Skip to content

Archive for


Biggest aerial photography competition shares impressive worldwide drone shots

Why it matters to you

Find some aerial inspiration with these impressive shots from the largest drone contest of 2016.

As the world reflects back on 2016, the largest aerial photography contest picked a literal reflection as the best drone image of the year. On January 24, SkyPixel, an aerial photography community run together with DJI, announced Fishermen Close the Net by Ge Zheng as the 2016 Photo of the Year.

With over 27,000 entries from 131 countries, the competition is the largest — in terms of the number of entries — aerial competition in the world, according to SkyPixel. A jury of photojournalists and travel photographers, including representatives from Time and Cone Nast Traveler, selected Zheng for the grand prize, as well as nominating first, second, and third in six different categories.

More:  These could be the 9 best drone images you see all year

Zheng’s image was shot in China’s Fujian Province. SkyPixel says that the image’s reflections, colors, and aerial perspective gave the image a startling composition that earned Zheng the top prize. The reflection of the bright yellow nets creates a geometric pattern in the image, interrupted by a single fisherman in a small wooden boat.

For his work, Zheng received both a DJI Inspire 2 and a Mavic Pro drones, along with Espon Moverio BT-300 smart glasses, an Espon SureColor P400 Wide Format Photo Printer and a one-year Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Along with the top prize, judges also selected three winners for 360, beauty shots, and images of drones in use. Those three categories were also separated into professional and enthusiast aerial photographers. Prizes were sponsored by DJI, Epson, Adobe, Insta 360 and Ctrip as well as media partners Time, Conde Nast Traveler and FStoppers.

In addition to the juried prizes, the contest also awarded popular vote prizes to the ten images with the most votes.

The contest was open to any aerial image shot in 2016, with submissions closing on December 30.

Founded only in 2014, SkyPixel now has one million users sharing images inside the aerial photography and videography community. Along with serving as a platform for hosting and sharing aerial shots, SkyPixel also shares tips from industry experts.

The full gallery of the winners is available at SkyPixel.


Microsoft says it’s ‘happy’ with Hololens sales of just a few thousand

Why it matters to you

Hololens is not going mainstream just yet, but Microsoft should make AR more affordable in the future.

Though potential buyers voiced objections when the price for the Oculus Rift was announced at $600 rather than the low hundreds as was originally promised, the Microsoft Hololens augmented reality headset came in at a much higher $3,000 price mark. That’s certainly part of why it has only sold a few thousand units, but Microsoft claims it’s happy with sales so far.

“I can’t tell you anything about the numbers, but it’s in thousands, not hundreds of thousands, and that’s fine. That’s all we need,” said Microsoft’s Hololens commercial lead, Roger Walkden, at the BETT show in London this week (via The Inquirer).

Ultimately, he said, Microsoft isn’t “trying to sell hundreds of thousands or millions or anything. It’s expensive, and it’s not in huge numbers. So we’re happy with the level of sales that we’ve got.”

The Hololens is indeed expensive, costing as much as $5,000 if purchased by a company. It is also very much a developmental kit-level device. When we tried the augmented reality headset back in 2015, we noted that it has a limited field of view and the visuals on the AR device are not particularly sharp.

More: HoloMaps hits Microsoft’s HoloLens headset with 3D maps and remote collaboration

The plan for Hololens is much like the early VR developer kits, too, in that it’s there to help seed the market with content and allow companies to build their own augmented reality hardware and platforms. That way, as the technology becomes more mainstream, it will have a solid foundation to build from.

Walkden said as much himself, highlighting that virtual reality has taken years to get to where it is now and that it’s still in the earliest iterations of its commercial life cycle. He believes AR will be much the same way, which is why Microsoft isn’t concerned that the Hololens hasn’t taken off as well as its VR hardware brethren.

Walkden wouldn’t be drawn out on any immediate plans for AR hardware from Microsoft though, stating that the company kept that information far from him should he let slip about it. He did confirm that a roadmap does exist though, so we can likely expect much more from Microsoft in this field in the future.


Want to take a bath … with your phone? You can with the Kyocera Rafre

Why it matters to you

Smartphones can certainly be a nexus for bacteria, and this soap and water-resistant smartphone from Kyocera addresses that issue.

