Feb 11

Western Australia Tests Self-Driving Electric Bus

Perth will become the first city in Australia to test self-driving electric bus.

Dean Nalder, West Australia’s Transport Minister, announced that the trial for the driverless bus will start at the Royal Automobile Club’s driving center, but the bus will make its way to Perth’s roads sometime in 2016. The test will involve a single electric shuttle bus, which will be equipped with “multi-sensor technology.”

The electric bus is built by a French transport company called Navya SAS. The bus uses semi-autonomous radar and camera-based technologies already found in many autonomous cars. It will be completely unmanned and rely on 3D perception for mapping its nearby environment, identify road obstacles and understand traffic signs.

The bus will be able to carry 15 passengers at a time. It can travel at a maximum speed of 45 kph (28 mph), but it will drive at an average speed of 25 kph (16 mph).

“By giving Western Australians the chance to see the technology, to eventually use and experience it, we are learning more about the technology and working towards WA being ready for driverless vehicles,” says Terry Agnew, CEO of RAC. “Increasing levels of automation in vehicles are an inevitable part of the future, and the notion of them being on our roads is not a question of if, but when.”

Agnew added that that the test run is one of a kind in Australia and the trial will establish when the technology can be widely adopted in public spaces in the near term.

Nalder says that the Department of Transport is working closely with the RAC for ensuring compliance with vehicle and road safety standards.

“It is not a matter of if this technology will come to WA, but when it will, and that time is fast approaching,” says Nalder.

 The transport minister says that it is important that West Australians are aware of the novel technology because the trial is a step towards achieving its goals of providing the best integrated and intelligent transport services and solutions for the state.

The increasing level of air pollution adds to global warming, that is why government agencies as well as environmentalists are working hard to find ways to reduce emission of harmful gases. The trial of the fully-electric bus in Perth highlights Western Australia’s contribution to this cause.

The self-driving bus test in Perth may encourage other states in Australia to develop and try the latest technology, which will help the country as a whole to limit emissions.

Feb 11

Apple TV expanding voice controls

The latest beta version of Apple TV’s upcoming software also includes support for Bluetooth keyboards and the ability to organize your apps into individual folders.

You’ll soon be able to dictate text to your Apple TV streaming-media box.

The third beta version of Apple TV operating system tvOS 9.2, launched Monday for third-party developers, includes voice dictation. Blog site MacRumors, which has seen the beta in action, reported that instead of needing to use a remote control to enter each character for your username, password and other words, you can simply speak them.

You just enable the dictation feature, and the search bar gives you the option to dictate text by holding down the button for digital assistant Siri. As you speak, a sound meter appears on the screen so you can make sure your dictation is being heard, MacRumors said.

You can already talk to your Apple TV using the Siri, which was added when the latest Apple TV launched in September. But right now you can only use Siri for certain functions, such as asking for a weather report or sports score, opening specific apps, or finding TV shows and movies on Netflix or Hulu. Voice dictation extends Siri’s utility on Apple TV.

Changes to Apple TV come amid upheaval in the way we consume television. Viewers now have lots of options beyond basic cable, a dramatic shift that centers on streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go. As this has happened on the programming side, the traditional set-top box has been giving way to Internet-ready devices from the likes of Roku, Amazon, Google and Apple.

Besides voice dictation, other new features are part of the beta as well. You can connect to the Apple TV through a Bluetooth keyboard. You can search the App Store using Siri. And you can organize your apps into individual folders just as you can on an iPhone or iPad.

The beta adds support for iCloud Photo Library, so you can view synced photos and videos. You can also check out Live Photos shot with your iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus, which can show you moments just before and after the photo was taken, both with video and sound.

Apple TV users are likely to get the public release of tvOS 9.2 sometime in the spring. Apple is reportedly prepping a March 15 event at which it may demo the new Apple TV software as well as updates to its iOS software and the Mac operating system. Rumors allege that the company may also unveil a new iPad Air, as well as a small-screened iPhone 5se and new bands for the Apple Watch.

Jan 01

Samsung’s working on a chip that may finally make fitness trackers useful

Next up on the Korean electronics giant’s plate: A bio-processor that can detect useful health details like body fat and stress level.

Fitness trackers are a hot holiday item, and there’s a chance you got one as a gift this year.

But how long will you actually stick with the device? Most only track simple stats like the number of steps taken and calories burned. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch can keep tabs on your heart rate. I stuck with my Nike FuelBand (R.I.P.) for two years, but at some point even I decided it wasn’t really that useful anymore. (My wife had given up a year earlier.) For more dedicated athletes, a fitness tracker may not be enough.

Samsung, the Korean electronics conglomerate, wants to take it up a notch. The company said Tuesday that it’s working on a so-called “bio-processor” packed with sophisticated measuring tools that can track metrics like body fat, stress level, skeletal muscle mass, heart rate and rhythm, and skin temperature.

The additional capabilities could turn fitness trackers from a simple gift into a more integral health-tracking device that can provide specific data useful to more than just athletes. Samsung is looking to capitalize on our increasing obsession with health and well-being.

That obsession is borne out in the products that dominate the burgeoning market of wearable tech. The top player is fitness tracker Fitbit, followed by the Apple Watch and China’s Xiaomi, a smartphone player that also makes an inexpensive fitness tracker called the Mi Band. Total shipments of wearable devices grew 198 percent in the third quarter over a year ago, according to IDC.

