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+ - Andromeda Galaxy Revealed In 1.5 Billion Pixel Image (Video)->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The largest image of the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) has recently been unveiled by NASA. Made up of an astonishing 1.5 billion pixels, a total of 600 high-definition television screens are required to view the entirety of the image. The composite photo is the largest and highest resolution image of the Andromeda galaxy, and was pieced together from over 400 images; a whopping 4.3GB of disk space is needed to house the 69,536 x 22,230 pixel image.

The breathtaking image was released on Jan. 5, showing the closest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. The Andromeda galaxy is situated in the Andromeda constellation, and is some 2.5 million light-years from Earth. The galaxy is also thought to be the largest among those within the Local Group, as well as the most massive.

Representing one of the most impressive results of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury Program (PHAT), the panoramic image was obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. Since Hubble typically looks towards more distant objects, it was capable of espying the Andromeda galaxy in unprecedented detail.

The photo shows around one-third of the Andromeda galaxy’s disk, which spans a total distance of 48,000 light-years. With the image showing more than 100 million stars – many of which are configured in enormous clusters – the Space Telescope Institute described the new observations as being akin to “ photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand.”

The images were collected using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3, with the galactic bulge displayed towards the left of the picture. As we move towards the right of the image, however, we start to see individual lanes of stars in the outer disc."

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+ - China tightens Internet control by blocking VPN services->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "China is clamping down on unrestricted access to the Internet by blocking services that allow users to get around government censorship.

Several foreign-based operators of virtual private network (VPN) services said Friday that access to their services in China had been disrupted as a result of the crackdown and users are facing a harder time getting to some foreign websites.

Virtual private networks work by establishing an encrypted pipe between a computer or smartphone and a server in a foreign country. All communications are sent inside the pipe, effectively shielding Internet traffic from government filters that determine whether a site can be accessed. VPNs are used by Chinese citizens to get to external news sources and by resident foreigners and businesses for day-to-day communications.

StrongVPN, a commercial provider that operates a network of servers around the world, said users in China had recently begun experiencing connection problems to some of its sites. Comments alongside a company blog post indicate the list of sites affected is changing and sites that might work one day are failing the following day.

Another VPN provider, Golden Frog, told customers they might have more success connecting to services in Hong Kong or The Netherlands than those in the United States or Australia.

The problems have been caused by an upgrade to China’s censorship system, reported the English-language Global Times newspaper. The state-run paper quoted unnamed Chinese analysts as urging Internet users to abide by the government’s Internet censorship system “for safety.”"

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+ - Eric Schmidt: 'The Internet Will Disappear'->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "There are plenty of dying markets: DVD rentals, newspaper publishing, appliance repair. And, according to Google's Eric Schmidt, the Internet.
During an appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Google executive chairman argued that, one day, "the Internet will disappear."

But before you envision a connectivity-free future, Schmidt's comments suggest that the Google exec envisions a future where the Internet as we know it will evolve into a system that's just there and always on.

"There will be so many IP addresses so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won't even sense it," he said, as published by The Hollywood Reporter. "It will be part of your presence all the time."

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+ - Google to enter wireless business->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Google is taking a leap into the wireless business, according to reports that say the Internet giant plans to partner with Sprint and T-Mobile to sell mobile phone plans directly to customers.

"It's not surprising. Google has limitless ambitions," said analyst Scott Cleland, president of Precursor, a Virginia-based consulting firm and author of a book that raised concerns about the company's growing influence. "They're going to play Sprint and T-Mobile against each other to get a really low price, so Google can offer a really low price."

Citing unnamed sources, news sites The Information, The Verge and the Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday about Google's plans to run a new wireless service that resells what is provided on Sprint and T-Mobile networks."

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+ - Microsoft reveals Windows 10 will be a free upgrade->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Microsoft just took another big step toward the release of Windows 10 and revealed it will be free for many current Windows users.

The company unveiled the Windows 10 consumer preview on Wednesday, showcasing some of the new features in the latest version of the operating system that powers the vast majority of the world's desktop PCs. The developer preview has been available since Microsoft first announced Windows 10 in the fall, but it was buggy, limited in scope and very light on new features.

