasn’t said how many people are playing and making purchases within them. Much of that time has been spent figuring out what works. Just taking a console game and putting it on a mobile device hasn’t been that fruitful. So this year’s FIFA Mobile offering is far different from the popular console entries.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tesla Self Driving Cars

Tesla Motors announced that its electric cars will be the first in the nation to all be fitted with the hardware they need to drive themselves.
CEO Elon Musk announced Wednesday that the automaker's Model S, X and forthcoming Model 3 sedan will start being outfitted with "the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver."
That constitutes full Level 5 autonomy, which doesn't require any driver involvement. That's the ultimate goal for a range of automakers and tech companies, including Google, Ford and Volvo, which have vowed to produce such self-driving vehicles by 2021.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Netgear Router

Gamers and big downloaders can rejoice. Netgear is launching what it calls the “world’s fastest router,” the Nighthawk X10, for media streaming, instant backup, and fast gameplay.
The Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wi-Fi Router is a follow-up to the Nighthawk brand that the company launched in 2013.
San Jose, Calif.-based Netgear is pitching the router to enthusiasts who like 4K video streams and virtual reality gaming.
The router combines a 1.7-gigahertz quad-core processor — the fastest processor in a home router — and quad-stream Wave 2 Wi-Fi architecture. It can handle the next-generation Wi-Fi known in engineering lingo as “802.11ad” Wi-Fi, with speeds up to 7.2 gigabits per second.
It uses the latest MU-MIMO technology to support simultaneous streaming, and it doubles Wi-Fi speeds to mobile devices. It has four patent-pending external Active Antennae to amplify Nighthawk X10 Wi-Fi signals to maximize range and throughput.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Snapchat Revenue Sharing

Snapchat says it’s done sharing with media companies.
The red-hot messaging app wants to make a major change in the way it works with companies that supply it with content for its “Discover” section.
Instead of sharing ad revenue that section produces, Snapchat wants to pay content partners a flat license fee up front and keep the ad money for itself. It’s the same model that TV networks use when they buy programming.
That’s a switch from the terms Snapchat has offered since it launched Discover in 2015. Up until now,it has let publishers sell ads against their own content, and Snapchat has also sold ads against the same content using its own sales team. Splits have varied depending on the deal and who sold the ads.
Other big digital platforms, including Facebook and Apple, have offered similar programs to publishers that provide them content.
The new terms, which Snapchat has started proposing over the last few weeks, means the company will have full control over its ad inventory as it gears up for a public offering.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


HTC really wants VR to happen. For all of their mobile handset woes, the company is keen to grab the next platform shift by the horns and have the ecosystem and infrastructure in place to become an early powerhouse in the space.
The company’s VR presence has notably been lacking in the mobile department which has been somewhat confounding given the fact that they seem to understand that mobile is sorta kinda important. Today, the company announced a mobile version of its Viveport VR storefront for Android phones.
Viveport M is looking to serve as a hub for 360 content and dedicated VR apps that work for users with and without headsets. It is initially launching in China, though HTC says a global rollout is already being planned.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

GameStop Almost Out of PS Goggles

GameStop Corp. expects to sell out of Sony Corp.’s PlayStation virtual reality goggles by Sunday, Chief Operating Officer Tony Bartel said in an interview.

The Grapevine, Texas-based operator of computer game stores has asked Sony to supply more of the headsets, the executive said.

PlayStation VR, which is used in conjunction with Sony’s PlayStation game console, went on sale Thursday. GameStop took preorders and opened its doors just after midnight Wednesday, and Bartel said many stores were already sold out.

"If you find a PlayStation VR just grab it," he said. "This year demand will definitely outstrip supply."
Bartel declined to specify how many units of the $400 goggles it had been allocated, but said he believed GameStop had the largest allocation of any retailer, adding that sales of related virtual reality games were also doing well.

Monday, October 17, 2016

HP Job Cuts

HP Inc. is cutting between 3,000 to 4,000 jobs over the next three years as part of a restructuring plan worked out by the company.
The PC and printer firm, which was created about a year ago after Hewlett-Packard was split into two companies, said in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that it expects about “3,000 to 4,000 employees to exit between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2019.”
The company's "printing business is challenged right now but the PC business is hitting on all cylinders," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy. “The PC Group is gaining market share, increasing profits and innovating more than I have seen in years,” he added.
The workforce changes will "vary by country, based on local legal requirements and consultations with employee works councils and other employee representatives, as appropriate,” HP said in the filing.
The company said earlier that it would be cutting 3,000 jobs during the company's 2016 fiscal year ending Oct. 31. It had nearly 50,000 employees as on Nov. 1, according to its website.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Safer Batteries?

When the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 started making headlines shortly after its launch in August, it was for all the wrong reasons. Samsung had to start recalling the devices after reports they were overheating and catching fire -- and just yesterday announced it would halt production and sales of the device altogether. The troubles, both costly and embarrassing for the company, were all down to the battery.
Like almost all rechargeable consumer electronics, Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 uses a lithium-ion battery, where lithium ions are used to move charge between the battery's positive and negative electrodes. The ions are carried between the two in a liquid electrolyte, typically a lithium salt. In the event of a short circuit, that highly flammable liquid electrolyte can heat up and even catch fire.
While it's still too early to tell what went wrong in Samsung's case, the company blamed a rare manufacturing error that "placed pressure on plates contained within battery cells" and "brought negative and positive poles into contact".

