Tech Today w/ Ken May

Featured entries

MojoKid writes Intel is unleashing a new family of Atom processors today, taking a cue from its highly successful Core series with model branding. Similar to the Good, Better, Best strategy with the Core i3, i5 and i7, Intel is renaming its Atom family with x3, x5, and x7 designations. The biggest news comes from the low-end Atom x3, which will be available in three distinct variants; all of which will come with integrated modems — a first for the Atom family. All three variants are 64-bit capable cores. The Atom x3-C3130 tops out at 1GHz, incorporates a Mali 400 MP2 GPU, and includes an integrated 3G (HSPA+) modem. The Atom x3-C3230RK bumps the max clock speed to 1.2GHz, throws in a Mali 450 MP4 GPU, and the same 3G modem. Finally, the Atom x3-C3440 clocks in at 1.4GHz, features a Mali T720 MP2 graphics core, incorporates a Category 6 LTE modem, and can optionally support NFC. Using handpicked benchmarks, Intel claims that the Atom x3-C3230RK can offer up to 1.8x the media editing performance of competing SoCs from Qualcomm and MediaTek. Then there’s Intel’s Cherry Trail-based Atom x5 and x7. These are the first 64-bit Atom SoCs to be built using a 14nm manufacturing and they incorporate eighth generation Intel graphics. While the Atom x5 and x7 don’t feature integrated modems like the Atom x3, they do support Intel’s next generation XMM 726x and 7360 LTE modems. Intel claims that the Atom x7 offers two times the graphics performance of the existing high-end Atom Z3795 in the GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex HD benchmark and 50 percent greater performance on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

On Monday, Open Whisper Systems announced the release of Signal 2.0 , the second version of its app for iOS. What makes this latest release special is that it allows users to send end-to-end encrypted messages, for free, to users of Redphone and TextSecure, Android apps supported by Open Whisper Systems that encrypt calling and text messages, respectively. Previously, this kind of cross-platform secure messaging cost money in the form of a monthly subscription fee that both the sender and the receiver of the message had to pay. (Or, encrypting messages cost considerable time and effort to implement without a dedicated app.) Signal and its Android counterpart TextSecure are unique in that they use forward encryption, which generates temporary keys for each message, but still allow asynchronous messaging through the use of push notifications and “prekeys.” Ars reported on the implementation details in 2013 . Open Whisper Systems has pulled ahead of other privacy apps by making its interface easy for a person who doesn’t know too much about encryption to use. It’s also open source, so it can be vetted by experts, and its open encryption protocol can be adopted by other messaging apps. In fact, last November, messaging platform Whatsapp deployed Open Whisper Systems’ protocol for its 500 million Android users . Still, until now communicating with iOS users from an Android phone has been much more challenging. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Archaeologists have excavated a house in Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, that dates back to the first century. Local Christians have long believed it was Jesus’ childhood home, but scientists say that’s impossible to know for sure. What the house reveals about life during Jesus’ childhood, however, is fascinating. Read more…

“While the rest of the market is going one way, with selfie sticks and curved screens, we’re going down another, to the heart of problems, sticking with privacy and security, ” said Silent Circle’s Mike Janke at the launch of the company’s new secure smartphone, the Blackphone 2. And he’s not kidding — though no frills in design, it’s kitted out with some serious security features. Read more…

Uber is trying to force GitHub to disclose the IP address of every person that accessed a webpage connected to a database intrusion that exposed sensitive personal data for 50,000 drivers. The court action revealed that a security key unlocking the database was stored on a publicly accessible place, the online equivalent of stashing a house key under a doormat. Uber officials have yet to say precisely what information was contained in the two now-unavailable GitHub gists . But in a lawsuit filed Friday against the unknown John Doe intruders, Uber lawyers said the URLs contained a security key that allowed unauthorized access to the names and driver’s license numbers of about 50,000 Uber drivers . The ride-sharing service disclosed the breach on Friday, more than two months after it was discovered. “The contents of these internal database files are closely guarded by Uber,” the complaint stated. “Accessing them from Uber’s protected computers requires a unique security key that is not intended to be available to anyone other than certain Uber employees, and no one outside of Uber is authorized to access the files. On or around May 12, 2014, from an IP address not associated with an Uber employee and otherwise unknown to Uber, John Doe I used the unique security key to download Uber database files containing confidential and proprietary information from Uber’s protected computers.” Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Unreal Engine 4 Is Now Free

