Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rounds updates video chat app, lets users browse the web together (video)

ROUNDS ADDS CO-BROWSING TO ITS MOBILE HANGOUT NETWORK; FIRST TO LET FRIENDS SURF THE WEB TOGETHER INSIDE MOBILE VIDEO CHATS

For the First Time, Users Can Navigate the Same Webpage at the Same Time To Shop, Watch TV, Play Games or Take Photos Together Whilst Video Chatting

TEL AVIV (June 18, 2013) – Rounds (www.rounds.com) launched a new update to its popular Rounds Video Chat Hangout mobile app for iOS and Android today, becoming the first hangout network to let friends securely surf the web together during live video conversations.

The result of a partnership with Dutch startup, Channel.me, Rounds' new co-browsing feature synchronizes the touchscreen activity between users while web surfing during mobile video chatting. Rounds users can now navigate the same webpage at the same time with their friends, with both of them able to control the experience – including clicking links and typing in new URLs. Users see each other's live video streams in thumbnail form during co-browsing, allowing their live reactions to add a feeling of togetherness.

"Adding co-browsing to Rounds fits with our vision for giving friends an online hangout experiences as true as real life," said Rounds CEO and co-founder Dany Fishel. "When teens hang out in the real world, they do more than just talk – they do activities like watching TV, shopping, and taking or sharing photos together. Rounds is bringing all these activities inside video communication for the first time."

The feature is an "open URL" experience, meaning users are not restricted to which sites they visit when co-browsing during video conversations. The co-browsing experience is now compatible with Google Search, Wikipedia, Preen.Me, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Amazon, eBay, ESPN, The Huffington Post, wanelo, Imgur and TheFancy.

Security-wise, the experience resembles two friends surfing the web together on one computer in the same location. Usernames and email addresses are visible during the login process, but passwords are not. Rounds requires pre-existing Facebook friendship for users to launch video chats with each other, giving the new co-browsing feature a built-in layer of protection. For the first time, friends can browse and shop the web together from their mobile devices anywhere.

"With the growth of sales via mobile devices it becomes more important for mobile apps to create innovative services that support m-commerce and the unique behavior patterns of a mobile consumer," says Roger Entner, Founder and Lead Analyst at Recon Analytics.

Building on its signature characteristic of providing online entertainment and fun activities to teens during live video communication, co-browsing joins Rounds' other interactive features, including playing HTML5 games during video chats, watching YouTube videos together, adding Instagram-like effects and scribbling over each other's live video streams, uploading photos for joint viewing across devices, and changing view modes.

Channel.me integrated their co-browser using Rounds easy to use API, which allows developers to create synchronized HTML5 activities between users in the real-time experience of a live, mobile video chat environment.

Rounds Video Chat Hangout is available as a free download in both the iTunes App Store and Google Play, or directly via www.rounds.com. New features are expected to be added regularly throughout summer 2013.

Thursday, June 20, 2013 by Sabrez Alam · 0

Dragon Mobile Assistant 4 for Android adds driving mode, voice notifications

Dragon Mobile Assistant Expands with Intelligent Driver Mode

Automatically Switches to Driver Mode in a Moving Car; Adds Customizable Wake-Up Word and Voice Notifications for Facebook, Texts, Calls and Appointments

Burlington, Mass. – June 18, 2013 – Nuance Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: NUAN) today announced that its Dragon Mobile Assistant app for Android is updated with new proactive assistant features, including an intelligent hands-free Driver Mode, voice notifications and the ability to customize Dragon's wake-up word.

Dragon already keeps people organized, productive and connected with some of the most unique personal assistant capabilities available, including Friend Finder location sharing, proactive conference call dialing and more. And now, Dragon knows when users are in a moving vehicle and can automatically switch over to hands-free, eyes-free Driver Mode, keeping people connected in a safer, smarter way. Driver Mode leverages Dragon's powerful voice recognition and expressive text to speech to give people full command and control over Dragon without having to take their hands off the wheel to touch the device or take their eyes off the road to look at the screen.

Dragon has new features that also make it an even more personal experience, including Voice Notifications that can read aloud Facebook status updates, messages, incoming calls, and upcoming appointments. And now you can choose how you wake up your Dragon with a customizable wake-up word. So whether it's "Hi Dragon", "Hey Dude," or "Hello Dolly," Dragon is ready to respond and deliver. And last but certainly not least, Dragon now also supports voice-enabled email.

"Dragon aspires to be an incredibly reliable and intuitive mobile personal assistant, not only responding to commands and providing relevant content, but also anticipating people's needs in the moment-just like a true personal assistant," said Michael Thompson, executive vice president and general manager, Nuance Mobile. "Dragon's truly conversational nature and expansive directed search capabilities give people an assistant with purpose, content and information from the content providers they trust the most-leveraging a broad ecosystem without boundaries."

Availability

Dragon leverages Nuance's renowned voice, language understanding, ambient intelligence and expressive text-to-speech to deliver a smarter personal assistant that listens, interprets and delivers a more intuitive and connected experience. Dragon is available for free in English on Google Play in the US, supporting Android 2.3 and above.

by Sabrez Alam · 0

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Swiss scientists create catbot: a robot that runs like a cat (video)

Lausanne, June 14, 2013.

A robot that runs like a cat

Thanks to its legs, whose design faithfully reproduces feline morphology, EPFL's four-legged "cheetah-cub robot" has the same advantages as its model: it is small, light and fast. Still in its experimental stage, the robot will serve as a platform for research in locomotion and biomechanics.

Even though it doesn't have a head, you can still tell what kind of animal it is: the robot is definitely modeled upon a cat. Developed by EPFL's Biorobotics Laboratory (Biorob), the "cheetah-cub robot," a small-size quadruped prototype robot, is described in an article appearing today in the International Journal of Robotics Research. The purpose of the platform is to encourage research in biomechanics; its particularity is the design of its legs, which make it very fast and stable. Robots developed from this concept could eventually be used in search and rescue missions or for exploration.

This robot is the fastest in its category, namely in normalized speed for small quadruped robots under 30Kg. During tests, it demonstrated its ability to run nearly seven times its body length in one second. Although not as agile as a real cat, it still has excellent auto-stabilization characteristics when running at full speed or over a course that included disturbances such as small steps. In addition, the robot is extremely light, compact, and robust and can be easily assembled from materials that are inexpensive and readily available.

Faithful reproduction

The machine's strengths all reside in the design of its legs. The researchers developed a new model with this robot, one that is based on the meticulous observation and faithful reproduction of the feline leg. The number of segments – three on each leg – and their proportions are the same as they are on a cat. Springs are used to reproduce tendons, and actuators – small motors that convert energy into movement – are used to replace the muscles.

"This morphology gives the robot the mechanical properties from which cats benefit, that's to say a marked running ability and elasticity in the right spots, to ensure stability," explains Alexander Sprowitz, a Biorob scientist. "The robot is thus naturally more autonomous."

