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Watch SpaceX launch a reused capsule on a recycled rocket

SpaceX is making an historic first on Wednesday, when it gets one step closer towards realizing its vision of reusable space launch gear. The private space company is launching a space station resupply mission using a refurbished Dragon spacecraft and a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster. Dragon will spend around a month at the International Space Station unloading supplies and filling up with return cargo before returning to Earth, while SpaceX plans to recover Falcon 9 by landing it at its LZ-1 facility at Cape Canaveral. Both parts have been used on other resupply missions before, and if SpaceX’s dreams come to fruition, they’ll be used again. Watch them blast off live on Wednesday December 13 at 11:24 AM EST (08:24 AM PST).

Via: Techcrunch


Bank T&C’s for Digital Wallets Suggest Imminent Launch of Apple Pay in Brazil

Apple could well be on the cusp of launching Apple Pay in Brazil, almost two years after rumors of rollout in the region first surfaced. Users of iOS devices in the country who attempt to add a Visa Platinum Personnalité card from Itaú Unibanco to their Apple Wallet are now seeing a terms of service agreement relating to digital wallet use.

The message was first spotted by local tech site MacMagazine and picked up by AppleInsider. Prior to Monday, users trying to register the cards would see a message informing them that the card was not yet supported by Apple Wallet.

Indeed, the same message still shows up when users try adding other cards to their digital wallet, but the fact that Itaú bank’s card has been granted residence inside the native app suggests Apple Pay could well be about to launch.

Olha o @itau mostrando que o #ApplePay tá chegando no Brasil 😉

— Apple Pay Brazil (@ApplePayBR) December 11, 2017

Separately, local blog iHelp BR yesterday claimed that Apple Pay would roll out imminently, citing sources familiar with the matter, although no specific date was given.

Related Roundup: Apple PayTag: Brazil
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Try three new photo apps as part of Google’s ‘appsperiments’ project

“Appsperiments” is a name that hardly rolls off the tongue, but put that to one side for a moment and instead immerse yourself in the smartphone fun offered by Google’s latest research project.

Designed to explore the potential of mobile photography using its latest technology, Appsperiments launches with a collection of three apps described as “usable and useful mobile photography experiences built on experimental technology.”

So what exactly has the team come up with?

First up is Storyboard, an entertaining offering (currently Android only) that seems like a cool way to encapsulate a scene or short event. This free app uses artificial intelligence to analyze a video and select “interesting” frames to create a single-page, comic-style layout by applying one of six different visual styles. Pull down on the page to cycle through the different styles. When you find your favorite, tap the display to save it to your device and then share away.

Next, we have Selfissimo! for Android and iOS. As its name cleverly suggests, this one is geared toward selfie addicts, and eliminates that awkwardness you experience when trying to reach for the shutter button with your arm extended. Described by Kauffman as “an automated selfie photographer,” Selfissimo! takes a black-and-white shot whenever you stop moving. So you can pose and shoot, pose and shoot, and so on till you’re well and truly selfied out. Then all you need to do is review the resulting contact sheet and select the images you’d like to save.

Last up is Scrubbies (iOS only), which lets you scratch your video like a DJ. In other words, Scrubbies lets you manipulate the speed and direction of video playback to create visual loops of selected moments. “Scrubbing with one finger plays the video. Scrubbing with two fingers captures the playback so you can save or share it,” Google interaction researcher Alex Kauffmann explained in a post.

Offering some thinking behind the appsperiments initiative, Kauffmann said that while current smartphone cameras are relatively straightforward in their processing methods, “the next generation of cameras … will have the capability to blend hardware and computer vision algorithms that operate as well on an image’s semantic content, enabling radically new creative mobile photo and video applications.”

The researcher added that Google’s three new test apps “rely on object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms, efficient image encoding and decoding technologies, and perhaps most importantly, fun!”

If you care to take any of the appsperimental apps for a spin, Google would love it if you offered feedback via the in-app links, which could go toward influencing the kind of technology the research team develop next.

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  • Synaptics’ Clear ID puts the fingerprint sensor under your smartphone’s display


Drone-catching eagles aren’t such a good idea after all

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but police in the Netherlands have now decided to retire its team of eagles that were trained to take down rogue drones.

The low-tech solution first hit the headlines in early 2016 when Dutch cops showed off the seemingly impressive skills of their feathered friends. Drones such as DJI’s Phantom 4 machine were clearly no match for the bird of prey, its sharp talons and equally sharp eyesight able to pinpoint and pluck a drone from the sky in a single, lightning-fast maneuver.

Except that it didn’t always work that way.

