Science & Technology

New York: At your neighborhood coffee shop, you can order your beverage in small, medium or large. Now, you can do that with phones, too.

HTC Corp. is introducing a larger version of its popular HTC One phone, becoming the latest phone maker to offer its flagship device in three sizes - and, of course, three prices.

The new HTC One Max has one feature unavailable on the smaller models: a fingerprint identification sensor similar to that on Apple's new iPhone 5S. It's an optional way to unlock a phone without using a four-digit passcode. Unlike Apple's version, however, the Max can be programmed to automatically open one of three favorite apps, depending on which finger is used.

HTC spokesman Tom Harlin said the company designed the Max with a fingerprint sensor to make the larger device easier to operate with one hand. Engineers also moved the power button to the side. On smaller models, it's on top of the phone, when held vertically.

The Max has a screen that measures 5.9 inches diagonally. That compares with the 4.7 inches on the standard version and the 4.3 inches on the HTC One Mini. HTC is designing its software to take advantage of the larger screen. With many Android phones, images and text simply get larger on bigger phones. With the Max, the layout of selected apps is reformatted to fit more content.

The Max also has more battery capacity than the smaller models, but otherwise shares their design and hardware features. Like the other Ones, the Max has a camera that can capture better low-light shots than the typical smartphone camera, but images are of lower resolution, at 4 megapixels. The Max weighs 7.7 ounces, which is more than the 5.9 ounces for Samsung's 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3.

The price hasn't been announced, but it likely will be comparable to the $300 for the Note 3 and Motorola's Droid Maxx. That price typically requires a two-year service agreement and is $100 more than the regular HTC One, Samsung's Galaxy S4 and Motorola's Droid Ultra when they launched.

Harlin said HTC is offering variety to meet consumers' differing needs. Some might prefer a small device that is cheap and can fit in the pocket of skinny jeans, while others might want more screen space.

As for the fingerprint sensor, HTC is including similar security safeguards found in the iPhone 5S. A mathematical representation of the fingerprint is stored on the phone in a secured location, inaccessible to other apps or remote servers. However, HTC does plan to eventually offer a way for other apps to use the ID system, without accessing the fingerprint data directly. Apple has no current plans for third-party access.

Despite assurances of security from Apple, a German hacking group claims to have bypassed the system using a household printer and some wood glue to create an artificial copy of a genuine fingerprint. Apple hasn't commented on that.

HTC said Verizon and Sprint Corp. will sell the HTC One Max in the U.S. in time for the holidays. AT&T Inc. has been offering the Mini since August. All four national carriers, including T-Mobile US Inc., have the standard version.

Tel Aviv: Facebook has agreed to buy start-up app-maker Onavo, the Israeli company said on its website on Monday, without giving any details of the deal.

Facebook is paying between $150 million and $200 million, the Calcalist financial news website said, making it the social media company's biggest acquisition in Israel.

The company, founded three years ago, said that once the transaction closes, Onavo's mobile utility application - which helps people cut mobile phone costs through more efficient use of data - will run as a standalone brand.

Onavo has raised $13 million in venture capital, according to Calcalist. Its investors are Sequoia Capital, Magma Venture Partners, Horizons Ventures and Motorola Mobility Ventures.

Onavo will keep its Israeli offices, making this the first time Facebook will run a research and development centre in Israel, according to the Haaretz news website.

When Facebook acquired Snaptu and Face.com, it transferred the employees to its own offices in California, where Onavo already has offices.

Makuhari - Japan's flagship consumer technology brands have had a rough few years with their products overshadowed by Korean and US rivals, but the Japanese parts makers who supply those rivals are doing a roaring trade.

That is especially true for Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd, known as a supplier for Apple Inc's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy series of smartphones, and which is projecting a 71 percent jump in operating profit this year.

Orders between July to September were on a par with the previous quarter's record high of 190.5 billion yen ($1.94 billion), President Tsuneo Murata told Reuters on Tuesday in an interview at CEATEC, one of Japan's biggest electronics trade shows held near Tokyo.

Although the company does not publicly name its clients, it was listed by Apple as one of its for 2013 and analysts say it supplied vital components for the recently released iPhone 5S and 5C, for which sales have outstripped analyst expectations.

Another Japanese supplier, Nidec Corp, which makes motors for electronics and automotive parts, is projecting sales to increase 12.8 percent this year and operating profit to rise 325.5 percent to 70 billion yen ($713 million). Taiyo Yuden Co Ltd which competes with Murata, is also forecasting a 14 percent increase in sales and 312.3 percent increase in profit.