Posted by kenmay on March - 2 - 2015

jones_supa writes In 2014, Epic Games took the step of making Unreal Engine 4 available to everyone by subscription for $19 per month. Today, this general-purpose game engine is available to everyone for free. This includes future updates, the full C++ source code of the engine, documentation, and all sorts of bonus material. You can download the engine and use it for everything from game development, education, architecture, and visualization to VR, film and animation. The business scheme that Epic set in the beginning, remains the same: when you ship a commercial game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3, 000 per product, per quarter. Epic strived to create a simple and fair arrangement in which they succeed only when your product succeeds. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Patrick O’Neill writes After a wave of account bannings that marks Twitter’s most aggressive move ever against ISIS, new images circulated from militants shows founder Jack Dorsey in crosshairs with the caption “Twitter, you started this war.” The famously tech-savy ISIS has met a number of defeats on American-built social media recently with sites like Twitter and YouTube banning the group’s efforts in unprecedented numbers. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

BARCELONA, Spain—At Mobile World Congress 2015, Intel has unveiled its latest in a very long line of attempts at securing a beachhead in the mobile market: the Atom x3, Atom x5, and Atom x7 SoCs. As the naming implies, the Atom x3 is a low-end part that is probably destined for developing markets in countries such as India and China. The Atom x5 and x7, however, are quad-core 14nm Cherry Trail chips with Broadwell-class Intel HD graphics. Performance-wise, the x5 and x7 chips should be pretty good—but right now we only have Intel’s own benchmarks to go on. There’s also no word from Intel on the power consumption of the new chips, which is rarely a good sign when you’re trying to break into a highly competitive, entrenched market. Let’s start at the bottom. Atom x3 is essentially rebranded SoFIA, but now along with a 3G version there is a new chip (the x3-C3440) with an integrated LTE modem. Rather unusual despite its use of the Atom brand name, the x3 is a 28nm chip that isn’t being built at Intel’s own fabs. Instead, Intel is using a foundry (most likely TSMC or Rockchip), primarily because it isn’t cost effective for Intel to build chips with integrated modems on its own bleeding-edge 14nm node. The top-end Atom x3, the x3-C3440, has a quad-core CPU and Mali 720 MP2 GPU (yes, that’s a GPU designed by ARM Holdings). We probably won’t see the Atom x3 in Western markets; it will be cheaply fabricated in Asia, and it will be used in very cheap phones and tablets. We have asked Intel what CPU core is being used by Atom x3, but the company hasn’t yet responded. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Meet Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge

