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Showing posts from November 16, 2017

Macau GP Carnage Raises Questions Of Track Safety

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The Macau GP is as old as the hills, a race run through the streets of the former Portuguese colony. This weekend saw one of the most bizarre incidents in the race's more than fifty year history.

On the opening lap of the GT race almost the whole field was wiped out, in an incident which blocked the track and delayed racing by more than two hours.

GT cars are big beasts, and the Macau circuit is incredible narrow in places, meaning that when an incident occurs in the wrong place, carnage ensues.

Fortunately this time around the damage was just mechanical. Next time the event and drivers might not be so lucky.

Nelson Piquet used to say that driving an F1 car around Monaco was like flying a model helicopter in your bedroom. A GT car around Macau is like landing a jumbo jet in your garden.

Several drivers have asked for advanced warning systems in cars to combat this kind of multi vehicle pile up. Others have scoffed at the idea.

The truth is that the speed at which an incident of this typ…

Apple's Vrvana Purchase Spells The End For Hololens

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TechCrunch is reporting that Apple has bought Canadian AR headset manufacturer Vrvana for $30m, adding further weight to rumours that the company intends to back its next iPhone release with an AR headset to further strengthen its position in what many believe to be the next big growth space.
Of course Microsoft have been here for a while and the Hololens wowed the crowds when it was first announced. It's still far and away the best solution available on the market today. It's also incredibly niche, with Microsoft targeting industrial and enterprise buyers.
Apple will almost certainly be targeting consumers when (not if) its AR headset launches. At the same time Apple has done little to actively market the iPad to enterprises but the growth of its usage in the workspace continues to surge.
It seems likely that wherever there's an application for AR, Apple will outgun Microsoft for customers.
Then there is Google. Its Glass was first to market and crippled by the way Googl…

F1: Kubica Deal With Williams Not Done Despite Rumours

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It's being reported that Williams has signed Robert Kubica to a two-year contract as a replacement for Felipe Massa, much to the disdain of former drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve.
The story is very much being denied by Williams and common sense would more than back up the veracity of the denial. Kubica will drive a Williams for the first time in the post Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tyre tests. This will be his opportunity to demonstrate both pace and resilience in a  bid to seal the deal for a race seat.
That being the case - and it being generally acknowledged that no other team is interested in Kubica's services at the moment - it would be crazy for Williams to commit anything to paper without being able to assess the Pole's capabilities.
At the moment it looks to me like Kubica is Williams' first choice, but that Kubica is going to have to be incredibly impressive in next week's tests to edge Daniil Kvyat out of the seat.

Microsoft Begins Surface Hub Offensive

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The Surface Hub is probably the Surface product you're least likely to come across in everyday life, because it's extremely niche. But within that niche it's an incredibly big noise.

Now Microsoft has decided to put some marketing muscle behind it with a set of videos demonstrating the power of the big screen Windows 10 PC. Some work, some look a little contrived.

There's no denying that there's a place for these devices though. More than a decade ago I moved two large hospitals onto Digital Radiology solutions replacing light boxes with large wall mounted touch screen PCs running Windows XP Tablet Edition. It was a workable solution - but barely. Now the Surface Hub would make that kind of project trivial to achieve.

Progress is a damn fine thing, and so is the Surface Hub.

Huawei Mate 10 Quick Review

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Huawei's Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro arrived in New Zealand this week and I had an opportunity to get some hands on time with both phones.

The standard Mate 10 is the phone which is more interesting because Huawei have kept the 16:9 screen aspect ratio and shrunk the bezels around it. As a result the Mate 10 is closer in size to a 5.5" phone than its predecessor. 

The all glass design is a step away from the Mate 9's metal unibody, and the Mate 10 feels much nicer by comparison. There's a new arrangement of cameras on the back of the phone, with a matt / glossy effect highlighting the sensor pack. The effect is visually pleasing, if not in the same league as HTC's seriously shiny backs.

Even now the Mate 9 is one of the better performing handsets you can buy, so the jump from the Kirin 950 to the Kirin 970 CPU adds a further boost which smooths out any lumps resulting from Android 8.0 and EMUI 8 which come installed on the Mate 10.