Thursday, October 13, 2016

WD Goes Green (and Blue)

Western Digital has gone both blue and green. The maker of hard drives and storage devices has a new line of high-capacity solid state drives (SSDs) that emphasize either the high-performance or the “green” nature of the sustainable power consumption levels.
In WD’s parlance, blue means fast. Green means environmentally friendly. And today, the company is introducing a new generation of its new WD-branded SATA client SSDs that complement the hard drives for PCs and workstations that are part of its traditional business. WD acquired SanDisk, a maker of flash memory-based SSDs, for $19 billion in 2015.
Irvine, California-based WD positions the SSDs as the ultimate solution for do-it-yourself PCs, extending the life of a current PC with capacities that can reach as high as one terabyte. Consumers such as DIY fans, PC enthusiasts, gamers, and content creators are the target market.
WD says the new drives are reliable and have quick boot times and increased program responsiveness. Consumers benefit from the combination of reliable storage with an industry-leading 1.75M hours MTTF, coupled with reduced power and less heat when compared to HDDs.
Both the blue and green SSDs include free, downloadable WD SSD Dashboard software, which allows continuous performance and capacity monitoring. The devices are ultra-thin, they’re speedy at video transfer, and the dashboard is quite easy to monitor.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Linus Prefers X86 to ARM

Linux pioneer Linus Torvalds is a stand-up guy—he says what he feels. There’s no sugarcoating, and he’ll admit to faults, like recent issues with the Linux 4.8 kernel.
He was full of surprises at last week’s Linaro Connect conference, when he was asked about his favorite chip architecture. He didn’t blink before saying it was x86, not ARM.
It may have been the long history of x86 with PCs that influenced his answer. There’s little fragmentation of software and hardware with x86, and things just work.
People are too fixated with the instruction set and the CPU core, Torvalds said, but it ultimately is the ecosystem around the architecture that matters more.
“What matters is all the infrastructure around the instruction set, and x86 has all that infrastructure... at a lot of different levels,” Torvalds said. “It’s opening a way that no other architecture is.”
A lot of application development happens on PCs with x86 chips from Intel or AMD. Compatibility matters for x86 chips and PCs, which have a unified model around hardware, development, and other infrastructure.
The same can’t be said about ARM. From hardware vendor perspective, that leads to a fragmented market, Torvalds said.
“Being compatible just wasn’t as big of a deal for the ARM ecosystem as it has been traditionally for the x86 ecosystem,” Torvalds said during a fireside chat with ARM developers listening on.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The End of the Note 7... Forever?

On August 24, we named the Samsung Galaxy Note7 the best phablet available—this based on our glowing August 16 review. Then Note7s starting catching on fire en masse, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an official recall, prompting us to “temporarily suspend” our recommendation. Today, with four reported cases of ostensibly safe replacement phones catching fire in the U.S. in less than a week, Samsung’s Note7 problem looks all but unsalvageable. What’s more, as The Verge reports, AT&T has stopped exchanging original Note7s for replacement phones.
As a result of recent developments, we’re now considering a permanent suspension of our buy recommendation. It’s time for Samsung to act swiftly and transparently in sharing exactly what’s wrong with its phone, and provide reassuring evidence that its fire hazard has been fixed.
If you haven’t heard the latest: Last week an alleged replacement phone caught fire on a Southwest flight, prompting an evacuation on the runway in Louisville, KY. On October 8, we learned that a Farmington, MN teenager suffered a burn when an alleged replacement Note7 went up in flames in her hand. On the same day, a man in Nicholasville, KY reported that his alleged replacement Note7 caught fire on Tuesday.

The latest ostensibly safe Note7 reportedly caught fire today: A man in Virginia contacted the Verge with photos of a Note7 that “burst into flames” on his nightstand. All four reports look perfectly reliable. Just watch the Note7 owner on the Southwest flight explain his Note7 journey.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Death of I.E.

Millions more deserted Microsoft's browsers last month, adding to what can only be described as a collapse of the company's place in the browser world.
According to analytics vendor Net Applications, the combined user share of Internet Explorer and Edge fell 1.9 percentage points in September, ending the month at 30.6%.
The string of losses showed no sign of letting up: September's decline was the sixth in a row of 1.9 percentage points or more. IE and Edge have shed 18 percentage points so far this year, a 39% decline in just eight months. Simply put, no other browser has bled user share this quickly, with the possible exception of Netscape Navigator in the 1990s.
If declines continue at the rate of the last nine months, IE + Edge will fall below the 25% marker by the end of the year, and under 20% by March 2017, Computerworld calculated.
Microsoft's problems with browser deserters have benefited Google most, but last month the Mountain View, Calif. company's Chrome added just four-tenths of a percentage point to its share, less than a fourth of the average over the last 12 months. During September, Chrome accounted for 54.4% of all browsers.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Lenovo Fujitsu Merger?