Ah, the shower. One of life’s simplest and yet most satisfying pleasures. If cleaning off after a long day is a renewing experience for you, it stands to reason that other entities in your life would also benefit from a nice rinse. Certainly, your phone would. After all, it goes through everything with you, and probably picks up a disturbing quantity of germs along the way. And now, you can buy a phone that can go everywhere you go — including the bath.

Meet the new Kyocera rafre, a phone that is not only water resistant, but capable of withstanding a serious scrub, complete with hot water and soap. It’s actually the second Kyocera phone to sport such capabilities, though this handset is even more advanced than its predecessor. Kyocera first introduced a washable phone back in December of 2015, but has apparently improved its wash-resistant skills in the last couple years.

More: Watch one of Dubai’s flying firefighters tackle ‘blaze’ with water-powered jetpack

Of course, if you’re looking to buy this phone for its actual technical specs, you won’t be too impressed. It’s got a 3,000mAh battery, runs Android 7.0 Nougat, features 2GB RAM, and has a 5-inch HD display. But of course, you’re probably just buying this phone for bragging rights, right?

Alas, the Kyocera Rafre will only be available in Japan when it launches in March, so if you’re an American with a need for a web-surfing bubble-bath companion, you’re going to have to look for something other than a smartphone. That said, if the Rafre proves popular in its home country (and why wouldn’t it?) it may make its way around the globe.

It’s unclear as of yet what pricing will look like, but we do know the phone will be available in pale pink, clear white, and light blue.


Acer will pay $115K settlement following major security breach

Why it matters to you

The scenario that led to this breach demonstrates the paramount importance of proper security practices when it comes to ecommerce.

In June 2016, Acer announced that a security breach pertaining to its online storefront serving North America had resulted in thousands of users’ personal data being compromised. Now, the New York attorney general’s office has confirmed that the company will pay $115,000 in penalties, following an in-depth investigation into the error.

It’s been discovered that an Acer employee enabled debugging mode on the company’s ecommerce platform between July 2015 and April 2016, according to a report from Engadget. This setting caused all personal data provided by customers via web forms to be saved to an unencrypted, plain-text log file.

The information offered up included full names, credit card numbers, expiration dates, verification numbers, user names and passwords for the site, email addresses, and full street addresses including ZIP codes. Customers would obviously need to submit this data to carry out a transaction on the website, but it’s easy to imagine how malicious entities could use it to commit acts of fraud.

More: Acer looks to appeal to the education market with its Chromebook Spin 11

Furthermore, there’s confirmation that the Acer website was misconfigured such that unauthorized users could browse its directory. Attackers could access subdirectories from a web browser, according to a release published by the attorney general’s office.

The investigation has found that 35,000 users based in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico had their information stolen as a result of the breach. At least one hacking group has been confirmed to have exploited the site’s vulnerabilities to obtain this data between November 2015 and April 2016.

As well as the $115,000 settlement, Acer will be required to enforce several new security policies intended to ensure that these mistakes aren’t repeated. The company will have to deliver yearly employee training about data security and customer privacy, and designate a specific employee to be notified whenever customer data is stored without encryption, among a list of other stipulations.


‘Pokémon Go’ may receive a second wearable to combat safety concerns

Why it matters to you

While the biggest wave of Pokemon Go popularity has faded, Nintendo seems to have no plans to cease support as it considers this new wearable.

The Pokémon Company has teased the possibility of a second wearable designed for use in conjunction with Pokémon Go. The proposed peripheral will apparently make it safer for players to go on a Pokémon hunt in the great outdoors.

Unlike most smartphone games, Pokémon Go is intended to be played out in the real world, as players are tasked with scouring their immediate surroundings for rare monsters. This means that there’s potential for budding Pokémon trainers to cause themselves physical injury while they’re distracted by what’s going on in-game.

Shortly after the game was released in July 2016, one player crashed his car into a school building while playing the game. A month later, Japanese authorities reported the first fatality thought to have been caused by the app. Needless to say, this isn’t what the developers had in mind when they created a game that encourages players to go outside and be active.

