The return of Nokia branded phones and tablets

in mobile on (#1ESPK)
A startup called HMD Global Oy (Helsinki, Finland) has been formed to takeover the Nokia brand for mobile phones and tablet computers and has said it intends to spend $500 million marketing Nokia as an Android-based mobile device over the next three years. HMD is owned by Smart Connect LP, a private equity fund managed by Jean-Francois Baril, a former Nokia executive, as well as by HMD management. As part of the same deal, Microsoft is selling remaining feature phone business assets to FIH Mobile Ltd., a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industries (trading as Foxconn Technology Group).

HMD said it will produce smartphones and tablets that run the Android operating system. However while it is clear that HMD/Nokia will not be a manufacturers of mobile devices it remains unclear as to whether it will even perform its own design. The whole focus of the launch announcement was that HMD would focus on marketing and brand. It may yet also outsource the design of its devices and focus on putting its brand in front of consumers eyes and developing services that are accessed through those devices.

Fire breaks out at world's largest solar power plant

in environment on (#1EGBX)
A generating tower at the world's largest solar energy plant was shut down Thursday after a mirror misalignment caused sunlight to burn through electrical wiring and start a small fire, according to officials. The blaze broke out around 9:30 a.m. Officials said that flames could be seen near the ninth floor of the Unit 3 tower, but that they had apparently died out by the time firefighters arrived.

The plant is located near Interstate 15, just inside the California border southwest of Primm, Nev. It uses enormous mirrors to reflect sunlight to boilers atop three towers. The sun's energy heats the water to more than 1,000 degrees, creating steam that spins electricity-generating turbines. Some misaligned mirrors instead focused sunlight on a different spot, which caused the electrical cables to catch fire. Only one of three towers is currently operating, with the fire shutting down one and another undergoing maintenance, Dusenbury said.

Fuel cell plane for zero emission flying

in environment on (#1D7H7)
story imageBeing the first four-seat passenger plane relying primarily on a hydrogen fuel cell, the HY4 will take off to its maiden flight during the upcoming summer. The powertrain of this twin-fuselage, single-engine plane consists of a hydrogen storage unit, a low-temperature hydrogen fuel cell and a high-performance battery. The fuel cell converts the hydrogen energy directly into electric energy, powering the propeller. The only by-product in this process is pure water. If the hydrogen needed for the conversion process is generated in an electrolysis process powered through renewables, the HY4 flies completely emission-free.

The HY4 powertrain has already been tested successfully in the lab. To create enough lift to take off, the system must provide the maximum takeoff performance reliably for at least three minutes. During the test, the developers already succeeded in running the system for more than ten minutes at maximum power. The interplay between fuel cell and the battery, which unites the functions of an energy buffer and back-up power system, has also been proved. This paves the way to integrate the powertrain into the plane.

Boeing flight-tested the first manned fuel cell aircraft back in 2009.

Grid-scale battery based on train cars and gravity

in environment on (#1CEAW)
A California start-up named Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES) has a clever idea for storing electrical power at the most extreme scales, e.g. those of the power grid itself. It's a battery of sorts. The scheme include a really big hill and a few railroad cars. Energy to be stored in the system is first used to pull the rail cars via electric locomotives to the top of the hill, where it persists as potential energy. So long as the cars are at the top of the hill, the initial energy expended to get them up there remains trapped within the system. To recover that energy, the cars are simply lowered down the hill, turning built-in motor-generators in the process. This power is collected and then returned to the grid. The system is able to recover 80 percent of the power that it takes in, which is better than pumped-storage hydro (due to evaporation) or most batteries.

Earlier this month, ARES won approval from the Bureau of Land Management for a lease of 156 acres in southern Nevada featuring some train tracks on a hill and connectivity to the greater western US power grid. The 50 megawatts facility is not huge (enough to power 15,000 or so homes) but ARES imagines large regional facilities capable of 2 to 3 gigawatts in the future.

More efficient new LEDs now available, over 200lm/W

in hardware on (#1B4TB)
story imageCree's newly announced XP-G3 model of LED delivers 31% more lumens (lm) and 8% higher lm/W than its predecessor. Offering over 205 lm/W at 350mA, this marks the first time commercially-available LEDs have exceed the efficiency of low-pressure sodium lamps, commonly found in municipal streetlights. OrangeTeK has already announced they are designing a new model of streetlight with XP-G3 LEDs. In practice, however, it's likely that most users of XP-G3 LEDs will run them at higher power with reduced efficiency, rather than install five times as many LEDs, due to price. Any efficiency improvements are good news, however, as numerous cities have already installed LED streetlights, and many more have plans in the works. This seems to be motivated by the whiter appearance of LEDs compared to sodium lights, which is ironically the major source of opposition from the public, who complain about LED streetlights keeping them up at night, among other concerns.

Philips had previously demonstrated 200lm/W LEDs, and claimed they'd be available to consumers by 2015, but a search of current products only reveals far less-efficient models. The XP-G3 is available for order right now. Cree has previously demonstrated LEDs in the lab that deliver up to 303 lm/W, which is half-way to the maximum theoretical efficiency of this technology. Estimates are that as much as one quarter of the world's electrical consumption is used for lighting. Most consumers could see significant savings just by switching to florescent or LED lights in the first place. About 50 percent of lights sold in the US are halogen incandescents, which are only one quarter as efficient as LEDs, have far shorter operational lifetimes, and cost about one quarter as much.

