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Showing posts from May 13, 2018

A Mature Smartphone Market Is A Win For Apple And Google

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What's been the most exciting smartphone announced in the last twelve months? Apple certainly has a shout, given the courageous steps it took with the iPhone X, but if you already had an iPhone 7 or 8 did you really feel compelled to upgrade?
On the Android side, Google updated the Pixel and Samsung released the Galaxy S9, but other than iterative upgrades, a slightly better camera here, bigger screen there; there's nothing really game changing about either of those. Chinese OEMs like Huawei and Oppo / Vivo / OnePlus have almost completed their game of catch up, but even the new P20 doesn't feel like a phone anyone is going to throw out their old device for.
What's happened to the smartphone market is that it has matured. There are very few features which change the game in the way, for example, Apple did with Siri and Touch ID. 
For a while cameras were a good reason to upgrade, but even here we are seeing only small steps over what went before and given the photos p…

If The Government Wants Cheap Drugs It Should Be Funding Research

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The FDA has today published a website listing the companies which are preventing the release of generic versions of their drugs, effectively forcing the cost of healthcare higher and higher. In the US, where healthcare is generally insurance backed that forces premiums higher and in most other countries it puts pressure on healthcare budgets.In the UK government body called NICE decides whether the NHS will fund expensive drugs or not, effectively giving it life or death decisions to make for patients with curable or treatable issues.The problem here is one of balance. Drug companies invest billions into research every year and not all of that results in any effective product, and even when it does there’s a real risk that it will fail somewhere on the way to getting certified for use on patients. When a drug makes it to market companies need to generate a profit. Not that I’m defending drug companies, some of their behaviours are outrageous.That said, there is an obvious alternative …

YouTube Music Coming To New Zealand First

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YouTube Music will launch on Tuesday, replacing both Google Play Music and YouTube Red. The first countries to get the service are the US, Australia, South Korea, Mexico and New Zealand. Of course with the International Date Line being where it is, we'll get it here first!
In putting together its new service Google has closely followed Spotify's successful model. There will be free, ad-supported access as well as a paid ad-free Premium tier. The service will also take all that Google knows about you and use it to help you discover music.
That last one is a somewhat interesting, given that the thing most likely to decide whether you like a song or not is the other music you already like. Perhaps Google will be looking out for key words to match music suggestions to the moods displayed in your emails. Bad day at work? Something to cheer you up, pet just died? How about something downbeat? Hopefully we'll get some more clarification about how this works before the service go…

Alfa Romeo Celebrating 90th Anniversary Of First Mille Miglia Win

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The 2018 Mille Miglia will be a celebration of Alfa Romeo's first victory on the event, when Campari and Ramponi took their Alfa 6C to victory in a nineteen hour epic.
The race is run in Alfa Romeo's backyard and even runs past the company's new museum, so it's natural that this year should be a celebration of that victory, especially with Alfa Romeo's business back on the up.
The video gives something of a flavour of the Mille Miglia course, and if you're ever in Italy I strongly recommend a visit to the new Alfa Romeo museum, as well as finding the route of the race and driving at least some of it.
When you do, I think you'll marvel at the achievement of Campari, who completed the race at an average speed of 52mph in a car of the 1920s.

US Government Denied Representation In Apple EU Tax Fight

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The European Union has denied the United States Government a place in the court battle over Apple's sweetheart tax deal with Eire. The US wanted to present its case that forcing Apple to pay tax in the EU might allow it to claim future tax credits in the US, something the EU rejected.
This promises to be something of a landmark case, with Apple alleged to have avoided paying over $15bn of tax in the EU, with the collusion of the Irish Government. Apple's investment in Ireland appears to have given it such a power over the Irish Government that it was able to dictate tax law to its own benefit.
The EU is planning on change tax laws to prevent Apple, and other offenders like Facebook, Google and Amazon, from working the tax laws to keep taxes which are due in member states. As these loopholes close, so the ability to drive trucks full of tax money end. 
Whether that's a win for all concerned remains to be seen. Apple recently announced that it was killing a proposed $1bn da…

Apple Shipped 600,000 HomePods Last Quarter, Enough For Fourth Place In The Market

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The smart speaker market is relatively new and seeing impressive growth right now, as are those companies currently offering products in that space. Strategy Analytics reports that the market nearly trebled in the last year, with Q1 2018 shipments up 278% on the previous year.