Sized for a search

According to Biorob director Auke Ijspeert, this invention is the logical follow-up of research the lab has done into locomotion that included a salamander robot and a lamprey robot. "It's still in the experimental stages, but the long-term goal of the cheetah-cub robot is to be able to develop fast, agile, ground-hugging machines for use in exploration, for example for search and rescue in natural disaster situations. Studying and using the principles of the animal kingdom to develop new solutions for use in robots is the essence of our research."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 by Sabrez Alam · 0

NASA picks eight astronaut trainees that may go to asteroids and Mars (video)

NASA Selects Next Generation of Space Explorers; Google+ Hangout Today

HOUSTON -- After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars. Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees, hoping to be among those who are the first to launch from U.S. soil on commercial American spacecraft since the retirement of the space shuttle.

The 2013 astronaut candidate class comes from the second largest number of applications NASA has received -- more than 6,000. Half of the selectees are women, making this the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected for a class. The group will receive a wide array of technical training at space centers and remote locations around the globe to prepare for missions to low-Earth orbit, an asteroid and Mars.

"These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we're doing big, bold things here -- developing missions to go farther into space than ever before," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "They're excited about the science we're doing on the International Space Station and our plan to launch from U.S. soil to there on spacecraft built by American companies. And they're ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars."

NASA will discuss the selections at 3 p.m. CDT Monday, June 17, via a Google+ Hangout.

The astronaut candidates are:

Josh A. Cassada, Ph.D., 39, is originally from White Bear Lake, Minn. Cassada is a former naval aviator who holds an undergraduate degree from Albion College, and advanced degrees from the University of Rochester, N.Y. Cassada is a physicist by training and currently is serving as co-founder and Chief Technology Officer for Quantum Opus.

Victor J. Glover, 37, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy, hails from Pomona, Calif., and Prosper, Texas. He is an F/A-18 pilot and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards, Calif. Glover holds degrees from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Air University and the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif. He currently is serving as a Navy Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Congress.

Tyler N. (Nick) Hague, 37, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force, calls Hoxie, Kan., home. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards, Calif. Hague currently is supporting the Department of Defense as Deputy Chief of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.

Christina M. Hammock, 34, calls Jacksonville, N.C., home. Hammock holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. She currently is serving as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Station Chief in American Samoa.

Nicole Aunapu Mann, 35, Major, U.S. Marine Corps, originally is from Penngrove, Calif. She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Stanford University and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Md. Mann is an F/A 18 pilot, currently serving as an Integrated Product Team Lead at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.

Anne C. McClain, 34, Major, U.S. Army, lists her hometown as Spokane, Wash. She is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; the University of Bath and the University of Bristol, both in the United Kingdom. McClain is an OH-58 helicopter pilot, and a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.

Jessica U. Meir, Ph.D., 35, is from Caribou, Maine. She is a graduate of Brown University, has an advanced degree from the International Space University, and earned her doctorate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Meir currently is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., 37, Major, U.S. Army, considers New Castle, Pa., home. Morgan is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and earned a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. He has experience as an emergency physician and flight surgeon for the Army special operations community, and currently is completing a sports medicine fellowship.

The new astronaut candidates will begin training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in August.

"This year we have selected eight highly qualified individuals who have demonstrated impressive strengths academically, operationally and physically," said Janet Kavandi, director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson. "They have diverse backgrounds and skill sets that will contribute greatly to the existing astronaut corps. Based on their incredible experiences to date, I have every confidence that they will apply their combined expertise and talents to achieve great things for NASA and this country in the pursuit of human exploration."

During the Google+ Hangout, which will include recorded video introductions from the astronaut candidates and discuss the selection and training process, NASA's social media followers may submit questions on Twitter and Google+ in advance and during the event using the hashtag #askNASA. Before the hangout begins, NASA will open a thread on its Facebook page where questions may be posted. The Hangout can be viewed live on NASA's Google+ page or on NASA Television. To join the Hangout, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/126mOLK

Reporters may ask questions on the Hangout using a phone bridge managed at Johnson. To participate via phone bridge, journalists must call the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 by 2:45 p.m.

By design, NASA's calls for astronauts are staggered so the agency can maintain continuity of experience and leadership in the astronaut corps. Since the initial astronaut class of 1959, NASA has selected and trained 330 astronauts. Most recently in 2009, NASA selected nine candidates. The 2013 group is the agency's 21st astronaut class.

NASA is engaging in a parallel path for human spaceflight exploration with U.S. commercial companies providing access to low-Earth Orbit for cargo to the space station. NASA's Commercial Crew Program also is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.

At the same time, NASA is developing the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket designed to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration, including a mission to study an asteroid and Mars.

For more information about the astronaut candidates, their photos and details on the astronaut selection process, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/2013astroclass

by Sabrez Alam · 0

Netflix signs up Dreamworks for multiple new original TV series, promises over 300 hours of programming

Netflix To Premiere DreamWorks Animation's Branded Slate Of New Original TV Series

Largest deal for original content in Netflix history will give members in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and Europe exclusive access to new original television series based on the studio's beloved franchises and characters

Netflix Inc. and DreamWorks Animation (Nasdaq: DWA) today announced a multi-year deal making the world's largest Internet TV network the premiere home of new original series from the award-winning creators of global box-office hits including the Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon franchises.

This agreement, which marks the largest deal for original first-run content in Netflix history, is also the first time DreamWorks Animation's beloved characters will be introduced into the television market as a branded collection of shows.
The groundbreaking deal, which encompasses over 300 hours of new programming, is a cornerstone of a major initiative by DreamWorks Animation to greatly expand its television production and distribution worldwide. The new shows will be inspired by characters from DreamWorks Animation's hit franchises and upcoming feature films as well as the vast Classic Media library, which DreamWorks acquired in 2012 and includes some of the most popular animated characters in history.

With the first series expected to begin airing in 2014, Netflix will premiere these new DreamWorks Animation shows in all the territories in which it operates.

"DreamWorks Animation is a valued partner in our global efforts to provide families the most engaging stories delivered however, whenever and wherever they want," said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. "This deal represents a major expansion of what's already a phenomenal relationship, allowing us to bring beloved DreamWorks characters to the 40 countries where Netflix operates and setting the stage for us to innovate together as we expand into new markets."

"This is an unprecedented commitment to original content in the internet television space," said DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg. "Netflix is a visionary company that continues to redefine the way audiences watch television and it is a thrill to add to their growing momentum."

In February, Netflix and DreamWorks announced their first ever Netflix Original Series for kids based on the highly-anticipated film Turbo, premiering on July 17. Turbo F.A.S.T, an episodic animated series which picks up with the speedy snail where the feature film left off, will be available in all Netflix territories beginning in December.

Also coming exclusively to Netflix in the U.S. and Latin America next year will be new DreamWorks Animation feature films, beginning with the global hit The Croods, which grossed more than $575 million at the worldwide box office , followed by Turbo and the big screen adaption of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, which opens in theaters in March of 2014.
Always commercial free, the content in the kids section of Netflix is curated in conjunction with ratings and reviews from Common Sense Media, a leading non-profit organization that provides independent, trustworthy ratings, reviews and information to help parents make great media choices. In addition to character-based selections, the service displays rows of TV shows and movies organized by easy-to-understand genres such as superheroes, princesses, dinosaurs and girl power. The unique Netflix technology provides each member with a personalized experience based on preferences and favorites.

by Sabrez Alam · 0

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

AMD details first ARM-based server chip: up to 16 helpings of Cortex-A57 clocked at 2GHz

AMD Unveils Server Strategy and Roadmap
Best-in-class ARM CPUs, and leading x86 CPUs and APUs for enterprise and data center servers

SUNNYVALE, Calif. -6/18/2013

AMD (NYSE: AMD) today publicly disclosed its strategy and roadmap to recapture market share in enterprise and data center servers by unveiling innovative products that address key technologies and meet the requirements of the fastest-growing data center and cloud computing workloads.

