Microsoft confirms Project Astoria is officially dead

After months of speculation, Microsoft has confirmed that the Project Astoria bridge is dead.

At Build last year, Microsoft had announced four bridges: Project Islandwood, which would allow developers to port their Objective-C code from iOS apps to UWP (universal Windows platform) apps, Project Centennial, which would allow developers to port Win32 apps, Project Westminster, which would allow developers to port web apps, and Project Astoria, which would allow developers to portAndroid apps.

Then something odd happened. When Microsoft released Windows 10 Mobile build 10549, it was missing the Android subsystem that was in previous builds. The forums had gone silent. Project Astoria was presumed dead.

Microsoft continued to promote the iOS bridge, Project Islandwood, with no word on Astoria. While both bridges achieve similar means, they work in completely different ways.

With Project Islandwood, the developer can port his existing Objective-C code and with some possible modifications, compile it as a UWP app. With Astoria, the developer could simply package his Android APK (a compiled Android app) as a UWP app.

When the Android subsystem showed up on Windows 10 Mobile, users soon realized that they could download an APK and easily install it on their Windows phone (assuming that they had a supported device).

Here’s Microsoft’s official statement:

We also announced the Windows Bridge for Android (project “Astoria”) at Build last year, and some of you have asked about its status. We received a lot of feedback that having two Bridge technologies to bring code from mobile operating systems to Windows was unnecessary, and the choice between them could be confusing. We have carefully considered this feedback and decided that we would focus our efforts on the Windows Bridge for iOS and make it the single Bridge option for bringing mobile code to all Windows 10 devices, including Xbox and PCs. For those developers who spent time investigating the Android Bridge, we strongly encourage you to take a look at the iOS Bridge and Xamarin as great solutions.

As we learned yesterday, Microsoft did purchase Xamarin for an undisclosed amount. Xamarin allows developers to create a single common code base in C# and create an Android, iOS, and Windows app.

As Microsoft stated in their blog post, the other three bridges – Islandwood, Westminster, and Centennial – are still alive and well. Microsoft also noted that while their original focus for Islandwood was on APIs for game developers, they will now be focusing on APIs for all applications.

Source: Neowin

Google Fiber Heads To San Francisco


Google’s gigabit internet service is slowly being expanded to more cities across the country. Google Fiber’s next destination is a bit closer to home. The company announced today that Google Fiber is coming to “a portion” of San Francisco, the service will initially be provided only to condos, apartments and affordable housing units.

Google hasn’t confirmed yet where and when the service will be available in San Francisco and it hints that we might have to wait for a considerable amount of time before we find out these details.

In other cities the company sets up a dedicated network for Google Fiber but it’s not going to do that in San Francisco. It’s going to use the existing fiber networks in the city to provide its gigabit internet service. This is obviously going to limit the areas in San Francisco where Google will be able to provide the service.

Given that the networks are already in place this will allow Google to rollout the service quickly. It’s a shift from Google’s earlier strategy of building fiber-optic networks from scratch. It’s doing the same in Hunstville, Alabama where Google Fiber will be launched using the city’s municipal network.

Comcast and AT&T have already announced their plans to launch gigabit internet in San Francisco so it’s not like Google Fiber won’t have any competition when it launches. Pricing for the service will be confirmed closer to launch.


Source: Ubergizmo

Verizon 5G Network Enters Testing

Many of us might be content with 4G LTE for now but 5G is the next frontier that companies in this business want to conquer. Samsung and Verizon have announced at Mobile World Congress 2016 that they have started testing multi-gigabit 5G cellular access in “real-world” conditions around Verizon’s headquarters. The tests are also being carried out in moving vehicles and indoors.

Companies like Verizon and Samsung are pushing for a common spec for 5G testing. Big Red has co-founded the 5G Open Trial Specification Alliance for precisely this purpose, hoping to run more tests between now and 2018.

The tests are being run in a controlled environment as the equipment is located close to a base station so it’s not really representative of the experience you and I can expect when this technology finally goes public.

Nevertheless, the tests show that there’s enough bandwidth on the 5G network to stream 4K video, even virtual reality video which requires 17 simultaneous feeds, effortlessly.

Verizon isn’t the only carrier in the country that’s looking to get the first-mover advantage with 5G. AT&T is planning to conduct tests in Austin later this year but for now Verizon can boast that it started testing 5G earlier than AT&T. Big Red expects to offer commerical 5G service by 2017.

HSBC To Introduce Voice-Recognition Phone Banking

Given that banks deal with people’s money, obviously they are trying their best to come up with all kinds of ways to secure the accounts of their customers. Some banks have turned to giving out dongles that generate one-time use codes, while some like Barclays have rolled out biometric security that requires fingerprints.

