Google Will Bring Internet To Cuba

google-sign-new

Relations between the United States and Cuba are gradually improving and the island nation has a long way to go before it can catch up with the technological advancements that have been made in the past few decades. Anybody who has been to Cuba will tell you that getting online is a big hassle there. With trade restrictions being eased andAmerican companies finally being allowed to offer services in Cuba, Google will be one of the first U.S. based companies working in Cuba to open it up to the internet.

President Obama is on a historic visit to the island nation, the first by a U.S. president in several decades. “One of the things that we’ll be announcing here is that Google has a deal to start setting up more WiFi and broadband access on the island,” he said in an interview with ABC News.

It was only last year that Cuba launched its first public Wi-Fi hotspots, however, the $4.50 per hour fee is expensive for most residents. Speeds are poor and the Wi-Fi hotspots are few and far between. There’s a significant room for improvement there and Google can play a major role in bringing Cubans online.

It’s unclear as yet what service Google will be providing in the country and when it will be launched, the company hasn’t commented on that yet, it could supposedly provide a cheaper way for people to access the internet given its experience with setting up infrastructure.

LG To Start Making Flexible OLED Light Panels

lg flexible oledLG makes many different products. The company makes white goods like fridges, washing machines, microwave ovens, and etc. They also make televisions, smartphones, and they also make components like display panels which they then supply to other OEMs. That being said, it looks like LG Display could be interested in making their foray into the lighting market.

The company has announced their plans to build the world’s first 5th generation OLED light panel plant, but what does this mean? Basically from LG’s press release, it sounds like the company wants to start creating light panels which can then be used in high-end commercial stores, after which they could then venture into supplying light panels for the home.

According to LG, “The company will firstly focus on task lighting and decorative lighting in high-end retail stores and in luxury hospitality; and expand to the general lighting market going forward. Also, the company will focus on automotive and convergence applications such as OLED light panels merged with furniture, architectural materials, electronic devices and more.”

It will be interesting to see what LG can come up with, and whether or not they might consider creating connected lights, like what Philips has done with their Hue series of smart lightbulbs. Production is expected to begin early 2017.

Windows 10 Installing Itself Without Permission For Some Users

While Windows 10 is considered to be a much improved version of the Windows operating system compared to Windows 8/8.1, there are some users who might be hesitant to update as they might be worried about app compatibility, having to learn a new user interface, and etc. Some might just be too comfortable to bother upgrading.

Now in the past we have seen how Microsoft has aggressively pushed the update to users, but recently there have been user reports in which there are some who have woken up and rudely discovered that their computers have updated themselves to Windows 10 without their permission.

Prior to this, Microsoft had reassured users that even though the update might download in the background, users will still need to give the greenlight before the actual update happens. “Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue.”

Now we can’t say for sure what kind of settings these users had, but we’re sure that regardless of their settings, these users would have preferred a heads up all the same. Microsoft has yet to respond to these complaints, but in the meantime if you’re looking to avoid a similar situation on your computer, head on over to this Reddit thread where there are several posts on how to prevent your computer from auto updating.

President Obama Speaks Up On Encryption Debate

Encryption is currently a very hot topic, what with Apple trying to fend off the FBI and the courts from ordering them to unlock an iPhone belonging to a terrorist. The basic idea is that regardless of whose phone it is, unlocking the device or creating a backdoor will create a dangerous precedent, at least that’s the argument that is being presented.

 Recently at the SXSW festival, President Obama finally addressed the issue to the crowd, but based on what he has said, it certainly sounds like he is definitely not on Apple’s side. According to Obama, he says that right now the public already makes certain concessions when it comes to being searched. “We agree on that because we recognize that just like all of our other rights — with speech and religion, etc. — that there are going to be some constraints that we impose in order to make sure that we are safe, secure and living in a civilized society.”

He also acknowledges that the Snowden reports have probably led many to become suspicious of the government, but he also adds that “there has to be some concession to the need to be able to get into that information somehow.”

He goes on to warn that if this does not get resolved, it could lead to consequences that no one will be happy about. “What you’ll find is that after something really bad happens, the politics of this will swing and it will become sloppy and rushed and it will go through Congress in ways that have not been thought through.”

Google Creates An Offline Voice Recognition System

The problem with pretty much all voice assistant software and voice recognition applications is that they need a connection to a server in order to process your request. Sometimes we have to wonder if this is completely necessary, especially when there are certain requests that are small and simple enough where a connection isn’t really required.

Turns out Google has been exploring a similar idea as well, and the company has recently developed an offline voice recognition system (via 9to5Google) that is small and lightweight enough where it can be run on a 3-year old Nexus 5 handset, and weighs in about 20.3MB. To top things off, this system is said to be 7x faster than current systems and only has a 13.5% word error rate.

How did Google achieve this? By sampling 3 million anonymous voices taken from Google search. The voices were then further distorted into 20 different variations by extracting noise from YouTube, thus allowing the system to recognize different voices even better. Google also relied on a single model for the dictation and voice commands.

Now to be fair, Google Now does come with some offline commands albeit limited. With this system, Google will be able to help speed things up which we reckon would be good for markets with limited internet capabilities, or just in terms of overall efficiency. Google also notes in their paper that this system could be used beyond phones, and that it could find its way into wearables as well. Whether or not Google has plans to launch such a system remains to be seen, but we wouldn’t mind seeing it make its way onto Android.

Snowden Says FBI’s Argument Against Apple Is ‘BS’

prism-leak-source-edward-snowden

The FBI wants Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, it even obtained a court order, but Apple is contesting that as it refuses to comply. Apple doesn’t want to set a precedent where governments can come in and demand the company to provide access to users’ devices and it also believes that doing so goes against its promise of keeping its devices protected from snooping. FBI says that only Apple has the “exclusive technical means” to unlock that iPhone but Edward Snowden is calling “BS” on that claim.