Additionally, AMD revealed details of its 2014 server portfolio including best-in-class Accelerated Processing Units (APUs), two- and four-socket CPUs, and details on what it expects to be the industry's premier ARM server processor. This is on the heels of announcing the general availability of the AMD Opteron™ X-Series processor, code named "Kyoto," which dominates the small-core server market on every performance benchmark. These forthcoming AMD Opteron™ processors bring important innovations to the rapidly changing compute market, including integrated CPU and GPU compute (APU); high core-count ARM servers for high-density compute in the data center; and substantial improvements in compute per-watt per-dollar and total cost of ownership.

"Our strategy is to differentiate ourselves by using our unique IP to build server processors that are particularly well matched to a target workload and thereby drive down the total cost of owning servers. This strategy unfolds across both the enterprise and data centers and includes leveraging our graphics processing capabilities and embracing both x86 and ARM instruction sets," said Andrew Feldman, general manager of the Server Business Unit, AMD. "AMD led the world in the transition to multicore processors and 64-bit computing, and we intend to do it again with our next-generation AMD Opteron families."

In 2014, AMD will set the bar in power-efficient server compute with the industry's premier ARM server CPU. The 64-bit CPU, code named "Seattle," is based on ARM Cortex™-A57 cores and is expected to provide category-leading throughput as well as setting the bar in performance-per-watt. AMD will also deliver a best-in-class APU, code named "Berlin." "Berlin" is an x86 CPU and APU, based on a new generation of cores named "Steamroller." Designed to double the performance of the recently available "Kyoto" part, "Berlin" will offer extraordinary compute-per-watt that will enable massive rack density. The third processor announced today is code named "Warsaw," AMD's next-generation 2P/4P offering. It is optimized to handle the heavily virtualized workloads found in enterprise environments including the more complex compute needs of data analytics, xSQL and traditional databases. "Warsaw" will provide significantly improved performance-per-watt over today's AMD Opteron™ 6300 family.

Seattle

"Seattle" will be the industry's only 64-bit ARM-based server SoC from a proven server processor supplier. "Seattle" is an 8- and then 16-core CPU based on the ARM Cortex-A57 core and is expected to run at or greater than 2 GHz. The "Seattle" processor is expected to offer 2-4X the performance of AMD's recently announced AMD Opteron X-Series processor with significant improvement in compute-per-watt. It will deliver 128GB DRAM support, extensive offload engines for better power efficiency and reduced CPU loading, server caliber encryption, and compression and legacy networking including integrated 10GbE. It will be the first processor from AMD to integrate AMD's advanced Freedom™ Fabric for dense compute systems directly onto the chip. AMD plans to sample "Seattle" in the first quarter of 2014 with production in the second half of the year.

Berlin

"Berlin" is an x86-based processor that will be available both as a CPU and APU. The processor boasts four next-generation "Steamroller" cores and will offer almost 8X the gigaflops per-watt compared to current AMD Opteron™ 6386SE processor. It will be the first server APU built on AMD's revolutionary Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA), which enables uniform memory access for the CPU and GPU and makes programming as easy as C++. "Berlin" will offer extraordinary compute per-watt that enables massive rack density. It is expected to be available in the first half of 2014.

Warsaw

"Warsaw" is an enterprise server CPU optimized to deliver unparalleled performance and total cost of ownership for two- and four-socket servers. Designed for enterprise workloads, it will offer improved performance-per-watt, which drives down the cost of owning a "Warsaw"-based server while enabling seamless migration from the AMD Opteron 6300 Series family. It is a fully compatible socket with identical software certifications, making it ideal for the AMD Open 3.0 Server – the industry's most cost effective Open Compute platform. It is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2014.

About AMD

AMD (NYSE: AMD) is a semiconductor design innovator leading the next era of vivid digital experiences with its ground-breaking AMD Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) that power a wide range of computing devices. AMD's server computing products are focused on driving industry-leading cloud computing and virtualization environments. AMD's superior graphics technologies are found in a variety of solutions ranging from game consoles, PCs to supercomputers. For more information, visit http://www.amd.com.

Cautionary Statement

This press release contains forward-looking statements concerning AMD, its server roadmap and strategy, its ability to recapture market share in enterprise and data center servers, and the timing, features and functionality of AMD's future products, which are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements are commonly identified by words such as "would," "may," "expects," "believes," "plans," "intends," "projects," and other terms with similar meaning. Investors are cautioned that the forward-looking statements in this document are based on current beliefs, assumptions and expectations, speak only as of the date of this document and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations. Risks include the possibility that Intel Corporation's pricing, marketing and rebating programs, product bundling, standard setting, new product introductions or other activities may negatively impact the company's plans; the company may be unable to develop, launch and ramp new products and technologies in the volumes that are required by the market at mature yields on a timely basis; that the company's third party foundry suppliers will be unable to transition its products to advanced manufacturing process technologies in a timely and effective way or to manufacture the company's products on a timely basis in sufficient quantities and using competitive technologies; the company will be unable to obtain sufficient manufacturing capacity or components to meet demand for its products or will not fully utilize its commitment with respect to GLOBALFOUNDRIES microprocessor manufacturing facilities; that customers stop buying the company's products or materially reduce their operations or demand for the company's products; that the company may be unable to maintain the level of investment in research and development that is required to remain competitive; that there may be unexpected variations in the market growth and demand for its products and technologies in light of the product mix that the company may have available at any particular time or a decline in demand; that the company will require additional funding and may be unable to raise sufficient capital on favorable terms, or at all; that global business and economic conditions will not improve or will worsen; that demand for computers will be lower than currently expected; and the effect of political or economic instability, domestically or internationally, on the company's sales or supply chain. Investors are urged to review in detail the risks and uncertainties in the company's Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including but not limited to the Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2013.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 by Sabrez Alam · 0

Ford deploys robot drivers to test vehicle durability (video)

Ford Using Robots to Improve "Built Ford Tough" Durability Testing of its Trucks

- Ford is first automaker to develop robotic technology that drives vehicles during new accelerated high-impact on-road and off-road durability testing

- Robotically driven vehicles ideally suited for durability test conditions that could prove too taxing for human drivers

- New technology used to ensure Ford trucks, including the all-new Transit van family, are Built Ford Tough

DEARBORN, Mich., June 15, 2013 – Ford engineers have developed the industry's first robotic test driving program – now in use at the company's Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, Mich. – to meet demands that Ford trucks undergo ever more strenuous Built Ford Tough testing with greater frequency.

The pilot program has been used most recently for durability testing of Ford's all-new full-size Transit van, which launches in 2014.

"Some of the tests we do on our commercial trucks for North America are so strenuous that we limit the exposure time for human drivers," says Dave Payne, manager, vehicle development operations. "The challenge is completing testing to meet vehicle development time lines while keeping our drivers comfortable.

