Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Computing pioneer Evelyn Berezin died this week—she should be remembered

December 15th, 2018
Secretaries use typewriters, before the word processor changed everything.

Enlarge / Secretaries use typewriters, before the word processor changed everything. (credit: Evening Standard | Getty Images)

Computing pioneer Evelyn Berezin died at 93 this week. She was most known as the designer of the first true word-processing computer. But she designed many other innovative computing systems and helmed Redactron Corporation, a company that helped transform offices by producing and distributing her word-processor device.

Born to Jewish immigrants from Russia in New York City in 1925, Berezin earned a BA in physics at NYU before working throughout the 1950s and 1960s designing early computing systems. She had become interested in physics after reading her brother's science-fiction periodicals.

In the earlier years of her career, she worked amidst a wave of innovation and new possibilities that came with the arrival of transistors. Among her early accomplishments was an airline reservations system for United Airlines, which "served 60 cities throughout the United States with a one-second response time and with no central system failures in 11 years of operation," according to the Computer History Museum.

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Posted in Evelyn Berezin, obituary, Tech, word processor | Comments (0)

Don’t buy a 5G smartphone—at least, not for a while

December 14th, 2018
5G is here, but that doesn't mean you have to buy into it.

Enlarge / 5G is here, but that doesn't mean you have to buy into it.

2019 is going to be the year of 5G—at least, that's what the cellular industry keeps saying. We're going to see the launch of several 5G smartphones from OEMs like Samsung, Motorola, and OnePlus, and carriers will be tripping over themselves to tell you how awesome their new 5G networks are despite coming with a slew of asterisks. I would like to make something up about how ridiculous the 5G hype has gotten, but it's hard to top actual quotes from industry executives, like Verizon's claim that 5G will "dramatically improve our global society." Faster mobile Internet is coming, but should you care about it yet?

Qualcomm recently had its big 2019 chip announcement, and as the world's biggest provider of smartphone chips, that gives us a good idea of what the upcoming 5G hardware will look like. The industry is doing its best to hype 5G up as The Next Big Thing™, but 5G hardware in 2019 is going to be a decidedly first-generation affair. Early adopters for 5G will have to accept all manner of tradeoffs. And when there might not even be 5G reception in your area, it might be better to just wait the whole thing out for a year or two.

A 5G mmWave primer: Making use of the spectrum that nobody wanted

"5G" is a shorthand reference to the next generation of cellular network technology that is launching in 2019. The whole "G" naming scheme started in the 1990s with the launch of GSM, which was called the "second generation"—aka "2G"—of mobile networking technology. GSM upgraded early networks from analog to digital, and those old analog networks were retroactively given the name "1G." Since then, we've gotten new "G" numbers with major coordinated network upgrades about every 10 years. These iterations brought important features like SMS and MMS messages, IP-based networking and mobile Internet, and, of course, more speed.

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Posted in 4G, 5G, Android, Features, Qualcomm, Tech | Comments (0)

Apple will spend $1 billion and hire up to 15,000 people for new Austin office

December 13th, 2018
Apple's existing campus in Austin, Texas.

Enlarge / Apple's existing campus in Austin, Texas. (credit: Apple)

Earlier this year, Apple announced it would launch a major new campus in the US, its second largest behind the Cupertino headquarters. Now we know where.

Apple announced this morning that it will spend $1 billion to open a new campus in the southern tech hub of Austin, Texas, and that it will open new offices and add 1,000 new jobs each to San Diego, Seattle, and Culver City, California, which is a municipality in the heart of Los Angeles. Further expansion is also planned in Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Boulder, and Portland. It also plans to invest $4.5 billion in data centers like those in Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona this year and next.

The company has gone to great lengths to position this as part of a narrative about the vast number of people it currently employs and will employ in the future across the United States. Apple hopes this will counter criticisms about its manufacturing operations and partners in China. The industry giant says it is on track to create 20,000 new jobs in the US by 2023. It also plans to spend $30 billion on new facilities by that date. Apple currently employs about 90,000 people in the US.

