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22
Feb

The University of Maryland pits its quantum computer against IBM


Why it matters to you

For the first time, it’s possible to perform head-to-head tests on two different quantum computers, which could help forge a path to further breakthroughs in this ever-advancing field.

We’re closer to a large-scale universal quantum computer than ever before, but there is still some debate among experts as to which implementation of the technology has the most potential. For the first time, two promising systems have been put head to head to see which could tear through the same set of algorithms the quickest.

The two quantum computers were fielded by the University of Maryland and IBM. Both are outfitted with a total of five qubits, but IBM’s implementation relies on superconducting metals, whereas the University of Maryland’s system uses electromagnetic fields to trap ytterbium ions, according to a report from the MIT Technology Review.

Despite the vast differences between the two pieces of hardware, both process algorithms the same way, which facilitated like-for-like testing. Since May, IBM has allowed students and enthusiasts to experiment with its quantum computer via the IBM Quantum Experience, which was used in this experiment.

More: D-Wave sold its first 2,000-qubit quantum annealer to a cybersecurity firm

The results of the head-to-head test indicated that while IBM’s system was able to process problems more quickly, the University of Maryland’s hardware was more reliable. That’s because the college’s quantum computer uses interconnected qubits, which are capable of sharing information with one another. IBM’s rig exchanges information using a central hub, and the process can apparently cause the delicate quantum states that are essential to quantum computing to collapse.

These results aren’t likely to have a huge impact on the future of quantum computing. However, the fact that two quantum computers can be compared in this way serves as resounding confirmation of the progress that has been made in this field in recent years.

It’s not yet clear whether superconducting metals, trapped ions, or a different idea entirely will lead to the creation of a large-scale universal quantum computer. However, if it’s possible to compare one system with another, researchers are better equipped to make decisions about what works and what does not. We may still be a way off the breakthrough that makes the practical implementation of quantum computing a reality, but work like this shows that forward progress is being made all the time.

22
Feb

Why carriers need Qualcomm to make the next wireless revolution a reality


Why it matters to you

5G is the next standard for cellular connectivity — and it could completely revolutionize how we use and connect to the internet.

We’ve heard it all before. It seems like every week there’s a new headline suggesting that the launch of 5G is imminent and that it will totally change how we use and interact with the world wide web. However, in the few years that 5G has been making headlines, we have yet to see any real, tangible progress.

That doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made, though.

While the four major U.S. carriers are the companies that will most often pop up upon searching “5G,” there’s another company that could be even more important than the rest: Qualcomm. After all, it doesn’t matter how much money Verizon and friends invest in 5G if our devices can’t connect to it — and that’s where Qualcomm’s chips will be more important than ever.

More: AT&T gets serious about 5G with the deployment of test networks in Austin and Indianapolis

According to Qualcomm, we’ve been thinking about 5G all wrong. 5G isn’t just the next wave of internet connectivity that will allow us to watch Netflix in 8K, the company argues. Rather, it’s a web of services that could encompass cellular connectivity as well as the future of Wi-Fi and a whole slew of currently unlicensed spectrums. In turn, those changes to how we use and interact with the internet could spur a revolution of connectivity, where almost everything you use and interact with in your daily life interacts with other connected devices around you.

The tech behind that extra ‘G’

Implementing such a system will be no small feat, but it could piggyback on a slew of other technologies that are already available to consumers. Reports on how 5G will replace Wi-Fi have been surfacing for quite some time, but the truth is a little less dramatic. Wi-Fi will be an important aspect of 5G, to be sure, but rather than replacing it, 5G could compliment it.

According to Qualcomm’s vision, 5G will be “one integrated system” that includes the tech used in Wi-Fi, the tech used in 4G LTE, and a new technology that will be used in the currently unlicensed spectrum. In other words, while plenty of rumors and reports have hinted at 5G living in the upper “millimeter wave” frequencies, in reality, 5G will also be delivered through low, sub-1GHz frequencies and mid frequencies of between 1GHz and 6GHz — on top of the aforementioned millimeter frequencies above 24GHz.