"Robotic testing allows us to do both," he says. "We accelerate durability testing while simultaneously increasing the productivity of our other programs by redeploying drivers to those areas, such as noise level and vehicle dynamics testing."

The durability technology includes a robotic control module installed in the test vehicle that controls vehicle steering, acceleration and braking. The module is set to follow a preprogrammed course, and the vehicle's position is tracked via cameras in a central control room and GPS accurate to plus/minus one inch. Should the vehicle stray from its programmed course, engineers have the ability to stop the vehicle, course correct as necessary, and restart the test. Onboard sensors can command a full stop if a pedestrian or another vehicle strays into the path.

The robotically driven vehicles are expected to repeatedly perform tests on torturous surfaces with names like Silver Creek, Power Hop Hill and Curb Your Enthusiasm. The tests can compress 10 years of daily driving abuse into courses just a few hundred yards long, with surfaces that include broken concrete, cobblestones, metal grates, rough gravel, mud pits and oversized speed bumps.

All North American Ford trucks must pass this battery of durability tests before they're certified for customer use. Until now, testing speeds and repetitions for specific scenarios were limited due to restrictions placed on human drivers, who were allowed to drive certain rigorous courses only once a day.

The use of robots now accelerates this testing, allowing an unlimited number of repeats until Ford engineers are satisfied with the results. Robots also allow Ford to develop even more challenging durability tests to build tougher trucks.

Ford engineers worked with Utah-based Autonomous Solutions Inc. to design and manufacture the software and components that enable autonomous, robotic operation of the test vehicle.

"We're very excited to work with Ford for autonomous vehicle testing," said Mel Torrie, CEO of Autonomous Solutions Inc. "The reliability, durability and performance enhancements we've developed with Ford will not only help them reach their safety and accuracy goals, but will also improve vehicle automation in other areas such as mining, agriculture and the U.S. military."

Ford engineers designed and deployed the robotic technology with two goals in mind: protecting human drivers and engineering Ford trucks to be tougher than ever.

"The goal here was not to develop a truly autonomous vehicle that can drive itself on city streets," said Payne. "Our objective was to create a test track solution that allows for this type of intense testing that could take our vehicles to the most extreme limits of their engineering while ensuring the safety of all involved."

by Sabrez Alam · 0

Spot Global Phone review: a satellite phone for the masses

Spot Global Phone review a satellite phone for the masses

Finally, a phone made in the year 2013 that Zack Morris can approve of. All kidding aside, Spot's aptly titled Global Phone isn't the most -- shall we say, svelte -- of handsets, but it's capable of communicating in places that your iPhone could only dream of. Spot is actually a subsidiary of satellite communications giant Globalstar, who is no stranger to providing satellite-based service to argonauts the world over. The Global Phone is one of the company's first consumer-facing phones, taking the intrigue and mystery out of procuring one of those fancy sat phones -- you know, the ones that can seemingly only be acquired by James Bond's nemeses.

The target market for this handset is obvious: if you're an avid hiker, explorer, boater or adventurer, there's a high likelihood that you'll end up in a locale where traditional cell networks provide no coverage. In fact, it's shockingly easy to find dead zones these days -- just head to your nearest national park and stroll up a marked trail for a bit. At $499 for the device itself and month-to-month plans starting at $25, it's actually a reasonably priced addition to one's off-the-grid arsenal. (Have you seen the prices on subzero sleeping bags these days?)

But, is it a worthwhile addition? I recently traversed 1,600 miles of mostly desolate territory in the US Southwest in order to find out, and the answer lies just after the break.

when.eng("eng.galleries.init")Spot Global Phone review a satellite phone for the masses

Let's face it: satellite phones have never been sexy. But in reality, the Global Phone is a heck of a lot more attractive than those that have come before it. It measures 5.3 x 2.2 x 1.5 inches, weighs just 7.1 ounces and can withstand just about any temperature that the user can. The token extendable antenna is here in full force, and when fully erect, the length of the phone nearly triples. The device itself is barely a burden in the grand scheme of things; in fact, it's easy to misplace in larger packs. The four-line display is remarkably spartan, but it provides the essential information that you need -- remember, this thing is built to talk to someone in a pinch. It's not a phone designed for leisure or pleasure use.

The keys are solid enough, and beyond that, there's not much to say in regard to hardware. In my testing, it proved fairly rugged, but I'd be careful about dropping the (predominantly plastic) shell from too high a perch. On the rear, there's a compartment for a battery that's good for four hours of talking or 36 hours on standby. During my week in the wilderness, I actually squeezed out closer to 50 hours on standby, but obviously, those heading into the wild won't want to press their luck.

when.eng("eng.galleries.init")

Speaking of that, there are only two ways to charge this unit: an optional car kit, and the included AC adapter -- one of those inline brick contraptions. To me, this is the most puzzling part of the equation. Why design a (comparatively) bantam sat phone without also designing a slim charger? I look at it this way: 36 hours of standby is decent, but if I were going on a fortnight-long excursion, it'd be great if the phone could be recharged via USB. Or, via a less bulky charger. I realize that many who purchase this will also be traveling with solar-powered battery packs to keep their accessories juiced, but seriously, the charger takes almost as much room in one's pack as the phone. That's just... awkward.

Spot Global Phone review a satellite phone for the masses

Spot (and by extension, Globalstar) has gone to great lengths in order to make the calling experience as normal as possible. Each Global Phone includes a standard US phone number, but any outbound calls will display as "Unknown" to those on the receiving end. That's an unfortunate byproduct, for sure, as an increasing amount of folks ignore anything coming from a number that isn't in their address book. I'd recommend giving any relatives that you may end up calling a heads-up; if they're expecting emergency calls from you as "Unknown," you're more likely to get through.

Dialing out is a pretty simple process. Just turn the phone on, spin the rear antenna around and extend it out.

Dialing out is a pretty simple process. Just turn the phone on, spin the rear antenna around and extend it out -- trying to latch onto a signal without it fully extended will lead to plenty of tears... particularly if you're being chased by some sort of venomous creature. From there, you dial a number and press the call button. (Tough stuff, we know.) The display will show signal strength and a message onscreen informing you if the call is going through. Once it does, the process is just like talking on any other phone. It's important to note, however, that you won't be receiving any calls if the antenna isn't rotated and extended. In other words, if you've got the handset folded up, you might as well turn it off to conserve battery power.

Spot Global Phone review a satellite phone for the masses

I placed and received calls from a variety of remote locales: deep within the San Bernardino National Forest, Joshua Tree National Park, Mohave National Preserve, Zion National Park, uninhabited canyons outside of Page, Ariz. and Mesa Verde National Park. It's worth noting that each call I made was in a spot where neither AT&T nor Verizon Wireless provided any service whatsoever.

It's worth noting that each call I made was in a spot where neither AT&T nor Verizon Wireless provided any service whatsoever.

Each time, I was able to connect to someone on the other end within around 20 seconds -- oftentimes much more quickly. I called folks on a variety of cellular networks as well as conventional landlines, and by and large, no one had any issues hearing me. Indeed, it sounded as if I were on a typical cellphone call most of the time.