According to local media, the eagles didn’t always do what was expected of them, which presumably means they were occasionally distracted by other things happening around them during training sessions. You’re absolutely right, that’s not much good if you’re a cop trying to use an eagle to take down a drone flying precariously in a restricted area.

Also, there hasn’t been much call for the eagles over the last 18 months. This is, of course, a good thing as far as issues of safety and security are concerned, but it’s left the police with unnecessary costs for the birds’ training and upkeep.

The decision to retire the eagles will also please bird lovers who were concerned that the drones, with their fast-spinning propellers, could cause a nasty injury to an eagle if its speedy approach was just a little off. And you only have to ask Enrique Iglesias about the wisdom of trying to pluck a drone from mid-air, although admittedly he was never trained to the same high level as the eagles.

Now that the birds have flown the nest, so speak, the Dutch authorities will be exploring the options among a rapidly growing selection of high-tech solutions that are far more reliable, and cheaper to maintain, than the eagles.

These include everything from net-firing bazookas and so-called “death ray” machines to anti-drone guns and drone-shield “Sky Fences.”

Such systems can be deployed relatively quickly, and, failing any technical issues, act swiftly to remove a rogue drone from the sky. They certainly won’t get distracted and go targeting a mouse.

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Microsoft’s Cortana AI can connect to your Gmail

Microsoft’s Cortana refuses to sit idly by as Amazon’s Alexa hogs all the skills. Even though the two digital helpers are best buds (by way of their upcoming partnership), Cortana is feeling competitive. The AI can now connect to your Gmail account via Windows 10, allowing it to access multiple calendars, contacts, and — of course — mail, as spotted by Windows Central.

Along with PC access, that support also extends to the Cortana-integrated Harmon Kardon Invoke smart speaker. And, Cortana apps on iOS and Android will also benefit from Google Calendar info. Of course, Microsoft’s digital assistant already works with Outlook (as does Alexa), but this update is tailor-made for Google acolytes.

Source: Windows Central


People are mortgaging their houses to buy Bitcoin

Bitcoin is sitting at $16,674 at the time of writing, after rocketing from $1,000 to more than $19,000 in the course of this year. Those types of eye-catching numbers (and the resulting media hype) are bound to draw the interest of casual folk. But, unless you’ve got money to burn (like Bitcoin billionaires, and Zuck’s Harvard-era nemeses, the Winklevoss twins), most analysts will tell you the same thing: steer clear of the hyper-volatile currency. (Even those dabbling in it have lost tons of cash to cyberattacks on Bitcoin wallets).

Still, it seems some people aren’t paying heed. A bunch of wannabe investors are even going so far as to take mortgages out to buy bitcoin, while others are running up credit cards and turning to equity lines. That’s according to securities regulator, Joseph Borg.

As the president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, he knows a thing or two about this stuff. Bitcoin is in the “mania” phase, Borg told CNBC in reference to the frenzy around the currency. And, while the launch of the first US Bitcoin futures exchange by Cboe is dragging it into the financial mainstream, that doesn’t mean it will go the distance, according to Borg. He added that the currency is still not regulated, with regulators struggling to keep pace with the tech’s innovation.

“We’re looking at it from a money transmission point of view but that doesn’t cover the entire bitcoin space,” explained Borg. He concluded that the Blockchain technology that underpins Bitcoin is here to stay, along with cryptocurrency (in one form or another). Whether Bitcoin will survive all the speculative interest remains as unclear as ever.

Source: CNBC


Apple Announces New Swift Coding Initiative for Nearly 500,000 Students in City of Chicago

Apple on Tuesday announced it is working to bring coding opportunities to almost half a million students in the city of Chicago, through an expansion of the company’s Everyone Can Code program.

The Swift-centered coding initiative has been designed in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago, local businesses and non-profit organizations.

“At Apple we believe coding is an essential skill, so we’ve designed Everyone Can Code to give everyone the power to learn, write and teach coding,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re thrilled to be working with our friends and partners in the great city of Chicago on this initiative. Together with Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges, we look forward to helping students learn Swift and build the skills they need to thrive in today’s workplace.”

Starting in the spring, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago will expand their Everyone Can Code curriculum and materials, while City Colleges of Chicago will offer the the App Development with Swift curriculum for the first time, helping students build skills around coding and app development.

Chicago Public Schools will also offer new Swift Coding Clubs, according to Apple, bringing coding education to after-school programs. The clubs aim to guide students through key coding concepts, introduce them to Swift and walk them through an app design and prototyping project.