 Now the good news is that if you are a HSBC customer in the UK, you will be pleased to learn that the bank will be stepping up their security game by rolling out biometric security to more than 15 million of its customers. This includes fingerprint scanning technology, along with voice recognition technology courtesy of Nuance.

If you’re wondering why does this sound so familiar, it is because HSBC won’t be the first bank to use such technology. Earlier last year we reported that a bank in the Netherlandsrolled out a similar security feature. Dubbed Voice ID, this security feature from HSBC will be able to recognize your voice to identify you as the customer.

This is thanks to Nuance’s technology that can pick up over 100 unique identifiers in your voice, along with the ability to recognize things like speed, cadence, pronunciation, and more. The bank expects to roll out Voice ID signups to customers in the coming weeks, so if you’re interested you should probably keep an eye out for it.

Watersprint To Purify Water With Some Solar Help

There are many different kinds of water purifiers that we know of in the market, and this is because everyone has become very health conscious. The thing is, how about those who live in underdeveloped areas and do not have access to clean water even? This is where the new solar-powered water purification system developed by environmental company Watersprint comes in handy, and you can be sure that the Watersprint is very capable, since the UN has selected this particular model to distribute to various communities in Bangladesh.

 The Watersprint is the brainchild of Kenneth M. Persson and engineer Ola Hansson from Lund University in Sweden, where the Micro Production Centre (MPC) has the unenviable task of disinfecting and purifying water using UV-LED technology, while coupling that with intelligent software and WiFi connectivity in order to monitor the device.

It is extremely energy efficient, being able to be powered by a solitary solar panel, ensuring it remains lightweight and portable. The solar panel itself will juice up a battery for back-up energy purposes, letting it function even when it is night.

So far, the UN has placed an order of 500 Watersprint units to make their way to Bangladesh, and this is but a step in the right direction. The Watersprint can even send alerts out should it run into a malfunction thanks to text messages to the handset of the person handling said machine, and the embedded LED lights are an indicator of whether there is a problem or not should WiFi be unavailable.


Source: Ubergizmo

Software Reads The Emotions Of CEOs To Determine Performance

CEOs are expected to display a certain level of confidence in the company when out in public, regardless of whether or not the company is doing well. This is because they want to reassure investors that things are going fine. This is also why financial reports and the written statements of CEOs to investors are all also very carefully worded.

However what if you could tell how well a company will or will not do based on the faces of the CEO? Turns out that this is something that James Cicon, a finance professor at the University of Central Missouri wants to explore. He has created a piece of softwarethat can apparently scan and read the faces of Fortune 500 executives to pick up cues on how well the company is expected to perform.

Interestingly enough it seems that there is some kind of correlation between negative emotions and how well a company is doing. In his study, he discovered that expressions like disgust were associated with a 9.3% boost in overall profits, while CEOs who expressed fear saw stock prices rise by 0.4% in the following week.

According to the paper which was co-authored by Steve Ferris of the University of Central Missouri, Ali Akansu, and Yanjian Sun of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, “Fear is widely recognized as a powerful motivator. Thus it is not surprising to find that a CEO who appears fearful under interrogation is perceived by the market as a CEO who will work harder to increase firm value.”

Of course this is just the beginnings of what sounds like rather interesting research. However the issue at hand is accuracy. In fact Dr. Paul Ekman, the psychologist who catalogued over 5,000 micro-expressions has stated that his system is 90% accurate, let alone a piece of software that is based off his work.


Source: Ubergizmo

Five Dimensional (5D) storage medium could replace Blu-ray and outlast mankind

Scientists at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have taken a major step forward in the development of a digital data storage medium – called five dimensional (5D) – that could one day replace Blu-ray discs. The researchers have now improved the means of recording and retrieving information from the storage medium.

5D has groundbreaking properties, it can store up to 360 terabytes per disc, it’ll remain stable in temperatures of up to 1,000°C, and has a “virtually” unlimited lifetime at room temperature. The researchers claim that at 160°C, the storage would remain uncorrupted for 13.8 billion years. Blu-ray discs, for comparison, can store 23.5 GB (single layer) worth of data and lasts about 7 years, according to the researchers.

Back in 2013, the team managed to write a 300 kb text file to 5D, now they say they’ve managed to store significant documents on the device including: the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), Newton’s Opticks, Magna Carta, and the King James Bible. The researchers say that they “could survive the human race” on 5D storage. The announcement mentions that a copy of the UDHR encoded to 5D had been presented to UNESCO – the UN’s educational, scientific, and cultural organisation – at the International Year of Light closing ceremony in Mexico.

Their latest paper – 5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Writing in Glass – will be presented by the researchers at an international society for optical engineering conference on Wednesday, hosted by SPIE. The team says they are now looking for industry partners to further develop and commercialise the technology.

