Amazon Releases Echo Show

Imagine Alexa with a color screen, now you have Echo Show! It will be available on June 28, 2017.

Amazon Echo Show Link

Amazon Echo Show“Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.

Introducing a new way to be together. Make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo Show or the Alexa App, and make voice calls to anyone who has an Echo or Echo Dot.

See lyrics on-screen with Amazon Music. Just ask to play a song, artist or genre, and stream over Wi-Fi. Also, stream music on Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and more.

Powerful, room-filling speakers with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and extended bass response.

Ask Alexa to show you the front door or monitor the baby’s room with compatible cameras from Ring and Arlo. Turn on lights, control thermostats and more with WeMo, Philips Hue, ecobee, and other compatible smart home devices.

With eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo Show hears you from any direction—even while music is playing.

Always getting smarter and adding new features, plus thousands of skills like Uber, Allrecipes, CNN, and more…”

An “Open Source Siri” Called Mycroft

Check out the video linked below, and see what Mycroft can do!

This Open-Source AI Voice Assistant Is Challenging Siri and Alexa for Market Superiority

Forbes – By: Matt Hunckler – “When you issue a command to a virtual assistant like Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, natural language processing technology (NLP) allows the program to interpret your speech and respond in everyday language. Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are making great strides forward in NLP technology, but unfortunately, these tech giants aren’t interested in sharing how they do it.

‘There’s an entire community of developers looking to access this technology, but so far, it’s been the purview of a few large companies. The technology is walled-off, proprietary, and secretive,’ said Joshua Montgomery, CEO of Kansas City-based Mycroft AI, Inc.

As an alternative to these market leaders, Montgomery and his team created Mycroft, the world’s first open-source AI voice assistant. Mycroft is free to download and use, and developers are invited to alter its code to expand and improve the NLP functionality. More than 700 independent developers are already making contributions to Mycroft’s software.

Mycroft AI, Inc. ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015 to fund its initial product, the ‘Mark 1,’ a smart speaker similar in function to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. But the Mark 1 is only the launching point for Mycroft, which also runs on desktop and can be integrated into any device, from wearables to automobiles.

‘Ask yourself: if your technology could understand human speech and respond naturally, what would you build?’ challenges Montgomery. Watch the pitch below to dig deeper into this world of possibility.

Adaptable Technology with Extraordinary Potential

Mycroft’s open-source software and hardware are the keys to its potential. The team based the Mark 1 unit on the Raspberry Pi circuit board and Arduino microcontroller, to encourage users to hack and modify the core equipment. Desktop users can run Mycroft on the developer-friendly Linux OS through the KDE Plasma distribution.

Independent developers can then ‘teach’ Mycroft new skills beyond its original programming and share their code with the community, increasing Mycroft’s functionality for everyone. The number of potential applications is limitless.

Mycroft AI, Inc. is initially focusing on the automotive industry, where there’s a huge opportunity to improve voice control functionality in new vehicles.

‘J.D. Power and Associates has reported that the voice control in the car is the single most complained-about feature in the automobile. We solved that problem, so that’s how we land with companies like Jaguar Land Rover, who’s a strategic investor and soon will be a customer, and General Motors, who we’re working with through 500 Startups,’ Montgomery said.

The Leaders in Open-Source AI

After earning $189,000 in crowdfunding in 2015, Mycroft AI, Inc. went on to complete a $350,000 angel round and a $1.17 million seed round. The team completed the Techstars accelerator program in 2016 and are currently engaged with 500 Startups. They hope to leverage their funding and mentorship to increase their global influence.

‘The seed money we’ve obtained allows us to position ourselves as the open technology in this space,’ Montgomery said. ‘Our goal is that when you think ‘open’ and ‘virtual assistant,’ you’ll think Mycroft.’

This goal may be within reach if the company’s talks with GM, Jaguar, Walmart, GE, and Canonical Ltd. (publisher of the Ubuntu OS) are any indication. Although Mycroft isn’t currently available to developers using Windows or Mac, Montgomery said the software will eventually run on all operating systems.

