Braille+Android = <3, Alternapods, Anti-hydrogen, The robots are coming, Tesla is coming, Intel @ 10-nm, MENA startups, "Mirror, mirror…", Solarmasala.

Mobile:

  • Gaza’s Swift Braille helps the blind use smartphones

Braille comes in languages too. A Palestinian app developer managed to begin an open beta last October and added features that are so promising, blind speakers of both French and Spanish have volunteered to join in the development further adding those languages to the app. The system uses the Android’s haptic feedback subsystem as well as voice to speed typing. Full roll out is expected early 2017.

Apple:

  • The best Bluetooth earbud alternatives to Apple AirPods

Apple Insider put together a host of earbuds in case you would rather not use the new AirPods. 5 products that range from in ear pieces to neck bands. A host of battery life ranges and prices too. More here.

  • Apple Pay adds support for 17 new US banks and credit unions

Apple is still bolstering its position in the Fintech revolution by adding 17 new US banks to its Apple Pay service. Apple expects two-thirds of all US stores should support Apple Pay by the end of 2017 as they expect retail giants to join the party.

Science:

  • ALPHA experiment observes the light spectrum of antimatter for the first time

The eggheads at CERN have done something really cool, again. If you remember your high-school physics, heating sodium (Na) over an open flame, produces a nice light orange glow. Sodium lamps on roadways usually produce very much the same color. This comes from electron excitation in the Sodium atoms where the energy is released as light. Each element gives off a special spectrum (think of it like a light signature). The thing is, what do you get when we excite anti-elements? We are talking anti-matter here folks, and the smart people at CERN did just that, using really sophisticated (and expensive) equipment to make, trap, excite and measure light spectrum from anti-hydrogen. Cool stuff.

Condiments:

  • Japanese white-collar workers are already being replaced by artificial intelligence

Certain jobs are (for better or worse) codable. Meaning that a program could handle a large portion of the tasks required. When it comes to knowledge based jobs such as accounting, law (in some cases) and in the case of this story, insurance, might be endangered by well coded AI and fast hardware. IBM’s Watson has already demonstrated great success on the trivia game show Jeopardy. Of course work is not a game show, but AI can drive cars today. This Japanese firm is replacing 34 employees with IBM Watson Explorer saving $1.1M in salaries, per year.

  • SpaceX concludes accident investigation, targets return to flight on Sunday

On September 1 2016 SpaceX was poised to launch their Falcon 9 rocket before it exploded. The reasons for the explosion weren’t immediately clear (are they ever?) and the investigations have concluded just recently that the culprit appears to be with the  COPVs (Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel) carrying liquid oxygen. They speculate the oxygen was trapped in buckles in the liners of the COPV leading to inhomogeneity of the oxygen between liquid and solid as the helium being pumped into nearby tanks was cold enough to solidify the oxygen promoting ignition under vibration with the fibers of the vessel. This is among other possible scenarios similar in nature. More here.

  • Android was the most vulnerable operating system of 2016

Hacking usually involves a vulnerability in the system. The software running on any system can pose a threat because of its potential vulnerabilities. As far as OSes go, Android was the worst for 2016. 523 to be precise, according to CVE. Adobe, Microsoft and Apple are in the list but in a spread of capacities. Check the full list out here.

  • Kaspersky warning on Switcher Trojan that uses Android devices to compromise routers

Recently there was an attack on home routers using steganography through images and the like, but this time the attack comes from an Android app. This is very unusual. The trick is to use the Android device to brute force poorly secured WiFi routers and divert the traffic as the attackers want (their DNS server(s) to be precise) and from there unleash hell onto the poor users. Always keep an eye on your router config.

  • Linksys Velop mesh routers promise whole-home coverage

Linksys has crammed a few pieces of hardware into each unit of this home WiFi kit. Each “node” has 6 antennas and functions as range extender, router, bridge and access point. They want everyone to be connected without having to fuss with many individual units and configs.