More: We may not need 5G Speeds by 2020: Here’s Why

That’s not to say that millimeter wave tech isn’t an important aspect of 5G and how it works — just that millimeter waves aren’t the whole 5G picture. Still, Qualcomm anticipates that frequencies of 24GHz and above, which is what we define as millimeter wave, will play an important role in the future of speedy connectivity. However, it will require the deployment of a new wave of technology, both from carriers and from device manufacturers. That’s where 5G NR or 5G New Radio comes in.

netgear-nighthalk-m1-720x720.jpg

The Netgear Nighthawk M1 — The first Gigabit LTE device

5G NR is essentially the name given to the new technology that will be needed to implement a new wave of super high-speed data connections. This “new radio” will utilize a wide range of spectrum, including mid bands from 1GHz to 6GHz and the much higher “millimeter waves.” While the tech is still in its early stages, part of Qualcomm’s new 5G related announcements include that the company has successfully tested its first 5G NR connections in the mid-band spectrums — so it’s well on its way to becoming reality.

Then there’s the other end of things: the tech in your smartphone, which, as you might expect, Qualcomm also wants to play a big part in. The company even announced the Snapdragon X50 last year — the world’s first 5G modem — which Qualcomm says is capable of download speeds of up to 5Gbps and will be available at some point in 2018.

22
Feb

Why carriers need Qualcomm to make the next wireless revolution a reality


Why it matters to you

5G is the next standard for cellular connectivity — and it could completely revolutionize how we use and connect to the internet.

We’ve heard it all before. It seems like every week there’s a new headline suggesting that the launch of 5G is imminent and that it will totally change how we use and interact with the world wide web. However, in the few years that 5G has been making headlines, we have yet to see any real, tangible progress.

That doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made, though.

While the four major U.S. carriers are the companies that will most often pop up upon searching “5G,” there’s another company that could be even more important than the rest: Qualcomm. After all, it doesn’t matter how much money Verizon and friends invest in 5G if our devices can’t connect to it — and that’s where Qualcomm’s chips will be more important than ever.

More: AT&T gets serious about 5G with the deployment of test networks in Austin and Indianapolis

According to Qualcomm, we’ve been thinking about 5G all wrong. 5G isn’t just the next wave of internet connectivity that will allow us to watch Netflix in 8K, the company argues. Rather, it’s a web of services that could encompass cellular connectivity as well as the future of Wi-Fi and a whole slew of currently unlicensed spectrums. In turn, those changes to how we use and interact with the internet could spur a revolution of connectivity, where almost everything you use and interact with in your daily life interacts with other connected devices around you.

The tech behind that extra ‘G’

Implementing such a system will be no small feat, but it could piggyback on a slew of other technologies that are already available to consumers. Reports on how 5G will replace Wi-Fi have been surfacing for quite some time, but the truth is a little less dramatic. Wi-Fi will be an important aspect of 5G, to be sure, but rather than replacing it, 5G could compliment it.

According to Qualcomm’s vision, 5G will be “one integrated system” that includes the tech used in Wi-Fi, the tech used in 4G LTE, and a new technology that will be used in the currently unlicensed spectrum. In other words, while plenty of rumors and reports have hinted at 5G living in the upper “millimeter wave” frequencies, in reality, 5G will also be delivered through low, sub-1GHz frequencies and mid frequencies of between 1GHz and 6GHz — on top of the aforementioned millimeter frequencies above 24GHz.

More: We may not need 5G Speeds by 2020: Here’s Why

That’s not to say that millimeter wave tech isn’t an important aspect of 5G and how it works — just that millimeter waves aren’t the whole 5G picture. Still, Qualcomm anticipates that frequencies of 24GHz and above, which is what we define as millimeter wave, will play an important role in the future of speedy connectivity. However, it will require the deployment of a new wave of technology, both from carriers and from device manufacturers. That’s where 5G NR or 5G New Radio comes in.

netgear-nighthalk-m1-720x720.jpg

The Netgear Nighthawk M1 — The first Gigabit LTE device

5G NR is essentially the name given to the new technology that will be needed to implement a new wave of super high-speed data connections. This “new radio” will utilize a wide range of spectrum, including mid bands from 1GHz to 6GHz and the much higher “millimeter waves.” While the tech is still in its early stages, part of Qualcomm’s new 5G related announcements include that the company has successfully tested its first 5G NR connections in the mid-band spectrums — so it’s well on its way to becoming reality.

