Friday, September 25, 2015



Link to TechEye

VR is actually arriving

Posted: 25 Sep 2015 03:08 AM PDT

virtual_0After decades of being talked about, reasonably priced VR headsets are finally going to arrive.

Samsung and Oculus VR will launch in November the first virtual reality headset widely available to consumers. The headset, called the Gear VR, will cost $99 and work with mobile devices, including Samsung’s lineup of phones from this year such as the newly released Note 5 and Galaxy S6.

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe said that with mobile VR, you only need a great mobile game device and a smartphone.

It is not clear how well it will do. Some industry experts forecasts more than 30 million units per year shipping by 2020. Others warn those figures may be overly optimistic.

VR places users in a computer-generated world, has attracted many of the tech industry’s largest companies. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said VR could potentially have as much impact on the way we live and work as smartphones and tablets have. Facebook purchased Oculus last year for $2 billion.

Video games are the most obvious starting point. Developers can create immersive, 3D environments as opposed to the flat, two-dimensional experiences they can currently make for televisions and mobile devices.

Oculus is also working with Microsoft to adapt its technology Xbox video game console, and it’s working with media companies like Netflix, 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate to bring hit films and TV shows to the device as well.

The tech could also be used to create office software and mean that we will be forever focused within our PCs.

Firefox fixes 14 year old bug

Posted: 25 Sep 2015 03:08 AM PDT


bugBig cheeses in the Mozzarella Foundation have finally gotten around to fixing an ancient bug with its Firefox browser which will be great for Adblock Plus users.

Mozilla developer Cameron McCormack recently fixed bug 77999, enabling sharing of CSS-related data. Data structures that share the results of cascading user agent style sheets are now a go, which allowed the second issue (bug 988266) to be fixed as well.

Adblock Plus was registering a single style sheet for its element-hiding feature, but Firefox was creating a new copy of it for each page being loaded. This meant that the memory consumption could skyrocket (up to 2GB in one edge case) as more copies were created.

Mozilla developer Nicholas Nethercote said that the update meant that in one extreme example memory usage dropped by 3.62 MiB per document. Since there were examples of 429 documents on a single page it meant that the user was saving 1,550 MiB.

With Cameron's patches applied Firefox with AdBlock Plus used about 90 MiB less physical memory, which is a reduction of over 10 per cent. Even when AdBlock Plus is not enabled this change has a moderate benefit.

This improvements have been trickling down since July's Nightly build, first to Firefox Developer Edition, then to Firefox Beta, and now to the latest stable version. This means that Firefox now uses "about the same amount of memory" whether you're running the most popular add-on or not.

Many Firefox users will gladly use more memory to block ads, but now they don't have to use nearly anywhere as much.

Quite why it took Mozilla so long to fix the problem is anyone's guess.  Firefox is famous for hanging on to your memory and never giving it back and gave Google's Chrome a foothold into the market.


Marvell kills off its mobile business  

Posted: 25 Sep 2015 03:08 AM PDT

63935Chipmaker Marvell plans to cut its mobile business and will lay off nearly one in five of its staff.

The company’s mobile and wireless business makes connectivity chips, and processors for smartphones and tablets.

Marvell said it would now focus on emerging opportunities in businesses such as automotive and Internet of Things, the concept of connecting household devices to the Internet.

The company said on September 11 a slowdown in the personal computer market had led to a weaker-than-expected demand for its hard-disk drive products.

Marvell had a total of 7,163 employees at the end of January.

The chipmaker said on Thursday that it expects to take a charge of $100 million to $130 million related to the restructuring.

The restructuring is currently expected to result in annualised operating savings of $170 million to $220 million, the company said.


Key iOS feature borked

Posted: 25 Sep 2015 03:07 AM PDT

chef-appleA feature from Apple which was supposed to push apps to its iCloud is broken and the fruity cargo cult has pulled it.

App slicing is a good idea on paper.  It allows users to save resources on their shiny toys by splitting the Apple data  between the phone and the cloud.

Of course it requires some clever programming to make it work and Apple is having a lot of problems with the iOS9 operating system.

According to Apple its App slicing is currently unavailable for iOS 9 apps due to an issue affecting iCloud backups created from iOS 9 where some apps from the App Store would only restore to the same model of iOS device.

When a customer downloads your iOS 9 app, they will get the Universal version of the app, rather than the variant specific for their device type. TestFlight will continue to deliver variants for your internal testers.

Apple assures us that App slicing will be enabled with a future software update, although it is possible that having pulled it, we will never see its like again.

Ofcom imposes new mobile fees

Posted: 24 Sep 2015 08:19 AM PDT

Ofcom logoMobile regulator Ofcom said it has revised annual fees for operators after receiving directions from the government to charge the full market value.

After consultation, Ofcom has decided that mobile operators in the UK will pay a combined total of $80.3 million for the 900MHz band and £119.3 million for the 1800MHz band.

That's a total of £199.6 million a year.

The fees come into effect in two phases with the first half of the fees in effect on the 31st October 2015, and the second half into effect on 31st October 2016.