Several businesses operating in the area will also be making volunteer opportunities available for their Chicago-based employees to help support students. Companies include GE Transportation, IBM, Jellyvision, Lextech, McDonald’s, Rush University Medical Center, Ulta Beauty, and United Airlines.

“Coding is not just a critical skill in today’s economy, it is another outlet for students to expand their horizons and explore their creativity,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Everyone Can Code is an incredible opportunity for young people across Chicago to learn the language of the future, sharpen their minds and develop the skill sets needed to compete and win in the 21st century.”

Over the last two years, Apple has promoted its Swift programming language as ideal for anyone who is keen to code but has no previous computing experience. In 2016, it released Swift Playgrounds, an app aimed at teaching both children and adults how to code through simple interactive coding exercises, which is meant to make learning to code “easy and fun” for everyone.

Tags: Swift, Chicago
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Synaptics’ Clear ID puts the fingerprint sensor under your smartphone’s display

If you thought Apple’s Face ID spelled the end of the fingerprint sensor, think again. Synaptics Inc., a company that creates touchpads and fingerprint sensors, has unveiled the next-generation Synaptics Clear ID, a fingerprint sensor that sits just under the glass of a smartphone.

As smartphone manufacturers shrink the bezels around a screen, there’s less space for a fingerprint sensor on the front of the phone. Fingerprint sensors are used to unlock smartphones, and even access sensitive content like a banking app. Many Android manufacturers place these sensors on the back of the phone, so it doesn’t affect the bezel-less trend. Some — like OnePlus, LG, and Samsung — offer facial unlocking technology via the selfie camera.

The sensor is two times faster than 3D facial recognition.

With the iPhone X, Apple went all in on Face ID, going so far as to remove its fingerprint technology, Touch ID. The move has led analysts to believe more Android manufacturers will invest in facial-recognition 3D cameras next year. Synaptics thinks both rear fingerprint sensors and facial unlocking technology are not ideal. If your phone is sitting on a table, you have to pick it up to access the rear fingerprint sensor — the same is true to have it recognize your face. Apple’s Face ID also caused the iPhone X to have an “irregular-shaped display,” also known as the “notch,” to cram the tech in.

Synaptics’ Clear ID FS9500 is a mass-production-ready sensor the company will sell to smartphone manufacturers. It works under OLED displays, which most flagship smartphones use, and it’s quite different from a traditional sensor. The fingerprint sensor on your phone now is capacitive, using electric current to capture your imprint. Clear ID is an ultra-thin optical sensor that captures your print with light emitting from the OLED panel on the smartphone.

The full process works like this: The sensor detects the finger, the OLED display lights up the finger, the sensor scans the fingerprint, and the “matcher” verifies the image and confirms the imprint is yours, granting you access. The sensor can be placed anywhere on the screen the manufacturer wants, though Synaptics offers some general guidelines.

The Clear ID sensor can work on rigid or flexible displays, and the company told Digital Trends it should work even if the phone has a screen protector, or if the screen is wet. Synaptics said the sensor is two times faster than 3D facial recognition, unlocking at about 7 milliseconds — that’s on par with traditional fingerprint sensors today.

It’s unclear just how secure this under-glass fingerprint sensor is compared to present-day sensors, but Synaptics claims a 99 percent spoof attack rejection rate. It said the technology uses machine learning to help verify when there’s an attempted spoof taking place. We’ll have to test those claims when Clear ID makes its way into smartphones.

When will that happen? Soon — the company is working with a top five smartphone manufacturer to integrate the Clear ID sensor into a bezel-less phone in 2018. Synaptics isn’t alone in this race. Qualcomm has already unveiled under-glass fingerprint scanners that utilize ultrasonic techology, and Apple was rumored to be working on similar technology in the lead up to the iPhone 8.

Synaptics will demo Clear ID at CES in January 2018.

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Xiaomi Redmi 5A review: Unmatched value


Xiaomi is continuing to lead the way when it comes to value in the entry-level segment.

Launched earlier this year, the Redmi 4A proved to be incredibly successful for Xiaomi, with the brand selling over four million units in eight months. The company is now looking to continue the same with its successor, the Redmi 5A. At the outset, there isn’t a whole lot that’s changed from the Redmi 4A: you get the same internal hardware, and while the exterior has been slightly tweaked, the phone has the same design language.

So how else does one differentiate a phone that doesn’t stand out from its predecessor? By lowering the price point. The Redmi 5A is available for just ₹4,999 ($77), making it Xiaomi’s most affordable phone to date. That’s the same tactic the company used to its benefit earlier this year with the Redmi 4A, and by launching the 5A for a whole ₹1,000 less, Xiaomi is continuing to lead the way when it comes to value in the entry-level segment.