The leader of the team – Jingyu Zhang – said that the final 5D storage unit will look like a normal CD but will be made from glass and that a laser scanning device, similar to those used to read CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays will be made which can read 5D discs.


Source: Neowin

Women coders do better than men in gender-blind study

Gender bias prevents female coders from being judged solely on their work. Their work might be great, but the fact that they’re women makes it less desirable.

That’s according to a new study published this week that looks at how gender bias plays out in software development.

A hot topic to be sure given that just 20% of software developers are women — and that tech firms have increasingly promised to do better when it comes to inclusion efforts.

The study, conducted by a team of six computer science researchers, looks at 3 million suggested code contributions (called “pull requests”) on GitHub.

GitHub is a popular open-source software platform used by 12 million developers to collaborate, critique, and ask questions about coding projects.

“We hypothesized that pull requests made by women are less likely to be accepted than those made by men,” wrote the team of researchers which consisted of students and assistant professors at North Carolina State University and Cal Polytech State University, California.

Related: Biased job ads: This startup has a fix

They were surprised to discover that they were wrong: They found that code from women is accepted at a higher rate, 78.6%. For men, it’s 74.6%.

That only holds true, though, when profiles of users are stripped of their gender. The finding shows that when female coders can be identified as women, their acceptance rate plummets and their contributions are accepted at a lower rate than men.

While GitHub doesn’t require gender information, some users have profile pictures from which genders can be gleaned. In order to study the impact of gender on the acceptance of GitHub contributions, researchers tried to manually identify the gender of each user. Contributors whose genders couldn’t be determined were eliminated from the study.

Related: Girls Who Code to give $1 million to underprivileged girls

“There’s a strong belief among developers in open source that the process is a pure meritocracy,” said one of the study’s coauthors, Emerson Murphy-Hill, an associate professor at North Carolina State University. “This research casts doubt on that belief.”

That doubt is important: “So if women aren’t making software, the end software may be somewhat exclusionary,” he added. “So the software industry (and, in the end, the public) is missing an opportunity when women are excluded, whatever the reason for that exclusion.”

The researchers also looked at multiple factors to understand why female coders might have a higher acceptance rate than men (when stripped of their gender).

Do their contributions tend to be smaller changes? Do they tend to be time-related? Are there certain types of code that women are better at? No, no, and no, according to their findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed.

“We observe that women’s acceptance rates dominate over men’s for every programming language in the top ten,” wrote the authors.


Source: CNN

Scientists Create Thinner, Stronger Condoms With Grass Ingredient

Condoms are available in varying thicknesses, although despite how thin some brands are, there are still some who complain that the sensation isn’t quite the same. However since condoms are used to help prevent pregnancies and from passing/contracting STDs, it would be irresponsible not to wear one.

That being said, scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia might have come up with a condom that is not only thinner, but also stronger than regular condoms in today’s market, and this is thanks to the use of grass. No, we’re not talking about condoms made from blades of grass woven together, but rather it is the use of a native grass as an ingredient.

The condoms are made from latex but the scientists have added nanocellulose obtained from a native grass. The end result is that they’re stronger than regular latex condoms, and are also very thin, about the same diameter as a human hair. Not only will this condom be more secure also potentially more pleasurable, the reduction in materials could also mean that it will be more affordable.

According to the University of Queensland’s Professor Darren Martin, “With a little more refinement, we think we can engineer a latex condom that’s about 30 per cent thinner, and will still pass all standards, and with more process optimization work we will be able to make devices even thinner than this. Late last year we were able to get down to about 45 microns on our very first commercial dipping run, which is around the width of the hair on your head.”



Researchers Hit Blistering 1.125 Tbps Data Speed

The fastest data transmission rate ever for digital information between a single transmitter and receiver has been achieved by a team of researchers. They were able to send data optically at a blistering data speed of 1.125 terbits per second. That’s most certainly faster than the connection you have at home.

The researchers are based at the University College London and they used multiple signal processing techniques to achieve this ridiculous speed. Dr Robert Maher, the lead researcher, pointed out that this speed is 50,000 times greater than the average speed of a UK broadband connection which is 24 megabits per second.

To further give us all an idea of just how fast this data transmission speed is, Maher said that this data rate will allow the entire Game of Thrones series in HD to be downloaded within one second. That’s mindblowing.

Researchers put together a setup that uses fifteen different channels to transmit the data, each channel has an optical signal of a different wavelength. All channels are separately modulated and then combined into a single signal and that’s what the researchers call the “super channel.”

The entire research study is going to be published in the Scientific Reports journal. Obviously it’s going to be a while since such blistering transmission speeds are available to average folk like you and me. Until then we can only dream about downloading the entire Game of Thrones series in HD in just one second.