Monday, April 23, 2018

No Apple OS Merger

In an interview published in The Sydney Morning Herald
today, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested that Apple is not
working toward eventually running the same operating
system on Macs and mobile devices like the iPhone and
iPad, counter to widespread speculation.

The interview took place at the education-themed event
in Chicago at which Apple unveiled the last iPad. Here's
the relevant quote from Cook:

“We don't believe in sort of watering down one for the other.
Both [the Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons
that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them
to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two…
you begin to make trade-offs and compromises.

So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of
the day. But that's not what it's about. You know it's about giving
people things that they can then use to help them change the
world or express their passion or express their creativity. So
this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don't think
that's what users want.”

Earlier this year, Bloomberg ran a report saying that Apple will
soon unveil tools for developers that will allow deploying an app
for both macOS and iOS machines. Apps that target both
platforms would be usable with either a touchscreen or a mouse/
trackpad, depending on which device launches them. While
some outlets are saying Cook's statement debunks that rumor,
that's not necessarily the case; apps that support macOS/iOS

interoperability don't require a unified operating system.

Friday, April 20, 2018

MSFT Translator App

Chances are you mostly need a translator app on your
phone while you are traveling. But that’s also when you
are most likely to not have any connectivity. While most
translation apps still work when they are offline, they can’t
use the sophisticated — and computationally intense —
machine learning algorithms in the cloud that typically
power them. Until now, that was also the case for the
iOS, but starting today, the app will actually run a slightly
modified neural translation when offline (though iOS users
may still have to wait a few days, as the update still has
to be approved by Apple).

What’s interesting about this is that Microsoft  is able to
do this on virtually any modern phone and that there is
no need for a custom AI chip in them.

Microsoft’s Arul Menezes tells me that these new
translation packs are “dramatically better” and provide
far more human-like translation than the old ones, which
relied on an older approach to machine translations that
has now been far surpassed by machine learning-based
systems. The updated language packs (which only take
up about half the space of the old ones) are now available
for Arabic, Chinese-Simplified, French, German, Italian,
Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and

Thai, with others to follow.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

ZTE Phones OS Problems

ZTE Corp executives are investigating software options
for the company’s smartphones after a US technology
ban threatened to cut off the operating system at the heart
of its devices, a source said.

The Android operating system, designed by Google, is
the core of ZTE smartphones, powering their apps and
other services.  

The US Commerce Department on Monday banned
American firms from selling parts and software to ZTE
for seven years. The move was sparked by ZTE’s
violation of an agreement that was reached after it was
caught illegally shipping US goods to Iran.

The move threatens to further complicate relations
between the United States and China. The two countries
have already proposed tens of billions of dollars in tariffs
in recent weeks, stoking fears of a full-blown trade war
that could hurt global supply chains as well as business
investment plans.

ZTE lawyers have been meeting with Google officials
about the issue, according to the source with knowledge
of the matter, who asked not to be identified because

the talks were private.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Google Raspberry Pi Kits

Google wants to make it easier than ever to build your
own smart home gadgets. The search giant's latest kits
hit Target stores this month and include everything you
need to make either a smart speaker similar to a Google
Home or a smart home camera that can recognize faces
and expressions.

The kits are called the AIY Voice and AIY Vision kits
respectively. AIY stands for "Artificial Intelligence
Yourself." It's a take on Do It Yourself (DIY) for smart tech.
The idea of both kits is that you can use the included
pieces to build a fairly advanced piece of tech on your own.

Google might be hoping that with these tools, its community
of developers will be able to find ways to make smart
speakers and smart cameras even smarter. In Monday's
expressed an interest in helping teach students computer
science skills.

Google previously released both kits in 2017, but the
limited releases did not include some of the necessary
pieces such as the actual processing unit. Both kits are
meant to be used with the Raspberry Pi brand of micro-
computer popular with programmers, but you had to buy
the Raspberry Pi separately.

The updated kits will include a Raspberry Pi processing
unit (specifically the Raspberry Pi Zero WH) and the
Vision Kit will include a Raspberry Pi camera as well.
Clearer directions will also be included in the box. Plus,
Google's releasing a companion app to walk you through
the process of making your own smart gadget, and Google's

AIY website will have updated documentation.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


The second-generation AMD Ryzen desktop processors
are open for preorders today. Shipping on April 19th, the
new chips start at $199 for a six-core, 12-thread part running
at a base of 3.4GHz and a turbo of 3.9GHz; the prices goes
up to $329 for an eight-core, 16-thread processor at 3.7/4.3GHz.

Details on the new chips are a little light, with the full
reveal, including performance numbers, coming on release
day. We know that the second-generation processors are
an incremental improvement over the first-generation Zen
architecture. They keep the same basic layout—groups of
four cores/eight threads are arranged into "core complexes"
(CCXes), and a Ryzen chip has two CCXes joined together.
Each core has 512KB of level 2 and 2MB of level 3 cache.