The biggest threat for Mycroft comes from the possibility that one of the major NLP players will make its own software open source, but that doesn’t seem likely given their track record. Instead, Montgomery is confident in the multi-billion dollar market of companies who don’t want to do business with the Silicon Valley tech giants.

By 2020, it is estimated that 34 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things. Montgomery believes Mycroft AI, Inc. is in a position to capture a huge slice of that market with its free-to-use customizable, NLP technology.”

“Wannacry” Ransomeware Hits Businesses

The “Wannacry” Ransomeware has been in the news. You can protect yourself, if you just will patch your systems!

Despite security risks, older Windows versions plague thousands of businesses

ZDNet – By: Zack Whittaker – “After the global cyberattacks on Friday that infected hundreds of thousands of computer with the WannaCry ransomware, the blame game has begun.

Who was behind the attack? How did the NSA lose control of its hacking tools used as part of this huge ransomware attack? Should we blame Microsoft for not patching older versions of Windows that were left vulnerable to the attack?

As it happens, thousands of businesses may only have themselves to blame.

According to recently released data from IT networking site Spiceworks, about half of all businesses still have at least one computer running Windows XP, despite the aging operating system losing Microsoft security support after more than a decade since its release in early-2014.

That means for over three years, these machines haven’t been patched with the latest security updates, including the fix released in March that could’ve prevented machines from getting infected. (Following the outbreak, Microsoft released a rare, emergency out-of-support patch.)

Granted, some companies will have more machines running Windows XP and Vista, which lost support earlier this year, than others. Some businesses may rely on the aging operating system for their entire fleet of computers, whereas others may rely on one or two machines running custom-built machines, like MRI or X-ray scanners in hospitals, for example, which aren’t always connected to the internet, making them less vulnerable to malware and ransomware.

The data shows that newer operating systems that were patched prior to last week’s ransomware attacks, including Windows 7 and Windows 10, make up a 83 percent share of all business computers.

But despite the risks, Windows XP and Vista still take up a 15 percent share across the corporate world — representing hundreds of thousands of computers.

It’s worth noting that not one single set of data offers a perfectly accurate figure of how many devices are vulnerable to these kinds of mass ransomware events or other kinds of cyberattacks. Spiceworks, which has a commercial stake in the security space, says it uses inventory data to see computers that may be networked but not connected to the internet. Other sources rely on different methodologies, such as the US government’s own digital analytics service, which bases its data on visitors directly accessing government sites. It said just over 1 percent of all visitors in the past three months were running Windows XP or Vista.

The question remains: for all the benefits that software updates provide, why the apathy?

‘Many companies subscribe to the theory that if it’s ‘not broke, don’t fix it,’ especially those that aren’t prioritizing IT,’ said Peter Tsai, a senior technology analyst at Spiceworks. ‘As a result, many IT departments lack the resources and budget needed to upgrade to newer operating systems like Windows 10. It takes time to upgrade all systems in an organization and train end users on the new features and functionality.’

In all, just over half of all businesses say that there’s no need to update because the current system still works. Others cite IT pressures and lack of time, investments, or budget constraints.

Those barriers can translate into real losses. Take what happened with last week’s cyberattack. Dozens of hospitals around the UK were affected, with some forced to turn patients away. But unlike NHS trusts and hospitals in England and Scotland which suffered significantly at the hands of the ransomware attack late last week, NHS Wales wasn’t affected by the ransomware attack at all, a feat largely attributed to the fact the health system recently updated its entire network.

‘Now more than ever, it’s critical for IT professionals to make a business case for more resources,’ said Tsai.

If this ransomware attack has proven anything, investing in security isn’t just a good idea, it’s mission critical.”

Elon Musk Wants to Enhance Our Brains!

I think I will wait for the wireless version.

Wish a firmware upgrade could make you smarter? That’s Elon Musk’s new goal

ZDNet – By Liam Tung – “Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has created another out-there venture called Neuralink, which will develop tech to enhance human brain capacity.

