Bill Gates does AMA on Reddit

February 12, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Bill Gates, former Microsoft head and co-chair of the Bill & Melina Gates Foundation, did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, where he answered various questions on technology, his work with the foundation, and more pressing matters like how much money he has in his wallet. Below is a short recap of the best QnA’s from the AMA, and a short animated video where Bill Gates answers basic questions ahead of his Reddit meeting.

What do you do for fun? I find it hard to fathom how someone like you can just disconnect. Disconnect from the emails, calls ,the media. All of it. What would be your definition of a chill and fun day?

I love playing tennis. I am an avid bridge player (a card game if you have not heard of it – it was more popular in the past!). I like to tour interesting things with my kids like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile Silos (Arizona),… I read a lot and watch courses (online or the Learning Company)..

What emerging technology today do you think will cause another big stir for the average consumer in the same way that the home computer did years ago?

Robots, pervasive screens, speech interaction will all change the way we look at “computers”. Once seeing, hearing, and reading (including handwriting) work very well you will interact in new ways..

Windows 7 or Windows 8?

Higher is better.

How do you measure the success of the foundation?How does the foundation differ from other large philanthropic organizations?

Our goals are focused on helping the poorest (globally) and improving education (in the US). We spend half of our money on global health. One metric to look at is reducing the number of children (under 5) who die. My annual letter talks about the amazing progress that has been made on this. Amazingly as health improves families choose to have less kids so paradoxically population growth goes DOWN as you improve health helping with almost every issue – from stability to the environment..

The Rosling video I posted on Sunday talks about this:http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/189bwr/most_people_still_think_of_the_world_as_being/

What’s your worst fear for the future of the world?

Hopefully we won’t have terrorists using nuclear weapons or biological weapons. We should make sure that stays hard. I am disappointed more isn’t being done to reduce carbon emissions. Governments need to spend more on basic energy R&D to make sure we get cheap non-CO2 emitting sources as soon as possible.
Overall I am pretty optimistic. Things are a lot better than they were 200 years ago..

Since becoming wealthy, what’s the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?

Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses…
Where are you acquiring these cheap kids from? The stork.

What type of computer are you using right now?

I just got my Surface Pro a week ago and it is very nice. I am using a Perceptive Pixel display right now – huge Windows 8 touch whiteboard. These will come down in price over time and be pervasive… (http://i.imgur.com/1JqrLVc.jpg)

If Microsoft didn’t take off, what would you have done and be doing instead?

If the microprocessor had NOT come along I am not sure what I would have done. Maybe medicine or theoretical math but it is hard to say.

Did you ever own a Macintosh?

Microsoft does a lot of software for the Mac. I mostly use Windows machines but from time to time I have tried all of Apple products.

I’m not Bill Gates, but he has made a huge positive influence. Many wealthy people I know point to Bill Gates as their idol. Not for his Microsoft days, but for his philanthropy. He also simultaneously killed many of my friend’s hundred million dollar trust funds after their parents discovered that Bill was only leaving $10 million for his children.

I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this but Melinda and I feel good about it.

How was your relationship with Steve jobs? I always hoped that y’all were really good friends and competitors.

He and I respected each other. Our biggest joint project was the Mac where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away…

What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?

Free software. Just kidding. Books actually.

Check out the full AMA here – it’s quite informative and gives an excellent perspective of what he thinks and his plans for the future. Oh, and he also has a small request: http://i.imgur.com/D3qRaty.jpg

Etisalat introduces new Wasel international add-on

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Etisalat today announced the ‘Wasel International Add-on’, which allows prepaid customers to make international calls at local call rates.

The add-on supports 6 countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, and Etisalat networks in Egypt and Sri Lanka.

“At Etisalat, we continuously seek to provide our customers with attractive offers that meet their needs. Leveraging Etisalat’s presence overseas, we are delivering an incredible value to residents of the UAE, allowing them to talk longer at more affordable rates on Etisalat’s high-quality network,” said Khaled Elkhouly, chief marketing officer at Etisalat.

Wasel prepaid customers can subscribe by dialing *141# or by sending ‘IDD’ as an SMS to 1010. Users will be charged 0.5 fills per second, with AED 1 at the beginning of the call as call set-up free.

Next Xbox will have a Siri of its own

February 10, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Microsoft’s next iteration of its motion-sensing camera, Kinect 2.0, will be able to recognize more natural queries like Siri, according to source at The Verge. When paired with the next Xbox, users can power on the console by simply saying, “Xbox on”, or view their friends list by asking “what are my friends playing?”.

Kinect 2.0 will also be able to produce specific results, and even suggest user-specific data when a user comes into view.

The current Kinect does offer voice recognition but it is implemented at its most basic form. Kinect with the Xbox 360 can be used to launch apps shown on the screen, or flick through menus, but is incapable of doing more advance task like Apple’s voice assistant.