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Posted in apple, austin, Culver City, Tech | Comments (0)

Microsoft is putting together a Microsoft 365 subscription for home users

December 13th, 2018
Big white clouds against an azure sky.

Enlarge (credit: Patty's Photos / Flickr)

Microsoft has had success in the enterprise space with its Microsoft 365 subscription, which bundles Office 365, Windows 10, and remote management with Enterprise Mobility + Security. Its home-oriented Office 365 subscriptions have also been growing steadily, with 32.5 million subscriptions as of the company's most recent financial reports. And now Microsoft is planning to bring these things together with a Microsoft 365 subscription aimed at non-corporate users, reports Mary Jo Foley.

Microsoft 365 Consumer would be a subscription bundle with a consumer focus. Foley notes that there have been job advertisements alluding to such a product, and the move would seem to be consistent with the company's plan to re-engage with consumers. At its Inspire partner event earlier this year, the company said that it wanted to target "professional consumers" by offering software and services to enhance their "Modern Life and Devices." The meaning of this is not entirely clear, but it seems to mean that the company will continue to make its services work better wherever you use them (greater support for iOS and Android phones). Syncing and replication will ensure that your work and current context moves seamlessly between devices.

Less clear is what a Microsoft 365 Consumer bundle would actually include. Office 365 is an obvious component; it's already being sold to consumers, and it remains the heart of Microsoft's productivity vision. But beyond that? Windows 10 is, for home users, functionally free already. There have long been fears/rumors/speculation that Microsoft will move to a monthly Windows subscription model for consumers, but there are no signs that this is happening. Given the way Windows 10 has been positioned—the "last version" of Windows that will be updated and upgraded indefinitely—it's hard to imagine it ever happening.

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Posted in cloud, microsoft, microsoft 365, Office 365, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Chromecasts are finally available from Amazon again

December 13th, 2018
Chromecasts are finally available from Amazon again

Enlarge (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Amazon and Google haven't played nicely with each other over the past few years, but consumers were thrown just thrown a bone. Amazon has finally restocked Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra devices in its online store, selling them for $35 and $69 respectively.

Back in 2015, Amazon pulled Chromecast devices from its store after it dictated that it would only sell streaming devices that support its own Prime Video service. Since the Chromecast did not, Amazon claimed it would cause "customer confusion" to offer it for purchase.

The same strange rule applied to the Apple TV, which Amazon didn't sell for some time as well. But Amazon released its Prime Video app for Apple TV this time last year, and Apple's set-top box reappeared on Amazon quickly after that.

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Posted in amazon, chromecast, chromecast ultra, echo, google, online shopping, Tech, YouTube | Comments (0)

Samsung teases new Notebook 9 Pen with 15-hour battery life before CES 2019

December 13th, 2018

Samsung

We weren't impressed with this year's Notebook 9 Pen, Samsung's attempt at a high-end ultrabook, but the company will be trying again in 2019. Samsung announced two new versions of the Notebook 9 Pen—a 13-inch and a 15-inch model—that it will show off at CES in January and release sometime in 2019. At first glance, not much seems to have changed in the new convertibles, but upon closer inspection, Samsung has made some changes that will (hopefully) make the new devices worth their inevitably high price tags.

Regardless of how you feel about the blue-and-gold color scheme on this year's Note 9 smartphone, Samsung clearly likes it because the company brought it over to the Notebook 9 Pen. The new device has that navy blue over most of its chassis, and its edges remain the only parts where silver pokes through.

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Posted in convertible, notebook 9 pen, Samsung, Tech, ultrabook | Comments (0)

Microsoft adds Dark Mode support and more to Office 365 for Mac

December 12th, 2018

Nate Anderson

Microsoft has released version 16.20.18120801 of Office 365 for the Mac platform, bringing support for a couple of key Mac features introduced in September's macOS 10.14 Mojave release, as well as a number of small features and user experience improvements not related to Mojave.