Then there’s the other end of things: the tech in your smartphone, which, as you might expect, Qualcomm also wants to play a big part in. The company even announced the Snapdragon X50 last year — the world’s first 5G modem — which Qualcomm says is capable of download speeds of up to 5Gbps and will be available at some point in 2018.

22
Feb

Kodi or Plex: Which media server is best for Android users?


plex-or-kodi-android-hero.jpg?itok=5qmo8

Kodi and Plex may seem similar at a glance, but they offer entirely unique experiences and services.

Feature-rich media centers, like Kodi and Plex, are making it easier for more people to make the decision to cut cable out of their lives. The benefits are clear and plentiful: you get full control to watch what you want to watch, on whichever device you choose, with no ads or interruptions.

Android users are in an especially good position, as both Kodi and Plex are well-supported across all Android phones, tablets, and TV boxes.

  • Kodi
  • Plex
  • Which is best?

Kodi

One of the main things differentiating Kodi from Plex is that Kodi remains open source and entirely free. The software has been built and maintained by a passionate community who are consistently offering updates and occasionally adding in new features. Whether you’re using Kodi on a PC, tablet, smartphone, or Android TV box, you get the full software experience scaled to your device.

kodi-screens-01.jpg?itok=l_5ogDG0kodi-screens-02.jpg?itok=45jPVnNu

The Kodi client is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS (jailbroken), and even Raspberry Pi. Once installed, the easiest way to manage media with Kodi is to make it accessible locally on the machine. Adding local media sources in Kodi is a breeze, whether you’re storing your files on the internal storage of your device, an external hard drive connected to your computer, or an SD card inserted into your smartphone or tablet. Kodi also allows you to stream media from any networked PC, though you’ll need to be a bit tech-savvy to set that up for yourself. Kodi recognizes pretty much any file type, so you can throw all your videos, photos, and music in there and Kodi will handle it.

That’s another advantage Kodi has over Plex — customization. With Kodi, you’re able to download and change skins, including ones specifically designed for mobile devices. The latest update for Kodi set the default skin to a very mobile-friendly option, so now the decision to change the skin can be done for mostly cosmetic purposes.

kodi-screens-04.jpg?itok=Xvlt4WI7kodi-screens-03.jpg?itok=cwlHojzr

There’s been increased interest in Kodi boxes, which are essentially just cheap Android TV boxes that come with the Kodi app pre-installed. If you’re thinking of going down this route, you’ll probably want to get one with expandable memory, so you can conveniently load it up with all your favorite media.

Kodi supports a bunch of community-created add-ons, which is where things actually get a bit sticky.

Kodi also supports a large number of community-created add-ons, which is where things actually get a bit sticky. On one hand, there are perfectly legal add-ons that help you integrate other services you may use such as Dropbox and media sources such as YouTube and Spotify — even a Plex add-on if you’d like to. However, the most popular Kodi add-ons allow you to stream TV shows and movies from the internet and are unequivocally, 100% illegal. While the Kodi website covers itself by stating, in part, “The watching or listening of illegal or pirated content which would otherwise need to be paid for is not endorsed or approved by Team Kodi”, there’s no denying that a large portion of Kodi’s user base is there strictly for convenient access to pirated content. If you morally object to using an application so closely associated with piracy, Kodi is probably not for you.

Download: Kodi

Plex

Plex is anchored by a web-based media server, which you’re able to set up for free. To properly use Plex, you’ll need to dedicate a computer to host your Plex Media Server. This can be a computer you use regularly or a dedicated machine and can be running Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, or a network-attached storage device. Once you’ve got your Plex Media Server setup, you’re able to add all your digital media to the server and access it via the Plex web-based client on your PC or via the Plex app on any of your devices.

plex-screen-01.jpg?itok=L8OC1Zimplex-screens-02.jpg?itok=ibcyGypPplex-screens-03.jpg?itok=mg8jaRNj

Plex is fully supported by Android, along with a whole host of other devices and platforms. No matter which device you want to connect to your TV, there’s a Plex app for it: video game consoles (current and last generations of Playstation and Xbox, as well as the NVIDIA Shield), smart TVs, streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku TV etc.), and, of course, mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows 10 Mobile). Since all your content is conveniently stored on a web-based server, you’re able to access all your content across your devices. Nearly every file type is supported, and you’re able to share your Plex server with other users as you would with a Netflix account.