The EMUI skin has come a long way recent…

Quality Control On Premium Smartphones Seems Lacking

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When you're dropping $1,000 on a smartphone it's reasonable to expect that what you receive is going to be well built, from quality components and with software which is properly optimised for that hardware.
For Google and Apple, responsible for both hardware and software on their devices, it really is the minimum we should be able to expect as customers.
Yet somehow both have managed to deliver devices with significant failings in both hardware and software.
Google's Pixel 2 XL is probably the biggest culprit, but the Pixel 2 is not perfect either. The larger Pixel has an average (that's being kind) OLED screen, but has also had problems with the touchscreen, Bluetooth and camera app. The smaller phone has a locked bootloader issue.
The iPhone X has had the cold weather touchscreen issue, green lines on the display, blue shift (although to a much smaller extent than the Pixel 2 XL), poor audio reproduction, with crackling on the upper speaker, and it ships with a che…

Who Is The Second Biggest Smartphone Manufacturer? It's Not Huawei Or Apple

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Looking at global smartphone sales figures it's clear who is the biggest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world. Samsung. It plays big in every sector of every market and comfortably outsells everyone one else by some margin. 
Who's the second biggest? According to the sales charts its either Huawei or Apple, who are waging a sales war to achieve that accolade. Unfortunately, the way most analysts present their results skews the positions of the top five OEMs.
The second biggest smartphone maker in the world is BBK Electronics. Who? A Chinese OEM based out of Guangdong province, that's who.
The reason BBK's name is never found on the sales charts is because of its branding of devices. Becasuse BBK is actually the company that owns the Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus brands and manufactures the phones that go out under those names.

In both Q2 and Q3 of 2017, combined sales of Oppo and Vivo phones made BBK the second biggest smartphone vendor worldwide. Whilst Apple may reta…

Did Siri Shortcomings Force Apple To Delay HomePod

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Apple's HomePod smartspeaker was due to begin shipping to customers next month, but today Apple delayed it until 'early 2018'. Unlike an iPhone X, the HomePod seems to be a particularly simple piece of technology to assemble and production yields should be high.
This suggests that something other than the hardware has caused Apple to delay the launch until after its prime selling season and my guess is that thing is Siri.
Siri lags behind other virtual assistants when used on the iPhone or iPad, even with the benefit of a screen to display information. If it struggles to cope with complex queries or instructions on a smart speaker, with no display to back it up, the user experience is going to be horrible.
Having taken some flak for poor quality control for its latest software on its latest devices, it's more than likely Apple is avoiding damage to the HomePod's reputation by holding back until it has an experience which is at least as good as Amazon Alexa or Goog…

Some Phones Do, Some Phones Don't, But Can You Tell Which

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Since Google announced Android Oreo almost exactly three months ago, a lot of new Android phones have been announced.

Not a lot of them are coming with Oreo installed though.

We've seen recent launches from OnePlus and Razer fail to deliver the latest Android build. Samsung, LG and Nokia all announced new flagships around the time of Oreo's launch, yet when they reached retail shelves they were still running on older versions of Android.

None of these phones have seen an update yet.

In fact you can count the number of phones running Android  on one hand. Google's Pixels, Sony's XZ1, XZ1 Compact, XZ Premium, HTC U11, U11+ and U11 Life and Huawei's Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro. Of those only the original Pixels, Sony XZ Premium and HTC U11 haves seen upgrades.

Android is so fragmented that the version which comes installed on a newly announced smartphone is a complete lottery. 

It's one of the key reasons why I think the smartphone market will still fall Apple's way, given…

New iPad Ad Signposts Apple's Future Direction

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This is Apple's latest iPad ad, which showcases many of the new features in iOS 11. It also makes a statement about Apple's future vision for computing. The iPad is touch and stylus friendly and packs versatility that a Mac could never deliver. 
It's a signpost to a world where the deeply flawed MacBook Pro no longer exists and Macs live on desks if they exist at all. 
Of course, this isn't actually Apple's vision at all, just one they've copied from Microsoft. And whilst the versatility and power of the Surface Pro (and its many PC lookalikes) makes for a real and uncompromised experience, the iPad user will bump up against its limits all too often. 
This advert tells a great story but its one which isn't reflected in real world usage. I'd also question whether it's healthy or wise for Apple to depict a child so absorbed by technology that her only direct  interaction with another child is to briefly show them her screen

