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Showing posts from June 17, 2018

Uber Safety Driver Was Watching TV Prior To Self-Driving Fatality

Uber's safety driver, who was responsible for intervening in the event of a failure of the car's self-driving systems, was watching The Voice on a device instead of the road, prior to the accident that took the life of pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in March.
The police report suggests that Rafaela Vasquez could have stopped the Volvo 12m before the impact if she had been paying attention to the road.
It seems highly likely that criminal charges will be pursued, probably for vehicular manslaughter, and Vasquez will have little in the way of defence should that happen.
Uber's decision to reduce the number of safety drivers in the car from two to one will also come into question. Could the decision be considered negligent? If so Uber, or executives in the self-driving program, could face the same charges.
This underlines the reasons why self-driving cars are dangerous. The systems are reliable and safe to take control for 99% of the time, however for the other 1% of the time th…

Apple Admits MacBook Keyboard Faults, Will Provide Repairs For Four Years From Purchase

The Butterfly keyboard introduced with the MacBook in 2016 was supposed to be a real advance in mobile keyboard technology, allowing more uniform key performance and a shallower keyboard overall.Unfortunately the keyboard has been divisive as a result of the different feel and travel of the keys. It's also been unreliable and Apple has been the subject of lawsuits after reusing the design on the MacBook Pro, despite being aware of issues with the design.Now Apple has acknowledged the issue and will fix keyboard issues free of charge for four years after purchase irrespective of AppleCare status.That's a big improvement over the current situation, but I don't think it goes far enough. If a MacBook is otherwise functional Apple should be on the hook for keyboard repairs for the life of the machine.Certainly the consumer laws of Australia and New Zealand would suggest this would be the case - Apple already has to provide free repairs for the first three years of the machine&#…

Apple’s AirPower Struggling With Heat Management, Probably Won't Arrive Until September

Apple’s Qi wireless charging mat, designed to support the devices is very,very late in arriving, even by recent Apple standards. Having been announced with the iPhone X and 8 last year, we were existing it to be available several months ago.Turns out that heat issues are preventing Apple from getting it out if the door.Now having to accommodate three wireless charging coils in a small space was always going to lead Apple into thermal problems, but the company and its customers probably didn't expect them to take the thick end of a year to resolve. A new report on Bloomberg suggests that this may well be the case. The AirPower may not show is face until new iPhones are launched in September.I can't help but wonder if this is Apple putting form over function, trying to pack too much into too little space. If heart dissipation is the problem, spread the components out to allow them greater cooling capacity.Sure it won't look as pretty on the desk, but it will at least be doin…

The Oppo Find X Is A Smartphone Which Should Have Stayed A Concept, But You Won't Buy It So It Doesn't Matter

Chinese OEM Oppo created a wonderful concept phone in the Find X, 94% screen to body, ratio, an amazing popup camera stack and flagship specifications from an OEM which has been concentrating on mid-range devices for years.
It should have stayed a concept. This phone is going to be brilliant in every way, right up until the point when you start trying to use it everyday. Then that amazing popup camera will be too slow, the screen will smash the first time you drop it and even if you don't the popup camera will fail and leave you with a half useless device.
And all of that's okay, because Oppo doesn't really want you to buy one. It's a phone which it has created for its push into Europe, raising its profile and getting potential customers to recognise its name. Not because you'll buy the Find X, which will be priced in iPhone and Galaxy S territory and a woefully bad choice for the money. Instead it will persuade customers that its mid-range phones are worth more t…

Has HTC Screwed Up For The Last Time?

The HTC U12+ was a chance for the company to make something of a statement of intent for its future after selling off the bulk of its smartphone division to Google.
Instead it looks more like the sort of mistake which could end the company's smartphone ambitions for good.
All the major reviews are in and there's an absolute consensus that this device is ruined by the power and volume 'buttons' which fail to work in any semblance of a reliable manner.
So much so that reviewers - many of them who have given the company substantial leeway in the past - are saying that this is a phone which nobody can buy in its current state. And whilst HTC has promised a software upgrade to try and improve matters, the chances of this making a material difference seem remote.
Which does little for the chances of HTC selling devices and as a result its long term prospects. How many buyers are going to look past the poor initial reviews and see a device worth buying even if HTC manages to …

Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony: Two Different Views On Cross-platform Play

Sony has steadfastly refused to allow cross platform gaming between its Playstation and competetive offerings from Microsoft and Nintendo. Even the uproar around Fortnight hasn't changed its position. So why is Sony playing hardball and preventing users from playing other with different consoles, and is it doing the right thing?
First of all, let's discuss games consoile economics. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo sell consoles close to, or even below cost. They hope to make their money through their commission on selling games for their platform. By keeping a tight control on how games are published they establish total control on the supply and ensure a valuable income stream.
It's generally known as the razor blade model, but its more easily understood by looking at the iTunes App Store on iOS. Apple claims a 30% commission on every sale, for doing little more than some quality control and providing the platform and storefront.
Sony is the giant in the current generation o…

Did Sugru Set Out To Mislead Crowd Funding Investors Before Screwing Them Over In Sell Off?

