News snippets Sliced and diced for your convenience
1. Tinder users are given a secret rating that only Tinder can see. Find out more (Fast Company) 2. A kangaroo can appear as though it's mourning for its dead mate when in fact it's trying to have sex with it. Find out more 3. Samosas are officially considered a luxury in the Indian state of Bihar. Find out more 4. There's a mathematical formula for slicing pizza equally if some people eating it don't like the toppings in the middle. Find out more (New Scientist) 5. A crocodile the size of a bus used to live in what is now the Sahara desert. Find out more (Washington Post) 6. The Ku Klux Klan didn't always wear hoods. Find out more (Smithsonian Magazine) 7. The older a person gets, the less likely they are to understand sarcasm. Find out more (The Times) 8. Dogs can recognise human emotions. Find out more (Daily Telegraph) 9. Major Tom from David Bowie's Space Oddity (and Ashes To Ashes) may have been named after Tom Major, the father of prime minister John Major. Find out more (The Guardian) 10. You get free anti-slip shoe covers if you are over 70 and live in the Finnish town of Ypaja.
GADGET filled houses could soon be thrown back to the dark ages.
The internet of things is a major buzz word at the minute.
Tech firms desperately want our homes to be fully connected to the web allowing us to ramp up the heating, switch on the lights and even make a brew before arriving at the front door.
This all sounds like a fine idea but there’s a big problem and it could send your home back to the dark ages.
Like many homes across the UK my house has plenty of gadgets hooked up to the WiFi.
So when my broadband supplier decided to have a major New Year’s breakdown I was left shocked at how much I rely on this 21st century technology.
Overnight my house went from state-of-the-art to something you might find on an episode of the Flintstones.
CONNECTED: Gadgets such as the Nest thermostat and Sonos speakers need WiFi to work
“Technology is evolving all the time and is driving our economy” Boris Ivanovic, internet entrepreneur
With the router fully out of action, the internet-connected gadgets began losing their senses.
My thermostat stopped working, plunging the house into arctic conditions, WiFi speakers become silent, lightbulbs couldn’t be dimmed and my internet-connected security system was as much use as a blind guard dog.
Then there’s the terror of not being able to grab the usual fix of on demand TV.
With no broadband it was back to the basic boring channels.
Unlike having the water and power cut off, the internet going down isn’t the worst thing that could happen and it was more an inconvenience than a disaster, but in the future this could change.
Over the next five years our homes are going to be jammed packed with internet connected tech.
CES is an electronics and technology tradeshow showcasing the newest gadgets, 2016 includes a Samsung fridge which let's you order takeaway as well as letting you know when food is going out of date.
Ovens, fridge freezers, electric sockets and even door locks will be powered by your WiFi and, if your broadband breaks down, your home could be plunged into chaos.
Many of the UK’s internet service providers say they are working hard to make sure things don’t go wrong.
Virgin Media says it's improving its fibre optic broadband network while BT is planning to deliver ultrafast speeds of up to 500Mbps to most of the UK within a decade.
But inevitably things are going to go wrong and, when they do, consumers could be in for a major shock.
Internet entrepreneur Boris Ivanovic believes that the UK needs to invest heavily in broadband to keep up with the increasing demands.
His company, Hyperoptic, is one of the few UK providers to offer 1Gb speeds to its customers, and feels other providers need to do the same.
Speaking to the Daily Star Online, he said: "Technology is evolving all the time and is driving our economy.
"When we launched in 2005 people questioned why you needed 24Mbps, now that speed is the norm.
"Giving people gigabit speeds via fibre-to-the-home future-proofs consumers for the new wave of products and services that will continue to transform our lives.”
If our recent experience is anything to go by we wouldn’t throw out your old unconnected tech quite yet.
WHATSAPP set to ditch its annual charge but users could face being bombarded with ads.
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum has announced that the yearly fee for the service is set to be scrapped.
Speaking at an event in Munich he revealed the business model “really doesn’t work for some people.”
Many WhatsApp fans have to pay a small amount each year to use the messaging service but this payment is coming to halt.