More: How to use Pokémon Bank to transfer old Pokémon to Sun and Moon

There was an attempt to assuage these kinds of issues in the form of Pokémon Go Plus, a wearable that was released in September 2016. The device allowed players to catch Pokémon without looking at the screen of their smartphone — instead, they could simply press a button on the wristwatch-like peripheral.

However, there are apparently plans for a second wearable that will hopefully reduce the risk to players even further, according to a report from Gamespot. “Together with Nintendo, we are thinking of developing a new device that can be played more safely,” said Tsunekazu Ishihara, president of the Pokémon Company.

It’s certainly admirable to see Nintendo and the Pokémon Company take the lead in an effort to cut down on accidents caused by Pokémon Go. Let’s hope that players who would otherwise get distracted while playing the game will make use of any devices offered them to make things safer.


Delete your antivirus, says ex-Firefox developer — who claims it’s worthless

Why it matters to you

You might be safer online if you delete your anti-virus software and just use Windows Defender, according to one expert.

Although installing anti-virus is still one of the first steps that most would recommend you do with a new PC build, it turns out not everyone subscribes to that line of thinking. Ex-Mozilla developer Robert O’Callahan has gone so far as to say that anyone running the latest version of Windows 10 should delete it, as it risks creating more vulnerabilities than it protects against.

O’Callahan left the Mozilla Foundation in mid-2016, but worked there for many years, helping develop the Firefox browser, and more recently was involved with research into the “rr” record and replay debugging tool. In short, he knows his stuff, enough that when he says we don’t need something as seemingly essential as anti-virus, it’s worth taking notice.

This isn’t to say that O’Callahan believes security on a PC platform is worthless. Indeed he makes a specific claim that Microsoft’s anti-malware software, like Windows Defender, is a must. But as for everything else? He genuinely believes that it’s a waste of time and in a worse case scenario, may actually make your system more vulnerable than if you had nothing installed at all.

More: Protect your PC from the cyber-flu with these awesome free antivirus options

As an example of why this is the case, he highlighted bugs that Google’s Project Zero vulnerability team have discovered in antivirus software. At the time of writing that appears to be just one, though the illustration does somewhat argue his point: if antivirus itself can have security vulnerabilities and doesn’t do enough to ward against others, is it really necessary?

O’Callahan truly believes that it isn’t, citing one particular instance on his Eyes Above The Waves blog, where Firefox updates of yesteryear would be blocked by overzealous antivirus software. That meant that important security patches would not be delivered to users in a timely manner, all because they were using third-party anti-virus software.

He even goes so far as to highlight why it is he’s only speaking about this “now that [he’s] left Mozilla for a while.” It’s because software developers need the cooperation of anti-virus makers, since if they were to tarnish a software’s name with the idea that it’s insecure or a tool for malware in its own right, that could have a massively negative effect on the developers’ business.

While we might not go so far as to advocate uninstalling your anti-malware solution, we have run into issues of our own where anti-virus software blocked legitimate patches and updates from being applied. Have you guys encountered anything similar over the years?


Bitesnap uses machine learning to figure out how healthy a meal is based on pics

Why it matters to you

Getting a quick take on your health has never been easier now that apps can leverage AI and machine learning to interpret your images.

Instagram is already littered with photos of food, but thanks to a new app, you may be taking pictures of your meal for a slightly less … social reason. In order to help you make smarter decisions about what you’re putting in your body, there’s a new app in town that leverages artificial intelligence. Meet Bitesnap from Bite AI, which uses machine learning to determine what food items are in your latest food photo, and subsequently tells you how many calories you’re consuming.

Not only does Bitesnap identify the foot item on your plate, it also does some pretty impressive work as far as figuring out how much of it is actually there. And it’ll give you more than just caloric data — rather, you can get a full breakdown of all your macros using the app. You can check out a pie chart of your carbohydrate, protein, and fat consumption, and set (or adjust) your targets to help you achieve your fitness goals.