Unsurprisingly Amazon and Google led the way - the former holding more than 40% of the market and doubling shipments year on year. Meanwhile Google - which was new to the market this time last year - managed to multiply its shipments eightfold.

Apple's first Q1 report for the HomePod went pretty well, considering how many times we've been told the company has put out something of a turkey. 600k shipments put the HomePod fourth in the market and, given its pricing and profit margins, probably made it the biggest business success in the quarter.

The rumours of a lower cost HomePod arriving this year can only boost Apple's position if its true. However, Apple has never been about volume and the fact th…

Looks Like Apple Is Going To Be In The Autonomous Car Game After All

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The prospects of Apple competing with Google, Tesla, Uber and the motor industry in the autonomous car market rose significantly yesterday, with the news that the company has doubled the number of permits to operate self driving vehicles in California.
That's the sort of commitment which suggests Apple sees a future in the business after all. But what sort of future?
Autonomous cars are going to be a slow burn. Right now we know that those market protagonists which have cars under test are still seeing a significant number of interventions - the number of times the human has to take control to prevent an incident - happening per mile driven.
That speaks to the quality of the software and hardware being used to guide the vehicle, but it doesn't tell the whole story. The upper and lower limits of the current state of play are Google - one intervention every 5,000 miles - and Uber - one intervention every 13 miles.
Those numbers are being achieved in tightly controlled environme…

Bringing Gaming To Everyone Microsoft Introduces The Xbox Adaptive Controller

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This is the sort of thing Microsoft is very good at. The new Xbox Adaptive Controller brings Xbox gaming to a much wider range of users, those for whom the standard controller introduces challenges or just completely prevents gameplay.
Having previously worked at, and been a patient of, a Spinal Injuries Unit, I know that retaining as much of pre-injury life is vital to helping patients recover mentally, if not physically, from life changing events and their outcomes. 
Props to the team at Microsoft who delivered this controller and made gaming possible for so many previously excluded people.

Twitter's PWA Is No Replacement For Its Windows App

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Twitter was one of the first big names to properly support Windows 10, with excellent desktop and mobile apps which supported Live Tiles, Dark Mode and just looked great. The app is now dead and Twitter users have found it replaced with a PWA - and it's just terrible.
In fact I have reverted to using the web client on the desktop because even that's better than what the PWA offers. Which is strange because the PWA is effectively just the desktop site running in a chromeless browser window. Nonetheless I see enough display problems to render the PWA pointless for me.
I just hope that Twitter isn't planning on doing the same thing with its Android and iOS apps.

This Is Tesla's Best Defence Against Autopilot Investigations

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Tesla has been suffering in the glare of the spotlight which has been turned on its Autopilot self driving system after its cars were involved in a number of accidents with the system engaged. The company has been asked to ensure that drivers are maintaining attention when using the system.
Here's the promotional video for Autopilot's various features, pulled from Tesla's YouTube channel. This more than anything proves that Tesla is setting realistic expectations about the capability of its system and it is in fact the drivers who are responsible for these accidents as a result of their lack of attention.
The problem with Autopilot seems to be that it's too good. Drivers get used to the idea that the car can drive itself and switch off - they watch movies, they use their phones or they just don't pay attention. The consequences can be fatal.
However that shouldn't change the basic premise, which is that the person in the driver's seat is responsible for dr…

OnePlus Unveils New Gorilla Glass Wrapped Flagship

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The OnePlus 6 is a lightly upgrade version of the OnePlus 5T, sporting a new notched screen and an updated camera array. Inside the OnePlus 6 has a full set of 2018 flagship specs and around the back OnePlus is the latest company to copy the HTC U11 and include a colour shifting backpanel underneath that Gorilla Glass back.
There are three storage variants - 64/128/256GB, with the latter two phones packing 8GB of RAM, compared to the 6GB of the cheaper model. OnePlus still doesn't include a memory card slot, nor has it waterproofed the phone sufficiently to get it an IP rating for protection against dust or water ingression.
Also missing is wireless charging, although there's no reason why that should be with that glass back panel.
The rear cameras are configured to deliver portrait mode, however OnePlus has yet to deliver a phone with class leading camera performance. We'll have to wait and see if the 6 is its breakout phone in this respect.
The price remains the OnePlus…