Still, the handset doesn't do a good job masking wind noise, as told to me on numerous occasions while attempting to have a conversation atop some sort of mountain or mesa, and performance seemed to suffer when moving or when used between canyon walls. I started a call with a clear view of the sky in Zion National Park, and attempted to walk down a trail that placed me between mountainsides; the deeper I went, the harder it was to hear the person on the other side. Unfortunately, the Global Phone -- much like a DirecTV satellite -- really needs a clear view of the sky to operate properly. This means that I wasn't able to make a call while standing 128 feet below the surface in Upper Antelope Canyon, and perhaps more seriously, it means that you couldn't either if you happened to fall down there while canyoneering. (127 Hours, anyone?)

Spot Global Phone review a satellite phone for the masses

I did drop several calls after the three-minute mark, though one held on closer to five minutes. In practice, I highly doubt users of the Global Phone would ever need to make a call that lasted any longer than that. Again, you aren't buying this phone to chitchat while toasting marshmallows at the base of Mt. Fuji. You're buying this phone as a safety net -- as a means to communicate a status change or emergency in an area where typical cell networks are of no use.

In an interesting twist, Spot has discontinued the support of two-way SMS (texting) as of June 2013.

In an interesting twist, Spot has discontinued the support of two-way SMS (texting) as of June 2013. Previously, these phones could send and receive 35-character messages like any other mobile phone, but I was told by a company representative that the cost for these transmissions was so high that support was abandoned. I'm also guessing it simply wasn't used very often. As it stands, you can alert your loved ones prior to leaving that they can visit this website in order to send a text to your number. That's a free service that anyone can use, but be aware that this is a one-way communication platform. Even if you receive a text through this method, you can't text back. For what it's worth, I tested a web-based text transmission, and the handset received it within a few seconds.

As for data? For those who absolutely can't stand to be without email while in the bush, an optional data kit is available for around $20. Essentially, this enables you to tether the Global Phone to your laptop, where you can then access the internet. You'll only see speeds of up to 28 kbps, though, so you'll need to be exceedingly desperate to even think about trying it. Though, to be fair, we've considered even more extreme measures to ensure we're online to secure a pre-order of Tickle Me Elmo.

Spot Global Phone review a satellite phone for the masses

Here's something that'll probably surprise you: the Global Phone won't work everywhere. One of the most widely misunderstood components of using a satellite phone is that it supports calling on every square inch of our planet. In truth, there's a huge portion of it where even this handset won't help you connect. The entirety of the United States and Central America, as well as a huge portion of the oceans surrounding 'em, are covered. But travel too far north in Canada or Greenland, and you'll be out of range. There are also substantial portions of Africa, India and Asia that have no coverage, as well as the oceans surrounding them. The map here does an excellent job of explaining where the Global Phone works, so be sure to ogle it with discretion before assuming it'll function where you're headed.

Spot Global Phone review a satellite phone for the masses

Considering that a proper mountaineering outfit, backpack, sleeping bag, stove and water purification system are apt to run you well north of a grand, budgeting $499 for a device that could very well save your life isn't all that outrageous. Best of all, Spot offers month-to-month plans with no strings attached; just pay the $50 activation fee and select the one that best suits your needs before you head out on your next escapade. For $40, you can get 80 minutes (each additional minute is $0.99), free data compression and the peace of mind that can only be acquired by having something like this within reach.

For those looking to cut costs further, there's a $25 plan that offers 10 calling minutes, with each additional minute priced at $1.99. Frankly, those rates are completely understandable from the perspective of someone who has suddenly found themselves injured or hopelessly lost in the wilderness. In fact, I'm guessing that someone fearing imminent death in the wild would pay a whole lot more for just 60 seconds of talk time with 911. Naturally, those who need coverage on an annual basis have options as well, with a $300 / year plan providing 120 minutes. (The full rate schedule can be found here.)

My only major gripes with the Global Phone are these: the charging situation is unfortunate, as the sheer size of the charging brick makes it a hassle to carry around. An option for USB charging really should've been included. Secondly, the recent disappearance of SMS support is a real bummer. Sure, you can still phone your significant other once a night for a bit to tell them you've hit your next waypoint, but being able to shoot off a succinct text to accomplish the same would've been preferred. Particularly for those leading up group hikes -- Philmont, I'm looking at you -- having one of these around is a no-brainer. The $499 price tag will feel completely insubstantial the very first time you actually need to use it.

by Sabrez Alam · 0

Monday, June 17, 2013

T-Mobile says MetroPCS' network transition is ahead of schedule

Migration of MetroPCS Customers to Nationwide 4G HSPA+ and LTE Network Ahead of Schedule

First devices connecting to 4G HSPA+ and LTE network become available for MetroPCS customers, offering a consistently outstanding wireless experience

BELLEVUE, Wash. - June 14, 2013 - Just six weeks after completing the combination of T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS, T-Mobile US, Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) today announced the migration of MetroPCS customers onto its 4G HSPA+ and LTE network is ahead of planned schedule. This migration will provide customers of both brands deeper LTE deployment and faster network performance - delivering on the benefits of the combined company.

"The moment that NYSE bell rang on May 1, we put it into high gear and hit the gas," said John Legere, president and chief executive officer of T-Mobile US, Inc. "We've already begun moving MetroPCS customers to our blazing-fast network. The best part is as they upgrade their phones, their wireless experience immediately gets better."

The company is making HSPA+ and LTE compatible devices available to MetroPCS customers as well as allowing them to bring their own unlocked compatible HSPA+ or LTE phone, providing them the opportunity to upgrade to a powerful 4G network. With approximately 60 percent of MetroPCS customers upgrading their phones every year, it is expected that migration of customers will continue at a rapid pace. The company expects full customer migration to be complete by the end of 2015.

MetroPCS customers in Boston, Las Vegas and Hartford, Conn. can now purchase two new HSPA+ Android(TM)-powered cutting-edge smartphones running on a nationwide 4G network, the LG Optimus L9TM and Samsung Galaxy ExhibitTM. On June 17, MetroPCS will also make available a refreshed version of the Samsung Galaxy S® III, which will take advantage of 4G LTE in addition to a nationwide 4G HSPA+ network1.

Additionally, MetroPCS launched a "Bring Your Own Phone" program in these markets, as well as Dallas, giving customers the option to bring their own compatible unlocked phone to gain access to the 4G HSPA+ and LTE network.

Migrating MetroPCS customers will also benefit customers of T-Mobile. As customers leave the MetroPCS network, the freed up spectrum can then be added to the company's growing 4G LTE network. Deploying the company's spectrum on a single network provides a path to double its initial super-fast 4G LTE deployment (to 20+20 MHz of 4G LTE) in approximately 90 percent of the top 25 metro areas planned for 2014 and beyond.

Indeed, just two weeks after becoming one company, T-Mobile leveraged the compatibility of existing MetroPCS 4G LTE handsets and enabled them to connect to its 4G LTE network in Las Vegas. This allowed the company to combine MetroPCS' 4G LTE spectrum with T-Mobile's spectrum, doubling the LTE spectrum deployment in Las Vegas and dramatically increasing data speeds for both T-Mobile and MetroPCS customers with capable devices. As the company's 4G LTE network expands to more cities, T-Mobile will continue to migrate MetroPCS customers with 4G LTE-capable handsets and leverage MetroPCS' spectrum to deepen the combined company's LTE coverage.

Independent third party tests of the company's 4G LTE in Las Vegas conducted before and after the addition of MetroPCS spectrum show that its 4G LTE has the fastest average download speeds in the city, with an increase of nearly 50 percent.