The regulator said that it conducted "detailed consultations" that considered factors including sums paid in the 4G auction and overseas spectrum auctions.

Ofcom had proposed fees in February this year but said that after consultation the fees for the 1800MHz band are three percent lower, and the fees for the 900MHz band are 24 percent lower.

Ofcom used the German auction which ended on the 19th June 2015 to provide evidence for market value for the spectra.

Sodium ion batteries are commercially feasible

Posted: 24 Sep 2015 06:54 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 14.52.06The inventor of the lithium ion battery and a team of researchers at the University of Texas in Austin said they've identified a cathode material that could pave the way for low cost sodium ion batteries.

Professor John Goodenough, the inventor of the lithium ion battery, said that sodium ion batteries offer a promising replacement for lithium ion batteries because sodium is abundant and cheap.

Lithium ion batteries are expensive to make and rely on the availability of lithium which is by no means as common as salt.

The challenge the researchers face is how to improve the performance and safety of sodium ion batteries so they can be commercialised.

Obstacles to sodium ion batteries include performance, weight and instability of materials but hte team has come up with a non toxic and cheap mineral called eldfellite, which it said will likely be a candidate for commercialisation.

Preetam Singh, a researcher in the team said: "We believe our cathode material provides a good baseline structure for the development of new materials that could eventually make the sodium ion battery a commercial reality."

The illustration above shows the crystal structure of the eldfellite cathode for a sodium ion battery.

Autodesk buys into 3D printing market

Posted: 24 Sep 2015 06:45 AM PDT

printing pressCAD software giant Autodesk said it has signed an agreement to buy netfabb.

The German company develops software for industrial design and manufacturing.

Autodesk did not say how much it has paid for netfabb, but said it has also made an investment in FIT Technology Group, the parent company of netfabb.

Autodesk will use foreign capital to buy netfabb and the deal will close in the firm's fourth quarter.

Samir Hanna, an AUtodesk VP, said: "We look forward to welcoming the netfabb team to AUtodesk and helping designers and manufacturers worldwide take 3D printing beyond prototyping and plastics, to reliably creating production grade parts at scale."

He said that over 80,000 designers, manufacturers, artists and others use nefabb as part of their 3D printing plans.

Autodesk will continue to support the user base but also integrate the netfabb tech into future Autodesk products such as the Spark 3D printing platform and Autodesk Fusion 360.

Solar panel demand soars

Posted: 24 Sep 2015 06:35 AM PDT

Solar farm in Arizona - Wikimedia CommonsThe five main markets for photovoltaic (PV) products are set to demand even more supplies.

Trendforce, a Taiwanese market research company, said the five biggest regions consuming PV technology are China, Japan, the USA, the UK and Germany, but demand from India is also increasing.

Overall, it seems that growth will flatten for both the UK and for Germany but China and the USA will all see strong growth.

Patrick Lin, an analyst for Trendforce Energytrend's division, said demand will rise in 2016 to total 58GW (gigawatts). "Asia, America, Europe and the Middle East and Africa will each take 57 percent, 26 percent, 11 percent and seven percent of global market share next year."

Lin said, however, there will be oversupply because Chinese manufacturers are set to complete production capacity expansion.

Other countries that have invested in solar this year are Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Africa and Algeria. UK government policy is moving toward zero subsidy for solar panels.

PV demand 2015-2016

IBM claims Watson is the future

Posted: 24 Sep 2015 06:24 AM PDT

Sherlock Holmes and Dr WatsonBig Blue said that its Watson platform is an "entirely new" model of computing because it isn't programmed and learns.

IBM claimed that in less than in two years the Watson platform now has over 25 application programming interfaces (APIs) available for over 50 technologies, as it introduced new features yesterday.

Those new features include language, speech and vision services as well as more developer tools.

The company claimed its natural language classifier lets developers build application that understand meaning by using its dialogue function.

In addition, Watson visual insights lets developers build apps that will get meaning from social media images and video.

The company also said it has added to its speech to text and text to speech services by adding Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese.

IBM has also put into beta its "knowledge studio" which it hopes will combine machine learning and text analytics in a single tool.

Meanwhile, the company opened a Watson Hub in San Francisco aimed at collaborating with local and Silicon Valley companies.

Datacentres of the future will be software ready

Posted: 24 Sep 2015 06:16 AM PDT

Data centreSoftware defined datacentres (SDDC) are the wave of the future, according to a prediction from market research company Gartner.

An SDDC is a datacentre with virtualised infrastructure and delivered as a "service" but it's not right for all enterprises, Gartner VP Dave Russell said.

"Due to its current immaturity, the SDDC is most appropriate for visionary organisations with advanced expertise in I&O engineering and architecture," he said.

But by 2020, 75 percent of global enterprises will go for a hybrid cloud model that uses the SDDC approach.

Russell said you can't buy an SDDC off the shelf and implementation needs new skills and a shift in the IT organisation.

He cautioned that vendors will still try to lock in customers and open soure standards or a cloud management platform can't completely help.

He said people need to recognise that adopting an SDDC "means trading a hardware lock in for a software lock in."

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