In a post on their blog WhatsApp confrimed the news stating: "We're happy to announce that WhatsApp will no longer charge subscription fees.
"As we've grown, we've found that this approach hasn't worked well.
"Many WhatsApp users don't have a debit or credit card number and they worried they'd lose access to their friends and family after their first year."
It sounds like good news, but like all things in life there's a catch.
Clearly WhatsApp can't run for free and to make money it seems the Facebook owned app is going to target users with adverts.
Although the firm is adamant you won't get hit with messages from third parties, it does say that it's going to allow business to communicate with users.
"Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from." states WhatsApp.
WhatsApp has around 900 million users and is continuing to grow.
Facebook bought the business $22 billion (£13 billion) in 2014 and Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed that it’s only worth trying to monetise the app when the business reaches a billion people.
“This may sound a little ridiculous to say, but for us, products don’t really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about 1 billion people using them.” said Zuckerberg.
Put all the talk of a global digital revolution on hold. While access to digital technologies is quickly spreading across the globe, “traditional development challenges are preventing the digital revolution from fulfilling its transformative potential,” according to the World Bank.
The international organization’s recent “Digital Dividends” report shares some stark figures that may take the edge off of any superficial excitement about the spread of digital technology. For instance, about 4 billion people still don’t have access to the Internet, and nearly 2 billion people don’t use a mobile phone.
“Digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the world,” according to the World Bank’s report. “Digital dividends — the broader development benefits from using these technologies — have lagged behind.”
The report also puts the spotlight on the need for “analog” help in the form of policies and regulations to “ensure the digital market is competitive and the Internet expands access to information, lowers the cost of information, and promotes more inclusive, efficient, and innovative societies.”
More specifically, the report notes that in developed and large middle-income countries, technology isn’t destroying jobs, as some may think. Rather, it’s automating routine jobs and some white-collar jobs, which means a large portion of workers get pushed down the ladder to lower-paying jobs that are less prone to automation.
“What we’re seeing is not so much a destruction of jobs but a reshuffling of jobs, what economists have been calling a hollowing out of the labor market,” said Uwe Deichmann, co-director of the “Digital Dividends” report. “You see the share of mid-level jobs shrinking and lower-end jobs increasing.”
In other words, without good policies in place, the digital revolution may widen the economic inequality gap rather than bridge it. “We must ensure that the benefits of new technologies are shared widely, particularly for the poor,” said Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group president. “Evidence suggests that we can do this by improving competition among businesses, investing in people — starting with pregnant mothers, to ensure that all children have the cognitive ability to later connect to the digital revolution.”
Not a normal, human itch, but the kind of precise electronic pulse that you've long attributed to a notification from your phone.
Yet, as you fumble about in your pocket preparing for the brief disappointment of realising it was only a text from your mum, you begin questioning your sanity: your phone has nothing to say for itself. "Not me guv' - I've not vibrated for the best part of an hour."
If you've ever experienced the above, you're far from alone. As many as nine in ten people are thought to experience 'Phantom Vibration Syndrome' - which Dr Robert Rosenberger, philosopher and assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, believes is down to "learned bodily habits".
Speaking to the BBC, Rosenberger explained that the familiar buzz that we could have sworn just went through our pocket is actually a hallucination, which can be attributed to anxiety.
"There are a couple of ways of explaining it," he told the BBC. "Some people have suggested that technology like telephones are changing our brains, creating a special cognitive pathway designed to feel these vibrations as a phone call. Another theory is that we're all so anxious because of all our different technologies: our email, our text messages, just have us on edge, so we'll be more inclined to feel something in our pocket such as phantom vibration.
"We've become so accustomed to the technology that we're even experiencing our own bodies in these weird new ways. Is it a sixth sense? I wouldn't describe it as that exactly, but I would say it's one of those big game-changing experiences like glasses or like driving a car that really changes your relationship to the world."
You can read Rosenberger's full thoughts on the syndrome in this report.