Domestic smartphone and electronics makers are not in such a comfortable position.

Japan's household names like Sharp Corp, Panasonic Corp and Sony Corp, have suffered losses on their consumer electronics units in recent years, with many analysts blaming a lack of insight into what global consumers want.

But companies like Murata have managed to avoid the same fate by selling directly to companies and making components that can be flexibly used in the finished product.

"Parts makers sell to businesses, so it's easier to see where the market is heading than with consumers, whose needs are more difficult to understand," Murata said."Overseas sales are growing at lots of Japanese parts makers. Ninety percent of our sales are international and I think the industry average is about 60 percent," he added.

Murata's mainstay products are ceramic capacitors, tiny parts that control the flow of electricity in electronic devices from game consoles to car engine controls. The majority are used in smartphones, which account for 40 percent of overall sales.

Although Murata sees the growth of the smartphone market slowing to around 10 percent within two years from 30 percent currently, he says his company would be able to weather that shift without relying on its other divisions such as auto parts.

"It's not just about the number of smartphones sold. If growth slows will innovation stop? The network technology or the architecture can change," Murata said, adding that a change such as an increase in LTE mobile bandwidth could provide a business opportunity.

For now, the president is expecting orders to stay strong through Christmas after a leap at the beginning of September. The company is projecting operating profit to jump 70.5 percent to 100 billion yen ($1.02 billion) this fiscal year, which ends March 2014.

Ask yourself “What are cognitive skills?” and “Why are they now the main focus of the scientific community worldwide?” The answer is simple and one which affects your own household.

Over the past number of decades, scientists have tried to understand the brain and its performance. Why? Every day we are bombarded with information: TV, computers, cellphones, education and much more! So what do we do with that information? We have to process it, store it and respond to it. So, can the brain that you have perform and function better? The answer is a definite YES! How? Consider something you are good at. Did it come easy? Most likely not. You had to work hard at it, and with constant consistent repetition it became easier. The brain is no different. Clinical psychologists have now found a way to improve the brain’s ability to learn, to think, to process and to increase memory. It’s called GENIUSBRAIN and it’s here in Kuwait.

In 1975 two brothers, KeithGibson, a clinical psychologist and Ken Gibson a visual specialist asked a simple question: “How can we make learning easier and faster?” For 25 years the brothers with the assistance of professionals in the fields of neuropsychology, clinical and cognitive psychology, occupational therapy, special education and learning disabilities reviewed the existing research on brain and memory function and learning theory and created and developed the program that is now delivered at GeniusBrain called BrainRx, which after its launch in 2000 became the leading cognitive training program in the United States. The BrainRx program is now run throughout 84 centers in the US and in over 38 international centers.

Brain training is a simple but powerful way to enhance our core ability to learn faster, easier, and better. The brain processes information, input from our five senses through a complex network of neurological pathways. These information pathways are constantly transferring and processing via a host of over 100 billion neurons ultimately controlled by the seven key underlying cognitive skills. These cognitive skills or cognitive abilities, short and long term memory, processing speed, attention, sensory processing, and reasoning can have increased performance with proper training. This increases immediate and future brain function, and produces more accurate recall, quicker processing, and easier learning across a wide range of learning challenges. The model below illustrates how learning takes place. Brain training strengthens each of the “wheels” (cognitive skills) that makes the learning process run more smoothly and efficiently and increase learning potential.

The Learning Model
The key is being able to accurately identify and exercise the correct brain mechanism. Brain training unlocks the brains potential for improved cognitive functioning by engaging a student in specially designed exercises to promote rapid strengthening and growth of these information or neurological pathways. If required skills are weak, learning (that is based on that particular skill) will be hindered. The power of brain training is found in its ability to identify, target, and then strengthen individual cognitive skills.

Here’s how it works. The GeniusBrain Program is split into two parts. The first is the screening or testing of the essential cognitive skills performance on a specific range of information for any individual over the age of six. The resulting report outlines current cognitive abilities and allows the team at GeniusBrain to tailor an individual 72hour brain exercise program delivered over a nine-week schedule that enhances, defines and strengthens these underlying cognitive skills. Personal one on one certified brain-trainers deliver individual brain training exercises that build specific skill strengths, resulting in faster, easier learning. The beauty of this program is that it is measured. A final screening test outlines the positive changes made throughout the course of the program which is essential for a new and positive process for improved learning for life.

Geniusbrain is located in Discovery Mall situated in downtown Kuwait City. Why this location? The owners of GeniusBrain wanted a center for education and improvement of children’s life skills and Discovery Mall was the ideal place. Future developments from the Management of GeniusBrain at the Discovery Center will see that the future for children in Kuwait is more than a shopping trip and the latest restaurant. It’s about enriching one’s life for learning.
*** Alan Wilkie is Center Manager GeniusBrain.