Sugru is a brilliant product, and its inventor, Jane ni Dhulchaointigh struck me as an enthusiastic and credible leader when I met her at a trade show not long after the product's launch in 2009. That the company has now effectively failed and been sold off at a bargain basement price to German adhesive manufacturer Tesa is disappointing for the company, although as a customer it doesn't have any particular impact.
Claims that the company misled potential investors ahead of its 2017 crowd funding round on CrowdCube are of rather more concern. Those investors bought into the company at a £33m valuation, only to lose more than 90% of their investment when the company sold for less than £8m earlier this year. In total the company raised £5m on CrowdCube in two share offerings, the first being in 2015.
Investors are up in arms over key risks which weren't included in the CrowdCube offering. The most material being a credit line with Clydesdale and Yorkshire bank which the com…

Microsoft Andromeda - A Windows Tablet That Is Also A Phone?

Andromeda - the long rumoured Windows 10 phone/tablet possibly folding device, which has been a lifeline for Windows Mobile fans as the ship has gone down - gave up some of its secrets this week, with new reports uncovering its launch timeframe and capabilities.
First of all we found out that Andromeda is still on track to release this year. The news fits in with identifiers in Microsoft's Windows 10 Insider programme, which supports the theory that Andromeda will arrive together with the Fall Update around the end of October.
When it does arrive it appears it will have telephony capabilities, which will come in useful if it is indeed a foldable device which goes from smartphone sized to tablet and can be dropped into a pocket when folded.
The question still remains: who is going to give Microsoft the time of day when it comes to a phone? The failure of Windows Mobile, Windows Phone and then Windows Mobile again suggests Microsoft isn't a safe place to put your smartphone dol…

I Only Use Alexa For Controlling Smart Devices

9to5Mac is reporting on a survey which suggests only 6% of smart speaker owners are using them to control smart devices in their homes. 
That seems like a questionable number to me, especially as less than a thousand owners were surveyed across the US, UK, Germany, Japan and Brazil. That's about one tenth of the global population, so I can't see how those numbers can be considered representative. I'd imagine that owners in Japan, for example, are much more like to control their smart homes using voice than those in Brazil.
Personally, I use my Echo Dot for smart device control around 90% of the time - it was one of the main reasons for getting  the device in the first place. Alexa's wide compatibility with third-party devices means I can get all of my various gear working through a single hub.
Right now pretty much any smart device you can buy for the home has Alexa support, so if you haven't dived into a smart home now is as good a time as any.

Monumentally Stupid Autopilot Buddy Is Banned To Stop Tesla Drivers Killing Themselves

Apparently some Tesla owners were cross when Tesla was forced to add some safety features to its Autopilot self-steering system to ensure drivers are at least paying some semblance of attention when the car is under the system's control.
In reality all the system now does is detect a driver's hands on the wheel, which is about as low as the bar can go in terms of measuring driver attention.
Too much for some though and as a result a third-party product has been doing the rounds, the Autopilot Buddy, a device designed to trick Autopilot by strategically placing magnets on the wheel to mimic the capacitive field of a driver's hands.
Fortunately the NHTSA has stepped in and outlawed the device with immediate effect. Whilst that prevents any further sales, it does nothing to prevent those users who already have one continuing to use one.

What's The Big Deal With: Climate Change

Climate change, what does it mean and what are its impacts. First in a series of What's The Big Deal With... videos.

F1: Red Bull To Switch To Honda Engines For 2019

Red Bull has announced that its twelve year association with Renault will end this season and the team will switch to Honda engines from 2019. The new deal is for two years, although the expectation is that this announcement foreshadows a longer relationship between the two companies.
Whilst the Red Bull Renault partnership has been successful - particularly in the Vettel years, in recent times Renault has been down on performance and reliability in comparison to Mercedes and Ferrari. Having got used to winning, Red Bull hasn't been happy to feed off the scraps of the big two in the last few years.
For Honda it is a shot at redemption, having had its reputation savaged by McLaren and Fernando Alonso over the last few seasons. This year's partnership with Toro Rosso has been far more productive and comparing the performance of the engine in its junior team's cars with the Renault in the Red Bull show the team performance parity.
Toro Rosso will continue to use Renault engi…

Theranos: Indictments of Holmes And Balwani Should Be A Warning Against Silicon Valley Hubris