1 Coverage not available everywhere. Broad LTE coverage planned for 2013. Capable device and qualifying service required for 4G HSPA+ and LTE. LTE is a trademark of ETSI.

Monday, June 17, 2013 by Sabrez Alam · 0

Nokia Lumia 925 review: lots of changes, but not much difference

Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much differenceIt's been just half a year since Nokia revealed its first Windows Phone 8 device, and we've already got another flagship to review. The Lumia 925 marks a departure in design for Nokia -- it looks nothing like its predecessors, barring an expanse of screen and some capacitive Windows buttons. This time around, the phone is housed in an aluminum frame, making it Nokia's first metal smartphone since those heady Symbian days. This, alongside some hardware repositioning and (minor) specification changes has been enough for the Lumia 925 to weigh notably less than its 920 forebear -- and we think it's enough to feel in your hand. As we juggled the two Windows Phones ahead of this review, our first impressions were that the 925 was also much easier to hold, despite only a negligible difference in thickness.
This, alongside some hardware repositioning and (minor) specification changes has been enough for the Lumia 925 to weigh notably less than its 920 forebear
Arriving in three comparatively restrained monochrome hues (white, black and grey), Nokia's returned to OLED for its display tech, although it's the same 1,280 x 768 resolution as the rest of the 920 series and includes the company's anti-reflective screen technology for good measure. Its new Smart Camera app debuts on the Lumia 925, standing alongside the stock app and offering up some interesting new picture-taking options.Otherwise, it's an awful lot like the Lumia 920, at least on paper: there's the same lauded 8.7-megapixel camera sensor (with an extra lens element), the same dual-core 1.5GHz processor and the same OS (albeit with some beta goodies). Nokia reckons that the phone is geared towards a different buyer than those who bought the Lumia 920, but alongside Verizon's recent US-only Lumia 928, is there enough to get fans that skipped on last year's model to buy this time around? And is there enough to persuade you not to hold out for what's on the horizon? when.eng("eng.galleries.init")Slim, understated and -- dare we say -- a whole lot more Android-esque, the Lumia 925 doesn't look like any other Lumia. Were those vibrant colors not pulling in customers, or is Nokia simply trying a different tack?
The Lumia 925 feels a lot safer, design-wise, and, well, a little blander than what we've seen before.
The company has said that the phone is aimed for people that wanted something that stands out a little less, but we've got mixed feelings on the current grey / black / white palette, even if it does go well with the new metal look. In the grand scheme of contemporary smartphone design, the Lumia 925 feels a lot safer, design-wise, and, well, a little blander than what we've seen before. However, it's another well-made phone, and to be clear, we particularly like the finish on the matte white model.Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much differenceThere's an almost ceramic texture to the phone that improves the grip and also lends it more of a flagship feel. And about that feel: we mentioned in our Lumia 920 review that Nokia's first Windows Phone 8 device was a bit cumbersome, a bit too heavy. Well, this one isn't. The Lumia 925 has shed around a quarter of the weight of the 920 (139g versus 185g), but that has also required some sacrifices: the new model arrives with 16GB of storage (down from 32), and no built-in wireless charging. If you're looking for some contactless charging, you'll need to purchase a cover that adds that functionality.While thinner (a "volumetric" 8.5mm vs. 10.7mm) than the Lumia 920, the 925 fits so much better, so much more comfortably, in our hands. It's not quite as thin as Nokia would like you to believe -- if you line up both phones and take into account the camera protrusion, the two are pretty close. But once you grip the 925, you'll understand it isn't at all clunky like its predecessors. The frame itself is fashioned out of lightly textured aluminum, with machined buttons in the typical Windows Phone places. The 925's camera button has a strongly discernible two-stage depression, so you'll know when you're focusing with a half-press or capturing a photo with a full depression.Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much differenceAll the ports (micro-USB and headphone) now belong on the top edge, as well as the micro-SIM tray. If we had any complaints about the phone's build, we'd argue it isn't quite as polished as the Lumia 920. We loved those micro-drilled holes for the speaker and mics, and the micro-USB port that sits just below the surface of the Lumia 925 lacks the black outline we've got on our yellow Lumia 920. The headphone socket, oddly, does get that treatment. Within the plastic backing panel, you'll find Nokia's most recent imaging pride and joy: its 8.7-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, arriving with what appears to be an identical dual-LED flash (no xenon here, sadly). The camera unit protrudes slightly, but the lens is fortunately slightly recessed within the plastic that surrounds it, offering some protection when resting on flat surfaces. There are some loudspeaker grille holes at the bottom, although the position does blast the sound into your hands if you're holding it in portrait mode. Above that is a trio of contacts for that optional contactless charging cover. The phone itself is sealed, so there's no access to either the 2,000mAh battery or any slot for microSD expansion.Melded into the aluminum frame is Nokia's new antenna system. The primary one resides in the bottom of the phone, with two more antennas in the top edge. Those black stripes then separate these antennas from the rest of the aluminum body -- Nokia says it's ensured that the antenna "maximizes use of radio bands," whether on GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900), WCDMA (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100) or LTE (Bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20) -- check out our performance section to see how it fared.Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much differenceWith the Lumia 925's 4.5-inch AMOLED WXGA (1,280 x 768) display, we're offered something to compare against the existing Lumia 920, a phone that went for an IPS LCD over OLED. You've probably already heard our complaints about OLED, with the primary one being that bluish tint affecting whites and other shades. However, Nokia's attempted to amend this by adding a "Lumia Color Profile" option. We had ours largely set on enhanced colors and neutral white balance. You might recall a similar choice on Samsung smartphones using AMOLED from the Galaxy SII and onwards, but there's not just a handful of profiles here -- Nokia leaves the settings in your hands to adjust. Also nestled within the same settings option is the familiar high-sensitivity touch option that lets you use gloves or tap on the screen with your nails.
We prefer the AMOLED option over IPS LCD, in part because the black frame surrounding your Windows Phone home screen is nearly indistinguishable from the bezel
We prefer the AMOLED option over IPS LCD, in part because the black frame surrounding your Windows Phone home screen is nearly indistinguishable from the bezel, at least head-on. Better still, AMOLED's "black" pixels don't require any energy, meaning there's likely to be a minor battery-saving benefit for anyone who goes for the black Windows Phone customization over the white one. Viewing angles are great, and at wider angles, the screen brightness diminishes less on the 925's OLED compared to the IPS screen of the 920.Nokia's coined the phrase PureMotion HD+ to describe its high-response screen and in practice, it means a display that doesn't blur much as you're scrolling through sites. For outdoors, there's a ClearBlack layer to aid readability, plus a high-brightness mode when you're desperate to browse the web outside. In another effort to slim down, the phone's Gorilla Glass 2 screen has shrunk to a 2.25D curvature (compared to the 2.5D curve on the Lumia 920). This lesser angle means not as much glass is used, which helps the phone shed mass in the form of both grams and millimeters. Even so, there's still more than enough curve to make swiping the screen a comfortable experience.DNP Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much difference
The hardware has been left largely unchanged since the Lumia 920, with an 8.7-megapixel sensor, ISO up to 800 and 1080p capture at 30 fps, all through an f/2.0 Carl Zeiss lens. Within that lens, there's been some improvements, however, although nothing quite as progressive (or impressive) as optical image stabilization or lossless zoom. Alongside noise-compression algorithms and software-based tweaks, Nokia's added a sixth glass element to the five-lens Carl Zeiss setup seen on the rest of the Lumia 920 series. We've been promised that this would improve the sharpness of images -- something we did indeed notice during our five days of shooting.
when.eng("eng.galleries.init")Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much difference
In addition to this review, we've been testing out the 925's camera against its 920 and 928 stablemates -- expect to see a full comparison very soon. For now, when pitted against the HTC One and the Lumia 920, the Lumia 925 offers generally sharper images than its Nokia sibling, while color balance and image reproduction (recording what was in front of our eyes on the screen) was better on the 925 over HTC's UltraPixel camera. Check out our sample below, and you'll see that while both Nokia phones use the same sensor, those behind-the-scenes improvements yield sharper images, and (at least in this example) better light metering. In the shot below, for instance, you'll notice finer detail on the pinecone texture. Hopefully it's that glass lens component at work.
Image
Against the HTC One in low light, both devices delivered good results. If we had to call a winner, the Lumia inches past the One, with a more reliable white balance and finer detail, due to its higher megapixel count. We concentrated on shooting in the evening and in darker situations to demonstrate (again!) the quality of photos you're able to snap with Nokia's smartphone camera. We were delighted with some of the results. Nokia even set up a special photo session with performance group Limbo for journalists to put the company's new phone through its paces -- and that's where our sample video comes from.
