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AfterDawn: News

Not everything is down due to COVID-19, Microsoft Teams is up to 44 million users, up 775% in Italy

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 31 Mar 2020 3:11

Not everything is down due to COVID-19, Microsoft Teams is up to 44 million users, up 775% in Italy The coronavirus outbreak has has tremendous effects to global economy, job security, and, most of all, health. Airlines and cruise lines are in deep trouble, closed stores means massive furloughs, and hotels are empty.

Not everything is down for the count, though. As many of you probably know, video conferencing company Zoom is booming, Amazon and Walmart is hiring more and more, and VPN usage has surged. Another company that is benefiting from the quarantine is Microsoft.

Microsoft has revealed that their Teams app has seen massive spike in users, now with over 44 million users who've generated over 900 million meeting and calling minutes each day over the week.

What's more, Virtual Desktop usage has increased more than threefold, and in Italy, which is hit the hardest by COVID-19, Teams' calling and meeting monthly users went up 775 percent.

According to the company, there hasn't been any significant disruptions even with the massive increase in traffic.

It it worth to note that originally Microsoft claimed in the blog post that the entire Azure cloud traffic had increased 775%. This was not the case, and the company corrected it to Teams traffic in Italy, which has some of the strictest quarantine policies.

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AfterDawn: News

Apple loosens in-house security measures due to COVID-19

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 31 Mar 2020 12:11

Apple loosens in-house security measures due to COVID-19 Apple is known for their unrelenting product security and secrecy. Ever after one of the employees lost a prototype iPhone in a bar, Apple has been extra careful about their products leaking.

Of course leaks still happen but not allowing to take prototypes home means that there's been fewer lost prototypes, for sure.

However, the current COVID-19 outbreak has thrown a spanner in the works of Apple's prototype security. Since everyone is encouraged to work from home, it also means that they've had to allow taking prototypes with them.

As said, normally this wouldn't be allowed, unless you are an executive of the highest caliber. Now, even lesser development staff can take the devices home and potentially cause some issues to what Apple hopes is a impenetrable veil of secrecy around its upcoming products.

Apple hasn't quite given every average Joe the access to prototypes, though. Only a select personnel can still take home the precious development samples.

Accordingt to rumors, currently in development are at least a new HomePod, Apple TV, MacBook Pro, iPad, Apple Watch, iMac, and of course the 5G enabled iPhone. In addition, Apple is of course developing updates to each of its operating systems.

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AfterDawn: News

Apple factories are running full steam but people aren't buying iPhones

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 31 Mar 2020 11:52

Apple factories are running full steam but people aren't buying iPhones World's leading contract manufacturer Foxconn has been struggling to keep up with production during the past few months. Factories in China have mostly returned to business as usual, but demand is still a problem.

Foxconn's profits are undoubtedly going to sink, after all they did that already last year, after a global crisis due to COVID-19. Apple is among the largest customers, and iPhone demand determines much of the profits both Apple and Foxconn can make.

An economic downturn affects nearly every industry in the same fashion. When people don't have excess money, a thousand dollar smartphone is much harder sell.

Apple has made up to 18 percent less orders to Foxconn in early 2020 compared to last year, Reuters reports. The sources also claim that Apple might be slowing down the production of upcoming 5G capable iPhone, although release could still be on schedule.

The demand for new iPhones is currently not there, and apparently Apple estimates that it won't be still there in time for the new iPhone, due in September.

COVID-19 is still running rampant in most of the world, and in many places still going to ramp up. It is unclear how long the economic woes will shrink the demand.




AfterDawn: News

IBM's new online tool shows COVID-19 cases by county

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 26 Mar 2020 9:17

IBM's new online tool shows COVID-19 cases by county IBM and The Weather Channel have released a new online tool for tracking COVID-19 cases around the world. The Weather Channel, which is owned by IBM, hosts the service.

The data used in the visualization is provided by World Health Organization WHO and Johns Hopkins University, and it includes confirmed cases and deaths for most of the world.

There are, however, differences in accuracy. The U.S. has the best data available, and you can browse it in a separate section by county. Worldwide data only has country-specific numbers.

Out of the seven counties with most reported cases, the state of New York has eight of them with Washington and Lousiana each one.

According to IBM, offering the most accurate data available on the outbreak ensures that people grasp the magnitude of the issue which in itself helps to fight the spread.

As of yet, IBM and The Weather Channel have not released tools that try to model the spread, which might be a more complicated issued than predicting the weather.

Both The Weather Channel website (accelerator.weather.com) as well the mobile app provide the statistics.




AfterDawn: News

Apple considering postponing iPhone launch due to COVID-19

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 26 Mar 2020 9:02

Apple considering postponing iPhone launch due to COVID-19 Coronavirus has put a wrench in a lot of companies futures, and even though electronics giants aren't the ones most susceptible to market volatility, there are certainly implications to the Apples and Googles of the world.

Especially since China was hit the hardest last couple of months, due to the novel coronavirus originating in the country, and that's where much of the world's electronics manufacturing is located in. Now, China has mostly returned to business as usual, but aforementioned implications are still to be fully felt.