Ransomware that knows where you live

in security on (#1A2NN)
A widely distributed scam email that quotes people's actual postal addresses, links to a dangerous form of ransomware called Maktub. The phishing emails told recipients they owed hundreds to businesses and that they could print an invoice by clicking on a link - but that leads to malware. "It's incredibly fast and by the time the warning message had appeared on the screen it had already encrypted everything of value on the hard drive - it happens in seconds. This is the desktop version of a smash and grab - they want a quick payoff."

Maktub doesn't just demand a ransom, it increases the fee - which is to be paid in bitcoins - as time elapses. During the first three days, the fee stands at 1.4 bitcoins, or approximately $580. This rises to 1.9 bitcoins, or $790, after the third day.

It's still not clear how scammers were able to gather people's addresses and link them to names and emails. The data could have come from a number of leaked or stolen databases. For some individuals without backups, paying the ransom might be the only way to retrieve their data. "However, every person that does that makes the business more valuable for the criminal and the world worse for everyone."

Big phones work for everyone, except you

in mobile on (#19R2T)
When the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 came out in 2014, I refused to believe smaller size phones were truly dead. I didn’t want to believe they’d done it, but the signs were clear. Other iPhone owners told me there would be an adjustment period. I would have an easier time using and holding onto a live fish, the way it flops around in my hand. The time I spend using my phone hasn’t changed, but now my hands go numb and wrist and fingers ache holding it.

In bounding after large screens, phone makers seemed to ignore the usability issues that accompany them. Small studies have shown before that 4.3 inches is about as big as a phone can get before people start struggling to use it. The time to operate the phone slows down significantly because one-hand use is awkward—and that's for average men's hands. Assuming a normal distribution, a phone bigger than 4.3 inches is too big. People were especially annoyed about their inability to use the phone safely with one hand. Women’s clothes also haven’t caught up to the big-phone trend. It’s weird, isn’t it, how bad of a design choice this seems to be, from a company whose driving force is good design?

That brings us to the economic explanation, and my own personal conspiracy theory: There are powerful interests that want us to drop our phones so they can fix them and sell us new ones. If you took the earlier versions of the iPhone in, it wasn't uncommon to get a free replacement phone for one with a cracked screen. Fast forward a few years, and Apple now charges $99 to replace the screen on an iPhone 6S, even if the owner bought the AppleCare warranty.

Cincinnati Bell to shutdown telegraph service, dating from 1800s

in internet on (#18BA1)
If you thought your Internet service was slow, consider being a customer of Cincinnati Bell’s 75 baud Telegraph Grade service, on offer to subscribers since the 1800s for low-speed stock quotes, telegrams, and office-to-home communications. But don’t consider it too long, because the service is about to be discontinued.

Remarkably, Cincinnati Bell still needs the permission of regulators to drop the Civil War era telegraph service and reminded regulators the change will have no impact on the “public convenience and necessity” because there have been no customers for the service for a long time. Cincinnati Bell’s request would have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for the long legacy of the telegraph era. Western Union dispatched its last telegram on Jan. 27, 2006, after 155 years of continuous service, and largely kept quiet about it.

Those nostalgic for telegrams might be interested to know another company has risen where Western Union left off. iTelegram promises to bring back the experience of a messenger at your front door, but it’s a costly trip down Memory Lane. A Priority Telegram costs $28.95 + $0.75 per word and is delivered usually within 24 hours, and includes proof of delivery. Or you could send an e-mail for approximately nothing.

Finger Phone now a reality

Anonymous Coward
in mobile on (#180CD)
Now you can stick your finger in your ear to make a phone call, not just pretend to talk to someone thanks to an invention by Samsung. The device from Samsung spin-off Innomdle Lab fits any standard wristwatch and connects to Google Android smartphones. When a phone call arrives, the wearer can accept it with a button on the band, and audio is translated into vibrations which travel up the skin. By pushing their index finger on to the front of the ear, or tragus, the user can hear the conversation even though no one around them hears a thing.

AU Government paying IBM $484 Million to fix MyGov

Anonymous Coward
in code on (#17DYF)
In the latest in the MyGov government portal catastrophe, the Australian government is following in the footsteps of the UK an US governments by throwing 484 million dollars at IBM to somehow fix the problems with the ailing portal for which tens of thousands of Australians have complained about. The key problems reported by users have to do with system availability, stability and lack of clear usability for key activities. It has been preventing users from being paid their due government payments for months, some users have reported. Will IBM be able to do what contractors such as Accenture and HP have failed to do in other countries? Can the MyGov be fixed at all, or will it need to be replaced? How does the recent joint venture between ATO, DHS and the new DTO agency affect IBM joining the party? Will agile save the day or bury this problem deeper? Australian citizens desperate to see positive benefit for the millions spent to integrate Medicare and Centrelink to form one agency which promised to reduce costs and deliver more are hanging on to the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens next in the MyGov saga.