AfterDawn: Tech news

News written by Matti Vähäkainu

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?


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.


AfterDawn: News

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.


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.

AfterDawn: News

Microsoft is changing pace with Windows 10 updates

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 21 Apr 2017 11:23

Microsoft is changing pace with Windows 10 updates Microsoft's recent Creator's Update was in the works for a long time and finally the major update hit Windows 10 earlier this month. Now you might be wondering when can you expect the next significant update for the OS. 2018? 2019?

Fortunately, Microsoft has informed customers and partners about their future update schedule. It might actually surprise, that the company is speeding up the update cycle and the next major update is coming already next fall.

According to the software giant, Windows 10 will be updated every six months – in March and September of each year. A steady six month cycle is something Linux world is accustomed to for example, and is certainly a good thing. It might, however, mean that the updates are less thought out or comprehensive.

Microsoft is hoping to ease the work of their partner's sys admins and aims to increase the adoption rate of new OS versions. In related news, Microsoft has announced that Office 365 ProPlus will also change its update cycle to biannual.

AfterDawn: News

Netflix is ready to bring its own movies to theaters

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 20 Apr 2017 10:09

Netflix is ready to bring its own movies to theaters Streaming media has changed how people behave in the age of the internet. People have largely given up music piracy because of services like Spotify and same is happening, albeit a little slower, in the movie and TV business thanks to Netflix.

Netflix has been growing very strongly for years, lately especially outside the US, and this means that there is less need for physical copies and moving yourself to another location acquire experiences, be it Blockbuster, Redbox, or movie theaters.

Obviously the Hollywood movie you'll watch on Netflix comes there after it has done rounds in the theaters and possibly in some physical form or other, but if you are willing to wait, then you get a lot of return for your monthly $10 investment.

Even further, Netflix is investing immense amounts of money in original production that is only seen on its service, and this is increasingly the reason people choose it over cable TV or a ticket in the cinema. However, new report suggests that Netflix might be interested in bringing its own content to movie theaters near you.

Netflix has told the investors during the release quarterly results that it is considering releasing some of its movies in theaters. Fortunately the company says that it is still dedicated to bring the content first on its own platform which begs the question: who would pay more to see a Netflix movie in a theater?


AfterDawn: News

Users modified Galaxy S8's Bixby button, Samsung ruins the hack

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 20 Apr 2017 8:22

Users modified Galaxy S8's Bixby button, Samsung ruins the hack Samsung recently released their newest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8. The new phone is better in almost every respect than its predecessors but there are still some issues to nitpick about.

In such a beautifully crafted device that has industry-leading specs it's not easy to find faults, but there certainly are some. As always has been the case, Samsung is not necessarily a good software company, despite it excels in industrial design and can stand against pretty much any company toe to toe specifications-wise.

The newest phone definitely showcases the company's technological prowess as well as industrial design especially with exclusive edge displays. However, the UI is again pretty ugly, and comes with apps that are not really needed. One of these apps that are pretty much carbon copies of Google's offerings, already found on the Android device as well obviously, is the new assistant software Bixby.

Even though Bixby is pretty much exactly what the Google Assistant offers, it's not the software implementation that makes it frustrating for us customers – we can always choose not to use the app. It is the fact that Samsung has added a completely new button on the side of the device that opens up Bixby.


AfterDawn: News

Leak reveals new features for WhatsApp users

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 19 Apr 2017 13:48

Leak reveals new features for WhatsApp users WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app of our time. Only another Facebook owned messaging platform comes close, the Facebook Messenger, with both over a billion users worldwide.

WhatsApp is known to be updated very frequently which means that new beta releases can be spotted all the time. Not every time there are huge changes though, which brings us to the newest update.

A twitter account @WABetaInfo, which, as the name might suggest, tracks WhatsApp's beta versions and their changes, has revealed that both iOS and Android apps will soon include live location sharing.

Even at this moment you can share your location but it's a static location set only once. The new live location will update as you move about and you'll contacts will see the updated information.

In addition to the live location @WABetaInfo reveals that there will be an option to delete or cancel a message within five minutes of sending it. I'm sure many have had, or at least can imagine, a situation where this feature is needed. However, this only works if the message has yet to be received, which makes sense.

At this point it is unclear when WhatsApp will release the features in its stable official app.


AfterDawn: News

Some of Apple's most popular apps are now free for all!

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 19 Apr 2017 12:51

Some of Apple's most popular apps are now free for all! Apple has surprised its customers today with a nice offer. The Cupertino giant has decided to offer some of its most popular apps for free to all users.

These apps include iMovie, Numbers, Keynote, Pages, and GarageBand. As you might know these apps have been already a free download for people with iOS or macOS devices that are fairly recent purchases. However, now the apps are free for all customers, even with older products.

Apple has newer made a bulk, or really even a meaningful amount of money from these apps so it is not a surprise that it has decided to bring them for free to all of its customers. It is a nice gesture for sure even though there was not much of a downside for the company.