Details of Musk’s new medical research company were reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday. Musk plans to reveal more details in a piece on waitbutwhy.com, possibly next week. While the entrepreneur clearly has enough on his plate with new Tesla models, SpaceX, and philanthropy projects, he says the ‘existential risk is too high not to’ to launch Neuralink.

The company will explore software on implantable devices for the human brain, which would ultimately help people’s intellect advance alongside artificial intelligence rather than lag behind it.

Musk has previously referred to this direct brain-to-machine interface as ‘neural lace’, which would help avoid the fate of humans becoming ‘house cats’ to artificial intelligence. Back then he envisaged a brain-enhancing device that could be inserted through a person’s jugular vein.

Musk, who has previously warned that artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity, last year described neural lace as an artificial-intelligence layer on the human brain.

One of the advantages of neural lace is that it would allow humans to communicate with computers without interference from a physical interface, such as information on a display. Musk hinted in January that his neural-lace concept would be launching soon.

Musk isn’t alone in looking to artificial intelligence as a way to boost human intelligence. Braintree founder Bryan Johnson announced a $100m commitment to his firm Kernel to develop a ‘neural prosthetic’ to enhance human intelligence.

Johnson noted that the market for his brain prosthetics could include cognitive enhancement and treatment of medical conditions.

DARPA is also exploring an implantable neural interface to boost bandwidth between the brain and networked computers. It’s hoping to build systems that can communicate clearly with neurons in the human brain, but achieving it requires breakthroughs in neuroscience, synthetic biology, hardware, software, and clinical testing.

Musk’s plan initially will focus on treating dangerous medical conditions, which could include epilepsy and depression disorders. In a similar vein, researchers recently showed how a brain-computer interface could help severely disabled people communicate with the outside world.

As TechCrunch notes, Neuralink’s early focus on medical applications that extend existing technologies for treating neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s, could offer it a runway for its longer-term ambitions for enhancing the human brain.”

Japanese Scientists Develop More Efficient Solar Panels

I would love to get “off the grid” power-wise! Not because I hug a lot of trees, jut because I like being independent!

Japanese company develops a solar cell with record-breaking 26%+ efficiency

Ars Technica – By: Megan Geuss – “Solar panels are cheaper than ever these days, but installation costs can still be considerable for homeowners. More efficient solar panels can recapture the cost of their installation more quickly, so making panels that are better at converting sunlight into electricity is a key focus of solar research and development.

The silicon-based cells that make up a solar panel have a theoretical efficiency limit of 29 percent, but so far that number has proven elusive. Practical efficiency rates in the low-20-percent range have been considered very good for commercial solar panels. But researchers with Japanese chemical manufacturer Kaneka Corporation have built a solar cell with a photo conversion rate of 26.3 percent, breaking the previous record of 25.6 percent. Although it’s just a 2.7 percent increase in efficiency, improvements in commercially viable solar cell technology are increasingly hard-won.

Not only that, but the researchers noted in their paper that after they submitted their article to Nature Energy, they were able to further optimize their solar cell to achieve 26.6 percent efficiency. That result has been recognized by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

In the Nature Energy paper, the researchers described building a 180.4 cm2 cell using high-quality thin-film heterojunction (HJ)—that is, layering silicon within the cell to minimize band gaps where electron states can’t exist. Controlling heterojunctions is a known technique among solar cell builders—Panasonic uses it and will likely incorporate it into cells built for Tesla at the Solar City plant in Buffalo, and Kaneka has its own proprietary heterojunction techniques.

For this record-breaking solar cell, the Kaneka researchers also placed low-resistance electrodes toward the rear of the cell, which maximized the number of photons that collected inside the cell from the front. And, as is common on many solar cells, they coated the front of the cell with a layer of amorphous silicon and an anti-reflective layer to protect the cell’s components and collect photons more efficiently.

After describing the architecture of the solar cell, Kaneka researchers analyzed the energy losses that prevented the cell from reaching that 29-percent efficiency ideal, which could help future solar cell builders optimize their cells to get closer to the limit. Kaneka researchers estimated that overall efficiency was reduced by 0.5 percent due to resistive loss, 1 percent due to optical loss (the way the cell receives light), and 1.2 precent due to extrinsic recombination loss—where a free electron recombines with a positively charged hole rather than going on for current collection.

