Round up for Feb 20, ’17

In startup news, CBInsights reports Saudi Arabia’s massive Public Investment fund has reached into its deep pockets bringing loads of cash for startups.

Harvard Business review is weighing in on the innovators in Africa. “For years now, business leaders and investors from around the world have waited for the Africa Rising narrative to shift from promise to reality. The continent has understandably been the focus of increasing investment and attention since the turn of this century. With a young, urbanizing population; abundant natural resources; and a growing middle class, Africa seems to have all the ingredients necessary for breakaway growth—perhaps even outstripping the so-called tiger economies of East Asia a generation ago. Indeed, a 2010 report by the McKinsey Global Institute titled “Lions on the Move” expressly made this comparison, forecasting that consumer spending on the continent would grow by 40%, and GDP by $1 trillion, from 2008 to 2020.” Long piece but worth it.


Apparently, Trump still uses his Android phone. Obama had to surrender his Blackberry as the secret service wouldn’t trust something they can’t control. However, an ageing Android phone? Reportedly, Trump is probably still using his personal Samsung Galaxy S3. Quite a few congressmen are nervous about that and even wrote a letter raising their concerns as they believe the aging device has known vulnerabilities which could be exploited. Imagine the presidents Twitter feed in the hands of serious trouble makers. This comes after a presidential election that was arguably affected by various hacks. The DNC hack is the most damaging of all and that also involved hacking personal accounts.

GM is hitting the road with it’s plans for self-driving cars as it intends to partner up with Lyft in 2018 and deploy thousands (yes thousands) of self-driving cars. And these will all be the all electric Chevy Bolt. But this shouldn’t really come as a surprise given that GM has already bought a minority stake in Lyft for $500M. That is serious money. Combine that with GM’s Maven and to top that, early last year it bought Cruise Automation so as to have its own autonomous driving tech. Alphabet’s Waymo (formerly Google’s) already has Chrysler Pacificas to play with, but those are only 60 cars. With the full weight of GM behind autonomous driving, things are really heating up now. This isn’t just a cool cutting edge feature some cool startups and big tech companies get to play with, now the big boys are joining the game.

Linus Torvalds wants the tech industry to put up and shut up. Talking about innovation is a waste of time, in his view, and the energy is better spent getting the real things done. For around 25 years, Linus has been heading the Linux kernel development where he says the most challenging aspect of the work has been development process, not the actual code. How do you ensure the code fits together properly? How do you ensure the work done is actually worthy of being in the next kernel?
“So for all of that history what we’ve done is organize the code, organize the flow of code, [and] organize our maintainership so the pain point – which is people disagreeing about a piece of code – basically goes away.” More here.


Your CPU could be your weak point. This is what a group of researchers at Vrije University in the Netherlands have found out when they built a Java Script based attack designed specifically to break ASLR. ASLR stands for Address space layout randomization. This basically means that any program as it runs need to store operation information for it in memory, the OS gives these locations but in a randomized placement so as to make it nearly impossible for a memory targeting attack to be effective. In a somewhat oversimplified hypothetical, need to keep your password secured after decrypting it at runtime? Decrypt it to a randomized location and a memory target attack should fail. Now, this group has managed to exploit CPU hardware to gain access to the new randomized locations. More here.

Round up for Feb 13, ’17

In startup news, INJAZ Egypt has redone its startup program! Two phases: Phase one, 50 teams pre-incubation. Phase two, 7 teams incubation. Details here.

There are Saudi women contributing to the good of their country. Case in point, Mounira Jamjoum, Basma Bushnak and Sarah Zaini who founded Emkan Education. Their startup offers a slew of educational services to schools, parents and teachers as well. They built a platform called Madarisna which lists schools and allows some reviewing with the bonus of getting in direct contact with management at the school. Reviews are crucial feedback to help improve service. Speaking of which, let us know what you think of Tekqio.


In science news, the Economist (!), has a piece on a special type of film that allows to cool a surface, and consequently a space enclosed by the surface (think walls and roof) even if the temperature/weather is warm. Bear with us here, heat moves from place to place depending on temperature. High temperature to low (hot to cold). This film relies on the fact the space is cold generally. You know, space. When we are on the surface of the earth, we can only reliably dump heat into space if the heat is in the form of infrared light (infrared radiation). So, if we can convert any heat we have into infrared and just shine it into space we should be set. It isn’t easy but this team of scientists from University of Colorado, in Boulder made something pretty clever. Traditionally we just turn the A/C on, it pulls heat from inside the room and dumps it outside. But that consumes electricity and is rather involved as a process, luckily with industrialization you don’t worry about it, you just buy an A/C, install it and turn it on. To accomplish the heat conversion to IR without needing electricity relies on how bodies radiate heat as expressed in the depth of physics. Any radiation (light is radiation) has a wave length. Certain wavelengths can be tuned just by making the object a certain size. This is what this team focused on, they drew out commercially available TPX (polymethylpentene) making superthin sheets of it with one side silver (to reflect) and the other side covered with tiny glass beads at the size we need to emit IR. Space is always bulk cold compare to Earth, so I think this warrants serious roll out for practical testing.