More: NutriBaby is a smart baby-food processor that keeps track of all your little one’s meals

Of course, to get a better, more holistic view of your health, you can also enter your weight, height, and calculate your BMI in the app. This can actually help Bitesnap determine what your ideal food intake ought to be. The app can even remind you when to eat (in case that’s somehow a problem for you).

Currently, the app is available on both the iOS App Store and Google Play, though it doesn’t look as though integrations with wearables are yet available. That said, it’s still relatively new, so these updates could be coming soon. The app itself is free, and the reviews thus far have been quite positive. So if you’re looking for a way to make good on your health-related New Year’s resolutions, this app just may be able to help.


Intel already sampling its Optane-branded memory sticks to partners for testing

Why it matters to you

Intel wants to speed up systems with existing hard drives with its new Optane memory products, providing SSD-like speeds without sacrificing capacity.

During Intel’s fourth quarter 2016 earnings conference on Thursday, CEO Brian Krzanich said the company provided samples of its 3D XPoint-based memory sticks to data centers during that quarter. These sticks fit into DDR4 slots in servers, promising better performance due to the “stacked” nature of 3D XPoint technology. This is the same technology Intel is using in its new Optane-labeled storage devices.

“Our memory business finished the year with record quarterly revenue while full-year revenue was down by one percent. This was an investment year for the memory business,” he said. “We are now shipping 3D NAND from our FAB 68, and we just qualified our first 3D XPoint-based Optane SSDs, which are expected to ship for revenue in the first quarter. And our 3D XPoint memory DIMMs are sampled to data center customers.”

More: MSI posted the specs of eight upcoming Xeon E3-1200 v6 Series CPUs from Intel

3D XPoint is a new class of non-volatile memory, meaning this type of memory holds onto data when devices are shut down whereas volatile memory doesn’t. Non-volatile memory is typically used in solid-state drives and USB sticks (NAND) whereas volatile memory is typically used in system memory sticks (DRAM). However, Intel is using its 3D XPoint technology in SSD and memory stick (DIMM) form factors.

Intel’s 3D XPoint is supposedly faster than standard flash-based NAND technology but slower than DRAM. It’s not supposed to replace DDR4 system memory sticks, but speed up data access without compromising the system’s storage capacity. In other words, if a server has Optane-based sticks installed, it has the speed of an SSD and the capacity of a hard drive.

The first Optane-based SSDs produced by Intel were shown during CES 2017 in early January. They were M.2-class products, meaning they are stick sized and slip into a special slot on the motherboard, or can be mounted onto a special PCI Express card and connected to the motherboard like a graphics card. The units on display had 16GB and 32GB capacities.

These two units expand on the hybrid storage design. Currently, there are storage products on the market that cram NAND memory into hard drives to speed up the flow of data to and from the hybrid drive. However, Intel’s solution means customers aren’t required to rip out their current hard drive to get the benefits of a hybrid drive but to just install one of these Optane SSDs instead.

The idea behind the hybrid storage setup is to place the most used files on the faster non-volatile storage memory and all other data on the slower, magnetic spinning discs (platters). This will increase the speed of the system from boot because the mechanical parts typically are not accessed to load the necessary data.

Systems with Intel’s seventh-generation Kaby Lake Core processors and its family of Xeon E3 v6 processors will be compatible with Intel’s Optane products. Optane will be installed in pre-built systems and sold as stand-alone products for motherboards and other products listed as “Optane ready” in the second quarter of 2017.


Lucky seven: Apple’s original iPad made its debut seven years ago Friday

Why it matters to you

Apple’s original iPad, which turns seven years old on Friday, arguably kick-started the entire tablet industry.

On January 27, 2010, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs got up on stage in a crowded San Francisco auditorium (and former Vice President Al Gore, incidentally) to announce a product that few tech pundits expected to go mainstream: The iPad. He typed on a full-size touchscreen keyboard. He browsed the web with multitouch gestures. And he pulled up a digital issue of Time magazine replete with animated turning pages.

“It’s a dream to type on,” he said. “And it screams.”

Friday marks the seventh anniversary of the iPad’s debut, a device Jobs called the Apple’s “most advanced” technology. “[It’s a] magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” he said of the tablet. “[It] creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive, and fun way than ever before.”