Tesla Launches A 500 Mile Truck With Hot Hatch Acceleration

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Tesla launched its promised Semi today and it managed to beat expectations in many areas. The truck will have a 500 mile range, rather than the expected 300 miles, will charge to a 400 mile range in around half an hour and can go from 0-60 in five seconds.
The days of being stuck behind slow moving heavies may just be numbered.
Tesla says the Semi will achieve the performance figures whilst fully loaded, and it is prepared to guarantee the powertrain for one million miles. 
The result is a truck with a per mile cost of ownership around a third of that of a diesel powered equivalent. 
Elon Musk threw in a surprise announcement to close the show. A new Roadster, successor to Tesla's original vehicle. As well as being the fastest accelerating production car ever, the new Roadster packs a battery pack which gives it a range of 1000km - a first for an electric vehicle. 
A good day for Tesla then, just the thing to draw attention away from its issues with building cars in volume. 
The …

OnePlus 5T Arrives Packing 18:9 Screen

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OnePlus has announced its latest device - the 5T, packing a new 6" screen which fills the face of the device thanks to its 18:9 aspect ratio. Its a 1080p screen at 400dpi, which is a bit of a disappointment. The screen is AMOLED though, so colours should pop.
The 5T also gains a Face ID clone, which promises to be as awkward as the real thing on the iPhone. At least OnePlus has retained the fingerprint sensor, which means you can unlock your phone without having to hold it up to your face.
For the rest, it's much the same as the outgoing 5, a Snapdragon 835, 6 or 8GB of RAM and a USB-C port at v2.0 only. Dash Charging is still one of the, if not the, fastest way of juicing up a phone.
It also retains Android Nougat - which is something of a disappointment too. Joining Oreo in the MIA box are waterproofing and memory expansion. 
The cameras have been updated, with both having the same focal length, meaning no more zoom, but improved performance for the pictures you're mor…

F1: Toro Rosso Retain Gasly, Hartley For 2018

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Toro Rosso have announced that both Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley will be retained for the 2018 season, as the team switches to Honda engines. The news isn't altogether surprising, both have performed well given the limited running time available to them before stepping into Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz's shoes mid-season.
With Ricciardo likely to depart Red Bull at the end of his current contract, the two Toro Rosso drivers are effectively fighting for a seat in the 'A' team for 2019. Which should make for some interesting racing.
Assuming Honda's engine allows them enough running time to do any racing, of course.

F1: One Year At Mercedes, How Has Valtteri Bottas Performed

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Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix was a watershed for Valtteri Bottas. Having clinched pole position on Saturday he was beaten to the race win by Vettel on the Sunday in what was probably the most disappointing race of the season for the Finn.
There's no question that in the same position Lewis Hamilton would have won the Grand Prix. Even starting from the pit line, the new World Champion finished within sight of Bottas. I'd even wager that Nico Rosberg would have taken the Mercedes to victory in Sao Paolo.
And that's a problem for Mercedes. This year its fair to say that Ferrari could have won the title despite having a demonstrably inferior car over the season. Vettel was able to beat both Mercedes on several occasions and even when he didn't he was generally able to insert himself between them.
But for the events of three races, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan, where an accident and two car failures cost Vettel a significant haul of points the title could still be in…

iPhone X Lead Times Dropping - Higher Production Yields At Last

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Apple Stores across the world are showing much shorter lead times on the iPhone X, with most now offering just a 2-3 week lead times for online orders. In some places its even possible to walk in and picking the new iPhone off the shelf.
Now its a pretty safe bet that demand for the iPhone X hasn't collapsed in the last week so this seems to be an indication that Foxconn and the various component suppliers responsible for putting the handset together, have resolved whatever issues were limiting production yields.
With Christmas just around the corner that's good news for those looking to drop a new iPhone into someone special's stocking.

Heuer Autavia Limited Edition Celebrates Jack Heuer's Life

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This is the Heuer Autavia Limited Edition, released to celebrate the 85th birthday of Jack Heuer, the fourth generation of his family to lead the company. The watch has been designed by Heuer himself and takes inspiration from the 1933 Autavia designed by his father and uncle.
The watch is available in a 1932 piece limited run (reflecting Heuer's birth year), and will cost £4,650. It's certainly not cheap, but it has heritage and looks on its side, without the brash image which attaches to many other premium watch brands.