Venus is hot and very “heavy”. The surface temperature reaches 470C (recorded) and “heavy” at an atmospheric pressure round 90 bar (Earth is @ 1 bar). PCs, Phones even DVRs and satellite receivers stop working when they get too hot and that happens around 70C for the most sensitive components. Making chips that run hotter requires special care and even then, above 120C is very tricky. 470C is a much much bigger challenge. ICs (and consequently CPUs) need semiconductors to “switch” so as to perform the basic functions they need to compute. At very high temperatures semiconductors become conductors and no computation can be done. That is just the physics of it. Recently however, another semiconductor was improved and shows great promise in this regard. Silicon Carbide (SiC) based semiconductors have been used to construct a test chip (oscillator) and subjected to extreme conditions (Venus like) and apparently the chip performed as expected for up to 521 hours. I guess we might indeed get a another mission to Venus since the last one was back in 1985.


When tech meets art, you could get automated scalping. Motherboard has an excellent article on how Wiseguy’s founder Ken Lowson where during the 2000s was able to hoover up as many public tickets as possible to sell at much higher prices. The entire piece details how a shady part of the ticket industry works and how most fans end up getting shafted because of the tilting of the scales through supply and demand. Mind you, the artist gets cut-off when he or she want to keep ticket prices fitting to their craft and audience and tickets end up getting sold for multiples of the face-value price. The fans get hurt the most here. But artists perform for audiences and perhaps feel more appreciated by their fans. Where is the tech in this? Bots are the key. Ticketmaster is a ticket sales and distribution company (since way back in the mid 70s) that takes care of all manner of ticket sales. In the past, tickets could be sold by phone and you’d get them in the mail. With the internets, you get them online. Bots wreak havoc online and the ticket world was played. CAPTCHA you say? Wiseguy pwned Ticketmaster’s CAPTCHA. The FBI raided the office and charged the team with 42 counts of fraud. 20 years jail on each count. The incident happend years ago but the story is timeless.


In productivity news, Microsoft is rolling out a pseudo assistant. We guess we can call it that. Actually the feature is being added to Cortana where by using machine learning it will “read” what you write in an email and remind you that you mentioned and/or promised something to your boss, SO, family, friend…etc. Interesting feature as email is a separate thing from a schedule/calendar yet both are often intertwined especially in a professional context. A meeting is discussed and agreed upon yet needs to be separately added to your calendar. This should (theoretically) make such a task more convenient and a cherry on top of that would be to automatically reschedule if the correspondence indicates so. We’ll see how this turns out.


In shady warez news, some torrent sites are being blocked. Law enforcement? Or censorship? Tough question. Never the less, the big deal is that this is coming from a backbone internet provider, Cogent. Not your ISP, the provider that gives to your ISP. What are they doing? Alledgedly, they are blocking traffic to The Pirate Bay, Primewire, Movie4k, TorrentProject, TorrentButler as well as others.

Running a site is a responsibility. Your baby needs a website (by that we mean your project). If you use WordPress, you have probably heard of the REST API flaw and probably updated to 4.7.2. But in case you are curious, over 1.5 million pages have been defaced since the flaw was announced back in February. BleepingComputer made a nice follow-up on this flaw and reached that number in its findings. Google also got notice of what was going on and started alerting owners registered in its Google Search Console causing some owners to feel nervous even though they have already updated. What really caught our collective eye at Tekqio is the signatures used by the defacers. In the past we heard of “Anonymous” and other h4XXorZ!!1 names but some of these seem to carry a different air to them, intriguing. The numbers however point to hacker groups more than individuals.


Like to geek out with numbers? How about this: Playing with 4 4s to get any number.

Round up for Feb 6, ’17

MENA is not quiet in the Startup realm and Wamda is trying to keep up. They recently published a list of startup newcomers. This is their February list.

In IPO news, the Snapchat IPO bomb is ticking. The IPO was filed with the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange, for those who don’t know) and the valuation puts the company above $20 billion. But the thing is that Instagram Stories is already picking up steam and it seems to be at Snapchat’s expense. Spectacles (snapchat’s glasses+camera gadget) received positive reviews (see here for one) and the entire company is pulling in more money and faster than last year but the irony is that so far it always spent more than it brought in. Yes, you read that right, the company is not making money, yet. And from the looks of it, this IPO could be more of the same as the majority holders (the founders) still have the majority shares. Will this IPO be the last step before a real turn around in cash-flow? We’ll see.

In tech policy news, the White House wants to guard your internets. While not the first time the White House orders something pertaining to cybersecurity, this time it looks like the White House wants to build a federal cyber security defense structure that would function like a cyber military. Meaning that as a traditional military defends the lands, property and citizens of the homeland, the same would be done in cyberland. We don’t know how exactly such a thing could be implemented but the only “effective” method we can see that might serve as an example of this is the so-called “Great firewall of China”, but a real firewall not just content control. “You have to go through us, first” kind of protection. Of course, something like that would never be uttered by the White House, but the draft mentions protection of civilian networks. The real kicker is the 60-day deadline to come up with recommendations on the above.