The paper noted that this solar cell was created using ‘industrial applicable’ processes, like plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD), which deposits thin films onto a solid wafer from a gas state. While the solar cell may be vapor-ware in the sense that chemical vapor helps create them, the industry-friendly process reduces the likelihood that the high-efficiency architecture will end up as something we’d call vaporware more colloquially. (Thanks folks, I’ll be here all night.)
That said, the authors note that ‘further work is required before the individual cells can be assembled into a commercially available solar panel.’ But further work seems likely. Kaneka’s research was funded by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, abbreviated to NEDO, and according to IEEE Spectrum, the company will continue to work with NEDO to bring the levelized cost of solar cells down to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour by 2030.”

Mars Ice?

Mars IceThere may be a lot of ice on Mars!

Massive Martian Slopes May Harbor Ice

Space – By Christine Lunsford – “Strange surface features sprawled around the bases of steep slopes on Mars point to the presence of ice on the planet’s surface, according to new data and imagery from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Deposits of rock and sediment around these slopes are either ice-rich now or were sometime in the past, but ‘the source of the ice is unclear,’ NASA officials said in a statement. ‘There is some thought that it is deposited from the atmosphere during periods of high obliquity, also known as axial tilt.’

Characteristics like these are common around the planet’s mid-latitudes and tend to appear near gullies, or small ravines that have been worn away by the flow of water. These regions are typically also accompanied by tall, rocky ridges called moraines, which form in glacial regions and look like icy piles of soil and rock. [Latest Photos from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter]

Viscous flow features and steep slopes are especially huge in this composite, which was taken by MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), one of six high-resolution imaging science instruments on MRO.”

World Backup Day – 2017!

Our Friends at Cloudwards.net have an Info-graphic on “World Backup Day – 2017” (which is every day!) Check it out here:

World Backup Day 2017

World Backup Day 2017 – What’s a backup?

“Welcome to World Backup Day 2017. Wondering what a backup even is? Don’t worry, my grandma has no clue either. So, for the benefit of my mother’s mother, and you of course dear reader, let’s find out what a backup is.

Simply put, a backup is the digital copy of your data saved somewhere that’s not your internal hard drive. So, if you save your pictures to an USB flash drive, that’s a backup. Save your entire collection of funny cat videos to an external hard drive, that’s a backup. Using an online company’s software and servers to save your entire computer, that’s really good backup.

Why Should Anyone Backup?

The correct question to ask is, why shouldn’t you backup? Fact is, files are precious and we need them on hand for a lot of things. Whether it’s baby’s first steps or a work portfolio template, certain information needs to be secured against loss and damage.

Which is why backup exists. So use it, and feel free to kick back knowing even if Thor accidentally smashes his hammer into your laptop, the backup is keeping the data all safe and secure.
Sounds like common sense right? Turns out common sense isn’t as common as its namesake. Check out these statistic:

  • 113 phone are stolen every minute of everyday—costing consumers 30 billion every year.
  • 29% of all electronic losses happen by accident
  • 1-in-10 PCs are currently infected with a virus
  • Over 30% of people never backup

To help prevent anything listed above from happening to you, please backup.
Want to hear another surprising statistic? Check this out…

Women Backup Up Better Than Men

Well, misogynists out there might like to take a pitchfork to this fact, but according to a survey conducted by Airbackup, the fairer sex are fairly better at keeping backups compared to men. The study also concluded that women are better at not losing their electronics, however the survey reviews were taken from personal statements, so take that as you will.

chromosomes aside, there are things we should all do to ensure there is always an available copy of our data.

We should always endeavor to kick laziness in the butt and regularly backup our digital content, avoid using smartphones to process our data, and do so on an established routine. Because facts are facts, machines will fail, it a when and not if scenario. Human error is also lurking around the corner, backed up by cronies such as natural disaster, theft and sometimes plain bad luck.
But, it’s not just private citizens that need a way to secure their data, some would say business have the real raw and important data. And that stuff needs to be backed up proper before companies start losing customers and respect.