Importantly, Windows 10 will be free for existing Windows users running versions of Windows back to Windows 7. That includes Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and Windows Phone. Microsoft specified it would only be free for the first year, indicating Windows would be software that users subscribe to, rather than buy outright.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Operating Systems Group Joe Belfiore showed off some of the new features in Windows 10. While Microsoft had already announced it would bring back the much-missed Start Menu, Belfiore revealed it would also have a full-screen mode that includes more of the Windows 8 Start screen. He said Windows machines would go back and forth between to two menus in a way that wouldn't confuse people.

Belfiore also showed a new notification center for Windows, which puts a user's notifications in an Action Center menu that can appear along the right side, similar to how notifications work in Apple OS X.

Microsoft Executive Vice President of Operating Systems Terry Myerson revealed that 1.7 million people had downloaded the Windows 10 developer preview, giving Microsoft over 800,000 individual piece of feedback.

Myerson explained that Windows 10 has several main intents: the give users a mobility of experience from device to device, instill a sense of trust in users, and provide the most natural ways to interact with devices."

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+ - Google Nears $1 Billion Investment in SpaceX-> 1

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Infusion Would Back Push to Provide Internet Access Via Satellites

Google is close to investing roughly $1 billion in Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to support its nascent efforts to deliver Internet access via satellites, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The investment would value SpaceX, backed by Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk , at more than $10 billion according to this person. It isn’t clear what exact stake Google could end up with in the fast-growing space company.

If Google completes the deal, it would be the Internet company’s latest effort to use futuristic technology to spread Internet access to remote regions of the world, alongside high-altitude balloons and solar-powered drones. By extending Web access, Google increases the number of people who can use its services."

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+ - Hacked news companies tweet Chinese fired on U.S. warship->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The Twitter accounts of the New York Post and United Press International were hacked Friday. Both companies tweeted that a war had broken out between the United States and China.

At 1 p.m. ET, the Twitter accounts of both companies reported that the Chinese military had fired a missile on a U.S. warship, sparking a full-blown battle. They also claimed the U.S. Federal Reserve was to make an emergency announcement about interest rates.

The stock markets were unmoved by the fake news reports.

"Give the hackers this much credit, the George Washington is our permanent Pacific based carrier," tweeted John Noonan, spokesman for House Armed Services committee. "They at least did their homework.""

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+ - Facebook open-sources new AI smarts->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Facebook has released as open source some software modules that can speed image recognition, language modeling and other machine learning tasks, in a move to advance computer artificial intelligence for itself and others,

Such modules could be used by startups or other companies that want to build AI-based products and services, but may not have the “deep engineering” expertise on hand to develop such capabilities in-house, said Soumith Chintala, a Facebook research engineer who works for the Facebook AI Research (FAIR) lab.

Facebook does not yet incorporate AI technologies into its social networking service, Chintala said, though the techniques being developed at FAIR may one day be used to improve customer experience. Given the relative paucity of commercially available AI tools, Facebook is funding FAIR to build basic capabilities in-house, and open sourcing the results so others can use and refine them, he said.

The new modules run on Facebook’s Torch, an open source development framework for building deep learning applications. Google, Twitter, Nvidia, Intel, and Nvidia have used this framework for their projects.

The module that Chintala was most enthusiastic about discussing was one that was written to recognize objects within images. While there are plenty of software libraries that already do this task, this set of code does it much more quickly than other approaches, using techniques Facebook researchers developed along with Nvidia’s cuFFT library (FFT stands for fast Fourier Transform, an algorithm for converting signals).

The module, which was built to run on arrays of GPUs, can be used to build convolutional networks, an emerging type of neural network well-suited for machine vision."

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+ - Elon Musk: I'll build a Hyperloop test track so kids can pod-race->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Futuristic tube transport system to escape the drawing board

Some said SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk was mad when he wanted to build Hyperloop – a high-tech transport system he called "a cross between a Concorde and a rail gun." Yet, he's today vowed to construct it anyway.