Hackers are gearing up for Friday's iPhone 5S release with a contest to crack the device's first-ever fingerprint scanner, a high-tech feature that Apple Inc says makes users' data more secure.

A micro venture capital firm joined a group of security researchers to offer more than $13,000 in cash along with bottles of booze, Bitcoin currency, books and other goodies to the first hacker who breaks the device in a contest promoted on the website

Arturas Rosenbacher, founding partner of Chicago's IO Capital, which donated $10,000 to the hacking competition, said that the effort will bring together some of the hacking community's smartest minds to help Apple identify bugs that it may have missed.

"This is to fix a problem before it becomes a problem," he said. "This will make things safer."

Meanwhile, Forbes.com reported that a 36-year-old soldier living in Spain's Canary Islands, Jose Rodriguez, has already uncovered a security vulnerability affecting iOS 7, which Apple began distributing to existing iPhone and iPad customers on Wednesday.

The publication said that it is possible to bypass the lock screen of those devices in seconds to access photos, email, Twitter and other applications. It included a video demonstration on its website and advice on how users could thwart the bypass technique: onforb.es/16IU6Y3

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller told Reuters that the company was preparing a fix that it would deliver as an update to iOS 7 when it was ready. "Apple takes user security very seriously," she said.

Among those getting ready for the hacking contest is David Kennedy, a former U.S. Marine Corps cyber-intelligence analyst who did two tours in Iraq and now runs his own consulting firm, TrustedSec LLC.

"I am just waiting to get my hands on it to figure out how to get around it first," the founder of the DerbyCon hacking conference told the Thomson Reuters Global Markets Forum this week. "I'll be up all night trying."

WHY WORRY?

Security experts worry about the implications of using the module to grant access to sensitive data on the phone and potentially enabling mobile purchases.

The fingerprint scanner on the top-of-the-line iPhone lets users unlock their devices or make purchases on iTunes by simply pressing their finger on the home button. It has been hailed as a major step in popularizing the use of biometrics in personal electronics.

Security engineer Charlie Miller, known in hacking circles for uncovering major bugs in the iPhone as well as circumventing security in Apple's App Store, said it could take fewer than two weeks for Kennedy or some other smart hacker to get around the new lock.

Once they're in, they could gain access to the cornucopia of data typically stored on a user's iPhone and might potentially be able to buy goods from iTunes and Apple's App store.

Miller declined to comment on the hacking contest or potential security vulnerabilities in the fingerprint reader.

To be sure, experts say they know of nothing intrinsically wrong with Apple's fingerprint reader, based on what the company has so far disclosed. Reviewers this week gushed over its ease of use and reliability.

The reader's sapphire crystal sensor is embedded in the phone's home button and reviews the fingerprint as a user touches it to verify his or her identity.

Data used for verification is encrypted and stored in a secure enclave of the phone's A7 processor chip. No information is sent to any remote servers, including Apple's iCloud system.

HD Moore, a hacking expert and chief researcher with the security software maker Rapid7, said such protections mean "the bar is a little bit higher," but that certainly won't discourage hackers from trying to break the new technology.

"This is definitely something to target and something people will want to go after," he said.

NOTHING PERSONAL

Apple shouldn't take hackers' enthusiasm personally.

All major electronics products are subjected to similar scrutiny as new features are rolled out, including devices from Google Inc, Microsoft Corp and Samsung Electronics Co.

For example, in 2012, Charlie Miller led a team that demonstrated techniques for taking over smartphones running Google's Android software through their use of near-field communications, or NFC, a wireless technology used for sharing data or making purchases at point-of-sales terminals.

Bugs are often disclosed by "white hats," hackers who unearth flaws and report them so manufacturers can repair them, preventing criminal exploitation. The hope is the good guys find them before "black hats" uncover them.

White hats have found multiple security issues with iPhones, iPads and in the App store since Apple launched its first smartphone in 2007. They say that scrutiny has helped make it one of the most secure devices on the market today.

Apple executives said at last week's iPhone launch that the new fingerprint reader, dubbed Touch ID, will help make phones far more secure by dint of its ease of use.

About half of all smartphone users don't bother to use current screen-locking technology because of the inconvenience of keying in multiple-digit passwords. Apple is betting users may be far more willing to avail themselves of a solution that requires a single finger-swipe.

"The technology within Touch ID is some of the most advanced hardware and software we put in any device," Dan Riccio, senior vice president of hardware engineering, said at the event.