As for curing your frustration of phantom vibrations - try adjusting your habits? Adjust notification settings so it no longer vibrates. Sure, you might miss a call if it's on silent - but a missed call will be less frustrating than thinking the world is trying to reach you when it really isn't.
Incandescent light bulbs may put out a warmer-looking, more familiar type of light than LEDs or compact fluorescents, but they're far less efficient – the majority of the energy they use is wasted, mainly in the form of heat. Technology may save them yet, however. Scientists at MIT and Purdue University have developed an ultra-efficient new incandescent bulb that reuses the heat it gives off, converting that heat into more light.
With traditional incandescent bulbs, both visible and infrared light are created by heating a tungsten filament, causing it to glow. Both wavelengths flow unimpeded out into the room, with the infrared doing nothing other than dissipating as heat.
In the case of the new two-stage incandescent, however, the filament is surrounded by structures known as photonic crystals.
Made from abundant elements and manufactured using conventional material-deposition technology, these crystals allow visible light to pass through, but reflect the infrared back onto the filament. This helps keep the filament heated, glowing and emitting more visible light, while using much less electricity than it would otherwise.
The bulb could conceivably score very high when it comes to luminous efficiency – this is a measure of how well a light source produces visible light. While regular incandescents have a luminous efficiency of 2-3 percent, with compact fluorescents coming in at 7-15 percent and LEDs at 5-15, the two-stage incandescent could reportedly manage up to 40 percent once developed further.
The current proof-of-concept model sits at around 6.6 percent, although even that figure is in line with some LEDs and fluorescents, and is three times better than conventional incandescents.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Microsoft announced that Windows 10 is now “active” on over 200 million devices worldwide. This figure presumably includes PCs, phones, Xbox Ones, and other devices, though Microsoft doesn’t explicitly state that.
UPDATE: Microsoft has now confirmed that the 200 million figure includes non-PC devices like Xbox One. –Paul
As you may recall, Microsoft chief marketing office Chris Capossela exclusively told Mary Jo Foley and me during a December 2015 live interview that we could expect a new milestone number for Windows 10 in early January.
This is only the second time that Microsoft has revealed Windows 10 usage figures. The first time was in late August, when the firm revealed that there were 75 million devices running the new OS. At that time, I compared the uptake rate to those of Windows 7 and Windows 8 and determined that the Windows 10 launch was easily the most successful in modern days.
“The real reason the Windows 10 figure is so astonishing is because of the upgrades,” I wrote. “Before this release, in-place upgrades were one of the most unreliable and scary things a user could attempt, and it was so bad very few Windows users ever did try it. With Windows 10, the vast majority of the initial 75 million users did in fact upgrade their PCs. And they did so successfully. That’s the 75 million … that is a triumph, no matter what you think of the math.”
But now it’s four months later. There are 125 million more Windows 10 devices “active” out there in the world, since that August announcement (which came at the one-month mark). So what’s different? Two things stand out.
This isn’t just PCs anymore. When Microsoft announced the 75 million milestone, Windows 10 was available only on PCs. So that number was all PC upgrades, with a handful of new PC purchases. Today, we have Windows 10 in Xbox One, in new Lumias, and in some IoT-type devices. So there is a wider field of device types from which to choose.
Windows 10 uptake is amazing. Despite the availability of Windows 10 on new device types, the average monthly usage gain over the past quarter was 31.25 million units per month. That is dramatically better than the standard-bearer, Windows 7, which was artificially massaged to accomplish 20 million units per month. You might claim that the uptake has slowed dramatically, since the first month was 75 million units, but come on. That was the first month. The first month should always be considered an anomaly. And if we factor in the entire period of time Windows 10 has been available, Microsoft has seen an average of 40 million active new Windows 10 devices come online each month so far. That’s double the rate of Windows 7, which is widely considered (except by me) to be the best-selling version of Windows ever.
In other words, this is nothing but great news.
And if you’re wondering about the 164 million figure I just wrote about in yesterday’s Thurrott Daily, that’s clear enough: The 36 million figure is non-PC devices like Xbox Ones, Windows phones, and IoT devices.