Apps like GarageBand and iMovie definitely bring more value to older Macs for example, as you can give your older computer to your youngster to learn video or music production without additional cost.

The apps are available for free starting now on the App Store.

AfterDawn: News

Snapchat introduces new filters called World Lenses

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 19 Apr 2017 11:49

Snapchat introduces new filters called World Lenses Snapchat has today announced that its instant messaging app will be receiving new digital candy to decorate your pictures and videos. Unlike the Lenses released two years ago the new World Lenses are not meant for selfies.

World Lenses are used for taking pictures and videos with your main camera and incorporate things like rainbows, cartoonish clouds, or decorated texts. New filters also allow users to plant virtual flowers on the lawn.

Snapchat definitely is on the forefront adding augmented reality to our messaging and the new filters just add on the lead. Others have, however, taken note and especially Facebook is looking to close the gap. In its last F8 conference Facebook unveiled new developer tools that allow similar filters to be used in their Stories application.

Meanwhile, to see what kind of filters the new World Lenses are check the video below.

AfterDawn: News

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out!

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 14 Apr 2017 12:59

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out! Disney has released the first official teaser trailer for the next movie in the Star Wars saga. Episode VIII is titled The Last Jedi and will be released for our viewing pleasures in December this year.

The two-minute teaser reveals the balance between soul searching of the Jedi training and pure action of the TIE fighters chasing the Millennium Falcon. Obviously characters such as Rey, Luke Skywalker, Finn, and others – including the crowd favorite BB-8 – from Force Awakens play a big role in December's inevitable blockbuster.

In addition to the gloomy soundtrack and atmosphere, Luke seems to predict a rather grim ending to our beloved Jedis, as does the title frankly. Maybe, just maybe, there's more to it than the demise of Jedis, though.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres on December 15th, 2017.

AfterDawn: News

Spotify exec among Stockholm terror victims

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 10 Apr 2017 9:07

Spotify exec among Stockholm terror victims At least four people were killed and another 15 injured in what has been classified as a terrorist attack last Friday in Stockholm, Sweden. Among the victims in the nation's capital were two Swedes, one Belgian and one Brit, Chris Bevington.

The streaming company Spotify has now come forward and confirmed that the British man killed by the truck attack was their employee. 41-year-old Chris Bevington was the director of global partnerships and business development for Spotify and was based in Stockholm. Bevington had worked for the company for five years and an integral part of their business.

Spotify's founder and CEO Daniel Ek released a statement (below) on the company's Facebook page talking about the loss and how the company is doing everything to aid the mourning family and friends.

The terrorist attack happened on Friday and the Swedish authorities' prime suspect is a 39-year-old from Uzbekistan, Rakhmat Akilov, who fled the scene. Akilov's asylum was rejected last June and was waiting deportation but managed to avoid it by giving a false address.


AfterDawn: News

Netflix added offline viewing finally to PCs

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 03 Apr 2017 13:58

Netflix added offline viewing finally to PCs Netflix unveiled its perhaps most awaited feature ever late November last year. Offline viewing was added for mobile devices so you and I could limit the amount of mobile data we use.

Whether it was because of the cost or the sluggishness of mobile data the feature was definitely welcome but one could easily argue that there was a lot of use for the same feature even in PCs. Now it seems that Netflix has agreed and released an update that brings downloading to PCs too.

According to Windows Central, Netflix has released an update that adds the download option to shows and movies right where it is in the mobile app. This only is found on the Windows 10 app, so if you are using the web app or any other desktop enabled app you are likely out of luck.

At this point most of the downloadable content is said to be Netflix Originals but this should change soon as Netflix expands their support and closes more extensive content deals.

As of writing this my Netflix app from the Windows Store is still at v6.18.89 which does not include the offline viewing function, so you might have to wait a while depending on the region, or luck for all we know. You can check the likes of Bojack Horseman to see if you see the little download icon next to every episode.


AfterDawn: News

Apple updated iOS to 10.3 with minor updates to tvOS and watchOS

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 27 Mar 2017 14:04

Apple updated iOS to 10.3 with minor updates to tvOS and watchOS Apple's mobile OS's latest version has been in beta testing for weeks now. Today the Cupertino giant has finally finished ironing out the bugs and released iOS 10.3 to the public.

The new update brings a few visible changes even though its been under work for three months.

Among those are the new Find My AirPods under the Find My iPhone app, new and improved transition animations when closing and opening an app, a new widget for podcasts, and weather forecast in Apple Maps.

What's more important, though, is the file system change under the hood. Apple has moved away from HFS+ to its new Apple File System (APFS) which should prove to be more efficient especially with NAND flash memory. Apple has also said that it allows better encryption.

This might well be the last major update to iOS before WWDC in June and the release of iOS 11.

Apple also released minor updates to Apple Watches in watchOS 3.2 as well as Apple TV in tvOS 10.2.

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