In case you’re unaware, Edward Snowden is a former CIA contractor who blew the whistle on US-government led electronic spying programs that span the entire globe. The documents he leaked showed just how massive the spying operation is.

Speaking at Common Cause’s Blueprint for Democracy conference via video link, Snowden said that the FBI’s claim of only Apple having exclusive technical means to unlock the iPhone is BS. He later tweeted a link to a post on the American Civil Liberties Union website to provide “one example” of how the FBI could have bypassed the iPhone’s auto-erase function on its own.

The FBI is essentially demanding Apple write software that will undermine the very protections it has placed inside iOS. Whether or not it can do that is a different matter, Apple is not even willing to entertain that thought as it doesn’t such a precedent to be set where governments can ask it to breach a user’s phone.

There’s support for both parties, some believe that Apple’s stance is right and that it shouldn’t be forced to open that iPhone while others say that tech companies should comply particularly when acts of terror have been committed. It’s not as simple as that, though, and the debate isn’t an easy one. There doesn’t appear to be an end in sight as both Apple and FBI are refusing to back down as of now.

NEC Creates Earbuds That Can Verify Your Identity

nec-earbuds-authentication

Fingerprint scanners are commonly used on mobile devices to verify the user’s identity but NEC has come up with a unique way to do that. The company has developed new technology that enables earbuds to verify your identity. The sound-capturing earbuds verify identity by looking at the way sound resonates in the ear canal. Since ear shape is unique to all of us, so are the acoustics, which is what the earbuds capture when trying to determine who you really are.

NEC claims that this technology works with 99 percent accuracy and that it merely needs seconds to take all of the measurements and determine whether or not the authorized user is trying to gain access.

This is quite different from existing solutions like fingerprint sensors that require scanning of the finger every time you need to get access, so you manually have to take out the device and place your finger on the sensor.

It becomes easier with these earbuds as they allow for continuous authentication even when your hands are busy as the earbuds play out a sound and look at the acoustics to determine if you’re indeed the authorized user.

NEC says that it’s going to commercialize this technology in the 2018 fiscal year. The technology might come to smartphones at some point as NEC also sees a use for this technology in ensuring the security of critical infrastructure and for continuously verifying identity during confidential calls. The technology can also be used in scenarios where navigations or voice direction is only meant for one particular user.

Google Wants To Bring Its Internet Balloons To India

google-loon-inside

Google has been working on a very interesting concept for the past couple of years to bring internet connectivity to the most remote regions on this planet. Project Loon has come a very long way since Google first talked about it and now the company is looking to expand it further to actually provide internet service to real people. India has many remote regions where internet connectivity isn’t available which is why it wants to team up with a local carrier to bring its internet balloons to India.

Rajan Anandan, a Google VP in India, has told the Economic Times that the company needs to partner up with a local carrier for this purpose. “We can’t do a Loon pilot without partnering with a local telco. We’re talking to a number of them,” he said.

The company has previously run tests with Australia’s Telstra but it was on a small scale with just 20 odd balloons. It’s reportedly looking to launch a full-scale pilot program in India and may partner with a local carrier called BSNL, though the company hasn’t confirmed that yet.

With Project Loon, Google only provides the infrastructure which floats on balloons in the sky, the actual internet service is provided by the partner carrier so it’s a bit different than Facebook’s Free Basics service which has already been banned in India.

Hubble Creates New Cosmic Distance Record

hubble-leda1852

The Hubble Space Telescope is certainly an engineering marvel, and it has not outlived its usefulness just yet. In fact, it looks as though it will be far from retiring at the moment, especially since it has smashed the cosmic distance record yet again by spotting the farthest galaxy to date, which technically speaking, is “travelling back in time” as one peers into what has happened so many, many, many years back.

It is said that the Hubble Space Telescope has calculated the distance to the most far-out galaxy ever measured, which has been given the name GN-z11. GN-z11 existed 400 million years after the Big Bang, and while 400 million years might sound like a really long time, do bear in mind that the Big Bang occurred approximately 13.3 billion years back. In other words, we are really peering back in time here.

Pascal Oesch, an astronomer at Yale University and lead author of the research paper announcing the new measurement, shared, “We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We managed to look back in time to measure the distance to a galaxy when the universe was only 3 percent of its current ag.”

Major Windows 10 Feature Update Expected To Arrive This June

windows-10-surface

Microsoft is expected to launch a major feature upgrade for Windows 10 this June.Codenamed “Redstone,” the update is said to add several new features to the operating system aside from focusing on the convergence of different Windows 10-powered devices like PC, Xbox and smartphones. The new report also mentions that the second major feature update for Windows 10 has been delayed.

The second major feature update, codenamed “Redstone 2,” has reportedly been delayed from fall 2016 to spring 2017. It will include some features that didn’t make the cut in Redstone as well as additional improvements and features.

The first Redstone update is said to “heavily concentrate” on the Universal App Platform by bringing the Windows Store to Xbox One and adding more apps to the Store ported from other platforms. A bigger focus on universal AAA games between Xbox and PC will be seen as well, Microsoft has already set the wheels in motion for that.

Not much is known about what we can expect with Redstone 2. If any of the features expected with Redstone don’t arrive with the first update then it’s likely they’ll come with the second next year. Redstone 2 may also focus heavily on first-party apps.

Obviously, none of this has officially been confirmed by Microsoft as yet. Windows 10 will be due for a major feature update by this summer so it’s quite likely that we might see the company announce such an update in the coming months.