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Showing posts from August 27, 2017

F1: Lance Stroll Bolsters Burgeoning Reputation At Monza

When Canadian teenager Lance Stroll arrived in F1 this season there was a general feeling that his place at the Williams team was a result of his family's billions rather than an ability to actually drive.

After all, how many 18 year olds arrive in F1 with their own personal private jet?

Little by little though, Stroll is starting to win over the critics. His qualifying performances have been much closer to team mate Felipe Massa than anyone expected and he's proven that he can actually race too.

In Azerbijan he became the youngest rookie to stand on the podium in F1 history and tomorrow he will supplement that with the record for being the youngest driver to start from the front row of a Grand Prix, after qualifying a net second place at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.

In the wet no less, something which has historically allowed a driver to outperform his car and conditions where naturally gifted racers rise to the top.

Whatever happens tomorrow Stroll has already over achieved …

Uber's Terrible 2017 Just Took A Turn For The Better

2017 has not been a great year for the world's most valuable privately held company. Uber has lost its CEO, been accused of endemic sexual harassment, bullying, theft of trade secrets, misusing customer data, profiteering and is now enduring a nasty boardroom battle which is hurting its market share and is further damaging its already tattered reputation.
So two pieces of good news are exactly what the company needed this week.
Firstly, Expedia CEO Dara Khoshrowshahi agreed to take on the job of replacing Travis Kalashnik as Uber's CEO and then a US Court sent the boardroom battle between Kalashnik and investor Benchmark to arbitration.
Which means the drama will be played out behind closed doors, relieving the beleaguered company of some potentially very nasty revalations.
Khoshrowshahi has a serious job of work to do in calming investors and getting the company ready for what is likely to be a lucrative IPO. The easiest thing to repair will be market share though. It really…

A New Windows 10 Mobile Handset At IFA - We Weren't Expecting That

Wileyfox announced a new Windows 10 Mobile yesterday, to a stunned silence I would imagine. Who on earth would be interested in one of those at this stage of the game? 
The handset is a rebadged Alcatel unit, with a memory boost to 2GB. That's very respectable for an entry-level Windows 10 phone. The Snapdragon 210 CPU is somewhat less so though.
Potential buyers? I'm sure there are a few enterprise customers locked in to Microsoft for whom this will be a godsend. Similarly parents who hare to equip younger kids with a phone would be well advised to look at one of these and Microsoft Family as a method of keeping things under control. 

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Lands October 17th

Microsoft will be releasing the fourth version of Windows 10 to customers in six weeks time, bringing a focus on augmented and virtual reality to the desktop. In the lead up to the announcement a number of Windows OEMs have announced Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
As with previous releases, there will be a tiered rollout of the new build in order to trap any issues arising from support for the widest range of hardware possible.
Expect Microsoft's own devices, as well as more recent machines from close partners like HP and Dell, to be in the vanguard of machines updated.

Juicero Gets Squashed - Withdraws From Market

Juicero, the company responsible for one of the most ridiculous products of the 21st century, is shutting down and will stop sending out juice packs to subscription customers. The company will be accepting its demonstrably pointless press machines for refunds for the next 90 days.
The company blames the failure on an inability to scale its manufacture of both press and juice packs in order to reduce the insane pricing it currently demands. It's announcement suggests it is seeking a buyout by a fresh food supplier that can help it achieve those goals.
Given the wave of negative publicity the company has attracted since launch that seems like something of a long shot.

Sony WF-1000X: Fully Wireless Headphones With Active Noise Cancelling

Sony appears to have one upped the Apple AirPods with its new WF-1000X earbuds. They're as wire-free as the AirPods and as simple to use as the Aipods; but these wireless earbuds come with one massive bonus - active noise cancelling.

Actually if you add in Sony's renowned performance in the audio arena and that these don't make you look like you have an iRobots genitalia hanging from your ear; it's probably sage to say Sony three-ups Apple.

The WF-1000X earpods are part of a three pronged attack on the holiday market from Sony. The well regarded MDR-1000X over the ear headphones have been updated and rebranded to WH-1000XM2 and picked up some new features; and the range has been expanded to include the WF-1000X and a new version of Sony's neckband headphones called WI-1000X.

All look to leverage the good name of the MDR-1000X and include all the features which made the originals such a popular choice with people who know their music.