A 19-year old college dropout founds a company which will revolutionise blood testing, becomes the world's youngest billionaire (on paper) and courts financial and political bigwigs like the Clintons, Kissenger and Murdoch. She is fêted as a symbol of a strong future and an inspiration to women.
Then it begins to crumble. The claims turn out to be false, investors have piled in their millions on the basis of nothing more than hubris, so wrapped up in the desire for profit that even the most basic, common-sense checking of the product never takes place, and the unmasking turns a $9bn company into chump change in a matter of weeks.
Elizabeth Holmes and co-conspirator Ramesh Balwani have been indicted in the US for wire fraud. The symbol of the future turns out to be a con artist and those investments are worth nothing.
If this isn't the very definition of all that is wrong with the technology finance world today, I don't know what is. Companies which have barely any revenue…

Apple Gets Knuckles Rapped For Flouting Australian Consumer Law

Apple has been hit with a AU$9m fine after the Error 53 scandal, when an iOS 9 update bricked iPhones which had been repaired anywhere but an authorised Apple service centre. Apple refused to fix the issue, claiming that third-party Touch ID sensors which were being used by third party repairers compromised the security of customers devices.
As opposed to Apple's update which just killed them. No security issue there then.
Australia, like most countries (except perhaps some states in the US) has fairly rigorous consumer law, protecting buyers from this kind of bullying tactic. Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission took Apple to court which handed down the fine today. It's a token gesture for a company which makes so much profit (and pays so few taxes) in Australia.
Apple eventually relented and provided a software patch to allow iPhones with third party repairs to continue to be used, however this wasn't sufficient to prevent the case from proceeding.

Tesla The Victim Of Sabotage, Just Smoke Or Smoke And Mirrors?

Elon Musk has contacted all Tesla employees to inform them that a colleague had been terminated for sabotaging the production line. In a follow-up email he also reported yet another fire at the production facility.
As the company approaches its make or break production deadline on June 30th this has to be viewed through the filter of Elon Musk's business slight of hand. Is he getting excuses in early or just redirecting the conversation. 
Certainly there's no question that this was intended for public consumption - internal memos have leaked widely in the past - and its real intention, something to get out ahead of negative publicity before the production deadline day arrives (should the company fail to hit its target), or a genuine warning to employees to be vigilant.
The unsubtle hint that the oil / motor industry might be behind the sabotage seems overly paranoid, but does fit in with Musk style of management.
The danger is that this overshadows a much more important and i…

The Technology You Just Can't Leave At Home - What Next?

Which pieces of technology do you always have with you when leaving the house? For the vast majority of people that will be their smartphone, and their smartphone only. Anything and everything else is dispensable.
There will be some outliers - smart watch users who couldn't revert back to a regular watch or not watch at all, some people who might find their headphones or earbuds indispensable and even some people who never leave the house without their computer or tablet. However they are outliers and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.
The problem facing any company releasing a new product right now is that of creating something which we absolutely cannot live without, must carry with us at all times and always know where it is. 
Nobody has really been able to demonstrate a reason to own a smartwatch, and I doubt they ever will, at least not to the standard we're discussing here. Yet a wearable still seems like the best bet for a game changer.

Tesla Model S In Spontaneous Combustion Incident

With no liquid fuel being carried electric cars are substantially less likely to burn than internal combustion engine, but they do burn nonetheless. This video Michael Morris's Model S bursting into flames has probably made more headlines than it would otherwise because it was tweeted by his wife Mary McCormack, the famous TV actress.
There's no indication of what caused the fire, other than confirmation from McCormack that there was no accident or other impact which might have been cause of the ignition.
Tesla has gone to great lengths to ensure that any fire in its car's battery packs is slow burning and fire departments (in the US at least) have been given the information necessary to extinguish them safely. So let's hope that this doesn't blow up' into something bigger than it should be.

This Year's 24 Hours of Le Mans Is A Farce, With Toyota Guaranteed Victory

This year's 24 Hours of Le Mans is a Toyota benefit, with its cars guaranteed to win as long as they don't fall apart. With every other car in the field handicapped to effectively prevent their winning.
Toyota are the only factory team entered for the 2018 race, with the rest of the field is made up of privateer teams running non hybrid cars. As a result they aren't allowed to lap faster than the Toyotas, getting penalised if they do; they are required to make more pitstops and each pitstop must take longer.
As a result there are only two cars which can win the race and following Toyota's decision to apply team orders at the first race of the season in Belgium that actually reduces the potential race winners to one.
The Buemi, Nakajima, Alonso car. 
For obvious reasons - marketing primarily - Toyota needs Alonso to win the race and make headline news.
Which would be fine if there was a race going on, instead what we have is a farce, with a predetermined result with no…