Xiaomi is marketing the device as “desh ka smartphone,” which translates to the country’s smartphone. By making it available for under ₹5,000, Xiaomi is looking to attract first-time buyers that would otherwise be content with picking up a feature phone.

Xiaomi Redmi 5A What you’ll like


There really wasn’t much wrong with the Redmi 4A from a design standpoint, and as such Xiaomi’s didn’t radically alter the aesthetic with its successor. The phone retains the 5.0-inch display and plastic construction, but the back has a coating that gives the device a metallic feel. Another subtle change is the addition of subtle curves at the point where the back meets the sides, which makes the phone easier to hold.

The Redmi 5A is lightweight at 137g, and although you get sizeable bezels at the top and bottom, the smaller screen allows you to use the device one-handed without any issues. You get an LED notification light, capacitive navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen, IR blaster, and a speaker located at the back of the phone.

On the hardware front, the Redmi 5A is packing the Snapdragon 425 — the same chipset that powered the Redmi 4A. In fact, the only major change when it comes to the hardware is the battery size, which is a downgrade from the 3120mAh unit on the Redmi 4A. That said, you won’t have any issues getting a day’s worth of usage from a full charge.

Elsewhere, you’re looking at 2GB/3GB of RAM, 16GB/32GB of storage, 13MP rear camera, 5MP front shooter, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, and FM radio. The phone comes with MIUI 9 out of the box, and all the optimizations carried out by Xiaomi in terms of reducing app load times and improving stability make a significant difference when it comes to using the Redmi 5A on a day-to-day basis.

The Redmi 5A has rock-solid build quality and reliable performance.

I’m using the variant with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and even on the base model performance is generally snappy. That said, the phone isn’t ideal if you’re looking to play visually-intensive games. There’s also the odd stutter when transitioning from one app to another.

The Redmi 5A retains the same 5.0-inch 720p display that was used in the 4A, and while the panel won’t win any awards, it is perfectly serviceable. Like all other Xiaomi phones, you get the option to adjust the color balance and use a blue light filter to reduce glare at night.

The full loadout of MIUI 9 features is available on the Redmi 5A, including the Dual Apps feature that lets you run two instances of an app at the same time, new themes and sticker packs, notification pane that has bundled notifications and in-line replies, and so much more.

With the advent of Jio, the number of people using two SIM cards simultaneously has increased. Xiaomi offered a hybrid SIM card slot in its early 2017 phones, with the secondary SIM tray doubling up as the microSD slot. However, with a sizeable portion of the audience requesting a standalone microSD slot, Xiaomi has switched out the usual tray for one with a dedicated microSD slot in addition to two SIM card slots.

That’s not the only customization for the Indian market — Xiaomi started bundling a custom wall charger for phones sold in India to withstand the wildly varying voltages seen in most parts of the country, and the Redmi 5A comes with the charger in the box.

Xiaomi Redmi 5A What you won’t


The main drawback of the Redmi 5A is the camera. Like the Redmi 4A, you’ll have to put a lot of work to get a half-decent image. That’s true for all devices in this segment, and the Redmi 5A is no different. Photos taken in daylight look washed out and grainy, and image quality is particularly woeful in low-light shots, with the phone refusing to lock in on a subject on the first try.

The camera on the Redmi 5A isn’t worth your time.

The front camera is similarly sub-par, and while the device offers an HDR mode, it takes far too long to process photos.

Xiaomi also missed a trick by not including the fingerprint sensor on the Redmi 5A. Bundling it would’ve been a significant feature addition — one that would’ve served to differentiate the Redmi 5A from its predecessor — but that isn’t to be.

And while it’s great that the phone comes with MIUI 9 out of the box, the custom ROM is still based on Android 7.1.2 Nougat. As of now, there’s no information regarding Xiaomi’s Oreo update plans, and it’ll likely be a long time before the update is available for the device.

Xiaomi Redmi 5A Bottom line


The Redmi 5A once again demonstrates Xiaomi’s dominance in the entry-level category. There isn’t a single manufacturer that offers quite as much value as Xiaomi in the sub-₹10,000 segment.

While there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about on the design front, the Redmi 5A is a reliable phone that should last a few years without any major problems. The 720p display combined with the Snapdragon 425, all-day 3000mAh battery, and MIUI 9 make the Redmi 5A one of the best options in this category.

The ₹4,999 price point isn’t permanent, but is valid for just the first five million units. Following that, the Redmi 5A will be sold at ₹5,999, the same price as its predecessor. Even at that price, you’re getting a lot of value for your money.

