Topic hardware

360-degree cameras entering the consumer market

in hardware on (#SMK3)
Jim Malcolm pulls up a video on his smartphone he recently shot at Disneyland. We see a ride from Jim's point of view. With a swipe of his finger, the camera spins around and we see Jim's face -- same ride, different angle. He puts his finger on the phone's screen and drags it down, and now we can see his kids sitting behind him on the ride.

Malcolm didn't use a traditional camera, he works for Ricoh and the device in his hand is the Theta S, a camera with two lenses that captures images and video in 360 degrees. It is slated to launch this month at $349.99. Quite a bit more affordable than GoPro's $15,000 360-degree camera array.

A lot of cameras can do 360-degree video in the horizontal plane (the "doughnut" effect), leaving out anything above or below the camera. Just stick the Theta S camera slightly above your head, push a button, and it captures everything.

Other consumer camera makers are also giving it a shot. 360fly, a black, orb-like camera, went on sale at Best Buy in August for $399.99. It also captures video footage at all angles and is waterproof. Bublcam is another 360-degree, ball-shaped camera with multiple lenses slated to launch this year for $799. Then there's Giroptic's palm-size 360-degree camera that resembles a children's toy with three eye-like lenses. It's available for pre-order at $499. The Theta S and the Giroptic can capture in high definition. The 360fly can hit nearly 30 frames per second, which is not too shabby.

"Part of the problem with 360-degree cameras is there's not an easy way to view or experience the content either in virtual reality or outside of it," said Brian Blau, an analyst at research firm Gartner. "And that's because it's so new, there aren't a lot of standards in software and there isn't a lot of infrastructure support yet." Facebook now supports 360-degree videos. YouTube recently announced its support of 360-degree videos, and camera makers are letting people upload their 360-degree photos and videos to their own websites.

The other challenge is in getting people to use the cameras. The technology is in its infancy, and changing consumer behavior is half the work.

Why the floppy disk is still used today

in hardware on (#Q32V)
story imageWhen was the last time that you used a floppy disk? While the average user might not, there are those out there who can't settle for anything else. "In the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of industrial machines were built around floppy disks, which were high-tech of the time. They were built to last fifty years." But floppy disks were not. Replacing the machines would seem the logical option, but many of them are too valuable to scrap, or can't be easily replaced by a modern equivalent. ATMs, and some aviation tech are prime examples of devices that still have a need for data introduced through a floppy drive.

Last year, a broadcast of 60 Minutes surprised many viewers with the discovery that 8-inch floppy disks were still the preferred method of removable storage for the computers in a U.S. Air Force nuclear silo. The security of this outmoded technology was difficult to replicate with modern materials. "The floppy disks and associated technology are tried and true," I was told. "As you can imagine, we want to ensure the utmost in reliability and efficacy when operating such a critical weapon system. Therefore, if a system is 'old,' but still reliable, we are inclined to use it." When it comes to mission-critical hardware that literally controls a potential nuclear holocaust, "tried and true" carries more weight than "new and improved."

There are many niche reasons that an organization or an individual would continue to use floppy disks in 2015, but the audience isn't large enough to make production of new disks a winning proposition. There's a finite amount of floppy disks in the world, and that puts a limit on their usage out in the wild.

AMD cuts 5% of global employees

in hardware on (#Q32M)
Advanced Micro Devices is handing out pink slips to 5% of the company's global workforce, as part of a restructuring plan to help improve poor fiscal results after declining sales and six consecutive quarterly losses. AMD has 9,469 employees as of June 2015 and will cut approximately 470 positions. The restructuring plan will target "all sites, all levels, all functions," an AMD spokesman said, adding that engineers will represent a smaller portion of layoffs. Cuts will mostly come from sales, marketing, and operations segments.

The restructuring plan will cost AMD approximately $41 million in the third quarter of fiscal year 2015 -- $31 million of which will be related to severance and benefit costs, and $1 million to facilities related consolidation charges. The company expects to save approximately $9 million in 2015 and $58 million in 2016 following job cuts and restructuring.