Microsoft is still mum on the next Xbox and Kinect, with rumors hinting towards a Holiday 2013 release.  While Sony might be preparing to announce the PlayStation 4 on February 20th, it is unclear when Microsoft will make the move. Perhaps at E3 in June?

Next Xbox will require an always-on connection

February 7, 2013 by  
Filed under News

While this region, and many developing countries worldwide, struggle to maintain a stable Internet connection, Microsoft is reportedly risking a very bold with its next-gen home console, codenamed Xbox Durango. Edge reports that Durango will require an always-on Internet connection to function, with a new Xbox Live playing a huge role in providing console’s services.

Edge’s sources also confirmed long-rumored specifications of Durango. Apparently, Microsoft will use AMD’s eight-core x64 1.6 GHz CPU, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a faster hard drive. The system will also launch alongside a new version of the motion-sensing tech Kinect.

Furthermore, several ‘development sources’ have told Edge that while both Xbox Durango and PlayStation 4 resemble a PC architecture, Sony’s solution is preferable and its OS is less “oppressive” than Microsoft’s new Xbox Live.

These are all rumors for now, so take it with a pinch of salt. While Microsoft may not be ready to reveal what it has in store with the Xbox Druango, Sony might take the first step forward on February 20th, as it prepares to discuss the “future of PlayStation” at an event in New York City.

Instagram now available on browsers

February 6, 2013 by  
Filed under News, Smartphones

Instagram announced today a web-browser version of its photo feed. Meaning, you can check all your filtered photos, and of those whom you follow, directly from your browser in addition to viewing them on your mobile device.

The interface should be familiar to anyone who uses the service, which is a near clone of what is available on the app. However, you can’t upload any photos as the company wants to preserve the idea “about producing photos on the go, in the real world, in realtime.”

“We believe that you should be able to access Instagram on a variety of different devices, any of which may be convenient to you at a given moment – including your desktop computer or tablet,” writes co-founder Kevin Systrom. “We do not offer the ability to upload from the web as Instagram is about producing photos on the go, in the real world, in realtime. On the other hand, Instagram for the web is focused on making the browsing experience a fast, simple and enjoyable one.”

Well, great. Now people can view what you had for launch on a much bigger screen.

New 3DMark available for Windows

February 5, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Futuremark today (finally) released a new version of 3DMark for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Following the current trend of ditching numbering conventions, Futuremark is calling this new version simply ’3DMark’.

The benchmark tool contains three demos: ‘Fire Strike’, which is designed to run on high-end DirectX 11 PCs; ‘Cloud Gate’ supports DirectX 10 graphics cards; while ‘Ice Storm’ is made for the lower-end DirectX 9 cards.

As usual, there is a free version available where users can run all three demos and compare their results with other users online. For more functionality, users can buy an Advanced Edition of 3DMark, which allows users to run each benchmark individually, and also bundles an ‘extreme’ version of the ‘Fire Strike’ demo. The special edition also offers interactive graphics, and the ability to save the results offline. It cost $24.99; Steam is offering it for 25% for a week.

There is also the 3DMark Professional Edition for the deep pocketed among us (or for companies, more like). This $995 version adds an image quality tool, command line automation, and an option to save results offline and export them as XML file.

Unfortunately, there is no word on a Mac or Linux version, however Futuremark has only said that Windows RT (why?), Android, and iOS versions are in the works.

Microsoft’s tech can predict events based on news headlines

February 4, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Trivia: Microsoft doesn’t just sit on its money. They actually have a high-tech Research department that invents a lot of crazy technology we won’t likely see in our life times. According to Technology Review, Microsoft Research are currently working on a piece of software that can predict possible events. This might sound like something right out of CBS’ Person of Interest TV show, but it’s in fact far less invasive.

The tech works by analyzing news headlines in different regions to see if it can warn about a disease outbreak or an imminent civil unrest. Technology Review says the system’s warning were correct 70 to 90 per cent of the time.

“I truly view this as a foreshadowing of what’s to come,” says Eric Horvitz, a co-director at Microsoft Research. “Eventually this kind of work will start to have an influence on how things go for people.”

But like most stuff from Microsoft Research, don’t expect this to be available any time soon, or even be made available for commercial use.

Sony might announce PlayStation 4 on Feb 20th

February 3, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Sony has teased to talk about the “future of PlayStation” at an event on February 20th in New York City. Sony launched a campaign on its Facebook page, Twitter feed, and on YouTube simultaneously, all leading to this website. The site invites users to subscribe to receive instant updates, and the company is encouraging users to follow #playstation2013 on Twitter to keep upto date about the event.