Where Plex really shines is with its smooth user interface. Plex pulls metadata for all your movies and TV shows from reliable sources, so you get a nice preview image and description for each movie or TV show. You can also create playlists for not only your music but also episodes of your favorite shows. On top of all the fantastic organization, everything is easy to navigate no matter which device you’re using. This experience is all available in the free version of Plex.

Another recently added feature that might make Plex a compelling choice is voice control integration with Amazon’s Alexa. If you’ve got an Amazon Echo in your home, you can load up your music and video library into Plex and then use Alexa to send commands to Plex. This is a super exciting development for Plex and really helps to further separate it from Kodi.

Where Plex really shines is with its smooth user interface.

Plex also gives you the option to upgrade to Plex Premium. You’ll want to check out the added features included in a premium subscription. Notable features include Mobile Sync, which lets you sync media to any device running the Plex app for offline access, the ability to create multiple user accounts, and a bunch of enhancements to the music section, including lyrics, Mood Mixes, and more. You’ll also get early access to all the latest features being added to Plex, including Plex Cloud (currently in beta), which allows you to access your media without the need for an always-on PC action as your Plex Media Server. Plex Premium costs $4.99 a month, $39.99 a year, or $149.99 for a lifetime membership.

Download at Plex

Which is best?

At face value, Plex offers the smoother UI and better features, including the recently added Alexa Skills and centralized storage for your files that is then available across all your devices. On the other hand, Kodi, is entirely open source and customizable via skins and add-ons. If you’ve got an NVIDIA Shield TV or another brand of Android TV box or a tablet you’d like to dedicate to watching media, Kodi is a great choice — as long as you’re okay with tinkering within the app and spending some time learning how to maximize your Kodi experience

Ultimately, the decision of which is best will come down to your needs. If you’re looking to set up all your media just on one computer or device, Kodi is more than capable and fully customizable with the option of discovering some really cool add-ons. Tech-savvy folks might appreciate how Kodi is open source, and with Kodi, you don’t necessarily need a dedicated computer to run a server.

On the other hand, the benefits of Plex being commercial software is that there’s dedicated support for all your setup needs. Plex is a well-tuned product, and if you’re able to dedicate a machine to being your Plex Media Server, you’ll have a very good experience streaming your content to all your other devices — even without upgrading to the Premium edition.

Overall, we give the nod to Plex for its versatility, premium features, and for offering a more polished experience.

What do you think?

Which do you prefer: Kodi or Plex? How do you have your home media center set up? Leave a comment below.

22
Feb

App Shortcuts on Nova Launcher: A little taste of Nougat


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App Shortcuts are cool, if you can get them. Problem being most can’t.

App Shortcuts — the little dropdown menu of shortcuts sorted into specific activities — came with Android 7.1 rather than 7.0, and haven’t been widely implemented in the 4 months since it started rolling out in the Android 7.1 developer preview. It’s half Force Touch, half gestures on steroids, and all awesome when implemented properly. There’s just a few problems with getting it implemented properly: we need more devices that can use App Shortcuts, and we need more developers who are willing to enable it.

That’s where Nova Launcher comes in.

Nova Launcher brought App Shortcuts to all users on Android 5.1 and above with the Nova Launcher 5.0 release in December. This means that if an app supports App Shortcuts, you’ll see them when you long-press an app on your home screen. If an app doesn’t, then you’ll see the traditional app/icon options.

There’s a hell of a lot of the latter and not nearly enough of the former, but if you’re a Nova user, you should see which apps of yours have Shortcuts for you to use. Beyond the usual Google apps, there’s a smattering of other apps with shortcuts enabled, like Twitter and Evernote.

Why this is important

android-distribution-february-2017.jpg?iAndroid distribution numbers as of February 6th.