Nissan Goes After Tesla In UK Solar Market

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Customers in the UK can now purchase Nissan's combined solar panel / storage unit offering from its Nissan Energy Solar operation. The Nissan solution could potentially be cheaper for most customers, as Nissan is offering a package price which includes installation for £7,635, whilst Tesla's basic system at £5,970 doesn't include installation.
Nissan will go one step further than Tesla though, as it will be offering the option to choose a 'second life' battery, which has previously seen use in a Nissan Leaf. That's a smart way of avoiding the high environmental costs of making new batteries.
The solar panels don't seem like a particularly clever way of generating power in notoriously drizzly Britain, but Nissan is confident that not only will its solution generate power savings year round, but in the peak summer months owners will be able to take advantage of the green tarrifs to feed power back into the National Grid for profit.

Tidal Streaming Service Embroiled In Yet More Controversy

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Tidal, the music streaming service which is owned by Jay-Z, has been courting controversy in the last couple of weeks, with reports that the service is faking listener numbers to artificially inflate payments to some preferred artists to the detriment of everyone else.

That the preferred artists included the owners wife, Beyonce, and close friend Kanye West certainly looks suspicious and the allegation will need to be properly answered by Tidal.

A second report now claims that Tidal is failing to make royalty payments to artists, songwriters and publishers, raising the spectre of impending implosion of the service. A police investigation into the allegations has begun in Norway, whilst organisations representing rights holders are demanding an independent audit of Tidal's operations.

It isn't so long ago that Tidal was being aggressively shopped to Apple, presumably in the hope of making a quick buck before everything imploded. Apple wasn't biting and it seems likely that…

Home Automation With The Wemo Light Switch

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One of the first things you'll probably want to automate, when you decide to do some home automation, is your lights. There are obvious benefits to doing this - from something as simple as turning your bedroom light off when you're already in bed, to setting up mood lighting in living areas.
There are a number of ways of doing this using smart bulbs, but those do introduce some problems. Firstly, bulbs on the market only support one size of bayonet or screw fitting. If the light fitting you want to update is different you're stuck - either replace the fitting or use a questionable fitting adapter to make the connection.
Plus if you have multiple light fittings in a room replacing all the bulbs can get to be very expensive. Which is where Wemo's Light Switch comes in.
Like all Wemo products, this is a simple Wi-Fi connected switch which allows you to control the current state via a number of methods. There's an app for Android and iOS, Amazon Alexa and Google Assis…

Tesla Fire Truck Crash To Be Investigated By NHTSA

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Last week's accident which saw a Tesla under control of Autopilot run into the back of a fire truck in Utah will be investigated by the NHTSA. Self-driving accident investigation is becoming more of a thing.
With the driver freely admitting that she was looking at her mobile phone rather than the road at the time of the accident, there doesn't seem a case for Tesla to answer. Drivers are warned to be ready to take control and this clearly wasn't the case in this instance.
Elon Musk posted some angry tweets this week, questioning why this accident was getting so much coverage compared to all the deaths caused by drivers around the world. That's a little naïve - if it was a serious question at all. Self driving is big news and Tesla is the biggest face of self-driving not just in the US but around the world.
What is clear is that the Model S held up incredibly well considering the size of the impact. That's guaranteed to be at least one of the outputs from any inves…

Tricking Out Your Microsoft Surface Pro

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Microsoft is marketing the Surface Pro as a flexible laptop, in the past it also sold it as the tablet which could replace your laptop. Whilst both of these claims are accurate, what Microsoft perhaps hasn't pushed is the way in which a Surface Pro can be all of your computing needs, whether at home, on the road or in the office.

Of course you'll need more than the basic Surface Pro to make this work, but the investment in creating a do anything machine once you've got your Surface Pro is well worth making.
First of all I'm going to assume you already have the Surface Pro itself, plus the Type Cover and Surface Pen. These are pretty much the bare minimum for having a working portable setup anyway. Using the Surface Pro as a tablet really just involves disconnecting the keyboard and using the Pen, so there's no problems there either.