Optical image stabilization really kicks in here, making your video footage look more like it came from a dedicated video camera rather than some slender smartphone. Nokia's audio recording skills also manage to deftly capture the often raucous band playing along, while the autofocus was able to keep the performance sharp despite some challenging lighting.
Nokia's new Smart Camera is worth talking about too, as it offers up new ways to capture and share what you see around you. It's the replacement for the burst-shot Lens app Smart Shoot, and Nokia promises that the brunt of the features on display here will appear on its other WP8 phones, so if you've already invested in a Lumia, please do read on, because you'll be getting similar photo-tinkering goodness very soon.
Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much difference
You can access the Smart Camera app either through its very own icon or through the Lens sub-menu on the standard camera UI. In fact, there's even a third way -- you can recalibrate the physical camera key to launch into Nokia's new smart iteration rather than the standard photo / video app. This then takes you into a sparse camera UI, where you can review previous shots, swap to different Windows Phone Lenses and use a touchscreen capture button. Once you've focused, a circular timer will show the duration of the burst photography. After a few seconds of thinking time (we'll come back to this unfortunate flaw) you'll be offered up a Best Shot, chosen by a man in a room Nokia's imaging algorithms as the best of your 10-shot burst collection.
Sometimes it's spot-on (it's better with crowds of faces). Other times it fails to grasp what you were looking to focus on. Sure, that brick wall may look crisp with good lighting, but you were trying to capture someone flying past on a scooter. That's when the second feature kicks in: swiping down once offers up Action Shot. This was by far our favorite, as it's capable of combining 10 images against a fixed backdrop. You can then select several frames, superimposing them on top of each other. There's a fade toggle that lets you select one primary image, with additional layers then slightly faded out. Better still, the interface is uncomplicated. Once you understand that the background needs to remain fixed, you'll be able to produce some eye-catching results.
Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much difference
The results aren't always perfect -- you'll often get some awkward ghosting when the camera can't quite detect the object in motion, but it's the standout addition for us. Motion Focus (seen on our Tube shot) is another new option, which detects your moving object, then blurs the surrounding area. There's a choice of a low- and high-blur effects, but expect light sources to sometimes ruin the illusion. Change Faces tries to ensure group shots come out with everyone's eyes open. You can tweak a picture person by person, selecting everyone's best smile from the 10 shots captured. Lastly, Remove Moving Objects, er, does what it says it will -- erasing that car that spoiled your beautiful cityscape. Again, like the Action Shot, you'll need to have taken a set of static shots, and the Lumia will then work out what you might not want in the photo. One of the biggest drawbacks for us is the several-second load time necessary to get Smart Cam up and running. It defeats the point of capturing something in motion if the 925 is languishing trying to get the app open. We're hoping Nokia makes it a priority to shave the app's start-up time, because it deserves the attention.
Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much difference
Windows Phone. It's still not there. Readers will convene on the comment section at the end of this review to say they don't need the likes of Google+, Dropbox and Instagram, but these omissions represent a larger picture. These app makers aren't particularly bothered that they're missing out on Windows Phone, and as such, it's likely that future apps you do
want won't make it to Microsoft's OS, even if they're already available on iOS and Android. So, it's pretty much the same ecosystem situation as we outlined in our Lumia 920 review, except Spotify's now made it to WP8 and you can expect to see a Halo game or two in the future. when.eng("eng.galleries.init")
Windows Phone. It's still not there.
Right, so that part's covered. Now on to the highlights. The superb Nokia Here maps are... here, as is Nokia Music and its accompanying free offline playlist feature. New additions include an FM radio tuner, which, like Android versions, requires some headphones to double up as an antenna. Also present is Data Sense, no longer a Verizon-only feature and offering up a similar experience (and statistics) to apps found (again) on Android -- a measurable way of keeping an eye on your data consumption. There's also the still-beta Glance screen that came installed on our review device, with Nokia giving a nod to its Symbian past with an always-on clock. There's even a very stylish red iteration you can choose during night hours, although we'd love to see Nokia expand on what sort of information is displayed here, beyond charging status and time. There's now the ability to wake up the phone with a double tap -- a Meego feature that's reappeared. It's a nice little trick, although having to then swipe upwards to unlock the phone seems a little redundant.
Not all the changes are for the better, however. Getting your Google account to work on the Lumia 925 also takes a little bit of extra work. Google Mail uses an outgoing SMTP email server, rather than the system still used on the Lumia 920. Technicalities aside, this means that the phone only polls for new mail every 15 minutes -- and that's the shortest interval. Meanwhile, on our companion 920, the phone downloads new content as it arrives. Google says it'll support its sync service for Windows Phone until the end of July and has said that "it's now possible to build a seamless sync experience using open protocols (IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV) for Gmail, Google Calendar and Contacts." Unfortunately, that's not yet how it works on the Lumia 925. With some help from Nokia, we did manage to figure out a workaround through the phone's advanced setup for email, which downloads new content as it arrives, but it's unfortunately more complicated than it should be.
Nokia Lumia 925Nokia Lumia 920HTC Windows Phone 8X
SunSpider 1.0
(ms, lower numbers are better)
905.4903.2914 (on 0.9.1)AnTuTu (*GPU test off)11,819*11,457*11,775
Running on the same dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor seen on its predecessor, the Lumia 925 copes just fine flipping between apps in the multitasking menu, or pulling up media-dense websites. Running SunSpider 1.0 to test Internet Explorer on the new phone resulted in a decent score of 905.4ms, which is nearly identical to the 903.2ms we got on the Lumia 920. The Lumia 925 does a good job handling what's typically a pretty mediocre workload -- there's no GTA 3
here to push that Snapdragon processor to its limits, and the majority of games or apps available on Windows Phone can, if available, run on any mid-range Android device.
There's also 1GB of system memory, a standard feature on most top-end WP8 phones, alongside 16GB of storage. While you could argue that's half of what was delivered on last year's Lumia 920, 16GB is still relatively ample -- but we'd have paid a little more for the option of some microSD expansion. If Nokia can craft a micro-SIM tray, why not offer something elsewhere on the phone's perimeter for more data storage?
If Nokia can craft a micro-SIM tray, why not offer something elsewhere on the phone's perimeter for more data storage?
With the same battery, processor, resolution and screen size (if not technology), we expected a battery rundown to offer comparable times to the Lumia 920 on th same 2,000mAh battery, and we were right. As we've played with it over the last five days, we noticed that real-world use was actually longer than what we were expecting from a Nokia Windows Phone. Whether that's due to the AMOLED display (and how it handles black output without expending much power) or that always-on clock that meant we weren't as obsessive with powering the device on all the time, we were able to last a good day and a half on a single charge.
There's no contactless charging built-in; you'll have to pay an as-yet undecided amount for that pleasure, but it could be worth the investment. The covers are lightweight, although they (like most phone cases) do ruin the cleaner lines of the base hardware, adding to the thickness of the phone. But we like our Lumias with at least a bit of color, and a big chunk of red or yellow certainly helps there. During our speed tests on an EE 3G connection, we found that the Lumia 925 did in fact perform better than our polycarb-clad 920. Presumably due to the work done on the antenna, the aluminum model typically bested it by 1 Mbps on average. Speeds on HSPA+ circled around 6 Mbps down, and just shy of 1.5 Mbps up, in line with other smartphones on other networks. The Lumia 925 also gave us reliably clear, stable voice calls -- as we pretty much expect from Nokia.
DNP Nokia Lumia 925 review lots of changes, but not much differenceNokia has fixed several of the biggest complaints leveled at the Lumia 920. In fact, the Lumia 925 feels like a Windows Phone pitched at people who think they're going to buy an Android phone next. The colors and design are more understated; the hardware is thinner and lighter, and arguably just as impressive as the HTC One or the iPhone. Our complaints about the Windows Phone ecosystem still stand, and we don't see that changing much in the next six months. Despite that, Nokia has improved on the software to ensure that while the Lumia 925 stands out from the rest of the series at launch, all of its smartphones will benefit from notable improvements like the Glance screen and the Smart Camera app. It's good news for Lumia phone owners, but makes the 925 a trickier sell over the 920, which is now £150 cheaper off-contract in the UK. Not to mention, the extra storage and built-in contactless charging you're losing when you choose the 925 instead.
There's yet another shadow hanging over the 925: EOS.
Additionally, there's yet another shadow hanging over the 925: EOS. Nokia has unabashedly used its imaging pedigree as a major selling point, and we've constantly pointed towards the lossless zoom-capable 808 PureView camera sensor as what we want to see on its Windows Phones. The rumors suggest we're swiftly approaching its arrival and we'd recommend readers wait and see exactly what Nokia's got planned before putting down money for the Lumia 925.Edgar Alvarez contributed to this report.