SanDisk Intros 400GB MicroSD Card

SanDisk has broken the 200GB barrier and produced the first MicroSD card with a 400GB capacity. I'll say that again, 400GB on a memory card which is no larger that your fingernail.
Unlike other ground-breaking steps in capacity, the new UHS-1 card currently retails for just $249 on Amazon. That's about a quarter of the price which the first 128GB cards commanded when they launched.
This looks like a good upgrade for a smartphone or tablet with support for memory expansion. That's pretty much every high end device except those made by Apple.
For Windows PC users this is a great place to store your File History and with the capacity of the new card you can backup more frequently.

LG V30 - Another Great Phone That Nobody Will Buy

LG have hit all the late-2017 phone bullet points for the new V30, with its 'experimental' phone line maturing into a much more mainstream flagship model in its third iteration. LG just doesn't seem to be able to turn interesting phones into big sales numbers and its unlikely that the new V30 will buck that trend.
With a single 6" AMOLED screen replacing the twin display setup of previous V's, the V30 has turned the V30 into something of a G6 Plus. QuadHD, almost bezel-free and with beautifully rounded corners the screen promises to be something of a treat. And as it has none of the 'Edge' nonsense which makes the Galaxy S8 so fragile it will probably stay beautiful for much longer too.
The twin camera setup has been improved over both the V20 and G6, with wider image apertures - although OIS is only present on the main camera, unlike the Note 8 which stabilises both shooters.
Audio is once more a strong point, with LG including B&O earbuds in the box…

Apple Confirms September 12th For New iPhones

Apple has set the date for the launch of its new iPhones and, as rumours predicted last month, the date will be September 12th. The event marks the first ever at the Steve Jobs Theatre and should be the biggest iPhone launch ever.
There's a subtle hint of three iPhones in the Apple logo, which matches the expectation of three new devices being announced in less than two weeks time.

Postmodern Jukebox: Look What You Made Me Do

Taylor Swift's new single is something of a departure from her previous body of work, but within hours of the new single releasing YouTube music sensation Postmodern Jukebox had reimagined it as a James Bond theme tune.
The result is quite sensational.

Sony Launches New Xperias At IFA 2017

Sony launched three new phones at IFA today, with the premium XZ1 and XZ1 Compact making the biggest splash; and the mid-range XA1 Plus slotting into the ever more confusing Sony range.
The two new XZ1s get Sony's Motion Eye camera, which adds 3D object scanning to its 960fps super slow motion and predictive capture goodness. The XZ1 also picks up HDR display mode from the XZ Premium, although at 1080p rather than the older phone's 4K display.
Biggest talking point remains Sony's pass on reduced bezels, however it continues to make good use of the extra space, with stereo, front facing speakers on both handsets. Performance of these has been boosted according to Sony.
Once again the fingerprint sensor is perfectly placed in the power button. Once again American customers will go without.
One other thing to note, the audio track on this launch video just feels wrong, working against the visuals and subtracting from the whole. Let's hope Sony does a better job with it&#…

Sony First Past The Post With HomePod Competitor

Sony is the first manufacturer up and running with a home speaker packing Google Assistant. It's particularly interesting because Sony's audio chops have never been in doubt, so it will undoubtedly sound incredible; but also because it leverages touch free gesture controls for those times you don't feel like shouting over your music to change tracks.
With Sony's LDAC technology on board, Xperia users will get the best audio performance from the LF-S50G, but it also supports WiFi streaming as well as NFC pairing.

Sony Confirms Extensive Android Oreo Upgrade Program

Sony has done a pretty good job of getting timely updates out to its customers in recent years (at least if you have an unbranded phone). Today it went public with its plans for Android 8.0 upgrades - and the list looks pretty good.
Xperia X, Xperia X Performance, Xperia XZ, Xperia X Compact, Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XZs, Xperia XA1, Xperia XA1 Ultra, Xperia Touch and Xperia XA1 Plus will all get the new software in what is almost certainly going to be an extended, phased release.