The other item I would strongly recommend all owners invest in would be a Micro SD card, large enough to retain a backup of all of y…

Dicota Code 13 Backpack Review

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As you probably know, I'm very much about travelling light - the smallest, least obtrusive load out of technology makes life and transit easier to manage. There are times when you need to travel with a little more and that's when you need a backpack.
Today I'm looking at the Dicota Code which is available in 11" and 13" versions for those packing small to medium laptops.
Dicota is a Swiss-German company which has been making bags for twenty-five years, and their bags have a lifetime warranty, so you can be pretty confident of the quality of anything with the Dicota name on.
But what about the design?
The Code backpack has three main compartments. Closer to your back when worn is the laptop compartment. This is heavily padded with thick foam both to the inside and outside of the bag. I found my 13.3" HP Spectre x360 fit comfortably into this pocket. There is a flap with Velcro which covers the whole opening when closed and keeps your laptop securely fastene…

Microsoft Planning Entry Level Surface Follow-up

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Recently I wrote here that Microsoft needed to revisit the Surface 3 and produce a new smaller, lighter and cheaper version to compete in education and with the iPad. A report in Bloomberg suggests that the company is looking at doing exactly this, with the report expecting the new hardware to arrive before the end of the year.
The new Surface is expected to contain an Intel processor - likely an eighth generation m3 - for size and power consumption reasons. Which is surprising, given the potential to build something running Windows for ARM and a Snapdragon processor with epic battery life.
Losing out on battery life to the iPad isn't going to help this new Surface sell. On the plus side though, Microsoft is expected to deliver USB-C for charging and connectivity, which should allow for a quicker top up - especially compared to the long charging times Apple's entry level iPads suffer.
This might also be the first Surface to drop legacy ports and even the Surface Connector. F…

Tesla Balancing The European Power Grid With 18MW Powerpack Station

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Tesla and Restore have come together to build a battery station in Belgium which is being used to balance the power grid in times of high demand. At 18MW its capacity is similar to the fossil fuel powered stations which used to fill these supply gaps.
With any renewable electricity source there's a problem with flexing supply to meet load. Wind, Solar and Hydro plants are reliant upon nature to provide the energy which they feed into the grid. Because demand and supply can't be easily matched, electricity companies have had to back renewables with fossil fuel generators to avoid blackouts resulting from over demand. The alternative solution has been to look at ways of storing power when generation levels are higher than demand and then feed it back into the grid when the demand outstrips supply.
In the past that has generally meant trying to create some form of mechanical battery to store the energy for later release. Tesla's Powerpacks allows electricity companies to buy…

Formula E: Nico Rosberg To Debut Gen2 Car In Berlin

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Formula E fans in Berlin will get something of a treat this weekend, when 2016 F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg gives the new Gen2 car its first public outing. The new car officially takes over as the series standard platform from Season Five, starting at the end of 2018 and has already completed private shakedown running in the hands of Nelson Piquet Jr., Formula E's first Champion.

With his former employer Mercedes joining the series in Season Six could this be a precursor to a  racing return for Rosberg? That would certainly be a coup for the series, especially with the announcement earlier today that Felipe Massa would be joining the Venturi team next season.

F1: Halo Shows Its Worth In F2 Accident

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Tadasuke Makino had a lucky escape in this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix F2 support race. He was involved in an accident with countryman Nirei Fukuzumi, which sent the latter’s car over the top of Makino’s.
The result was elimination from the race for both drivers, but no lasting damage - and not much comment from all concerned. At least until pictures of Makino’s car started appearing and we saw what a lucky escape he had.
Actually, lucky probably isn’t the word. The efforts of the FIA Safety Commission in bringing the Halo device to sanctioned events directly impacted the outcome of this accident. Tyres marks all along the Halo side impact bar show that the safety device did its job and prevented the tyre from hitting the driver’s helmet, with the potential for head injury that implies.
For all that the new cars looked a bit funny when we first saw them, the Halo has faded into the background and doesn’t even rate comment any more. And with its effectiveness now proven, I doubt that …

Samsung May Rescue ZTE From Processor Nightmare

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ZTE's suspended business is picking up lifelines all over the place just now. Having lost its ability to do business with American companies, then had President Trump suggest that he was working to reverse (possibly under pressure from the Chinese Government) ZTE has now been given another opportunity to get production restarted.
This time the lifeline comes from Samsung, which Reuters is reporting to be in negotiations for the supply of its Exynos chips to the stricken Chinese giant.
For ZTE its a life or death deal, but it has some value for Samsung too, given that it competes directly with Qualcomm. Stealing the business of the fourth biggest smartphone vendor would be a feather in the cap of it chip business.