The headline feature is, of course, dark mode support, which requires Mojave to work. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook all support Mojave's dark theme. Also related to Mojave, you can now use Apple's Continuity Camera feature to insert a photo directly from your iPhone's photos to a slide in PowerPoint.

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Posted in MacOS, macOS 10.4 Mojave, microsoft, Mojave, office, Office 365, Tech | Comments (0)

A look at the Apple Watch’s ECG, from someone who needs it

December 12th, 2018
A look at the Apple Watch’s ECG, from someone who needs it

When Apple introduced the fourth iteration of its smartwatch, the big new selling point wasn't a feature we typically associate with a watch or any sort of smart device. Instead, the company added a feature that had only recently arrived in the form of specialized consumer devices: an electrocardiograph (ECG), a device made for monitoring the heart's electrical activity.

But the watch was ready before the software was, meaning an examination of the technology wasn't possible in our comprehensive review of the Apple Watch Series 4. Last week, Apple finally enabled the missing features, and we've spent a few days checking them out.

Basic features

People who haven't used the Apple Watch may not realize just how much it's an extension of an iPhone. This includes the heart-monitoring software, which requires an update to both the Watch and iPhone OSes before it will work. (This caused a small bit of confusion when the software wouldn't launch after we upgraded only the watch's OS.) Once the update is done, the Health app on the iPhone will incorporate any ECG data generated using the watch. On the watch side, the update will install a new app.

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Posted in apple watch, arrhythmia, atrial fibrilation, ECG, heart, medicine, science, Tech | Comments (0)

New 17-inch LG Gram laptop weighs 2.9 pounds, has nearly 20-hour battery life

December 12th, 2018

LG

We're just a few weeks away from 2019's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and some companies are drumming up hype by revealing some new products early. LG is one of them, as it announced the newest devices in its Gram family of thin-and-light laptops. Joining the lineup are a new 17-inch LG Gram, which the company claims to be the lightest 17-inch clamshell on the market, and the family's first 2-in-1 device in the form of the new 14-inch Gram convertible.

The mammoth 17-inch laptop appears to take most of its design from the original LG Gram, which Ars reviewed last year. It looks like a standard ultrabook, with a nearly edge-to-edge display and a slightly larger chin bezel. LG claims to have put a 17-inch display in a 15.6-inch chassis, but it's hard to tell how well that statement holds up through images alone.

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Posted in 14-inch convertible, 17-inch Gram, 2-in-1, convertible, laptop, LG, LG Gram, Tech | Comments (0)

Intel promises big boost to integrated GPU, breaks teraflop barrier

December 12th, 2018
64 little grey boxes means 64 execution units, up from 24.

Enlarge / 64 little grey boxes means 64 execution units, up from 24. (credit: Intel)

Intel is promising a huge improvement to the performance of its integrated GPUs. Its generation 11 ("Gen11") GPU will more than double the execution units from (usually) 24 to 64, and in so doing boost the number-crunching performance to more than 1 trillion floating point operations per second.

Just as the current Gen9 GPUs, Gen11 is arranged into blocks combining execution units (EUs) with dedicated 3D hardware such as texture samplers. Gen9 parts have up to 8 EUs per block, and the most-common configuration found in Intel's processors, GT2, has three such blocks for a total of 24 EUs (though there are designs with six or nine blocks, for 48 or 72 EUs). Gen11 has 16 EUs per block and will have configurations with four blocks. It's all these extra execution units that enable that headlining 1TFLOPS performance figure.

The new GPU will use a tile-based rendering approach, which divides the image into tiles that are all rendered separately. This tends to reduce the amount of memory bandwidth the GPU needs, which is valuable in integrated GPUs, as they lack the high-performance memory found in discrete parts. The Mali GPUs designed by ARM, along with Qualcomm's Adreno GPUs, both use tile-based rendering too.

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Posted in GPU, graphics, Intel, processors, Tech | Comments (0)