AfterDawn: Tech news

News written by Matti Vähäkainu

AfterDawn: News

Google brought Google Assistant to iPhone

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 20 May 2017 13:41

Google brought Google Assistant to iPhone Google has been focusing a lot lately on artificial intelligence and its applications. Obviously one of the bigger steps forward in that area was the new Google Assistant that was unveiled last fall.

In the beginning the app was only available to a very small minority, namely the Pixel users, but the company has expanded to other Android phones as well as their new smart speaker Google Home. Now, however, Google has gone way further and even brought it to the biggest competitor's flagship, the iPhone.

Already Google Assistant has said to be in over 100 million devices but with the addition of iPhone and other phones Google aims capturing more of the enormous 2 billion smartphone market. Obviously Siri will still have the edge on iOS as it is the only assistant you can access straight from you home button but Google has created a widget which gets you to the Google Assistant pretty swiftly.

But this is still only the tip of the iceberg according to Google. At Google I/O the company announced Google Assistant SDK which allows developers and manufacturers to bring Assistant with its AI capabilities to any kind of application and hardware whether it be a speaker, a coffee maker or a completely new type of device.

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Next Apple Watch to have a new type of health sensor?

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 19 May 2017 19:29

Next Apple Watch to have a new type of health sensor? Many Apple fans are probably already waiting for the upcoming iPhones that will be introduces in early September, if previous years are any indication. However, Apple has a lot more in store in terms of services and products.

Apple Watch hasn't been as relevant in recent history as it was when it first launched but the company is working on a major update. CEO Tim Cook has been seen wearing a new type of sensor added to a Apple Watch, CNBC reports.

Ever since unveiling the first Apple Watch with a heart rate sensor, the Cupertino giant has been more interested in health applications in both software and hardware. The upcoming new version could bring an even more important health related sensor.

The sensor is said to monitor glucose levels continuously without invasive measures. This "holy grail" of blood sugar tracking would be a huge help to people suffering from diabetes. Because the measurements are not necessary for the larger population it might be an external accessory.

Apple hasn't usually released new Apple Watches in its developer conference in June and it is unlikely this years WWDC is any different but with an update to watchOS we might get some indication if Apple is indeed going to add this function to their smartwatches.

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AfterDawn: News

The Witcher coming to Netflix

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 17 May 2017 12:00

The Witcher coming to Netflix The fantasy book series written by Andrzej Sapkowski became a huge success in the world of video games in 2007 when the first Witcher game was released. Now after a decade of The Witcher games we've been expecting a movie adaption but there has been a turn of events.

The producers of Sean Daniel Company, Sean Daniel and Jason Brown, have signed a deal with Netflix. This means that the movie production has taken a back seat and a new TV show adaption for Netflix is in the works.

The streaming giant has managed to acquire another valuable game franchise under its Originals umbrella after announcing a Castlevania animation in February. According to Engadget, the show will run multiple seasons but not much more – including any of the casting – is known at this point.

What we do know, however, is that Sapkowski is a creative consultant for the Netflix show and according to his statements really happy about the deal and the upcoming TV series. This should bode well to fans of both book and game series.

The Witcher is a story about Geralt of Rivia who is one of the last Witchers, a superhuman monster slayer, in the fantasy world with dwarves and elves.

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HTC's new flagship smartphone senses pressure, tops camera benchmark

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 16 May 2017 13:31

HTC's new flagship smartphone senses pressure, tops camera benchmark HTC has unveiled today their newest flagship smartphone. The U11 is a top tier smartphone that comes with a proprietary pressure sensing technology that differentiates itself from the likes of Galaxy S8 and LG G6.

The Edge Sense technology, as the company calls it, is able to sense the pressure when the user squeezes the phone. This allows the device to perform tasks depending on the pressure level and duration. The sensors are located on the sides of the phone, which brings us to another difference to the aforementioned competitors.

Unlike LG or Samsung, HTC's flagship doesn't have a bezel-less display but instead a more traditional one we would have expected from every single smartphone last year. However, in 2017, it has become increasingly popular to remove the home button and stretch the display to all edges.

It is, though, not the fault of the new technology per se, as BGR as found out. According to HTC staff they just don't have the display prowess of manufacturers like LG and Samsung that can custom build their displays.