PS Vita On Death Bed As Sony Culls GameCards

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Sony's misunderstood and unfairly unpopular PS Vita handheld is surely on its last legs now, with the company announcing that it will no longer be releasing GameCards, not that its been possible to find games on the proprietary memory format for a while now.
The continued release of games via the PS download store will ensure the Vita continues to live on in the short term, but given that Vita games were removed from the PS Plus subscription service recently, even that looks to be on shaky ground.
Whilst it doesn't have the screen or the power of the Nintendo Switch, the Vita's games catalogue outdoes that of its younger cousin, even if the games are almost entirely older games.  It's also a far more portable device, being small enough to fit into a jeans pocket, rather than requiring a carry case like the Switch.
It's a shame really, as a little care to ensure new releases over the last couple of years would have been enough to keep the Vita competitive. For now …

Microsoft Admits It Blew Cortana As Well

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You've got to hand it to Microsoft, when it enters a market it does so decisively and carries its plans through to a successful conclusion. Sorry, getting mixed up there. No, when Microsoft enters a market it's generally without a clear sense of purpose, a poor strategic direction and an impending whiff of long drawn out failure. For every success you can chalk up three disasters.
Latest of those is likely to be Cortana, which for a while looked to be a potential selling point for Windows phones and PCs. The death of Windows 10 Mobile killed that dream and a failure to react to Amazon Echo and Alexa looks to have killed it on the desktop too. The announcement of a the HP Curve with Alexa relegates Cortana to the position of service enabler on Windows. Other OEMs are likely to pick up Alexa as well, given the greater range of capabilities Amazon's Assistant offers.
Microsoft VP with responsibility for Cortana Javier Soltero admitted as much when talking to ZDNet, claiming …

There's A Major Flaw In Uber's Flying Car Design

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This is the Uber Elevate Flying Car concept, which the company is pushing as it seeks to turn the conversation away from its self-driving car safety issues, the massive losses it incurred last year or indeed anything else relating to the problems it has had in the last eighteen months.
Problem is, the reference platform Uber has offered has a critical flaw, one which I'm sure will prevent it from bringing any kind of volume service to any city.
Let's start with the flying car nonsense. There is nothing about this vehicle which says 'car' to me - or indeed anyone with functioning vision. It is a mash-up of a light airplane with a helicopter, with added vertical take-off hardware.
This is not going to be a vehicle you jump into at the side of a busy arterial road and fly over the city to be dropped at your destination. Far from it. This is going to require a network of helicopter-style landing pads, strategically placed throughout any city in which Uber seeks to operate…

Jaguar i-Pace Looking Like Tesla's Worst Nightmare

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Jaguar's i-Pace is starting to get into the hands of road testers - and it's clear they like it. A lot. Jaguar is the first of the premium car brands to bring an all-electric SUV to the market and it promises to be a problem for Tesla, which has had the market all to itself up until now.
Tesla has had a couple of bad months, with accidents involving its Autopilot self-driving system making headlines, missed production targets, which are continually being updated and missed again; and quality concerns on the cars it is building.
Jaguar video above shows the company has everything in the i-Pace it needs to succeed. And as well as delivering something attractive and technically up to date, it already knows how to build cars at scale, something Tesla is still learning.
With a solid order book, Tesla has no immediate concerns at the moment (other than sorting its production facilities) but the arrival of Jaguar and imminent arrival of other premium brands mean that it may not have …

Formula E: Felipe Massa Joins Venturi For Season Five

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Eleven-time Grand Prix winner, 2008 F1 Championship runner-up and F3000 Champion, Felipe Massa, will join Formula E next season, after signing a three year deal with the Venturi team. The nice guy of motorsport becomes the most successful F1 driver to cross over to the all-electric series.
With Brazil a notable absentee from the Formula E calendar, despite being the home country of two of the three Championship winners, the arrival of such a high profile and popular racer as Massa should hopefully be the springboard to bring racing to one of the world's most populous countries.