Kennedy said he needs to examine the new iPhone to figure out how to best attempt an attack.

He said his choices include hacking the software that analyzes the fingerprint data, or physically opening up the phone and connecting it to a custom-built device that would impersonate Apple's fingerprint reader.

He added that it might be possible to lift a user's fingerprint from elsewhere on the device and somehow make a clone of it.

Rich Mogul, an analyst with the security research firm Securosis, said he planned to use it and expects it to be widely adopted despite the fact that hackers are circling.

"Nobody has gotten their hands on it to see what the weaknesses are and how easy it is to crack," Mogul said.

"We'll have to wait to see."

(Editing by Edwin Chan, Andrew Hay, Cynthia Osterman and Kenneth Barry)

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter is so deeply ingrained in the cultural conversation that its initial public offering is likely to be a hot topic on its trend-setting service for the next few months. Its stock market debut is also likely to be the most scrutinized coming-out party since Facebook went public in May 2012 and promptly flopped. Facebook’s follies made an impression on its social networking rival. Here are four signs of the Facebook influence on Twitter:

Lesson 1: Take the road less traveled.
IPO submissions to the Securities and Exchange Commission typically include exhaustive financial information and other sensitive details. By taking advantage of the regulatory changes introduced since Facebook went public, Twitter is giving investors, the media and would-be competitors less time to pore over its IPO documents.

Twitter gained the wiggle room under a law passed last year shortly before Facebook completed its IPO. Called Jumpstart Our Business Startups act, the law allows a company with revenue below $1 billion to file its IPO papers with the SEC confidentially. This allows the documents to remain secret until 21 days before the company starts marketing the deal to investors – a ritual known as a “road show.”

By reducing the amount of time that its filing information is available for public review, Twitter is hoping to minimize the nitpicking over its business model. Like other high-profile companies that have gone through the standard IPO process, Facebook had to endure more than three months of second-guessing about the information contained in its documents. At the same time, the company couldn’t respond to criticism or misleading interpretations of its filings because of an SEC-enforced “quiet period” that restricts what management can say before an IPO is priced.

Lesson 2: Work the numbers.
Twitter is going public as a younger and smaller company than Facebook Inc., making it easier for the company to generate the kind of robust growth in revenue that tends to excite investors. Facebook was eight years old by the time it went public and had already built such a large business that it was more difficult to speed its pace of growth from one quarter to the next. In its final year before going public, Facebook had annual revenue of $3.7 billion – more than twice as much as Google did when it went public in 2004.

In contrast, Twitter is only seven years old and didn’t even start to generate significant revenue until 2010. Research firm eMarketer estimates that Twitter had $288 million in revenue last year (the actual figure will be revealed once the veil lifts off the company’s IPO documents). Because it still has a relatively small financial base, it won’t be surprising to see Twitter’s revenue more than doubling from the previous year for several quarters after its stock starts trading, PrivCo analyst Sam Hamadeh predicted in a research note.

Lesson 3: Leave some money on the table.
Twitter won’t price its IPO as aggressively as Facebook did, says Hamadeh. That increases the chances of Twitter’s stock rising once it begins trading. He expects Twitter to set its IPO at a price that values the company at about $15 billion. That’s up from an estimated value of $10 billion, based on the money Twitter has raised from venture capitalists and other early investors. Facebook kept raising its IPO price until the company was valued at $104 billion, or about four times Google’s valuation when it went public in 2004. Facebook saw its stock plunge from its IPO price of $38 to below $18 within four months of its IPO amid concerns about its slowing growth and ability to sell ads on mobile devices.

Lesson 4: Timing is everything.
Many analysts thought Twitter might wait until next year to go public, but the stock market’s appetite for social media companies has never been hotter. With the company’s revenue growth picking up again, Facebook’s stock has surged by more than 60 percent in less than two months. Meanwhile, LinkedIn Corp.’s stock has more than doubled so far this year. Things are going so well that even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gotten over his one-time aversion to going public. In an about-face, Zuckerberg told a technology conference in San Francisco earlier this week that the IPO process turned Facebook into a better-run company. “I have been very outspoken about staying private as long as possible, but I don’t think it’s that necessary to do that.” Zuckerberg said Wednesday. Twitter tweeted the news about its IPO filing less than 24 hours later. – AP

CUPERTINO: Apple Inc unveiled on Tuesday an iPhone with a fingerprint scanner to help it stand out in a crowded field of similar smartphones, plus a cheaper plastic model for emerging markets that proved pricier than expected. The “iPhone 5C” comes in five hues – blue, green, pink, yellow and white – and starts in the United States at $99 with a contract, or $549 without. But an unlocked 5C will go for 4,488 yuan ($730)and above in China, more than the average urban resident earns in a month and a price that may disappoint those hoping for a more aggressive assault on the world’s largest cellular market. Apple has been losing ground to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd in emerging markets such as China, and a more affordable 5C was deemed instrumental to helping it claw back market share. It also needs to sharply expand its existing distribution. Apple did not yesterday address speculation that it is on the verge of signing a distribution pact with China Mobile Ltd, the country’s biggest wireless carrier with more than 740 million subscribers.