Apple is among the companies that might see changes due to manufacturing issues. According to Nikkei Asia Review, Apple is considering delaying their upcoming iPhone. Postponing the launch by months could be in the cards, although it might not necessarily be due to production issues, as was previously suggested.

Cupertino giant fears that markets haven't recovered enough by September, and people would not the phone as much as the company expects.

According to the source, the decision hasn't been made yet, and there's no launch date as of yet for iPhone 12. However, don't be surprised if you can't upgrade your iPhone as early as last year.

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AfterDawn: News

Apple is planning to reopen some of their stores after next week?

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 25 Mar 2020 1:05

Apple is planning to reopen some of their stores after next week? Coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly going to be a problem still for weeks if not months, even with very strict social distancing and curfew policies. However, Apple seems to be fairly confident that it can soon open some if its stores.

Apple senior VP of Retail + People Deirdre O'Brien has sent a memo to employees saying that some of the stores are looking to open as soon as early April, VentureBeat reports. Reopening the stores that were closed indefinitely just a week ago so soon seems premature, but perhaps Apple has some information we don't.

While President Trump was suggesting that he'd like to see more of the country open by Easter, he's also listening to his important aids, including Dr. Fauci, whether this is wise. Whether Apple's idea came from the president or not, is unclear.

There's obviously pressure for both Apple and the economy in general to open up as early as possible, but Apple also said it is prioritizing the health of employees and customers. This seems like a contradiction if indeed stores are opened after April 5.

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AfterDawn: News

Another conference yields to COVID-19: Computex 2020 postponed

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 25 Mar 2020 12:42

Another conference yields to COVID-19: Computex 2020 postponed First technology conference that was cancelled in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus was Mobile World Congress more than a month ago. Ever since, one gathering and conference after another have postponed or postponed.

In addition to MWC in the tally we've got Google and Microsoft developer conferences, gaming conference E3, and of course Apple's own WWDC among others.

Now one of the largest computer conferences, Computex, has decided it would be in their, and their quests', best interest to not have their annual gathering in June. Computex 2020 isn't cancelled, however. Instead, the organizers have postponed it until coming fall.

According to them, Computex 2020 will be held in Taipei, Taiwan on Semptember 28, nearly three months after it's original June 2 date.

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AfterDawn: News

Disney, Facebook, Sony join Netflix and others to slow down streaming

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 24 Mar 2020 1:44

Disney, Facebook, Sony join Netflix and others to slow down streaming People having to work from home and spend most of their leisure at home unsurprisingly has meant that internet usage has gone up tremendously. While using a VPN connection or browsing the coronavirus news isn't going to impact hugely the data caps, streaming video certainly is.

If the network capacity is reached with streaming, it might also mean that people are going to have trouble working from home. Authorities in Europe have been ringing alarm bells and requesting data capping.

Many of the streaming video platforms are slowing down connections to avoid any issues. Disney and Facebook have both joined Netflix, YouTube, and others in efforts to reduce the traffic by degrading the quality in Europe.

Disney has also decided to postpone the launch of Disney+ in France, as requested by the French government. According to Reuters, Facebook is dropping Instagram quality a notch, among other things, to help with data infrastructure.

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AfterDawn: News

Mobile carriers share location data to governments in fight against coronavirus

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 24 Mar 2020 12:11

Mobile carriers share location data to governments in fight against coronavirus Many of our dear western democracies have had to issue some form of curfew to slow the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately at this point many are taking the threat seriously but there's a fair few that don't seem to care about suggestions, or even orders, to not leave home unless necessary.

The threat is so serious, that many of the countries are considering, or have already implemented, policies that might violate some of our rights. One can ask, where do we draw the line?

European governments are working with mobile carriers to gather data about crowd movements, Reuters reports. Operators in Europe are sharing anonymous location data to guide in efforts to stop the spread.

The aggregate data can help local governments to see where people are gathering and determine hot spots without sharing individual data. In Germany Deutsche Telekom has donated data and in Italy three different carriers (Telecom Italia, Vodafone and WindTre) are working with the authorities.

A1 Telekom Austria has developed a tracking app with Invenium to guide the efforts in Austria, and others are likely to join in other countries.

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AfterDawn: News

Historical decline in smartphone sales in February

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 24 Mar 2020 11:25

Historical decline in smartphone sales in February Smartphones have made many of the world's leading technology companies what they are. Without a doubt Apple wouldn't be today's Apple without the iPhone.

Many of the leading manufacturers and their partners have been on the smartphone hype train for a decade or more. For most of it, in fact until very recently, it has provided them with immense growth and great profits.

However, it seems that the smartphone industry is now in a crucial spot of reckoning. The past year or two have been much tougher on them than what they are used to, and last month with Chinese factories closing meant a decline that no one expected.

According to Strategy Analytics, smartphone shipments declined a massive 38 percent in February. A total of 61.8 million units were shipped last month compared to 99.2 million previous February.

This is by far the largest decline ever in smartphone history.

March is likely not going to be much better, even though factories in China are pumping out again much more product, as people in the west are stuck at home, and uncertain about their financial situation.