HTC Thinks Different - Incoming Exodus Is A Blockchain Phone

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Companies turning to Block Chain or crypto currencies aren't generally doing so for the obvious reasons - the value some form of distributed ledger adds to their record keeping or transactions. Many have just been seeking to ride the hype wave that followed the stratospheric gains posted by Bitcoin last year.
So HTC's announcement of a Block Chain phone called Exodus concerns me.
On the face of it a phone with a built in universal wallet and the ability to complete point to point transactions between devices seems interesting. But exactly how big is this market? And are the users who would be interested in something carrying this technology asking for a turnkey solution?
I suspect the answers to those two questions are not very big and no.
Still it's good to see HTC looking to do something different to try and recover its business. If this is the start of a series of big bets on being different then it should be applauded. Let's hope some of those bets stick.

Microsoft Introduces Surface Hub 2 - Getting Pretty Good At This Hardware Thing

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For all that it was late to the hardware party, you have to say Microsoft software running on Microsoft's own hardware is a truly impressive experience. In the areas Microsoft has chosen to compete its device have been peerless.
The latest example is the new Surface Hub 2, which just looks like a phenomenal tool for the organisations at which it is aimed.
The only question which springs to mind though, is why was this not announced at Build, when Microsoft had the eyes of the world on it. Because for all that this is a enterprise device, the halo effect on the rest of the Surface line can't be denied.

HP Unveils All In One PC With Alexa, So Long Cortana

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Back in January HP and Intel demonstrated PCs with Alexa integrated, now HP has unveiled the first PC to ship with Amazon’s voice assistant embedded, the Curve AIO.The integration of Alexa, with all of its associated skills and connected services pretty much kills Cortana on the PC - even if Microsoft is still pursuing some form of alliance between the two assistants. Given both tools installed on a home PC most - if not all - users are going to plump for Alexa.

The Man Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies

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The story of James Harrison is inspiring. The 81 year old has been donating blood for 60 years, prompted by blood transfusions that saved his life when he was 14.
His blood contains the necessary antibodies and is of the right type to prevent HDN, which causes thousands of babies to die in utero every year. Over his sixty years of donations his blood has saved the lives of 2.4 million Australian babies.
Amazing story, tempered only with the news that there are currently on sixty donors worldwide who can carry on the good work.

Microsoft Looking To Build Bridges In A World Of Moats

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One thing which was readily apparent at last week’s Build conference was that Microsoft is implementing a new plan to try and retain some relevance in the mobile and desktop worlds. With its mobile presence reduced to that of an app developer for other’s platforms (albeit a large one with a stable of high value titles) and its desktop presence under threat, Microsoft is looking at ways to integrate Windows PCs with the devices customers are already using.
The problem is that whilst Microsoft is trying to build bridges between Windows and those iOS and Android devices, Apple has established a deep moat around its services. Android may not present it with the same problem, for now, but as Google starts to extend the reach and capability of Chromebook there’s no telling what it might decide to do.
Apple’s competitive advantage is tied up in excluding outsiders from its stronghold. By locking users into Messages into makes a Mac a better companion to iOS, by tying HomePod to Apple Music i…

F1: Robert Kubica Ready For Comeback ‘Tomorrow’

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After what felt like a succesful Spanish Grand Prix, Robert Kubica is reported to have told the BBC that he is ready for an F1 comeback tomorrow. The Pole was a country mile ahead of regular driver Lance Stroll in Free Practice 1 and looked the most likely to pull something out of a nightmare weekend for the Williams team.With Sauber scoring points for the third time this season and Williams looking like they’ll need Baku style chaos at every race if they’re to score points, calling up Kubica looks like the team’s best hope of turning itself around.There’s more to it then just refreshing the driving talent though. After his run in the car at Barcelona Kubica called the car embarrassing. That doesn’t bode well for a team with two inexperienced drivers who earned their seats as much through funding as any inate talent.