The Hyperloop design involves a tube through which passenger pods are boosted to near supersonic speeds by linear electric motors in a partial vacuum. Solar panels on top of the tube will provide more than enough power, according to plans published by Musk in 2013, and a Hyperloop connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles could cost $20 per person to ride, and make the trip in 35 minutes.

At the time Musk said he wasn't going to have time to build the thing himself, since battery-powered Tesla cars and SpaceX rocketry were taking up too much of his time. But it now appears Silicon Valley's answer to Hank Scorpio has decided to go ahead."

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+ - Samsung approaches BlackBerry about buyout->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) recently approached BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY.O) (BB.TO) about buying the company for as much as $7.5 billion, looking to gain access to its patent portfolio, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents seen by Reuters.

South Korea's Samsung proposed an initial price range of $13.35 to $15.49 per share, which represents a premium of 38 percent to 60 percent over BlackBerry's current trading price, the source said.

Executives from the two companies, which are working with advisers, met last week to discuss a potential transaction, the source said, asking not to be identified because the conversations are private.

Shares of Blackberry jumped as much as 30 percent on heavy volume in afternoon trading in New York.

The offer price would imply an enterprise value of $6 billion to $7.5 billion for BlackBerry, assuming conversion of $1.25 billion of convertible debt, according to the documents.

BlackBerry announced a high-profile security partnership with Samsung in November. The partnership will wed BlackBerry's security platform with the South Korean company's own security software for its Galaxy devices."

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+ - Google to test build-it-yourself Ara smartphones in Puerto Rico-> 1

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Google announces a test pilot for its Project Ara smartphone initiative, which allows consumers to mix-and-match parts, kind of like Legos.

When it comes to smartphones, people are used to customizing their applications and software. But for the handset itself, they're stuck with what the hardware maker built.

Google wants to change that.

The company on Wednesday said it will start a market pilot in Puerto Rico to test phones that will let people mix and match hardware parts, such as cameras or screens, and snap them together like Legos.

The pilot will begin later this year, and the company will use the data to plan for a global launch, Google said during a conference at corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

The project, called Ara, is Google's attempt to create phones with interchangeable parts. That means you could choose a camera from one manufacturer, a display from another, and a processor from yet another hardware maker to build the specific phone want. When, say, the processor becomes outdated, you could swap it out for a new one. The promise is that Ara could speed up development and innovation in the separate components that make up a phone, as hardware makers begin to compete for real estate on a handset.

Google makes the frame that will hold all the parts together, as well as the software that makes sure all the parts from different vendors are compatible. Several hardware manufacturers, meanwhile, will make the individual parts.

"Ara started in a very humble way," said Regina Dugan, director of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) unit, which oversees Project Ara. "What would happen if we gave people the tools and freedom to create?""

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+ - Google aims to be your universal translator->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The latest Google Translate uses your phone's camera to read foreign street signs — even when off line.

Google is beaming a bit closer to Star Trek's universal translator with the newest edition of its Translate app.

Rolling out over the next few days for iOS and Android users, the latest version of Google Translate offers two key features — the ability to instantly converse with someone speaking in a different language and the capability to translate street signs and other images into your native language.

Both features have been available in the Android app to some extent. For example, Google Translate for Android has long offered real-time translation of conversations. But Google's goal behind the latest version of the app is to enhance and simplify the features so they work more quickly and fluidly without any lag time.

The latest version of Google Translate aims to change that. To converse with someone speaking in a different language, a user chooses his language and that of the other speaker. He then taps the microphone icon in the app, starts speaking in his native or selected language, and then taps the mic icon again. The app will recognize which of the two languages is being spoken, and then the two speakers can carry on their conversation without having to keep tapping the mic.

In a test of the app's instant translation, The New York Times said it did prove to be a step forward; though, it's not science fiction just yet. The app fared best with short sentences that didn't include jargon, and it worked better when the users paused between each translation.

Google also has beefed up the app's ability to translate street signs. Previously, you'd have to take a photo of the foreign text to get a translation of it. Now, you simply point your camera at the sign and the translated text appears overlaid on your screen — even if you're not connected to the Internet. This feature is made possible courtesy of Quest Visual's Word Lens app for iOS and Android, which Google acquired when it purchased the company last May.