Lenovo Group Ltd. is in talks with Fujitsu Ltd. to merge their personal-computer businesses, with the Chinese manufacturer taking a majority stake in the venture, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
The two sides are still discussing pricing and terms, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The companies are aiming to reach agreement this month, according to the Nikkei newspaper, which reported the deal earlier Thursday.

An alliance with Fujitsu would give Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC maker, a bigger foundation to expand its share. Lenovo had 19.4 percent of the global PC market in 2015, compared with 2.1 percent for Fujitsu, according to IDC. Lenovo is also seeking to make further inroads into smartphones, while embarking on a plan to cut $1.35 billion from annual costs and eliminate 3,200 jobs. The company said in August that it was making progress and would turn around its business next year.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Google WiFi

Long a beneficiary of people using the web, Google is getting more involved in creating devices that get people online.

On Tuesday, the Alphabet Inc. unit introduced a new hardware system, dubbed Google Wifi, that uses a wireless technology called mesh networks to spread Wi-Fi internet signals more evenly around homes. Google billed the system as an alternative to existing bulkier wireless routers, pitting the search giant against a crop of startups trying to grab their own piece of the market.

Last year, Google released a solo router, OnHub. Both products were developed by engineers in an Alphabet unit called Access, which focuses on spreading internet connectivity. But the devices were moved under the company’s new hardware chief Rick Osterloh earlier this year.

Google Wifi is only sold in the U.S. for now and costs $129 for a single device and $299 for a set of three. That pricing undercuts mesh router systems from companies such as Eero, Ubiquity Networks and Luma, a startup backed by Inc.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Ghost of Zune

Microsoft said that it stopped selling its Band 2 fitness wearable, but it remains committed to supporting its Microsoft Band 2 customers through its Stores and its customer support channels.
The Band 2 has been removed completely from Microsoft's online store, signaling that production has ceased. It's no longer available from Best Buy either, though Amazon is still selling through its remaining inventor.

Microsoft said it has sold through its existing Band 2 inventory and have no plans to release another Band device this year. It remains committed to supporting its Microsoft Band 2 customers through Microsoft Stores and its customer support channels and will continue to invest in the Microsoft Health platform, which is open to all hardware and apps partners across Windows, iOS, and Android devices.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Best Buy Electronics Upgrades

It may be that buying a new car is an unnecessary expense, at least when it comes to consumer electronics. Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) claims it can “tech up any car to feel like new.” The transformation comes with a high price tag.
To make the car feel like new, Best Buy offers “professional car electronics installation”:
After that, a very long list of options. In car entertainment, it includes amplifiers, speakers and satellite radio. It’s not cheap. A speaker can cost $100, a touch screen TV at $600, a tire pressure sensor at $180, and a Rand McNally tablet for $400. (Installation is $49.)
Is it worth the cost? Maybe. A seven-year-old car may not have had most of these items available. (Seven years is the average period Americans own a car bought new.) Not only were the cars not available with current generations of many of these consumer electronics devices, but dealers have little or no capacity to install them.
Many cars bought new lose well over 60% of their value in seven years. A $30,000 car becomes a $12,000 car over that period. For $2,000 or $3,000, that car will be like new, at least in terms of consumer electronics.
Replace the tires, much of the engine and the drive train, and for $15,000 it seems pretty new. Why spend $30,000 for a brand new one (many of the Best Buy products and installations would add thousands if the dealer did them). Many actuaries would argue it’s a good deal.

Monday, October 3, 2016

New Panasonic Battery

Panasonic has announced its latest flexible battery innovation, which it will be showing off at CEATEC in Japan next week. When combined with flexible displays, printed electronics, and increasingly small processing packages, this could be the technological breakthrough that bendable smartphone enthusiasts have been waiting for.
According to Panasonic, the battery can be bent and twisted up to a radius of 25mm, with a maximum angle of 25 degrees,  over 1000 times, while still retaining 99 percent of its charge. Importantly given recent other battery related problems in the news, twisting the cell is completely safe as well. To obtain these properties, Panasonic has custom designed a laminated outer layer to prevent leakage and over-heating, and newly developed internal structure, but the real secrets are hidden away in the company’s patents.
Unfortunately, as always seems to be the case with these flexible technologies, there’s still more work to be done before this is ready for powerful pieces of technology, such as smartphones. Currently, the batteries are only designed to hold charges between 17.5 mAh and 60 mAh each. That’s a long way behind the 3,000 mAh cells that we’re used to in top of the line Android phones. However, tens of milliamp hours is enough to power some low power wearables, and these cells might be able to be chained together, say in a smartwatch strap, for some extra battery life.
Panasonic is targeting its batteries to power pieces of smart clothing, smart cards, and key cards. For starters, Panasonic’s flexible lithium-ion battery will most likely make its way into small form factory IoT devices and cards, but there’s the possibility that this technology could be scaled up for larger flexible electronics in the future.
After showing off its batteries at CEATEC JAPAN 2016 from October 4 to 7, Panasonic plans to begin shipping out samples by the end of October.