Apple Oversells Portrait Lighting In iPhone Ad

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Apple's Portrait Lighting works brilliantly - when it works. Unfortunately that's far from all of the time and when it doesn't work it can make a right dog's breakfast of things.
So Apple's latest ad, touting portrait lighting as a studio in your pocket is perhaps being more than a little economical with the truth.
No doubt the next iPhone and iOS release will improve this feature to a point where you can guarantee a decent photo. But until then Apple really shouldn't be setting customers up for disappointment when there's so much to take pleasure from in its current line-up.

Amazon Go Has Been Such A Success, Two New Stores Are On Their Way

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The store with no checkouts, Amazon Go opened in Seattle at the beginning of the year and now it looks like the success of that first store has persuaded Amazon its time to expand the operation. Two new stores are planned in San Francisco and Chicago.
With a total of six extra stores planned for the US this year, Amazon is betting big on the convenience of Just Walk Out stores, with time poor customers choosing a Go location over more traditional convenience stores.

Google Duplex Has Split Public Opinion Right Down The Middle

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A week on, how are you feeling about Google Duplex? Are you excited by the way this tool can remove some of the drudge from your life or appalled that you might end up having a conversation with a computer at some stage in the not too distant future? Does the way it mimicked a human being  enthuse you or terrify you?
Across the tech world - and the real world - it seems opinion is divided right down the middle.
Those who profess to be uncomfortable or even scared by the technology, haven't as yet put together a cohesive argument as to why that should be the case. As a parent I would certainly have concerns about the way it removes some of the need to communicate with other humans - something that the youth of today are increasingly losing. The long term impact of moving children's interactions online rather than in person haven't been established. Does the reduction in human to human contact reduce empathy and reduce humans to a click at the end of an app, or does the wid…

Tesla Model S Rear Ends Fire Truck Whilst Under Autopilot Control

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A Tesla Model S being driven by the company's semi-autonomous Autopilot system crashed into the back of a fire truck in Utah on Friday, in another incident which will bring Tesla into conflict with the NTSB.
Tesla has not yet been able to retrieve data from the car, so hasn't yet established what actually happened, but avoiding a daylight run into the back of what should be a highly visible object - a fire truck for example - shouldn't be something a self driving system has trouble with.
Once again the root cause is likely to be a lack of attention by the driver, who is supposed to be ready to take over at a moments notice. Tesla has spent much time reinforcing that message and has even introduced some controls to bring self-driving to a halt if the driver fails to heed warnings. Clearly the company hasn't gone far enough.
However, there's much that is positive for Tesla to take away here. This was a 60mph impact and the driver got away with a broken ankle, an acc…

Google One Is Coming For Microsoft 365

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Google has updated its online storage service Drive, introduced new pricing and features; and with it taken direct aim at Microsoft's 365 services - at least for consumers. The new service is called One, and Google is targeting Office 365's storage tiers with the new model.
There are now six storage plans available, but realistically only two should be of concern to most people. The first new tier offers 200GB of storage for $2.99 per month. Microsoft doesn't have a cloud storage tier which competes and given that this is probably all most consumers will ever need, that's a clever play by Google.
The second new tier is at $9.99 and includes 2TB of storage - double what Microsoft offers for the price.
All tiers still include access to Google's G-suite of apps, which whilst not as fully featured as Microsoft Office, will be more than ample for most, if not all consumers.
What's new and noteworthy is the introduction of two new features - family sharing, for up t…

F1: Is Magnussen’s Pace Causing Romain Grosjean To Overdrive His Haas

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For the second race in succession, Haas driver Romain Grosjean ended his race in disgrace. In Baku he managed to crash behind the safety car whilst trying to warm his tyres, and in Barcelona he went one worse, causing an accident at turn three of the first lap that eliminated a seventh of the grid and could have resulted in serious injuries to one or more drivers.Grosjean’s mistakes were multiple. First he dropped his Haas on the outside of the long right hand corner, causing the rear to spin away from him. Then, rather than allowing his car to complete its pirouette on the outside of the corner he kept his foot hard on the throttle pedal, causing the car to spin back into the path of the onrushing field, whilst hiding his car in a swathe of tyre smoke.Collisions were inevitable and both Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly were eliminated in the resulting accident.Grosjean was given three place grid penalty for the next race in Monaco, as well as two penalty points on his license.It seem…