More: Load your iPad with the best apps in every category

Jobs placed particular emphasis on the tablet’s consumption capabilities during the January press conference, showing off custom-designed New York Times and Major League Baseball apps. And while sitting on a couch on stage, he demoed iBooks, a skeuomorphic digital book storefront aimed squarely at Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem.

But Apple, too, recognized the iPad’s creative potential early on. The company took the wraps off a new version of iWork — including Pages, Keynote, and Numbers — optimized for the iPad’s multitouch display. And it launched an optional full-sized soft keyboard, the iPad Keyboard Dock, alongside the early models.

It’s hard to believe, but the original iPad’s hardware was considered competitive. The 1.5-pound, half-inch thick tablet featured a 9.7-inch LED 1024 x 768 resolution touchscreen, Apple’s brand-new 1GHz A4 chip, and storage capacities in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB flavors. It lasted 10 hours on a charge and started at $499. And it came in Wi-Fi and 3G-enabled varieties, though the cellular model debuted a month later (April 30) than the Wi-Fi-only variant.

More: 3 new iPads are slated for release sometime in spring 2017

But it didn’t measure up to the market’s best. It didn’t have a camera. The 3G-enabled models were only available on AT&T. And it lacked the ability to run multiple applications at the same time.

All the same, the early buzz was mostly positive. Engadget called it “blazingly fast,” and The Wall Street Journal called the screen “stunning.”

The iPad of today, of course, is dramatically different than Apple’s first. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro weighs about the same as the original (1.57lbs), but packs Apple’s speedy quad-core A9X processor, HD cameras, a four-speaker array, and a magnetic stylus — the Apple Pencil — that’s sensitive to pressure and touch.

More: Apple iPad 2017: News and rumors

The original iPad sold briskly, but Apple’s tablet has experienced a decline in recent years. In Apple’s annual earnings report last October, iPad sales were down slightly to 9.3 million from 9.9 million from the same period a year earlier. By comparison, Apple sold 45.5 million iPhones in the same quarter, down from 48 million the fourth quarter of 2015.

But new hardware may spur sales. Apple is said to be readying new iPad Pro models that will do away with the home button, boast edge-to-edge displays, and sport beefed-up cameras and processors.


Toshiba’s NAND flash capacity sell-off could put more pressure on SSDs

Why it matters to you

PCs that use SSDs are already getting more expensive because of supply and demand pressures, and Toshiba’s NAND flash sell-off could make things even worse.

The NAND flash memory that makes up speedy solid-state (SSD) drives has been going up in price as demand continues to outstrip supply. Not only are more machines being equipped with SSDs instead of the slower-spinning hard disk drive (HDD) of old, but SSDs are getting bigger and demanding more NAND flash modules.

What the industry needs is more NAND production, not less, and it appears that this might not be happening anytime soon. Toshiba is getting ready to sell off part of its own NAND flash production capacity in an effort to generate some cash, as Anandtech reports, and that could cause further consolidation of the industry that likely wouldn’t help with lowering prices.

More: SSD prices rise as NAND flash supply fails to keep pace with demand

Toshiba is the second-largest NAND flash memory producer behind Samsung, and it’s the only manufacturer that owns everything it needs to make a complete line of storage devices from SSDs to HDDs. Western Digital is the only other company that enjoys such a broad capability, and so it’s a likely suitor. Samsung, for example, can make SSDs by itself, but it can’t make HDDs, and Seagate can make HDDs but not SSDs.

While it’s uncertain what the ultimate impact will be on the availability of NAND flash modules and thus the supply of SSDs — that depends on who purchases the estimated 20 percent equity stake in Toshiba’s NAND business — but it’s unlikely to portend an increase in capacity industrywide. Already, Toshiba and Western Digital are co-operators the world’s largest NAND flash production facilities, and so whether or not that joint venture continues will depend on the buyer.

Toshiba is suffering from a number of challenges in maintaining overall profitability, from recent accounting scandals to other unprofitable divisions that are impacting the company’s bottom line. This move is an effort to stem the bleeding, and it could very well result in SSD and other flash product markets that put even more of a squeeze on supply — with the natural result being continuing price increases.