Saturday, October 4, 2014

Boot up: teaching robots, iPhone 6 camera rated, who's on Win XP?

A new Apple iPhone 6 Plus An Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Takes good photos, apparently. Photograph: STEPHEN LAM/REUTERS

An amuse-bouche of 8 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Izhikevich's startup, Brain Corporation, based in San Diego, has developed an operating system for robots called BrainOS to make that possible. To teach a robot running the software to pick up trash, for example, you would use a remote control to repeatedly guide its gripper to perform that task. After just minutes of repetition, the robot would take the initiative and start doing the task for itself. "Once you train it, it's fully autonomous," says Izhikevich, who is cofounder and CEO of the company.

Izhikevich says the approach will make it easier to produce low-cost service robots capable of simple tasks. Programming robots to behave intelligently normally requires significant expertise, he says, pointing out that the most successful home robot today is the Roomba, released in 2002. The Roomba is preprogrammed to perform one main task: driving around at random to cover as much of an area of floor as possible.

Answer: substantially more than zero, and some of them in factories.

Former BlackBerry devotee Joanna Stern:

Instead of a home button, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to minimize any app. You swipe to the left from any screen to get to the universal inbox, which houses all your emails and other messages. It is an incredibly efficient way of getting to what I still believe is the best mobile email client. Superior draft email support, attachment editing and formatting options continue to put BlackBerry ahead of the native iOS and Android email apps.

There are other industry-leading features of the operating system, including how multiple notifications are organized by app on the lock screen and how easy it is to jump between open apps. With BlackBerry Balance, you can encrypt business calls and data, and store them away from your personal content. The battery even outlasted the new iPhone 6 and Moto X, making it into the next day without needing a charge.

But BlackBerry is still years behind on everything else.

As the enterprise PC market's replacement trend in the wake of Microsoft terminating support for Windows XP has not been as strong as expected and demand from the consumer PC market has been undermined by Apple's mobile products, IT players are now placing their hope on 2015, industry sources said.

The sources pointed out that Apple's iPhone 6 series products are not only impacting other smartphone vendors, they will also affect consumers' decision on purchasing other IT products.

Since August, demand for notebooks has only seen a slight growth because sales in China has not been as strong as expected with consumers waiting for Apple's new smartphones.

How selfish of Apple to launch new phones at such a completely unexpected time.

"I can't tell you about the internal sales target for the Note 4; but it will be much higher than for the Note 3. We have expectations given initial consumer reactions," said mobile business division strategic marketing head Lee Don-joo.

The device will be available from the three major mobile carriers ? SK, KT and LG Uplus ? from Sept. 26. By October, the Note 4 will have been released in 140 countries.

"Samsung can improve its profits as we are positioned well to pursue technology improvements, steadily, based on solid corporate fundamentals," Lee said.

While 10 million Note 3s were sold in the first two months after its launch, the company aims to sell at least 15 million Note 4s in the first 30 days.

Lee stressed that Samsung was responding to consumer needs in different markets with a diversified product portfolio according to target countries.

Interesting contrast to another story on the same site, headlined "Can Note 4 curb Apple iPhones?", which says

"The positive reaction from consumers to those two Apple devices prompted us to launch the Note 4 earlier than previously scheduled. Samsung will be aggressive in promoting the Note 4 as it's true that we are being challenged and pressured amid a difficult situation," said an official at the company's marketing unit.

The iPhone 6 models won't go on sale in Korea before December, but Samsung's concern is clearly elsewhere.

Google will stop working with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council because of its stance on climate change. Responding to a caller's question on Diane Rehm's National Public Radio show, the tech giant's chairman, Eric Schmidt, said his company had funded ALEC in support of "something unrelated. … I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake, and so we're trying to not do that in the future."

ALEC pushes model state bills on issues ranging from supporting charter school expansion and right-to-work laws to inhibiting lawsuits over asbestos or drug-testing. The group claims more than 2,000 state legislators and almost 300 corporations or private foundations as members. Right now, Google is one of those members. After Schmidt's comments, Google confirmed it would not be renewing its membership once it expires at the end of the year.


With a DxOMark Mobile score of 82the Apple iPhone 6 takes the number one spot in the DxOMark smartphone rankings and shares it with its sister model iPhone 6 Plus. The Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z3 are following in positions three and four respectively.

The DxOMark team reports the iPhone 6 shows "very good overall exposure, impressive autofocus performance in both low and bright light, good color rendering and nice detail preservation outdoors and indoors". The engineers were also impressed with the new device's flash behavior which resulted in "good exposure, stable white balance, good color rendering, low noise level and good detail preservation."

On the downside there is "luminance noise visible in low light conditions and color quantification, ghosting and fringing noticeable on HDR pictures."

BlackBerry's latest smartphone, the Passport, is set to be unveiled Wednesday, and it's priced to give it a leg up on the most recent offerings from Apple and Google's Android.

According to an interview the CEO did with the Wall Street Journal on Monday, the phone will retail at just under $600 without a contract in the U.S. — significantly lower than even the most bare-bones versions of Apple's recently announced iPhone 6, or market-leading Samsung's latest Galaxy 5.

That's a key strategic decision to make the phone especially appealing to large corporate orders, which once formed the backbone of the company's market-dominance before the iPhone entered the smartphone scene.

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