F1: Spanish Grand Prix A Real Result For Mercedes

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Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand after a imperious performance from Mercedes, in a race which the result wasn’t decided by the Safety Car.Hamilton and Bottas were 1-2 on the grid and stayed there to the finish, aided by tyre wear problems on the new Pirellis which resulted in Sebatian Vettel needing to take a second pitstop, ending up in fourth place.Back to back victories in Baku and Barcelona have given Lewis Hamilton a commanding lead at the top of the table, but in truth Mercedes should have won four races this season, with only Vettel’s masterclass in Bahrain standing against them.Barcelona is generally a good indicator of performance for the rest of the season, which suggests that Mercedes have things sewn up, with only outliers like Hungary and Singapore to concern them.A simple run to Championship number five for Hamilton? It would certainly seem to be the case.

The iPhone SE Replacement Release Date Is Thrown Into Question Once More

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The iPhone SE replacement looks like being one of the more elusive devices this year. We already have two wildly different predictions about what the phone will be. Now the release date of whatever gets to market is in question too. Japanese website Mac Otakara is reporting that the design hasn't been finalised and the new device will be announced alongside the rest of the iPhone line in September.
There has been talk of an LCD equipped version of the iPhone X to replace the traditional iPhone chassis which the iPhone 8 uses. This would presumably see three new iPhone X models, sporting Face ID and edge to edge screens at a new higher price point (the X Plus) the current price point (X2) and a lower price point (X SE).
However that doesn't account for the Apple customers who want a smaller device and have flocked to the SE in their tens of millions.
Which makes me think that the previous rumours of a new SE are accurate, and that Apple will release a new iPhone 5 chassis devi…

Surface Pro 4 Screen Flicker Problems Can't Be Resolved, So Microsoft Will Replace Them

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Owners of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 have long complained about problems with flickering screens, which until now have not been addressed by Microsoft. Some have noted the issue when their SP4 is cold, whilst others have found that putting the tablet in the freezer temporarily resolves the issue. A number have been hoping for a software update to resolve the problem.
That won't be happening now, as Microsoft has identified the cause as a hardware fault and will now begin a replacement process for users experiencing the issue. Customers who have paid for screen replacements will be reimbursed.
Microsoft's Surface line-up has had patchy quality, to the point where Consumer Reports stopped recommending them as purchases.
Given that particular black mark, it was probably safe to assume that Microsoft would have made this SP4 issue a high priority in order to avoid adding more noise to the 'Surface products are unreliable' clamour. That it took so long to reach this point…

Blackberry Key2 Will Launch Early June

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TCL will release the next version of its Blackberry with a keyboard next month, and the device will be called the Key2. The press invite for the June 7th launch doesn't give too much away, however the naming tells us everything the Key2 is about.
The current KeyOne received a good reception from the web-o-sphere, with plenty of positive reviews. The keyboard was identified as a particular strong point, integrating many of the features which made pre-Android Blackberry devices great.
Sales weren't particularly impressive though. Which seems to be okay with TCL, which didn't get involved in heavy discounting of the KeyOne during its lifetime. A clear sign the company is targeting profit not volume.
If the Key2 follows an upgrade path from its predecessor, we should be able to make some decent guesses about the sort of device it will be.
Looks-wise, expect more of the same - a similar 4.5" screen with a keyboard underneath, a mid-range Snapdragon processor with a solid …

Google Updates Android OEM Agreements To Enforce Security Patching - But It Probably Won't Make Any Difference

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Another chance to talk about the car crash which is the current state of Android security patching. This time promoted by news from Google IO, where the had of Android platform security David Kleiderrmacher announced that Google was going to address the issue with new contracts.
Google releases monthly security updates, which reach almost no Android phones at all. I'd even confidently guess that, outside of Google's own phones, the number of Android phones which see an update before the next month's security release is so vanishingly small it may as well be zero.
By updating its contract with OEMs - and by further development of Project Treble which is supposed to make updates easier to release - Google is hoping to push that number up. It's still fighting a losing battle though.
Grouping all of these devices under the Android banner is somewhat misleading. Aside from the core, Samsung's Android is very different from Huawei's and both share little with Sony&#…