Taurinus X200 laptop now FSF-certified to respect your freedom

in hardware on (#NZ56)
story imageThe Free Software Foundation (FSF) has awarded its Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification to the Taurinus X200 laptop sold by Libiquity. The RYF certification mark means that the product meets the FSF's standards in regard to users' freedom, control over the product, and privacy. The Taurinus X200 comes with Libreboot firmware and the FSF-endorsed Trisquel GNU/Linux operating system. Importantly, Intel's Management Engine (ME) firmware with its applications like AMT (remote out-of-band management/backdoor system, part of "vPro") and PAVP (audio/video DRM) have been removed from this laptop. The laptop ships within the USA and may be purchased from the Libiquity Store.

The $60 Raspberry Pi touchscreen is now available

in hardware on (#NX79)
The Raspberry Pi Foundation on Tuesday launched the much-awaited display for its tiny, credit card sized computer. Pi display joins the family of accessories made by the foundation. The foundation has been working on the display for almost a year now. It's an RGB 800i-480 display @60fps with 24-bit color and 10 point capacitive touch capabilities. The display has mounting holes at the back so you can easily mount the Pi to it and use the whole thing as one unit. The good news is that it's using DSI (Display Serial Interface) for connectivity which leaves the only HDMI port on the Pi free for other use - such as connecting to a bigger monitor.

Users will have to use the latest OS on their Pi for the display to work flawlessly; if you are running Raspbian just run a system upgrade and connect the display. Since it's a touchscreen display, it can be cumbersome to use the native X Display server to interact with the device - using your finger, as a mouse is never that efficient. The foundation is suggesting Kivy, a Python GUI development system designed to work on touch based devices.

Apple Pay works with the new PayAnywhere mobile credit card reader

in hardware on (#JR9B)
story imageApple now works with PayAnywhere, a mobile credit card reader, accept Apple Pay payments for businesses and individuals.

This new PayAnywhere Mobile reader accepts Apple Pay, other contactless NFC payments, traditional magnetic stripe credit cards and is EMV-capable. It is also offering merchants $5000 free in Apple Pay transaction processing with a new PayAnywhere account, an unprecedented offer in the industry.

Security and privacy is at the core of Apple Pay. When you add a credit or debit card to Apple Pay, the actual card numbers are not stored on the device, nor on Apple servers. Instead, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element on your device. Each transaction is authorized with a one-time unique dynamic security code.

They are the first solution provider in the United States to distribute an Apple Pay/iPhone/iPad acceptance device.

The cost of this device will be $39.95, and the PayAnywhere Mobile app is free in the App Store. It will be available in the month of September.

Read more details from here

LG develops rollable wireless portable keyboard

in hardware on (#JKAR)
story imageIf you are frustrated with your smartphone's soft keyboard, you aren't alone. Despite their advocates, many gadget-users feel more productive on a physical keyboard, and that means there's a market for innovative or high quality ones.

Get ready for the IFA 2015 conference in Berlin, Germany, where LG Electronics (LG) will present a new, portable, rollable wireless keyboard. Unlike other portable keyboards on the market, LG's Rolly Keyboard (model KBB-700) folds up along the four rows to create an easy-to-carry "stick" that fits into your pocket, purse, or briefcase.

The typing on Rolly Keyboard is extremely comfortable because its 17mm key pitch is nearly as generous as the 18mm key pitch found on most desktop keyboards. It is made of impact-resistant and durable polycarbonate and ABS plastic. So the typing on the keyboard offers satisfying tactile feedback not found on flexible silicone keyboards. Two sturdy arms fold out to support smartphones as well as tablets in an upright position. It simply unfolds the Rolly Keyboard, enables the auto pairing function to connect easily to two different devices at the same time via Bluetooth 3.0 with the ability to toggle between the two with a simple key press. A single AAA battery powers the keyboard for up to three months of average use.