Microsoft And Amazon Put Cortana And Alexa On The Same Team

From later this year Cortana users will be able to summon Alexa and Alexa users will be able to use Cortana, following an agreement between Microsoft and Amazon.
Seems like a strange move, given that the two services are natural competitors, however the imminent launch of the Apple HomePod has clearly focused the two companies minds. What it has most likely focused their minds upon is the huge competitive disadvantage they are carrying thanks to their lack of a smartphone platform.
It's difficult to see how the partnership can succeed against the might of Apple and Google. For all that Alexa and Cortana are more capable than Siri, it's unlikely an iPhone user would choose to use anything but Siri at home, for the sake of consistency if nothing else.
Given that Cortana and Alexa are the most regionally challenged voice assistants this doesn't look like a winning pairing. Even if Alexa is doing pretty well in the short-term and Cortana is baked into every Windows 10 PC.

TCL Finally Looks To Leverage Palm Brand

TCL acquired the rights to the Palm name from HP a couple of years ago and will finally use it on a Android smartphone as early as next year. 
Palm died a slow horrible death in the post-iPhone apocalypse which also did for Nokia, Blackberry and Microsoft. Both Nokia an Blackberry are now back m the smartphone business, under new licensing agreements. HMD Global for the former, TCL themselves the latter.
Bringing Palm back as a second 'zombie' brand makes sense. The Palm brand still elicits an emotive response from former fans. Particularly in the US where the Palm Treo was something of a cult device - by pre-iphone standards anyway.
Having proved that it can build desirable smartphones with the Blackberry KeyOne, TCL will be keen to make the return of Palm a headline event. Whether that would be a premium device or something more mid-range remains to be seen. 
It will be good to see the Palm name back on a smartphone, especially if TCL is able to erase the bad memories of th…

F1: Did Fernando Alonso 'Park' A Healthy Car At Spa?

Things at McLaren-Honda seem to be going from bad to worse. In Belgium, having managed a surprisingly competitive outing in qualifying - eventually starting from a reasonable tenth place on the grid - Fernando Alonso retired from twelfth place with an engine problem at around half distance.
Except Honda has found no evidence of a problem with the car and for the second time this year Alonso has been accused of parking a healthy car.
Seems particularly unlikely, especially given the somewhat popular belief that the Spaniard is the most aggressive racer on the grid.
In days gone by, with no electronics or telemetry, a number of drivers, unhappy with car or engine performance were often accused of grenading an engine - dipping the clutch on full throttle causing nasty interactions between fast moving components inside the engine and a spectacular failure.
Today there are no clutches to dip and plenty of electronics to protect the engine and record driver activity, so that option for end…

Google Has ARCore, Apple ARKit, But Sony Got There First

AR has suddenly become the next big thing. After Microsoft sprung the HoloLens a couple of years ago we've seen some impressive demos, followed by Apple and now Google jumping on board the bandwagon.
Apple's ARKit is a known quantity and the strong iOS developer community is going to give Apple a massive head start in the AR arena when it arrives as part of iOS 11 in a month or so.  
Google has been touting its Project Tango, sensor laden phones for a while now but just two have actually made it to market. Project Tango phones are probably rarer than Microsoft's HoloLens, which is really saying something.
Now Google has launched ARCore - an Android take on ARKit - which will be supported by the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8 whilst in beta, but more widely when the first release arrives before the end of the years.
All of them are followers though because, despite what some sites are telling you today, it was Sony, not Microsoft who were first to market with an AR so…

One Of These Windows Phones Is Not The Same

Anything wrong with the above images? That's right, one of these,identical, phones is nearly three times the price of the other. The biggest difference? One is on sale in the US and one in the UK.
There's really no logical reason for you to buy a Windows 10 Mobile today, but if you do choose to buy one and you're in the UK, buy from the US and have it shipped across the Atlantic.
You'll be quids in.

Flipboard Joins Windows Mobile Exodus

Back in 2014 the release of Flipboard for Windows Phone was something of a big deal. Aside from messaging apps this was one of the marquee applications which made a big noise in the App Store when itb first arrived on iOS. 
Flipboard on Windows phones is no more. The app was yanked from the Windows Store yesterday and is officially no longer supported. Presumably at some time in the near future it will stop working when Flipboard introduces a breaking change. 
At this point nobody should be surprised at another developer abandoning the platform. With no users, no devices and no first party support, the only remaining question is who is next to get off the bus?