We’ve had Android 7.1 since December, and it’s on a whopping 0.3% of devices. That means that while App shortcuts are cool, there are very, very few people who can use them right now straight out of the box. There are very few developers who can use them straight out of the box. However, because Nova Launcher opens up App Shortcuts down to Android 5.1, it’s available not to 0.3% of the Android world but 55% of the Android world.

Third-party launchers back-converting features like these help developers who can’t afford a $1000 Pixel, allowing them to test App Shortcuts and see which ones work best for their apps. And developers need to thoroughly test App Shortcuts before implementing them because they’re only supposed to offer four shortcuts, and if one is useless or broken, they’re wasting a quarter of their potential.

nova-app-shortcuts-a9-dark.jpg?itok=mVxQ

Making a 7.1 feature available on 55% of Android devices also means that developers have more incentive to get App Shortcuts added to their app sooner rather than later, because more users can take advantage of them.

I wish that more 7.1 features could back-convert as easily as App Shortcuts can, (like image keyboards), but I’ll take what I can get. And as long as launchers like Nova keeping bringing more goodies from the newest Android versions to the not-so-new Android devices most of us own, it’ll make the poor state of Android updates a little more bearable.

Do you Nova?

Do you use Nova Launcher? Do you think App Shortcuts are a valuable feature? Let us know in the comments below.

22
Feb

AMD returns to high-end gaming CPUs with Ryzen 7


AMD has largely ceded the performance processor space to Intel in recent years. You typically get one of its chips inside a budget PC, not an all-out gaming rig. At last, though, you might have reason to get excited: AMD is launching Ryzen 7, a desktop CPU line based on its much-ballyhooed Zen architecture. The key is a dramatic improvement in the number of instructions the chip can handle at once. A Ryzen 7 CPU can do 52 percent more work every cycle than a similarly-clocked predecessor thanks to a newer 14-nanometer manufacturing process, five times the bandwidth and some overdue architectural upgrades. This is AMD’s first processor with simultaneous multithreading (Hyper-Threading in Intel speak), so each core can execute two code paths at the same time.

Depending on what you get, you might even get a relatively quiet, efficient system. AMD claims the 3GHz Ryzen 7 1700 is the lowest-power 8-core desktop chip you can buy, with a 65W thermal design target. And if you snag the new Wraith Spire cooler (included with the 1700), you’ll have a relatively silent system with a 32dB noise level.

The initial range arrives both by itself (including compatible motherboards) and in pre-assembled systems on March 2nd, and it unsurprisingly focuses on higher-end systems. AMD is still promising a lot of value for your money. though. Your selection starts off with the Ryzen 7 1700, which at $329 is supposed to beat Intel’s slightly pricier Core i7 7700K in multithreaded chip tests. The 3.4GHz 1700X reportedly outperforms the Core i7 6800K at a lower $399 price tag, and the 3.6GHz 1800X can just edge out a not-quite-top-tier Core i7 6900K while costing less than half as much, at $499.

These are lofty claims, and there’s good reason to be skeptical. AMD’s performance claims largely revolve around one benchmark (Cinebench R15), and it’s so far saying only that you can get a “comparable” 4K gaming experience. You’ll likely have to wait until Ryzen 7 ships to see how it fares in real-world tests, which could easily be less flattering. Still, the fact that AMD is even in the same ballpark as Intel is a huge deal — this promises real competition that gives you better choices, and could force Intel to lower prices.

Source: AMD

22
Feb

This is what the LG G6 will (probably) look like


Twitter tipster Evan Blass has posted renders of what could be the final build of the LG G6. The G6 has been subject to numerous leaks in recent weeks, even from LG itself. The renders take all those leaks into account to produce a complete phone, complete with robot face on the rear.

  • LG G6: Release date, rumours and everything you need to know

The G6 sports a 5.7in display that takes up the majority of the front of the phone, something that the company has already told us, calling it a Full Vision display with an 18:9 ratio. Main rival Samsung is expected to follow a similar design with its upcoming Galaxy S8 flagship.

On the rear are the two 13-megapixel camera sensors that the company was touted on LG’s Korean site. One of the cameras will have a 125-degree wide angle lens to help emulate how we see with our eyes. In between the two cameras is a flash and the other circle on the back cover is a fingerprint scanner.