Engadget reports, "The keyboard is just the start: the company says it plans to offer even more "input devices" in the next few months." Recently, LG has announced that from the end of August it will start rolling out four new 4K Ultra HD OLED TVs across its US, UK, German and Korean markets. The four new models add new features and form factors to the brand's existing OLED range.

Will ATSC 3.0 make your TV useless after 2017?

in hardware on (#GQFM)
story imageConsumer Reports is sounding the early warning alarm that if the FCC adopts the upcoming ATSC 3.0 standard, expected to be completed in 2017, current TVs will go dark. ATSC 3.0 will be a completely new standard and incompatible with current broadcast systems. It is supported by a broad coalition of influential corporations, who are likely to aggressively push for adoption of the standard. Improvements include 4k/Ultra HD video, immersive audio, single frequency network technology, IP-based content, and much greater reception tolerance (eg. mobile, tunnels, etc.). Also, emergency alerts will including a digital wakeup bit that will power up your TV automatically and inform you of critical information, with maps, graphics, video, and text.

Today, there simply isn't enough TV spectrum available for broadcasters to simulcast both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 signals, and no sign of willingness from Congress to subsidize the purchases of converter boxes, as was the case in the digital cut-over back in 2009. While there are actually more people using over-the-air TV than before the switchover, the "incentive auctions" and "repack" indicate much less interest in maintaining our OTA infrastructure, and more interest in auctioning it off to cellular phone companies for billions of dollars. From a peak of 486 MHz of TV bandwidth before 1983, the upcoming repack could reduce that to 210 MHz or less.

Will ATSC 1.0 be replaced after less than 20 years on the air (compared with the 70 year run of NTSC-M), or will ATSC 3.0 be a dead-end that goes nowhere, despite its influential supporters?

HDCP 2.2 content protection for 4K video will frustrate consumers

in hardware on (#CVKX)
While HDCP 2.2 was developed to defeat media pirates, it has far more potential to thwart ordinary folks who just want to enjoy a movie in the privacy of their home. With current versions of HDCP rendered ineffective and all manner of 4K content on the horizon, Hollywood decided it needed stronger security. Cryptanalysts demonstrated HDCP to be breakable three years before the FCC approved it as a "Digital Output Protection Technology" in 2004. By 2010, a master key that effectively neutralized HDCP v1 was leaked. Versions 2.0 and 2.1 were summarily cracked as well. The main difference with 2.2 is the encryption systems used in the handshake are more complex than in prior versions. HDCP 2.2 is not backward compatible with the previous versions of HDCP that are currently used by most of the HD devices in all our homes. Having a non-HDCP 2.2 sound bar or AV receiver in your home theater system will be enough to terminate the handshake.

If you jumped on the Ultra HD bandwagon when 4K TVs and media devices first hit stores in 2013, don't assume your purchases support HDCP 2.2 and will work with future 4K devices and content-most of those early models don't and won't. If you've haven't dipped a toe into the 4K pool yet, we stand by our advice to wait it out until content producers and providers crank out enough 4K content to make the necessary hardware-upgrade expense worth it. That may take years.

AMD skips Chromebooks, bets on Windows 10

in hardware on (#AGTA)
story imageChromebooks may be hot-ticket items, but with its sixth-generation A-series chips for mainstream laptops, AMD is instead placing its bets on Microsoft's Windows 10. The new chips, code-named Carrizo, will appear in laptops priced between US$400 and $800 from Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba. The first wave of laptops will become available starting in July, initially with Windows 8, and later in the year with Windows 10.

The new chips include quad-core A8 and A10 processors, which have up to six GPU cores, and the faster FX chips, which have up to eight GPU cores. The chips draw between 15 watts to 35 watts of power. Some new laptops based on the chips were shown at the Computex trade show in Taipei this week. PC makers are considering the new Carrizo chips for Windows laptops, not for Chromebooks, said Adam Kozak, marketing manager at AMD. Laptops also will get thinner and lighter, as Carrizo chips are about 29 percent smaller than their predecessors.