Microsoft’s take on this milestone is interesting as well. It claims:
Windows 10 adoption is accelerating. Microsoft says that over 40 percent of new Windows 10 devices became active since Black Friday. This tells me that the linear growth days of Windows 7 are long over. And that the coming year will not be one uninterrupted upward spike.
Windows 10 is on the fastest growth trajectory of any version of Windows. Proving my point above, Microsoft says that Windows 10 “[usage] growth” outpaces Windows 7 by nearly 140 percent and Windows 8 by nearly 400 percent. Of course, that last one is a low bar.
Highest engagement on Windows ever. This is the new Microsoft metric. People spent over 11 billion hours on Windows 10 in December alone, Microsoft says, “spending more time on Windows than ever before.”
Windows Store growth Here, Microsoft is desperate to hide the fact that the universal app story is Windows 10’s Achilles Heel. The “new” Windows Store has seen a “2x increase in the number of paid transactions from PC and tablet customers this holiday season,” Microsoft says. 60 percent of paying customers in December were new to the Store.
Momentum. Microsoft says it sees “accelerating and unprecedented demand for Windows 10 among enterprise and education customers.” Over 76 percent of Microsoft’s enterprise customers are in active pilots of Windows 10. And there are now over 22 million devices running Windows 10 across enterprise and education customers.
OK, some of the Microsoft claims are … nebulous. But again, this is great news overall. And there’s no way to claim otherwise.
One Sunday evening, Zuckerberg posted the following Facebook post, which details new types of technology he is hoping to master within the next year as a personal challenge:
Mark Zuckerberg Works at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative · 47,763,892 followers · January 3 at 10:46pm · Palo Alto, CA, United States · Every year, I take on a personal challenge to learn new things and grow outside my work at Facebook. My challenges in recent years have been to read two books every month, learn Mandarin and meet a new person every day. My personal challenge for 2016 is to build a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work. You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man. I'm going to start by exploring what technology is already out there. Then I'll start teaching it to understand my voice to control everything in our home -- music, lights, temperature and so on. I'll teach it to let friends in by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell. I'll teach it to let me know if anything is going on in Max's room that I need to check on when I'm not with her. On the work side, it'll help me visualize data in VR to help me build better services and lead my organizations more effectively. Every challenge has a theme, and this year's theme is invention. At Facebook I spend a lot of time working with engineers to build new things. Some of the most rewarding work involves getting deep into the details of technical projects. I do this with Internet.org when we discuss the physics of building solar-powered planes and satellites to beam down internet access. I do this with Oculus when we get into the details of the controllers or the software we're designing. I do this with Messenger when we discuss our AI to answer any question you have. But it's a different kind of rewarding to build things yourself, so this year my personal challenge is to do that. This should be a fun intellectual challenge to code this for myself. I'm looking forward to sharing what I learn over the course of the year. 415,101 Likes · 34,316 Comments · 21,741 Shares
“At Facebook I spend a lot of time working with engineers to build new things. Some of the most rewarding work involves getting deep into the details of technical projects… But it’s a different kind of rewarding to build things yourself, so this year my personal challenge is to do that,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Thousands of commenters weighed in on the status update, but one of them stood out: a grandmother's response. Facebook The comment reads: “I keep telling my granddaughters to date the nerd in school, he may turn out to be a Mark Zuckerberg! Thanks for FB, I’ve reconnected with family and old friend and classmates.” And Zuckerberg had a fantastic rebuttal to the user’s comment.
Facebook “Even better would be to encourage them to *be* the nerd in their school so they can be the next successful inventor!”
Dell has found that many enterprise projects involving the Internet of Things (IoT) are being held back owing to a clash of cultures, as they are typically driven by a line of business in the organisation instead of the firm's IT department.
The term 'IoT' has been adopted to cover a diverse range of use cases, but the technology is typically being used in the business arena to drive the digital transformation of physical infrastructure and the environment, to control heating, lighting and other systems, for example.
This may require connecting equipment to the network that has not traditionally been connected, and sensor-enabling objects and the environment to gather data for the purposes of analysis and driving greater efficiencies.