Why There Will Be Nothing Special About The New iPhone

Apple's next iPhone will launch on September 12th, or at least that seems to be the date that commentators have settled upon. There will be three new iPhones, that much seems to be pretty certain right now.
What is still very much unknown is how Apple will name the new iPhones. 
The updated iPhone 7 and Plus would be the iPhone 7S and Plus is any normal year, however this year there's going to be a third iPhone, packing new screen technology, reduced bezels and a completely new way of unlocking using IR face detection.
It will be a special iPhone in every reasonable definition of the term, but the word special won't appear either in its name or packaging.
That's because calling the new iPhone anything which marks it out as something over and above its new stablemates will immediately take the shine off them as products. Who wants an ordinary iPhone when there's a special one available? Not many iPhone buyers I would guess.
The 7S and Plus are going to have a hard …

Samsung Hits Right Tone In Thank You To Galaxy Note Fans

Samsung's release of the Note 8 hopefully closes a dark chapter in the company's smartphone history. After the Note 7 recall, it looked very much like Samsung fans didn't lose the faith and many will be back for another round of Galaxy Note and S-Pen goodness. So Samsung sent them a message, a thank you note, one which manages to convey a message without coming across as forced or fake.

Fitbit Ionic Just Proves Smartwatches Aren't Making Progress

Fitbit's new Ionic is the successor to the Blaze and leverages the company's purchase of Pebble, will have its own watch face and app store; and it raises absolutely no element of desire in me, in exactly the same way all the other smartwatches out there don't.
So discussions about whether the Ionic is as good as, better or worse than the Apple Watch are something that will pass me by.
I'm still struggling to see any value in a smartwatch, I see hardly anybody wearing them and I've not seen a use case that would persuade me that a smartwatch would be something I'd chose over even a cheap traditional watch.

NYPD Ditches Windows Phone, Moves To iPhone

Less than two years into its smartphone experiment, the NYPD is having to ditch its 36,000 device strong fleet and start again from scratch.
In 2015 the NYPD announced it would be equipping officers with either Lumia 830 or 640XL devices. That move was allegedly made because the NYPD was already running Microsoft software elsewhere in the department, however the cynic in me can't help but feel that purchase price had a big part to play in the choice.
The two Lumias were probably purchased at around half the price of a contemporary iPhone. With the experiment having cost $160m anyway, the choice of Windows Phones effectively saved the NYPD another $160m.
Of course what couldn't be foreseen was Microsoft's decision to abandon its smartphone platform, leaving the NYPD with 36,000 unsupported Windows Phones.
It's no surprise that the NYPD going to seek to continue with smartphones, the experiment has reported major success in improving police officer efficiency. No surpri…

What Kind Of Moron Is Running The BBC's F1 Website?

Impartial and fact based reporting are the cornerstones of the BBC. Sometimes however, that goes out of the window and what you get is utter garbage. Seriously, stuff that would get the work experience kid fired.
I 'fondly' remember one daytime current affairs show which completely missed the change from petrol pricing in gallons to litres in a report on historical pricing changes. It claimed a massive drop in petrol prices in the '90s, something which obviously never happened and would have been picked up in fact checking by someone with a single figure IQ.
Today's BBC report into Mick Schumacher driving his father's Benetton car at Spa contains the above nonsense as a picture caption. 
I mean come on, it takes about two seconds to check what you're writing, even if you have no interest in F1 and weren't even around in 1994.
For the record, Schumacher won the 1994 World Championship after a controversial coming together with Damon Hill in the season endin…

Tesla's PowerWall Is Only A Small Part Of The Solution To Electricity Demand Smoothing

The future of power generation is pretty rosy. Solar panels and wind turbines take advantage of the infinite availability of the power source to generate power in huge amounts. When your power source is the sun you really don't have to worry about efficiencies too much.
What you do have to worry about though, is demand peaks and troughs and how they rarely tally with similar periods for generation.
On a cold winter night solar power and turbines aren't going to keep those heating systems, electric blankets and entertainment systems spinning.
Which means it becomes necessary to store the power generated during the day or even during the summer in order to release it back into the system when demand spikes.
Chemical batteries like Tesla's PowerWall offer a reasonable solution on a very local scale - individual houses sporting micro-generation capabilities, but on metropolitan or regional scale the cost and environmental damage of building and shipping all of those chemical …