THE IMPACT OF DATA LOSS ON BUSINESSES

There was a recent incident where one bank employee misplaced over 1000 customers’ data on an memory stick that was not properly encrypted. Here’s an even more shocking story, a second-hand laptop sold via Ebay turned out to have the banking info of over 1 million customers.

An undisclosed retail company operating at a national level once lost 26,000 employee records due to a stolen laptop. So let’s not underestimate the importance of having a proper back up to data that’s constantly connected.

And don’t be in any doubt about the importance of data to business, over 90% that suffer from total loss of said data shut down within two-years. It’s insanely vital to the health of a company. Any company that suffers from a disaster or flood, and doesn’t have a proper backup plan, statistics show about 80% of them shutdown within a year. 43% that manage to survive never fully recover, and over 50% suffering from computer failure end up seeing the shutters within 5-years.

Basically, businesses need backup.

Don’t believe me? Let’s up the ante and go really crazy with statistics. The following sectors had to deal with a combined loss of thirteen million three hundred ninety-six thousand USD:

  • Banking
  • Energy
  • Manufacturing
  • Financial institutions
  • IT
  • Retail
  • Insurance
  • Pharmaceuticals

Whether small, large or medium, a badly staffed, under trained or simply out of luck (not much can be done if there’s a data center outage) IT staff can cause anywhere from 55,000 to over a million bucks in lost revenue.

How to Backup

Hopefully, all these facts and figures have helped changed your mind about backing up. Company, family or individual, we all hold various forms of data dear to us, and so there shouldn’t be reason why we don’t look after it.

Backup Type 1: USB Drive

USB Drive, also know as thumb drives, provide a quick and localized solution to backing things such as documents, photos and even a few songs. They’re not meant for heavy duty backups, and they can easily be lost or corrupted. But they’ll do just fine in a pinch for small amounts of data. They can also be encrypted and password protected.

Backup Type 2: External HDD

Basically the same concept as USB drives, external hard drives can offer anywhere from 250GB to 3 Terabytes (that’s 3,000 GB) of extra space, and they tend to be faster and more stable than a USB drive. Also, they work well as machines to use for incremental saves and recovery, with software like Time Machine.

But, HDDs are still psychical machines prone to accidents, viruses and what not. Encryption and password gates are also fully supported.

Backup Type 3: Online Backup

Now were dealing with Cloudwards.net‘s specialty area, online backup. We’ve got the best of the best reviewed, scored and ready for you to pick through. But still, a small intro is in order for first timers, as it’s not as straightforward as localized backups are.

Basically, it’s a monthly service that takes your data, transfers it via the internet to their own HDDs in some far off country or area which has a data center housing that HDD. The HDD is a part of a server that works tirelessly to backup all your data and its incremental updates.

Of course, how fast this process happens depends on a user’s internet speed. Uploading all your data initially could take days, weeks or months depending on your speed, the online backup company chosen and the amount of data being transferred. Some companies will ship customers an HDD to fill up, and then it gets shipped back and backed up quickly by the company.

Once the mother load is backed up, small alterations or new additions get backed up much faster. The good news is, backup software does not get in the way of daily computer usage, so have no fear that online backup will interfere with Reddit and YouTube time.

Fraud: The Silent Boogeyman Man

We’ve talked a lot about various unfortunate factors that can result in data loss. But we haven’t really touched on the issue of fraud. See, data such as your e-mails, social security, address, credit cards details are very valuable, both to yourself and to some rather unsavory kind of people.

And they hit companies hard, Dropbox, a major player in the cloud storage field has had more than enough to deal with lately, thanks to social engineering scams and online fraud. My point is, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Always stay on top of your security details and avoid uploading them online if you’re not absolutely sure they’ll be safe.

However, there are cloud storage providers and online backup companies that deal almost exclusively in securing and hiding important data. SpiderOak being a prime example. So if security with your online backup is a must have, there are solutions out there available. Feel free to peruse our reviews section to check them out, or e-mail us for a more direct approach.