This feature supports English translated to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Google says it's working to add more languages."

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Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Uber is set to begin providing cities with its transit data, according to a blog post from the company released earlier today. Boston will be the first city to get Uber’s data, which is anonymized trip-level data by ZIP Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) – the U.S. Census’ geographical representation of zip codes.

This isn’t the first time Uber has shared its data, but it is the first time it is doing so as part of a broader effort to work with municipal governments where it operates. Notably, despite the flowery and positive language surrounding the program in the company’s blog post, Uber is currently in a fight with New York City over sharing the exact same data. In fact, New York suspended nearly all of Uber’s bases last week and is demanding data be turned over. Uber is also the only car service in New York that opposes proposed measure to require this kind of transit data from car services.

No details were provided in the blog post on the specifics of the deal between Uber and Boston, which could explain its opposition in NYC, if the company plans to make money from data sharing. We have reached out to the city to find out what, if anything the deal will cost local taxpayers.

Boston recently voted to recognize Uber’s services, but the company has had a contentious relationship with most local regulators where it operates. That relationship is poised to get worse before it gets better, with a handful of municipalities currently considering regulatory reactions to the service. Popular outrage over Uber’s practice of price gouging consumers with its so-called “surge pricing” have also made it a target for regulatory scrutiny.

Uber has recently hired several new faces to focus on issues ranging from user privacy, to improving the public image of the company. The data sharing initiative is just the latest in these efforts.

Newly elected Mayor Marty Walsh had this to say in a statement – “We are using data to change the way we deliver services and we welcome the opportunity to add to our resources. This will help us reach our transportation goals, improve the quality of our neighborhoods and allow us to think smarter, finding more innovative and creative solutions to some of our most pressing challenges.”"

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+ - Sorry Kinect: Apple Wins Gesture-Control Patent->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The U.S Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) today awarded Apple an incredibly broad patent for gesture-based controls.
The patent covers a "three dimensional user interface session control." In other words, you wave your hands and something happens on your device. When Apple bought PrimeSense last year, it was pretty clear the company wanted to own some—if not all—of the gesture-control space. Since then, all of PrimeSense's patents have been reassigned to Apple.

At its most ambitious, gesture controls deliver a Minority Report-style interface you can navigate by pinching your fingers in the air. At its worst, you are left waving your arms at an inanimate object like Harry Potter with a broken wand. Unfortunately, the reality is that gesture interfaces have been more like the latter.
The best known, and most controversial, gesture control system is the Kinect. In fact, PrimeSense developed the Kinect for Microsoft, which made it a central part of its Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles. The technology is pretty amazing, especially in its latest, high-definition incarnation. The Xbox One Kinect can detect up to 25 joints across six people. It can read a player's heartbeat, and with 1,400 points of articulation, it can tell if your mouth is open or closed. It is undeniably kick-ass technology, and no one cared."

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+ - China Spacecraft Enters Orbit around the Moon->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "A Chinese spacecraft service module has entered orbit around the moon, months after being used in the country's landmark test flight that sent a prototype sample-return capsule on a flight around the moon and returned it to Earth.

The service module from China's circumlunar test flight arrived in orbit around the moon this week, according to Chinese state media reports. The spacecraft is currently flying in an eight-hour orbit that carries it within 125 miles (200 kilometers) of the lunar surface at its closest point, and out to a range of 3,293 miles (5,300 km) at its highest point.

According to chief engineer Zhou Jianlian of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center the module will make its second and third braking in the early hours of today (Jan. 12) and tomorrow, Beijing time. Doing so will enable the module to enter a 127-minute orbit around the moon, Zhou said. [China's 1st Round-trip Moon Shot in Pictures]

Earlier reports noted that a camera system is onboard the service module, designed to assist in identifying future landing spots for the Chang'e 5 mission that will return lunar samples back to Earth in the 2017 time frame."

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Seen on a button at an SF Convention: Veteran of the Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force. 1990-1951.