Even without the trendy display the U11 is a true flagship, make no mistake about that. The 5,5 inch QHD display is accompanied by the Snapdragon 835, 4 gigs of RAM, 64 gigabytes of microSD expandable storage, 12 MP UltraPixel camera and a 16 MP selfie shooter.

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AfterDawn: News

Rasberry Pi turns into a smart gadget with the help of Google

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 04 May 2017 13:34

Rasberry Pi turns into a smart gadget with the help of Google Raspberry Pi is where many ingenious gadgets of the future take their first steps. An affordable and very versatile platform allows tons of creativity and possibilities in molding your own gadgets.

Now Google is making the RasPi a little smarter.

The new edition of the official Raspberry Pi magazine MagPi includes a new type of accessory for the Raspberry Pi which lets you integrate Google's Assistant to your creation. In essence it's a piece of technology from Google Home that can be inserted into a Raspberry Pi 3, Pi Zero or Pi 2.

Obviously in addition to the actual Voice HAT, which stands for Hardware Accessory on Top, board the addon includes a speaker and a microphone for both delivering the voice commands as well as hearing the responses. You also get all the necessary wires.

The companies have coined a term Artificial Intelligence Yourself, or AIY, that describes the aim to make AI more accessible to hobbyist and homebrew software creators.

Unfortunately at this point the Voice HAT is only available with the MagPi magazine, and is sold out, but Raspberry Pi has told Wired that it might release it separately. That would seem smart, at least after the HAT has done its job and attracted more subscribers.

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AfterDawn: News

Nintendo is not giving up on handheld consoles, here's 2DS XL

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 03 May 2017 15:06

Nintendo is not giving up on handheld consoles, here's 2DS XL One would have thought that the time of handheld consoles would have come to an end, after all many, if not most, of us have a very powerful computer in our pockets already. The two Japanese gaming powerhouses, Nintendo and Sony, have been in the forefront of handheld gaming but have they given up already?

Well, PlayStation Vita, the latest handheld gaming console by Sony was released more than five years ago. Sony has placed its bets on PlayStation 4, and seems to be doing really well. Perhaps it might even release a new PlayStation 5 sooner than you'd think as it is not investing in the development of handheld consoles.

Nintendo on the other hand has been relying on their success with handhelds. Within the past 5 years, after PS Vita was announced, the company has released several upgrades to the DS line. Even its new home gaming console Switch can be used in handheld mode.

This regardless that the company has seen huge traction in smartphone games with Pokémon GO and Super Mario Run. Now the company has announced another DS product.

Nintendo has released a product called 2DS XL which is an updated version of the 2DS console released in late 2013. Unlike the 3DS which is designed for stereoscopic 3D the 2DS XL plays only traditional 2D games.

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AfterDawn: News

YouTube is revamping its UI, adds Dark Mode, and you can try it out now

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 03 May 2017 12:31

YouTube is revamping its UI, adds Dark Mode, and you can try it out now YouTube turned 12 this year and to celebrate the last pre-teen year the video platform is updating its look. The new user interface has adopted a design philosophy from the parent company Google.

The new UI takes the Material Design from Google's Android operating system which makes the website look more simplistic but does not affect the functionality in any meaningful sense. The layout hasn't been changed which isn't a susprise, after all people are very familiar with how the platform works, but YouTube hopes the new UI gives a more spacey and less busy feel to the site.

In addition to the new UI there are some new features though. For example, now users can choose to use a Dark Mode theme instead of the normal lighter theme. The Dark Mode is obviously good if you use the website in a dark room.

YouTube has also introduced a slight technical change in the use of JavaScript. They now use Google's own Polymer JavaScript libraries which should prove to be more efficient and faster.

You can try out the new UI here even though it has not been finished and officially launched yet.





AfterDawn: News

Microsoft offers free Windows 10 Pro upgrade to Surface Laptop buyers

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 03 May 2017 11:32

Microsoft offers free Windows 10 Pro upgrade to Surface Laptop buyers Microsoft unveiled yesterday the new Windows 10 S operating system which in effect is a lite version of company's flagship product. Also revealed was the first traditional laptop to come out of Redmond.

It was quickly argued that the biggest problem of the laptop is the operating system that cripples such a well equipped and at least seemingly well built machine. Windows 10 S allows app installs only from the Windows Store and therefore millions of programs are not available for the system.