by Sabrez Alam · 0

Smartisan OS goes pre-alpha, available for international Galaxy S III only (video)

Smartisan OS now available in prealpha status, international Galaxy S III only

You may recall that a Chinese startup dubbed Smartisan promised to offer its first custom Android ROM on June 15th. Well, the time has come and the company stuck to its word, but there's a catch: the software is currently still in pre-alpha status, so it's neither stable nor speedy -- definitely not recommended for daily use just yet. That said, the release apparently includes most of the features demonstrated at the three-hour-long launch event.

The other catch is that you'll need an international Samsung Galaxy S III (i9300, WCDMA) plus Windows (presumably non-RT) to flash this early version of Smartisan OS. If you're game then head to the source link for the download and the instructions (but in Chinese). If not, you can wait for the upcoming release for the HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S II, Xiaomi Phone 2 and Samsung Galaxy Note II. Or you can just wait for Smartisan's very own phone due next year, if you don't mind testing your patience.

by Sabrez Alam · 0

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day special edition gift guide

Father's Day special edition gift guide
Dad's been good to you. Very good to you. Why, without him you quite literally wouldn't be on this earth, and that's something to be thankful for. If he's anything like you, he probably has a bit of a passion for the latest and greatest in tech. But, it can be very hard to know what to buy in this dynamically changing world. Lucky for you, dear reader, we've put together this handy list of great gadgets and last-minute shopping ideas for dear 'ol dad.
Spotify gift card - ($10 - $60)

We figure dad probably has some sort of music that he likes, and we'll go even further by saying that dad probably owns some music in a format that can't be easily played on a smartphone. You could spend a weekend helping him rip and convert his entire music collection (good luck with the 8-tracks) or you could just get him a Spotify subscription. Unless your dad is into some seriously obscure stuff, Spotify should keep him happy and, with gift cards readily available, you can give the gift of music right inside his Father's Day card. (You did remember to pick up a card, right
?) Spotify's Premium service costs $10 a month and, if you want to be really nice, you'll go ahead and make him a few playlists of his favorite tunes.Kindle Paperwhite - ($119 - $139)

Most dads like lazy Sunday afternoons, and among our favorite lazy Sunday afternoon pastimes is taking a nice book out to somewhere sunny and comfortable and enjoying. If that happens to be followed by a nap, so be it. Our favorite e-reader of the moment is still the Kindle Paperwhite. Its E Ink screen makes it great for reading in the sun, but with its built-in backlight, it's great for discreetly reading at night without having to use a lamp. If that's not good enough, the battery life is so great that he'll hardly ever have to worry about charging the thing.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review
Sony NEX-3N - ($500)

Is your dad still lugging around some antique of a camera? Maybe his aging back could do with something a bit lighter. The NEX-3N is Sony's latest interchangeable lens camera (ILC), which means dad can always have the right glass for the job, but it's still incredibly small and lightweight. Most importantly: it takes photos that rival those of much bigger, heavier and more expensive DSLRs. If dad's serious about photography, this is a great choice.
Sony NEX-3N review
Apple MacBook Air 13-inch - ($1,099+)

Laptops are constantly getting smaller, lighter and more powerful, but rarely do they make any big improvements in battery life. That's not the case with the latest rendition of Apple's MacBook Air. It was already one of our favorite laptops, but the 2013 model adds Intel's latest line of Haswell CPUs. Apple promises 12 hours of battery life and we did even better, scoring nearly 13 on our standard rundown test. It isn't exactly cheap, but it is on the more affordable end of the scale for a quality laptop this thin and this light. It's still our choice.
MacBook Air review (13-inch, mid-2013)
Sony Bravia XBR-55X900A 55-inch 4K TV - ($5,000)

Has dad been very, very
good this year? Maybe it's time to throw him into the next generation of televisions. Sony's latest, the Bravia XBR-55X900A, is a 55-inch television with 4K resolution -- basically, four times the pixels of a standard 1080p HDTV. Not only will picture quality look great, in combination with the 4K Media Player he'll also actually have some 4K movies to watch and have access to a 4K movie streaming service this fall. Granted, $5k is hardly cheap, but it's certainly more affordable than some of Sony's other options.hare ideas over open web.

Sunday, June 16, 2013 by Sabrez Alam · 0