But a notice posted on a Chinese government website said regulators had, in an expected move, granted a license to allow the iPhone to use China Mobile’s homegrown mobile network, which is different from the standard used by existing iPhone carriers China Telecom Corp and China Unicom. Other details of the two new iPhone models had been telegraphed ahead of time in several media reports, leaving the US launch devoid of major surprises, and Apple shares dropped more than 2 percent on Tuesday to $494.64. The pricier “5S” begins at $199 with a contract and also comes in three colors – gray, silver and gold. It sports a faster processor, a camera that takes bursts of photos and chooses the best, and the fingerprintscanner that unlocks the phone with a touch. It also includes a separate chip, called the “M7 Motion coprocessor”, which can track motion data continuously without heavily draining the battery. That opens the door to better track sports and fitness-related user activity, now the domain of wearable devices like the wrist-worn Fitbit, and lets developers experiment with apps that make use of those functions. Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Gartner, called it “brilliance” on Apple’s part, in that it gives them potential exposure to the wearable-devices market without having to actually design and rush out a gadget of their own like a smartwatch.

(Slightly) cheaper model Apple stock had gained more than 11 percent over the past month, in a typical rally ahead of a big product launch. Tuesday’s sell-off also reflected a postevent pattern. “We are just seeing an aspect of device numbing or resistance, meaning it takes more and more to thrill and excite the consumer,” said Jonathan Kanterman, an independent alternative investment consultant. “Are you going to go out and upgrade to the new 5S if you just bought a new iPhone within the past year? Probably not.” The cheaper phone goes on sale online tomorrow, while the pricier gadget will be available from Sept 20. For the first time, it will sell in China at the same time as the United States, a move expected to severely curtail the underground market for smuggled phones in the world’s No. 2 economy.

The 5C marks a departure from Apple’s focus on purely premium phones, but not as much as some expected. “It means Apple will hold on to margins but clearly they are not going after the very low-end of the market, which will disappoint some investors,” said Shannon Cross of Cross Research. “This is their first foray into multiple colors and the plastic back. Keep in mind by next year they would have probably have discounted this down, so I think there’s still opportunity.” Wall Street approves of the move to offer a more basic version of the device, although some investors warned initially that it would reduce margins and potentially tarnish a brand that has been linked to premium users since its 2007 inception. Others worry that, at just $100 below the 5S, the cheaper iPhone will begin drawing would-be buyers away from the premium gadget.

Apple has said it prefers to cannibalize its own gadgets rather than allowing rivals, such as phones that rely on Google Inc’s Android software, to siphon off customers. Apple would have had to ward off “Android or even Microsoft, picking up some momentum with its new partnership with Nokia. Apple shouldn’t leave the entire field to all these guys,” said Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies. “They’ve put their ‘slightly down market but not really enough to change the brand’ product into the market.” Longer term, investors hope a bigger emergingmarket presence can help reverse a 29 percent fall in the company’s share price since it hit a record high of $702.10 a year ago.

The sell-off was fueled by fears of slowing growth and a perception that Apple’s ability to innovate and shake up industries was dwindling. Industry observers said Apple had not turned out a category-defining electronic device since late co-founder Steve Jobs made a bet on the iPad in 2010. Speculation revolves around a smartwatch along the same lines as Samsung’s recently introduced Galaxy Gear, or some sort of TV product. But analysts said neither was likely to generate numbers anywhere in the neighborhood of the iPhone, which supplies half of Apple’s revenue and is the company’s highestmargin product. Since the first touch-screen iPhone hit the market in 2007, software features have become easier to replicate and improvements in speed, weight, display size and resolution have become routine.

The explosion of me-too products is already hurting profit margins and nibbling at Apple and Samsung’s market share. “Apple needs to demonstrate in the coming months that it has other product lines which can start to make up for slowing growth and falling margins in (the) iPhone and iPad,” said Jan Dawson, a chief telecoms analyst for Ovum Research. “That’s a tall order.” — Reuters

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