Fortunately The Verge has found out that Surface Laptop owners will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free. Normally the fee is $49, which to be honest, doesn't sound too bad, considering the improvement that comes with app freedom.

This deal only lasts for the rest of the year, though, and if you are buying some other Windows 10 S product you are out of luck and have to shell out the money if you want to upgrade.

Microsoft also is giving away one year license of Office 365, which is coming to the Windows Store, with Surface Laptop.





AfterDawn: News

Microsoft unveils Surface Laptop: Lighter, thinner, and faster than MacBook Air

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 02 May 2017 12:25

Microsoft unveils Surface Laptop: Lighter, thinner, and faster than MacBook Air Microsoft has today announced a new Surface product, which is the company's first traditional laptop. The device, aptly named Surface Laptop, is indeed not a hybrid like the Surface Book, and is more reasonably priced.

According to Microsoft, the 13.5 inch 3:2 display on Surface Laptop is the ever thinnest in a laptop. This and the fact that everything inside the device has been packed super tight means that at .57" and 2.76 lbs it is both thinner and lighter than even the MacBook Air.

The display is said to produce 3.4 million pixels so its resolution (2256 x 1504) is around the traditional QHD but with 3:2 aspect ratio differentiates itself from both the widescreen 16:9 or 16:9 (MacBook Air) laptops as well as the old school 4:3 displays.

According to Microsoft's own Panos Panay the Surface Laptop is also more powerful than the competition. With Intel's Core i5 and i7 processors Panay claims it is up to 50 percent faster than MacBook Air. With all that power the promised 14.5 hour battery life (with video playback) seems like a good deal, especially considering the weight.

The keyboard is surrounded by alcantara fabric that we first saw on Surface Pro 4 keyboard, and Microsoft has managed to retain a respectable 1.5 mm press depth.

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Remedy Entertainment planning an IPO, listing on Nasdaq North First

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 27 Apr 2017 9:35

Remedy Entertainment planning an IPO, listing on Nasdaq North First Remedy Entertainment, the Finnish game developer behind hit games such as Max Payne, plans on listing on Nasdaq First North. The company says in its press release that it estimates the listing to happen next month.

Remedy's first hit game was Max Payne which introduced the bullet time effect from the movie Matrix into gaming in 2001 and got its film adaptation in 2008 starring Mark Wahlberg. The company has since created critically-acclaimed titles Alan Wake and most recently Quantum Break.

According to Remedy the listing will drive its future strategy that includes creating "high-quality games to the global market more often," which makes sense for a company that has been notoriously slow in releasing games. The company has managed to perform well with the games but it has taken up to 5 years to cook up one.

They also plan to develop games for multiple platforms, which hasn't been the case with its titles. The company hopes the listing will ensure better position to hold on to the ownership of their IP. Alan Wake and Quantum Break both have been published by Microsoft and been Xbox and Windows exclusives.

First North is Nasdaq's European stock exchange division for small and growing businesses that has lately seen activity from other Nordic gaming companies as well. Earlier this year a Finnish mobile game studio Next Games, known for its Walking Dead mobile game, also listed on Nasdaq Helsinki's First North market.

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AfterDawn: News

Spotify challenging Apple with "category defining" device?

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 25 Apr 2017 13:19

Spotify challenging Apple with "category defining" device? Apple and Spotify are not necessarily the oldest and the most typical competitors. However, especially since Apple decided to launch their new Apple Music streaming service it has become evident that the companies are fighting for the same customers.

Spotify has managed to keep the number one spot, and actually even further the lead in subscriber numbers since the launch of Apple Music. Now the company seems to be expanding and challenging the world's largest company (by market cap) in another type of product.

The Swedish streaming powerhouse is looking to hire a senior product manager for the "Platform & Partner Experience team". The job offer sites "fully-connected hardware devices" that use Spotify and "category defining product akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles."

What this means is unclear at this point, and soon after the recruitment announcement was posted it was removed from the site altogether. Obviously with such little detail it is really hard to pinpoint what type of hardware Spotify has in mind but one could imagine some portable music device is a pretty safe bet. Perhaps a voice controlled, Apple AirPods-like, streaming music player?

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AfterDawn: News

Apple hires NASA AR specialist

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 25 Apr 2017 10:44

Apple hires NASA AR specialist Apple has hired former NASA employee Jeff Norris, Bloomberg reports. Norris founded Mission Operations Innovation Office that was working under Jet Propulsion Lab, where many of the NASA's augmented reality projects were born.