On the left hand side of the phone are the volume keys and the SIM card tray on the right, it’s not clear if the G6 will come with microSD card support, but if it does, it will probably be in the same area. It’s not obvious from the rendered image where the power button is, so LG may have implemented a new way to turn it on and off.

  • LG G6 design details confirmed, straight from the horse’s mouth
  • LG G6 to feature an advanced dual-13MP wide angle camera
  • LG G6 gets UX 6.0 to make the best use of massive 18:9 display

While LG may have teased several of the phone’s most significant features before the official unveiling on Sunday 26 February, it hasn’t divulged the full specifications, but we’ll find them out at the company’s press conference in Barcelona.

22
Feb

Instagram’s carousel-style photo sets are now available to all


Sometimes one photo just doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s why Instagram has just introduced a new feature where you can combine up to 10 photos and videos in a single post (It’s been teased for awhile now, but now it’s finally here). Think of it as a slideshow of different images that your friends can swipe through, be they step-by-step DIY instructions or simply a collection of moments taken at your buddy’s birthday party.

Creating these multi-image posts is pretty easy. After uploading an image, you’ll see a little cascading square icon on the bottom right. Tap that and you’ll then be able to pick up to nine other photos or videos to put in the post. You can even add Boomerang or Hyperlapse clips if they’re already in your phone’s library. To move the different images around, just tap and hold on one. You can then drag it to change the order or to remove it from your post altogether. As for filters, you can either blanket all your selections with the same one, or apply them individually.

Of course, since the photos and videos live in the same post, the caption, location tags, likes and comments will apply to the whole thing (you can’t have separate captions for each photo in the set, for example, at least for now). All photos and videos are squeezed into the square-only format as well. However, you can tag friends in individual photos and videos.

Once posted, your friends will know there are multiple photos / videos by the blue dots at the bottom. They can then swipe left or right to flip through your images. If that sounds familiar, that’s because the multi-image feature was already live for sponsored posts starting some time last year. As the feature is rolled out to consumers, ad carousel units like these will also be increased to accommodate 10 photos or videos.

Be sure to update your firmware and you’ll see the new feature on both Android and iOS as the company rolls it out globally over the next few weeks.

22
Feb

Apple buys and shuts down Asian social network iCloud


In a bid to direct every conceivable iCloud domain towards one website, Apple has bought the rights to iCloud.net from a small Chinese social network.It was one of the few iCloud related sites not owned by Apple, and AppleInsider reports that the tech giant paid $1.5 million in order to acquire the domain. With its network no longer having a home, the Chinese company announced that it is shutting down its services for good on March 1st. The independently owned social network had been operating since 2011.

While it is unclear when exactly the transaction took place, web domain information page who.is updated the site’s information yesterday, implying that it was a recent acquisition. Apple now owns over 170 different iCloud related domains, reportedly paying $5.2 million to Swedish software company Xcerion in 2011 for its sought-after iCloud.com domain.

Source: AppleInsider

22
Feb

Robotic studio takes fashion photos without a camera crew


Fashion photography is a time-consuming process, to put it mildly. The constant adjustments to angles and lighting can take ages, and that’s not including formatting your photos for different media outlets. StyleShoots might just have the problem licked, though. It’s launching Live, a robotic photo studio that theoretically eliminates the need for a camera crew. The intelligent machine combines a depth sensor, lighting rig and camera (a Canon 1DX Mark II) to capture photos and videos using simple instructions on an iPad — the stylist just has to decide on the intended results while models go through poses.

Live will automatically output photos in formats designed for everything from online stores to Instagram or Snapchat. And no, you aren’t forced to shoot against a plain backdrop. You can customize the walls and floors to achieve a specific look, and props are welcome.

Suffice it to say this is strictly for pro use. StyleShoots wants you to get a quote if you intend to buy Live, and even leases run for at least 2 years. And of course, this only works for certain kinds of shots — you’ll still need photographers if you want a more complex shoot or need to go outside. However, this could streamline many of the more common fashion shots, especially for clothing stores that need to fill out their catalogs as quickly as possible.

Source: StyleShoots

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