Posted by kenmay on March - 2 - 2015

The last time Samsung put on a show in Barcelona, it came bearing the Galaxy S5 and that love-it-or-hate-it bandage back. Not exactly a high point in the company’s design history, you might say. Over the past year, though, that Korean juggernaut has come to the realization that it needs to pare and down and push a few more envelopes, a philosophy that begat weird, arguably wonderful experiments like the Note Edge. So, Samsung, it’s been a year – how far have you come? We have our answer. Meet the Galaxy S6 and the S6 edge. The reason we’re discussing both phones at the same time is simple: If you look closely enough, you’ll find that they’re identical in almost every way that matters. Both sport bodies hewn of aluminum, sandwiched between two layers of Gorilla Glass 4. Both sport 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED screens (more on them later). Both have Samsung’s latest octacore chipset thrumming away in them, chipsets that pairs a quad 2.1GHz processor with a Quad 1.5Ghz one. (Oh, and they’ve both got 3GB of RAM as just for good measure). Both support LTE cat. 6. Both are slated for a global launch on April 10. You get where I’m going with this. Thing is, one is staggeringly more pretty than the other. If looks could kill… I’d be dead right now. To absolutely no one’s surprise, the Galaxy S6 edge is going to get the lion’s share of attention here at MWC, and probably over the weeks and months that’ll follow. It’s absolutely beautiful — easily the best looking, best feeling phone Samsung has ever made. The edge’s 5.1-inch screen gently curves away from you, leaving just enough room on the edges for the traditional power button and volume buttons. In case you were wondering, no, none of the wraparound apps created with the Note Edge SDK will work here; you can swipe through notifications and sift through news items, but there isn’t much more to things than that. Samsung’s main motivation in curving that screen was to make a phone that feels intensely comfortable in your hand, and you know what? They did it. Strangely, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the HTC One M8’s polished, smooth contours — with HTC’s minor design tweaks in place, the S6 edge almost feels more like the M8 than the M9 does. Now, the S6 doesn’t look bad at all: With its more conversative flat screen, it’s a handsome metal-and-glass evolution of the Galaxy S5. if the edge wasn’t unveiled right alongside it, we’d all be at least a little more forgiving. Two phones, one mind I only had about an hour to share with the GS6 twins, and trying to test for performance on not-quite-final hardware is pretty dicey to start with. That said, both devices ran terribly smoothly – every one of my actions and every one of the phone’s responses seemed fluid, effortless even. Thumbing through webpages, jumping in and out of open apps with the manic frenzy of a rabid squirrel and just generally trying to be a jerk didn’t phase the S6 or S6 edge in the slightest. In hand, both models felt just as snappy as HTC’s One M9, though we’ll have to wait for the benchmarks to help deliver the final verdict. Anyway, we’ve got a few things to thank for that snappy performance – Samsung says that Exynos octa-core chip running the show offers a 20 percent leap in performance while dramatically cutting down on power consumption, and Samsung’s surprisingly light touch with TouchWiz this time around. The TouchWiz of yore was an unsightly and ungainly mess, but with every generation Samsung has dialed down its intensity. This time, Samsung’s UI is paired with Android 5.0 Lollipop, and while most of TouchWiz’s features worked the same, they were redesigned with the lighter, cleaner Material Design aesthetic in mind. Not every feature made the cut again this time, either, – Samsung’s new outlook on life is totally cool with excising extraneous bits if it helps improve the overall experience. Again, it’s way too early to pass judgment, but I’d say the strategy seems to be paying off; for the first time in my life, I’m actually sort of enjoying TouchWiz. Samsung spent a year tinkering with camera modules too, and the end result is the 16-megapixel rear shooter with optical image stabilization and an f/1.9 lens. My early results seemed promising, though really, I was shooting in tiny room in a hotel – we’ll see what the camera can really do once we get our review unit in. Still, thoughtful touches like double tapping to home button to very quickly launch the camera and auto-tracking autofocus during video seem poised to help dramatically. Throw in support for both major wireless charging standards and magnetic wave payment technology that’ll come to the market as Samsung Pay and you’ve got a pair of devices that seem like the first substantive step forward this lumbering giant has taken in a long time. Is it a huge step? Maybe not, but it’s movement in a positive direction. In the end, the only real differences between the two are the inclinations of the screens they sport, the batteries lurking inside and their price tags. We don’t know how much they’ll cost but the edge will carry a notable premium over its pedestrian cousin. And there are, as always, some caveats you need to know about. You’ll be able to choose from 32, 64, or 128GB variants, but choose carefully – there’s no room for a MicroSD slot anywhere. You can’t remove the battery (the one major downgrade from the GS5) You’ve got a whopping four colors to choose from when you try to buy one. One looks hugely better than the other. Other than that though, Samsung is sending one message loud and clear: “Don’t count us out.” Lesson learned. Comments

Remember those rumors about a 12-inch MacBook that ditched a MagSafe connector and traditional USB ports for a single USB Type-C port? If true, SanDisk’s new Dual USB Drive will be the first flash drive that’s able to connect to that redesigned hardware without an ugly adapter. Read more…