Under Norris NASA has for example developed tools, which allow to control remote spaceships and robots via AR glasses. NASA is also in close cooperation with Microsoft and its HoloLens glasses which are perhaps the most known AR project to date.

According to Bloomberg, Norris moved to Apple early this year and works as a senior manager of an augmented reality research team. The leader of the team is Mike Rockwell who was acquired from Dolby Labs.

Apple might as well use Norris' expertise in other ways. While at NASA he was researching natural interfaces and how to use Kinect-style controls with robots.

Some reports suggest that Apple has been developing AR glasses for over a year. The company has not confirmed any products.





AfterDawn: News

Intel's next generation SSDs coming soon, first performance results

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 22 Apr 2017 9:14

Intel's next generation SSDs coming soon, first performance results Intel and Micron have been promoting their new 3D Xpoint memory technology for a long time. Finally the technology is close to landing in computers and portable devices.

The technology will first be adopted by Intel's own server and business setups with the new Optane memories. Also the world's largest PC manufacturer Lenovo has announced previously that it will give some of its laptops a new hybrid drive which will include a small Optane drive.

3D Xpoint is said to be nearly as fast as a DRAM type memory, but the memory density is four times larger. Even if it might be as fast as some RAM memories it is not meant to replace them but instead give a huge speed boost to SSD and hybrid drives that are currently using NAND technology.

As you might imagine all this advancement in SSDs is not going to be cheap. For example, a 375 GB Optane SSD DC P4800X costs over $1500 without sales tax, so you'll have to wait a little while before mass markets are going to be adopting it.

However, for people that are interested in the performance of the new type of memory, and might even have use for it in servers or other business settings, AnandTech has an in-depth article, albeit crippled by Intel's policies a bit, about the aforementioned P4800X Optane SSD.

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The Pirate Bay founder releases a new anonymous domain service

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 21 Apr 2017 18:13

The Pirate Bay founder releases a new anonymous domain service The Pirate Bay was founded in 2003 by three Swedes. Later on the trio became famous – or infamous – for their arrests, prison sentences, new business opportunities, and even from denouncing The Pirate Bay. Now arguably the most famous of the three, Peter Sunde, the face of TPB if you like, has released a new service.

The service is meant for people who are worried about their privacy, but what could it be since VPN and the likes have been around for ages. Sunde's new Njalla service is a domain registeration service which allows the customers to acquire domains fully anonymously.

The name of the service comes from the Sami people who used a njalla, or a hut on top of tree stumps or poles, to secure food away from animals.

Essentially Njalla works as an intermediary for businesses and private people to buy domain names. Njalla will officially be the one that buys the domain and therefore all the public information will point to Sunde's company but all the control is given to the customer.

Sunde says that there are services already that aim to give more privacy to customers but they mainly work as a redirect service without full anonymity. He acknowledges that customers must trust Njalla wholeheartedly but with that trust comes privacy that others can't provide. Even though Njalla owns the domains they will sign a contract that will hand over all the usage rights to the customer.

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AfterDawn: News

Spotify lets indie labels to restrict free music

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 21 Apr 2017 11:50

Spotify lets indie labels to restrict free music Streaming company Spotify has managed to grow the number of paying customers immense in the past couple of years. Even after Apple unveiled their new streaming music service Apple Music, Spotify has been outgrowing the Cupertino tech giant's music platform.

Still, Spotify is seeking ways to become more profitable for the artists and rightsholders but especially for itself. Starting this year the company has been essentially giving away the power to limit music in its free, ad supported tier to music labels. And now it seems, every label is going to have that option.

Earlier Spotify make deals with Universal Music, which allowed the label to restrict access to new albums for 2 weeks for Spotify free members. Now the Swedish company has made the same deal with its fourth largest partner – after the big three.

Merlin is sometimes considered to be the fourth big label. It controls thousands of indie labels and this essentially means that every major label is soon going to be able to restrict new releases to Spotify Premium only for the first two weeks. It is only a matter of time when Sony and Warner sign the same, or similar, deal with Spotify.

Fortunately this isn't the only way Spotify is trying to incentivize upgrade to Premium. Recently Spotify expanded its student discounts to dozens of new countries.






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