The second generation increases clock speeds (the previous
high-end part had clocks of 3.6/4.0GHz) and makes the
processor's turbo boosting smarter. On first-generation parts,
the clock boosting could happen to a pair of cores, or all cores
together. This meant that if you needed, say, four fast cores,
they were constrained to the "all core" turbo speed. On the
second-generation chips, that turbo boosting is now available
with any number of cores, just as long as there's power and
thermal headroom. Workloads with more than two cores, but
fewer than all of them, should be able to use more of the
available power budget and hence run faster.

The new processors are compatible with the first-generation
motherboards (though they may need a firmware update to work).
AMD is also releasing a new high-end chipset, X470. X470's
big feature is "StoreMI," a hybrid disk system that allows volumes
to be built that span both SSDs and spinning disks (and even

RAM disks) to boost I/O performance.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Amazon Key

Amazon Key, the e-commerce giant's in-home delivery
service that's off to a bumpy start, may soon get backup
from one of the hottest smart home startups around.

Fortunately for Amazon, that startup is now part of the

The e-commerce titan on Thursday said it has completed
its purchase of Ring, a maker of video doorbells and
security cameras, after revealing the deal in late February.
Now the work starts in earnest to figure out how to combine
forces, including potentially adding Ring into Key, according
to Dave Limp, head of Amazon's devices and services.

"As it relates to Key, that's obviously one that we'll look at
pretty closely," he said Tuesday. "I wouldn't want to make
any commitments at this point in time, but it's certainly one
that's on the list that we'll start thinking about."

Limp's comments, which were part of an interview that
included Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff, offer a hint as to how
Ring fits into Amazon's broader strategy for the smart
home. The deal comes as Amazon is working hard to
maintain its dominant position in the area, where its Echo
devices control 70 percent of the US smart speaker market.
Also, its Alexa voice assistant works with thousands of
gadgets, including Ring's products.

But with Google, Apple and Samsung all pushing into the
same business, Amazon is trying to keep its edge by
continually growing its portfolio of devices, from the Fire
TV stick to the Cloud Cam security camera to smart doorbells.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday the 13th

For many years I always tried to travel on Friday the 13th because very few other peopledid. It made life easier for me!

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Google and Broadband

Google is in talks to acquire Nokia Oyj’s airplane broad-
band business as the Alphabet Inc. unit seeks to tap into
new services and reach more users by offering in-flight
high-speed internet, people familiar with the matter said.

Nokia’s technology could help Google offer a faster
alternative to existing Wi-Fi on airplanes, said the people,
who asked not to be identified because the deliberations
are private. Talks are advanced and an agreement may
be reached soon, the people said.

A final decision hasn’t been made and the companies
could still decide against a deal, the people said.

Representatives for Alphabet and Nokia declined to comment.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

PlayStation 5 Rumors

As we approach five years out from the initial launch of
Sony’s PlayStation 4 gaming console, history tells us it’s
time to start digging for rumors about its successor, the
inevitable PlayStation 5. Although the recent release of
intra-generational upgrades with both the PlayStation 4
Pro and the Xbox One X led many to speculate that the
age of discrete console generations might be coming to
an end (or at least slowing down), there are nevertheless
rumblings of varying credibility suggesting that Sony is
already working on the PS5.

SemiAccurate’s Charlie Demerjian claims to have tangible
details about PS5 devkits that are already in circulation
(via WCCFTech). According to Demerjian, the PS5 will
feature an 8-core Zen CPU and a GPU based on AMD’s
upcoming Navi architecture (Hey! Listen!), both customized,
of course.

We’ve known that Navi is likely coming in late 2018/early
2019 for several years now, but details are otherwise
unavailable on its capabilities. Demerjian has a history of
leaking accurate console specs, so his rumors are worth
serious consideration.

On the other hand, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier spoke to someone
with knowledge of Sony’s plans, and they reportedly laughed
at the rumored specs. According to Schreier’s reporting, if PS5
devkits do exist with the rumored specs, developers are largely

unaware of them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Leap Motion AR

Gesture interface company Leap Motion is announcing
an ambitious, but still very early, plan for an augmented
reality platform based on its hand tracking system. The
system is called Project North Star, and it includes a design
for a headset that Leap Motion claims costs less than
$100 at large-scale production. The headset would be
equipped with a Leap Motion sensor, so users could
precisely manipulate objects with their hands — something
the company has previously offered for desktop and VR

Project North Star isn’t a new consumer headset, nor will
Leap Motion be selling a version to developers at this point.
Instead, the company is releasing the necessary hardware
specifications and software under an open source license
next week. “We hope that these designs will inspire a new
generation of experimental AR systems that will shift the
conversation from what an AR system should look like, to
what an AR experience should feel like,” the company writes.

The headset design uses two fast-refreshing 3.5-inch LCD
displays with a resolution of 1600x1440 per eye. The displays
reflect their light onto a visor that the user perceives as a
transparent overlay. Leap Motion says this offers a field of
view that’s 95 degrees high and 70 degrees wide, larger than
most AR systems that exist today. The Leap Motion sensor
fits above the eyes and tracks hand motion across a far wider

field of view, around 180 degrees horizontal and vertical.