While it is not clear what Sony is teasing, rumors from multiple media outlets, including Polygon and The Wall Street Journal, is hinting towards the much anticipated PlayStation 4 reveal. The source at WSJ suggests that Sony “is planning to incorporate more social gaming aspects into the new machine” and “is more focused this time on the changes in how users interact with the machine”.

Edge Online is reporting that the next PlayStation will be out before the end of the year in US and Japan, with Europe and other territories receiving it in early 2014.

The event will held on February 20th at 6pm EST (3am UAE time of February 21). Guess we are not sleeping that day.

Nyko PlayPad Review

February 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

As games on mobile devices get more complex and match the fidelity offered by console games, gamers are now increasingly looking for a traditional controller-based setup. Games like N.O.V.A, Modern Combat, and Shadowgun, though developed with touch-screen controls in mind, absolutely demand physical sticks and buttons to fully appreciate their experiences.

With a bit of hacking, an Xbox 360 or PS3 controller could be made to work with these games, but lugging them around with your phone or tablet seems counterintuitive and is not user friendly.  So, a host of companies have launched compact Bluetooth controllers to satiate that need, including the PlayPad from Nyko, which we will be looking at today.

Design

The Nyko PlayPad is compact, lightweight and comes with a hard case for easy portability. The PlayPad is no bigger than a Galaxy S3, and is easy to grip thanks to its rubberized body. For its size, the PlayPad serves up complete controller tools, including two circle pads, four face buttons, D-Pad, and two shoulder and trigger buttons each. It also bundles a small stand to hold your phone or tablet, with three tilt adjustments.

It’s an Android controller, so weight and portability is paramount, but that usually results in build quality taking a knock. The PlayPad suffers from similar issues, with the whole package feeling too light and plasticky for a $40 controller. The shoulder buttons, which lack any tactile feedback, and the tiny, cheap trigger buttons don’t help the cause much. The circle pads are poorly implemented as well; they are too stiff for precise movements, and the raised bumps that are there to enhance grip in fact hurt due to the plastic coating.

The controller is reasonably comfortable, but I started to feel cramped after 15mins of driving around in GTA III due to its size and stiff circle pads.

Software

The PlayPad is a hardware and software solution, so an app is required for extended compatibility. The app is called Nyko Playground and is available on Google Play Store for most of the current Android devices.

Interestingly, the Playground, despite a v2.0+ software is still in ‘beta’, a fact nowhere mentioned on the box. But ‘beta’ describes the app accurately as it’s still a work-in-progress and is missing a lot features along with general stability and function.

The app lets you re-map controls for supported games (only a select few titles so far) and create new controller profiles for unsupported games. Doing so is complicated, and is mostly guesswork to see which button does what in any given game. Nyko has promised to add ability to map touchscreen controls and gestures in future updates, so at the time of writing they weren’t available.

This makes the PlayPad largely useless, as making it work on unsupported games is incredibly hard. On SuperNES, where I mapped the controller to emulate a SNES one, buttons would randomly not work, and I was only able to play simple games like Mario which does not use more than one or two buttons.

The app only supports a few games and even then the controls are strangely mapped. For instance, in Grand Theft Auto III, getting into a vehicle requires you to press ‘down’ on the d-pad, as opposed to any of the face buttons which normally would be the case. Driving is done with the D-pad and/or the left circle pad, but the camera cannot be controlled with anything else.

The app is also highly unstable. I have encountered numerous crashes at random points during configuration, and even while playing a game. The app does not even quit, but crashes and restarts instead. Thankfully, sync’ing the controller with the app is fast and smooth, however sometimes I would have to unpair the controller from the phone to make it work.

Conclusion

The PlayPad’s shortcoming could had been overcome with a solid software and a truly out-of-the-box solution, but Nyko has dropped the ball on the app completely. Future updates are uncertain and cannot be taken into consideration with a product that’s now available in stores. For $40, the Nyko PlayPad isn’t worth the admission at the moment. However, things could change in the future, so it’s best to keep an eye on the app’s Play Store page if you are truly interested in this controller.

RIM changes its name to BlackBerry

January 31, 2013 by  
Filed under News

At yesterdays BlackBerry 10 launch event, RIM CEO Thorten Heins announced that the company has changed it’s name to BlackBerry and will use the stock symbol BBRY from now on.

“”We have reinvented the company, and we want to represent this in our brand,” he stated.

Certainly a surprise announcement, the move comes at an opportune time when RIM really need to shake things up to improve its dwindling brand image in the smartphone market. BlackBerry is more recognizable than RIM, anyways, so it is indeed a smart move.

At the event, BlackBerry also announced two smartphones using the latest BB10 operating system: a full-touch screen Z10, and the keyboard model Q10. The latter is set to launch sometime later this year, however the Z10 will be available on February 10 in the UAE.

UAE telecoms Etisalat and du have already begun their pre-order campaigns for Z10, which will cost AED 2,599.

For more on Z10, check out our extensive review here.

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