The Cloud is Popular

Cloud storage and backup is the way to save, work and secure files. There’s no denying this fact. Dropbox alone has over 300 million customers and there are rivals out there trying very hard to surpass those figures. The industry made a combined $32 billion in 2013, and various reports estimate the figures will continue to skyrocket as the years go by.

The cloud is tomorrow in a nutshell, it’s how we will all interact, consume media, save work and just generally live our lives by. From maps, songs, movies to games—the cloud is the next big step.

So, we hope you enjoyed and learned something from our look into backing up, a rough overview of how it works and the realities and risks involved, plus a summary of the future.”

German Scientists Test “Artificial Sun”

Wow! That is hot!

German scientists test ‘artificial sun’

Las-Vegas Review Journal – By: Frank Jordans – “Scientists in Germany flipped the switch Thursday on what’s being described as ‘the world’s largest artificial sun,’ a device they hope will help shed light on new ways of making climate-friendly fuels.

The giant honeycomb-like setup of 149 spotlights — officially known as ‘Synlight’ — in Juelich, about 20 miles west of Cologne, uses xenon short-arc lamps normally found in cinemas to simulate natural sunlight that’s often in short supply in Germany at this time of year.

By focusing the entire array on a single 20-by-20 centimeter (8×8 inch) spot, scientists from the German Aerospace Center, or DLR , will be able to produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation that would normally shine on the same surface.

Creating such furnace-like conditions — with temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius (5,432 Fahrenheit) — is key to testing novel ways of making hydrogen, according to Bernhard Hoffschmidt, the director of DLR’s Institute for Solar Research.

Many consider hydrogen to be the fuel of the future because it produces no carbon emissions when burned, meaning it doesn’t add to global warming. But while hydrogen is the most common element in the universe it is rare on Earth. One way to manufacture it is to split water into its two components — the other being oxygen — using electricity in a process called electrolysis.

Researchers hope to bypass the electricity stage by tapping into the enormous amount of energy that reaches Earth in the form of light from the sun.

Hoffschmidt said the dazzling display is designed to take experiments done in smaller labs to the next level, adding that once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight’s 350-kilowatt array, the process could be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry. Experts say this could take about a decade, if there is sufficient industry support.

The goal is to eventually use actual sunlight rather than the artificial light produced at the Juelich experiment, which cost $3.8 million to build and requires as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would use in a year.

Hoffschmidt conceded that hydrogen isn’t without its problems — for one thing it’s incredibly volatile — but by combining it with carbon monoxide produced from renewable sources, scientists would, for example, be able to make eco-friendly kerosene for the aviation industry.”

Apple Patents iPhone/Macbook Docking

Technology just keeps converging!

The future of the MacBook? Apple patents ‘superdock’ to turn your iPhone into a fully fledged laptop

Daily Mail – By: Stacy Libratore – “Apple is developing technology that transforms your iPhone into a MacBook.

The Cupertino company has received a patent for a system that connects a smartphone or an iPad to an ‘accessory device’, which has the same feel and look of a laptop.

A docking station for the handheld gadgets would sit where the trackpad or display are in a traditional laptop, providing users with a physical keyboard and larger screen.

iPhone/Macbook Dock

The patent, entitled ‘Electronic accessory device’, was first spotted by Apple Insider.

The application describes an accessory device, the MacBook-like shell, having a docking port suitable for accepting a host device, an iPhone or iPad.

The laptop-like device would be fitted with ‘operational components and a communication port that facilitates formation of a communication channel between the host device and at least one of the operational components where the host device provides substantially all processing resources and has full access to the at least one operational component,’ reads the patent.

The accessory device appears to contain all of the hardware found in traditional laptops such as a large display, physical keyboard, GPU, ports and other necessary components.

But it can only function when a user places their smartphone or tablet into the docking station.

When using the iPhone compatible device, users place the handset where the trackpad would be and with the iPad, it would be positioned where a display sits in traditional laptops.”

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