But while this involves technologies and equipment that may be familiar to the organisation's IT department, it is not the IT department that drives the adoption of the IoT, and IT may even be hindering it, according to Dell.
Andy Rhodes"There are two different organisations that are clashing in the customers we have seen. One is the traditional IT department and they are not the catalyst of these projects. It's not like the CIO wakes up one day and says: ‘Hey. I need smarter asset management for my shipping containers.' Instead it's the business side or the operations technology side," said Andy Rhodes (pictured), executive director for IoT solutions at Dell.
This leads to problems because the two departments have often operated in their own silos and traditionally had little contact with each other, Rhodes explained.
"We have about 150 proof-of-concepts based on our gateway devices, and in a lot of those meetings, when we pitched the concept, the customer's IT and operations technology people were in the same room for the first time," he said.
This has to change, otherwise a lot of such projects risk foundering or seeing critical areas such as security neglected, he added, or firms will end up replicating existing areas of competency, such as in analytics.
Meanwhile, Rhodes said that, although he may be head of Dell's IoT division, he dislikes the term ‘IoT' because it has become such a vague catch-all label that is often misused and misapplied.
"When you get to the right people involved with these projects, they don't call it ‘IoT' at all. They're doing fleet management or asset management of containers or building management," he said.
Whatever you call it, IoT deployment calls for special requirements, because the kit will be expected to operate in often harsh everyday environments, rather than the air conditioned clean rooms typically used to house servers and other traditional IT equipment.
"We have this philosophy at Dell that we want to make the gateways and the rest of the solution look like operations technology on the outside, but look like IT on the inside," Rhodes said.
"The operations people need to know what they are plugging in and how and where it plugs in, plus it needs to meet industrial specs because in building management the gateway will probably be in the boiler room or in a wiring closet. But everything then comes onto the network, and if the gateway looks like IT on the inside, IT can manage it just like every other device on the network with the same tools and the same protocols."
One result of this approach is the recently launched Dell Edge Gateway 5000 Series, which is based on Intel's IoT Gateway reference platform and thus uses similar technology to a PC on the inside, but encased in an industrial-grade enclosure for mounting on a wall or a DIN rail.
A gateway device such as this is intended to serve as the linchpin of an industrial IoT deployment. It is designed to control sensors and other hardware, while linking to the network to relay data and link with central management systems. Dell Gateway 5000 Series
Crucially, the gateway is also expected to have enough local intelligence to keep things running if the network goes down, often requiring it to carry out local analysis of the data it gathers from sensors. Local processing is also key because the potential time and cost of collecting all the data from numerous sources may simply be too much, according to Rhodes.
"People say that everything can be done with wireless networks, but the reality is that you soon start generating petabytes of data, and transmitting that in its raw state across the world is just cost prohibitive in some of the business models," he said.
Interestingly, while Dell is set to support Windows 10 IoT and Intel's Wind River Linux on the Gateway 5000 Series, its platform of choice is Canonical's Ubuntu Snappy Core, a slimmed down version of the firm's Linux aimed at devices and which supports a "transactional" update model that allows easy deployment and rollback of software.
"It's Linux-based and that makes it easy to work with, and we're using Ubuntu Snappy because that makes it easy to layer on the services the end user wants. And it's ‘maker' community-friendly at the same time as coming from an enterprise-grade brand name," Rhodes said.
Meanwhile, Dell is keen to repeat its usual mantra that it is all about customer choice. So while the firm has tools such as the Dell Boomi integration platform and Statistica analytics software available for back-end processing of data, it is willing to build the solution that customers want.
However, IoT solutions have proved to be a slightly different kettle of fish to the services Dell has been used to offering its clients. For one thing, IoT covers such a broad range of use cases that each customer deployment is often very different from the next one.
In addition, IoT solutions often involve a rethink about who exactly the customer is. As an example, KMC Controls is a building automation specialist that has started using Dell's Gateway 5000 Series and other products in its portfolio, but the end user of the technology could ultimately be a property management company or the organisation that occupies the building.