The main competition for the Redmi 5A is Xiaomi’s own Redmi 4. Coming in at ₹6,999, the Redmi 4 has a fingerprint sensor, and is powered by a Snapdragon 435. Then there’s the Redmi 5, which is set to go on sale in China from later this month. If you’re in need of a phone right away, then the ₹4,999 Redmi 5A is a great option. But if you can wait a few months, the Redmi 5 promises to be a worthy upgrade with its 18:9 panel.

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Synaptics announces world’s first in-display fingerprint sensor, launching with a ‘top 5’ smartphone OEM

Bezels are about to get smaller, and buttons are about to start going away.

One of the leading biometrics technology companies, Synaptics, has announced a big breakthrough in phone authentication: in-display fingerprint sensors. The new “Clear ID FS9500” (catchy name) fingerprint sensor is designed for smartphones with near-bezel-free displays, and provides fingerprint authentication on demand completely within the display panel itself.


The Clear ID FS9500 sensor offers the same type of one-touch authentication we know today, but does it underneath the display glass — and it can handle a variety of situations including wet, dry and cold fingers. As you’d expect, it integrates a complete security stack with AES encryption and a variety of authentication features that companies can choose from. Seeing as it otherwise works the same as a dedicated hardware sensor, one of the great features of this in-display solution is that it can be turned on and off at will, meaning that unlike traditional sensors it doesn’t occupy any space on the body of the phone when not needed.


We’ve seen technical demonstrations of this type of technology, but Synaptics is making this announcement because it says that it is already in mass production in partnership with a “top five” smartphone company. That already narrows things down a bit, but Synaptics has a couple other hints that seem too good to be a coincidence. In its press release, the company specifically calls out the demand for “bezel-free OLED infinity displays,” which is interestingly the exact type of naming Samsung has applied to its curved displays in the flagship Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8.

This in-screen fingerprint sensor technology could certainly end up in all sorts of phones in 2018, but given the hints here we wouldn’t be surprised if the Samsung Galaxy S9 was one of the first. Following the relative debacle of the Galaxy S8’s rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and promises of upgraded iris scanning on the GS9, we could see the removal of the dedicated physical fingerprint sensor on the new phone.

In any case, we know a big-name manufacturer will have this Synaptics technology integrated into a phone soon. And that looks like it’ll be a win for everyone.

Press release:

Synaptics Brings World’s First In-Display Fingerprint Sensors for Smartphones to Mass Production with a Top Five OEM

Clear ID Optical Sensors are Faster, More Convenient and Secure than Alternative Biometrics SAN JOSE, Calif. – December 12, 2017 – Synaptics Incorporated (NASDAQ: SYNA), the leading developer of human interface solutions, today announced mass production with a top five OEM of its new Clear ID™ FS9500 family of optical in-display fingerprint sensors. Designed for smartphones with infinity displays, Synaptics’ Clear ID in-display fingerprint sensors magically activate in the display only when needed. Clear ID is faster than alternative biometrics such as 3D facial, highly-secure with SentryPoint™ technology, and very convenient with one-touch/one-step biometric authentication directly in the touchscreen display area of smartphones.

The new Synaptics Clear ID optical fingerprint sensors deliver one-touch high-resolution scanning through full cover glass and enable sleek, button-free, bezel-free infinity displays. Synaptics’ highperformance Clear ID FS9500 optical solution excels with wet, dry and cold fingers, and since it’s protected by glass, is durable, scratchproof and waterproof. In-display fingerprint technology allows users to securely unlock the device in situations including while it’s sitting on the table, at any angle, or while in a car mount. Synaptics’ Clear ID performance is twice as fast as 3D facial recognition and requires only one touch to access your smartphone.

Serious Security:

Synaptics optical fingerprint sensors are available with SentryPoint™ technology, offering OEMs a widerange of unique and highly secure authentication features including: Quantum Matcher™ for adaptive fingerprint template matching and authentication; PurePrint™ anti-spoof technology to examine fingerprint images using unique artificial intelligence technology to distinguish between spoofs and actual fingers; and SecureLink™ which combines support for TLS protocol with ECC authentication and AES encryption.

“Consumers prefer fingerprint authentication on the front of the phone, and with the industry quickly shifting to bezel-free OLED infinity displays, the natural placement of the fingerprint sensor is in the display itself,” said Kevin Barber, senior vice president and general manager, Mobile Division, Synaptics. “Synaptics’ Clear ID fingerprint sensors are faster, more convenient, and more secure than alternative biometrics, and this optical technology represents a major innovation shift and opportunity for the smartphone market.”

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