Strategy Analystics expect a lot of the products to be sold on a discount soon as manufacturers and retailers are stuck with products that aren't selling fast enough, and are getting obsolete every second they spend on the shelves.

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AfterDawn: News

Tesla can make ventilators if there is a shortage, Elon Musk says

Written by James Delahunty @ 19 Mar 2020 1:06

Tesla can make ventilators if there is a shortage, Elon Musk says Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has tweeted that the carmaker can make ventilators at its factories if there is a shortage.

The Tesla and SpaceX boss has tweeted a bit recently about the COVID-19 pandemic and seems to have taken some flack for suggesting the panic over the virus will do more damage than the virus.

Whether true or not, Elon responded to a tweet asking him if Tesla's factories could make ventilators.

"We will make ventilators if there is a shortage," Musk responded. Later he was told there was a shortage now and he replied by asking for the details of hospitals currently experiencing a shortage.



Tesla's main Fremont factory has been impacted by a "shelter in place" order in the Bay Area that seeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.

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AfterDawn: News

EU: Drop HD video during pandemic

Written by James Delahunty @ 19 Mar 2020 1:02

EU: Drop HD video during pandemic As Internet Service Providers note an increase in Internet usage during the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU is suggesting you lower your resolution.

European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Thierry Breton is urging streaming providers to act to keep the Internet working smoothly as more people depend on it to work or learn from home.

The Frenchman has already reportedly spoken to Netflix chief Reed Hastings about the concerns of high demand on Europe's Internet infrastructure. Breton also is urging Europeans to #SwitchToStandard - to watch videos in standard definition and not high definition or UltraHD 4K.

In comments to the Financial Times, Hastings pointed out that Netflix has adaptive streaming technology that automatically adjusts the resolution of streaming video depending on the available bandwidth in a local area.

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AfterDawn: News

COVID-19: Microsoft Teams users rockets to 32 million

Written by James Delahunty @ 19 Mar 2020 12:59

COVID-19: Microsoft Teams users rockets to 32 million Microsoft's Teams service has seen its daily users skyrocket as more employees take their work home.

Teams is a group chat and conference app that is suited to an online work environment. In November, Microsoft revealed that it had 20 million users. Businesses are charged for full-featured access to Teams, but it is also available for free for consumers.

Rival Slack had reached 12 million active users by October. COVID-19 pandemic is sending a lot of workers home and services like Slack and Teams are indispensable tools.

Discord also saw a surge in use over the past month and increased its live streaming limits to address it.

Microsoft also said Teams is helping in the medical field too.

It cited St. Luke's University Health Network in Pennsylvania which will start using Teams for videoconferencing with patients, including those in high-risk groups with regard to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.




AfterDawn: News

Apple extends their store closing indefinitely

Written by Matti Vähäkainu @ 18 Mar 2020 2:19

Apple extends their store closing indefinitely Apple has decided to extend the closing of their brick-and-mortar stores. Previously Apple intended to open the stores outside China to the public again after March 27.

Coronavirus has gotten more intense in the past around the world, and most governments have decided to close schools, ban gatherings, and discourage needless contact. This is as good a reason as any to extend close closing further.

At this point Apple doesn't know how long Apple Stores are going to stay closed. It wholly depends on the spread of the virus, and likely stores will open at different points in different regions.

Apple's online store will function as expected, and you can get all the products shipped to you if needed. In repair or warranty issues, Apple asks customers to contact them by email or phone.

Some of the third-party retailers are still open so you can get products from the likes of Best Buy, at least for now.

In China, Apple Stores are already open. Number of new cases has rapidly dropped in the recent weeks, and in many ways China is back to regular business.




AfterDawn: News

Sony PlayStation 5 hardware specs are revealed

Written by James Delahunty @ 18 Mar 2020 12:56

Sony PlayStation 5 hardware specs are revealed We now know the final specs of what's under the hood of Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5) console, which will launch later this year.

Sony wants the specs of the PlayStation 5 to enable a step up worthy of being called next-generation, though it stresses that something like the total TFLOPs figure won't necessarily tell the full story in terms of performance. However, it is still worth taking a look at the raw hardware specs to see what they are packing into this new system.

Mark Cerny is demonstrating PS5 system architecture as I type, but the raw details of the hardware are already online thanks to Digital Foundry. In a nutshell, here is what the PS5 will pack under the hood:

  • CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz (variable frequency)
  • GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (variable frequency)
  • GPU Architecture: Custom RDNA 2
  • Memory/Interface: 16GB GDDR6/256-bit
  • Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s
  • Internal Storage: Custom 825GB SSD
  • IO Throughput: 5.5GB/s (Raw), Typical 8-9GB/s (Compressed)
  • Expandable Storage: NVMe SSD Slot
  • External Storage: USB HDD Support
  • Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
PlayStation 5, like Xbox Series X, will support ray-tracing which makes the propogation of light and its interaction with objects in-game more realistic. For example, water becomes transparent and light sources will be distorted under way. Also, light passing through a colored semi-transparent object will cast a colored shadow.

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