Tesla:

  • Tesla Rolling Out Autopilot Software Updates to 1,000 Cars

Elon Musk’s march towards full self-driving Teslas is going as planed so far with this update going to a “test group” of owners to determine the software is A-OK before rolling out to the rest of the Teslas. But why is this particularly significant? The new Teslas have hardware that is newer/different from the first batch to get “Autopilot 1” that is already making a buzz. This update gives new cars the same functions as Autopilot 1 but over the newer Hardware 2. Ultimately this means all Teslas will eventually get full autonomous soon.

Hardware:

  • Intel Finds Moore’s Law’s Next Step at 10 Nanometers

Intel was always pushing for smaller and smaller transistors. 10 nm is only the next step after the current 14 nm process used to manufacture its current CPU lineup. The thing is, every once in a while a process shrinkage has its kinks and you really need to figure obstacles out before you can move your production to the newer process. What’s the big deal? The smaller the transistors, the more you can cram into a die and, the shorter the distances are between each logic unit/component. This allows all kinds of performance improvements in both speed and power consumption. Moore’s law continues (sort of)

  • AMD’s FreeSync 2 brings smooth HDR gaming to PC

When a GFX card renders and image in memory, you still need to transfer the bits to a monitor for display. Simply put, these are two separate pieces of hardware that are part of a chain that gives you the image you see. Now, each one has an entirely different set of limitations. The monitor can only update the entire image at a time, the GFX card however, needs to do a crazy amount of computing to get the image ready. The way our eyes see motion on screen has a minimum rate of change below which motion looks/feels choppy. This is the refresh rate. The GFX card might ready images faster or slower than that rate and so the “sync” is a big deal. Couple that with the new HDR tech for games and movies these days, this means a lot of stuff needs to be in order before you enjoy the next blockbuster in full smooth HDR glory.

Startup News:

  • $815M+ invested in MENA startups in 2016

If you are a startup in the UAE you have a much better chance of finding funding that in other MENA countries. That isn’t to say that you won’t make it if you aren’t in the UAE, this was just the 2016 snapshot of startup funding across MENA according to Wamda. The UAE is so far ahead in total investment, it truly deserves its spot at No. 1. Details here.

  • Education startups begin to break through in Egypt

Education in Egypt is an enigma. Many students graduate from the traditional K-12 equivalent system with skills and qualifications all over the place. A significant sum of students actually leave the formal system and disappear into the population. A limited education always hinders a person’s realization of their full potential. If a vocational education/training is what caters to their passions and inclinations, then so be it. These startups are geared towards helping students and future workforce realize their potential either through alternative learning routes or simply by connecting students to tutors instead of the word of mouth traditionally used. Things are looking bright for these startups as they fill in gaps that have long been neglected by the government.

  • When the cold is good for your business

People to tend to stay indoors when the weather is cold outside. So a few clever startups have taken to task the service of those indoors. From LPG delivery to TV these guys offer pretty interesting services. More here.

Projects:

  • My Bathroom Mirror Is Smarter Than Yours

Your morning routine can benefit from multitasking. Want to check weather as you brush your teeth? Check. Want to skim news headlines? Check.

Renewables:

  • 2017 Solar Installations in India to Reach 9 GW

India is pushing hard for solar to fuel its infrastructure expansion into more rural areas so the government is offering solar tenders left and right but so far the total solar bite is only 14.3GW in size. Tenders picked up by September only amounted to 6.3GW. Mercom CEO Raj Prabhu says what hinders faster growth is setup and infrastructure obstacles that need to be dealt with with most installations.

  • Queensland Plans Increase in Size of Solar Systems Eligible for FiT

If you live in Queensland and how have a solar installation at your place of residence or you are a business there with a solar installation, these new FiTs (Feed in Tariffs) are planned to encourage you to install larger units (or just add more units) as this will allow you to sell back to the grid at larger quantities. 5 to 30kW to be precise.

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