This chip may give Samsung’s own smartwatches an edge over the competition. The company fell out of the top five players in the third quarter, according to IDC.

It won’t just be smartwatches. Samsung said it has created mock devices, including a wristband and patch, to demonstrate how the chip could be used. The company stresses the small size of the chip, especially given all of the sensors packed inside, as a key advantage.

Samsung said the chip is in production now and will be available for fitness and health devices in the first half of 2016.

Nov 25

A Guide To Web Hosting For The Beginner

What exactly is web hosting? What features will you need from a web host? Questions like these often overwhelm would-be web publishers that are just starting out. But we are here to help. After reading this article you will not know everything there is to know about web hosting, but you will understand enough to get you started.

To start off with – what is web hosting? A web host is a company that manage computers that are part of the Internet, and web hosting is leasing disk space on those computers to store the files that make up your website. This means that there is a computer in a data center on which your files are stored, and the computer will present the web pages of your website to visitors. It should be clear to you that if you want to have a website, you will need web hosting.

What are the most important features to look for in a web host? Different web hosting companies offer different sets of features, and usually at various price points. Two of the most important things for you to look at is the amount of disk space you get and the amount of bandwidth they offer you. The more disk space you have the larger you can make your website. Some web hosts will even let you host more than one website on a single web hosting account, and in this case the amount of disk space will play a large role. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that is transferred to and from your website. You want to make sure you have enough bandwidth to display your website to all the visitors you expect to get. Sometime a web hosting company will offer unlimited bandwidth, but read the fine print carefully because there is usually a catch, often the terms of service restricts the kind of data you transfer. For example you may not be allowed to use audio or video on your website.

Other features to look for in a web hosting account include: is the web host Windows, Unix or Linux based, script compatibility, the number and type of databases, the type of control panel and number and type of email accounts. The operating system of the server will determine what software you can use on your website. The software programs you use on your website is often referred to as scripts. Not all web hosts are compatible to all scripting languages, like Perl, PHP and others. The scripts you want to use on your website often needs a database to manage the operation of the script, so you will need a compatible database. You will usually be able to create one or more email addresses using your own domain name.

Before choosing a web hosting company, decide what you want to accomplish with your website and choose a company that offers you the features and options you need.

Nov 06

Chrome OS Is Dead, Long Live Chrome OS?

Google is two years into a plan to consolidate the Chrome operating system — which it uses as the platform for a series of stripped down, low-cost computers — and the Android mobile OS, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Google officials quickly pushed back against the WSJ report, which claims that the company, now a subsidiary of the newly formed Alphabet conglomerate, plans to roll out a combined OS in 2017.

Chromebooks running the Chrome OS — Acer’s C910 is pictured above — have gained adoption as entry-level computers for students and as a low-cost option for a growing number of corporate customers.

Shortly after the WSJ report appeared, Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president at Google, tweeted a response:

“Chrome OS isn’t being killed,” a source familiar with the company’s strategy told TechWorldNews. “It has awesome momentum and we’re still pursuing Chromebook partnerships, for example, and doing better than ever in U.S. schools.”

Worldwide Chromebook shipments will reach 7.3 million units in 2015, Gartner predicted earlier this year. Educational institutions accounted for 72 percent of the market for the low-cost systems in 2014.

The Journal story comes just a month after Google announced plans for the Pixel C, a powerful 10.2 inch tablet that comes with a keyboard and is priced like a laptop. Although the company’s Pixel Chromebook team developed the device, it runs on the Android platform.

A Likely Story

Google previously has signaled plans to merge the two operating systems at some point, so the latest report may be an accurate reflection of the company’s long-term plans.

“The Chrome OS is not likely being abandoned, but probably more focused where it has been successful — like education,” said David Mitchell Smith, a vice president at Gartner.

However, “if they are going to have an integrated offering, it makes much more sense to add Chrome OS functionality to Android than vice versa,” he told TechNewsWorld.

On the other hand, with Google apparently making significant inroads with the low-cost Chromebook, any indications that the company intends to abandon the category could result in a major setback with potential customers.

“I think Google is pushing back because they’re getting some traction with Chromebooks and they don’t want to jeopardize that,” said Tom Mainelli, IDC program vice president for devices and displays.

The Chromebook has established a niche in the U.S. kindergarten through 12th grade market, Mainelli said, but there are more than a few companies looking at Chromeooks as an option as well.

“The major appeal is that they’re easy to deploy, manage and secure,” he told TechNewsWorld. “IT tends not to think of Android as particularly good at any of those three traits.”

A merger of the two operating systems would represent a major change for users of the systems, which is contrary to the needs and desires of the Chromebook customer base, Mainelli pointed out.

“They want a stable OS, not something that’s going to — potentially — dramatically change in the next 12-24 months,” he said.

Security Flaws

The concerns about the reported plan reflect the fact that from a security perspective, Android has a reputation as a more vulnerable operating system, observed Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“The security issue is that Chrome operating system is a lightweight OS with the security of the Chrome browser. without the exploits possible with a full OS that supports apps,” he told TechNewsWorld. “While Google said it’s not killing Chrome OS, the merger of the teams will push the two OSes closer together. “The more code-sharing the two OSes use, the more likely a security hole gets into Chrome OS.”

The report of a full blown merger of the two operating systems overstates the facts on the ground, suggested Kevin O’Brien, chief executive at GreatHorn.

Various other operating systems also are vulnerable to attacks, he told TechNewsWorld.

What’s more likely, O’Brien said, is that “they are sharing more technology on a system level.”