"It's a complex supply chain, and that's why you can't have strict boundaries because every scenario is slightly different, the business model is different and the technology is different and the way each company is deploying it is different," Rhodes said.
Microsoft has now stopped providing support for several versions of Internet Explorer, meaning that Windows users will need to run IE 11 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.
Specifically IE 8, 9 and 10 are now not supported by Microsoft, and the company has urged users of these browsers to update to IE 11 or the new Edge browser at once.
"End of support means there will be no more security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates," the firm warned.
Microsoft first detailed this change of policy in August 2014, but the firm has issued reminders over the past weeks and months to encourage customers to upgrade to the most recent version of IE for the platforms they operate.
"IE 11 is the last version of IE and will continue to receive security updates, compatibility fixes and technical support on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10," the company said.
This means IE 11 for the majority of Windows users. The exceptions are Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2, for which the latest available version is IE 9, and Windows Server 2012, for which the latest available version is IE 10.
The reminder is most pertinent to those running Windows 7, which is still the most widely used version of the platform and pre-dates IE 11. Upgrading the browser may be of little consequence for consumers, but could have implications for businesses if applications they rely on have been developed to work with specific versions of IE.
"Many businesses are still running browsers that will fall out of support in January 2016," said Ed Shepley, solutions architect at Camwood, a UK firm specialising in migration services, speaking to V3 towards the end of last year.
"These businesses run a risk of falling out of compliance with their third-party suppliers or from a regulatory compliance position, and as a result will need to upgrade their browser estate."
However, it is not simply a case of deploying a new browser, as customers will have to perform web application testing to ensure that everything will continue to function as before.
"An upgrade of the browser estate without web application testing runs the risk of breaking functionality in these web applications," Shepley warned.
"At Camwood we are seeing increased interest from organisations on browser migration and we are recommending a two-stage testing process to address critical and non-critical web applications."
Microsoft is also seeking to address this problem. "We understand many customers have web apps and services designed specifically for older versions of IE, so we're continuing to improve our set of Enterprise Mode tools to help you run those applications in IE 11," wrote Jatinder Mann and Fred Pullen, executives involved with Microsoft's browser development, in a posting on the Microsoft Edge Dev Blog.
Enterprise Mode is a feature for business customers in IE 11 that enables the browser to emulate the way older versions handle web pages, and thus allow legacy browser-based enterprise applications to continue to run unmodified.
Microsoft said that the firm "continues to make significant improvements to Enterprise Mode, helping customers upgrade more easily to IE 11 while extending the ability to run older web apps".
New features include explicit support for HTTP ports in Enterprise Mode, so that customers can specify an HTTP port directly in their Enterprise Mode Site List, along with a Web Application Compatibility Lab Kit.
The latter offers IT managers a walk-through of how to configure and set up Enterprise Mode; use the Enterprise Site Discovery toolkit to analyse which web apps are in use on a customer's site; test web apps using the F12 developer tools; and manage the Enterprise Mode Site List with the Enterprise Mode Site List Manager utility.
Microsoft also detailed improvements in Windows 10 to better support compatibility. The platform comes with the new Microsoft Edge browser that is used by default, but business customers have been able to specify IE instead.
The firm has updated Enterprise Mode for IE 11 to open Microsoft Edge for these customers if they navigate to a modern site that calls for the latest web platform features. This feature has a similar user experience to the analogous feature in Microsoft Edge to open IE 11, Microsoft said.
Finally, Microsoft said that, following feedback from customers, it is overhauling the XML schema used for the Enterprise Mode Site List to make it simpler and easier to use. Starting with the Windows 10 November Update, the firm has already begun supporting a new v.2 Enterprise Mode XML schema, although IE 11 and Microsoft Edge on Windows 10 will continue to support the existing v.1 XML schema for compatibility.
However, this will not be supported in older versions of Windows until sometime alter in 2016, to avoid burdening IT departments with extra work to support the new XML schema while customers are trying to upgrade to IE 11 on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 before the 12 January deadline.