The eggheads have been busy and we loves some holograms. That Star Killer base presentation is pretty cool, wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of kit? They are still working on it but this is neat. Don’t get so excited yet. This is just a demo of the concept they came up with. You see to make a holographic display really work. You need projection from all over in order to get a true 3D image to see well from all angles. Plainly, that is just impossible for the time being. You can make a 3D image appear in front of you but it will only look well when viewed from a certain viewing angle. Outside it, the image will look wonky or worse. So what do we do? These researchers figured out a way to “distribute” the image over a large viewing volume, so they allowed a greater viewing angle and a larger image. My nature, the larger the angle the smaller the image and vice versa. But with scattering, we might just have a way around it. Granted the test image was still tiny and a laughable resolution, but in this context, this is good news. Maybe this could explain a bit better. The full article is here.

Outgoing president of the Mathematical Association of America, Francis Su, says that mathematics can help you flourish in your life. ‘Su opened his talk with the story of Christopher, an inmate serving a long sentence for armed robbery who had begun to teach himself math from textbooks he had ordered. After seven years in prison, during which he studied algebra, trigonometry, geometry and calculus, he wrote to Su asking for advice on how to continue his work. After Su told this story, he asked the packed ballroom at the Marriott Marquis, his voice breaking: “When you think of who does mathematics, do you think of Christopher?”’ Our team at Tekqio had/has our share of Math in our lives and we find that, the problem’s solution could be an hour away but every step is one closer to the solution, this teaches patience and firmness in ones ability to defeat problems with complex and distant solutions. Like the marathon that is complete with every step you take on the run to the finish line. Living, in more ways than one, can be quite similar.

Software development? Source control? Repos? From experience, using Git forced you to download a local copy of a project (say X.org server) which could be Gigabytes (Not Mega) of downloads. Even if the required was to change one line in one file and recompile, you have to have a mirror image of everything on the project. You can download branches yes, but still. “Git checkout” can be a nightmare after pressing enter. Microsoft came up with a solution we think is a great idea. We thought this should be doable which is targeting files on demand instead of bringing in the entire truckload whenever you just want to really checkout the project files.

Switch, App store prices up, Caffine, Renewables for Egypt, FDaaS?, ISIS mini-drones

Simplygon Triangle Optimization. Simplygon was recently acquired my Microsoft, expect this tech to show up in future games.

Game consoles:

  • Nintendo Switch hands-on review

The folks over at the INQ have reviewed the recently released Nintendo Switch. Portable console is one step closer to reality with the Switch.

Apple:

  • Apple App Store prices rise in UK, India and Turkey

Apple prices in the App store depend on a variety of factors including exchange rate and taxes among other things. Naturally if a major shift happens in any of these, the prices should reflect that. So, Apple decided to match the number amount between GBP and USD and reportedly raise the prices in India, Turkey, Romania and Russia. This will result in a defacto price hike as, for example, the GBP is trading higher than the USD.

Science:

  • Caffeine may counter age-related inflammation

“We didn’t give some of the mice coffee and the others decaf. What we’ve shown is a correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity.” They found that certain inflamations that occur with age are caused by a protein produced in the body the mechanism of its action (inflammation) is countered by caffeine.

Renewables:

  • The launch of new and renewable energy projects in 2017

The renewable energy sector in Egypt has nowhere to go but up. Currently most solar installations are of the rooftop thermal solar (water heaters) which aren’t too sophisticated but they do supply hot water to the households that have it adding to a better way of life for the residents. Wind is present in the east of the country but total installed capacity there is almost 1GW. Without a clear feed-in tariff in place, the private sector will not be effective in expanding installed capacity.

  • Masdar Takes Stake in UK Floating Wind Farm Project

“Due to start commercial operation in late 2017, Hywind Scotland would be the world’s first floating offshore wind farm. It consists of five 6 MW floating wind turbines anchored to the seabed. The farm covers an area of around four-square kilometers.” The Abu Dhabi company bought 25% of the Hywind Scotland wind farm.

Startup news:

  • Measure raises $15 million to fly drones as a service for other companies

FDaaS? Awkward. But the idea isn’t as most drones need some skill to fly nicely and most of the cool drone footage online needs some serious skill, talent or both. But footage for online consumption isn’t the focus here. If a company wants to inspect something that requires a drone, these guys can help. $15M series B funding is not chump change.

  • Turkish payments startup Iyzico closes $13M Series C

A gut wrenching journey for this fintech startup that survived an attempted coup at the moment of its receiving of its most crucial license.

Condiments:

  • ISIS is dropping bombs with drones in Iraq

ISIS has already shown they know how to use modern tech to their advantage and peril for their victims. This time it isn’t social media or graphic videos with fancy visual effects and animations, it is drones, commercial off the shelf drones. Granted those tiny quad-copters can only carry so much but still, this is an escalation nonetheless.

  • Google Maps may soon show how difficult parking is near your destination

Going somewhere and are worried you won’t be able to park? Google is currently in beta rolling out a parking situation description for your destination. So far, some public places such as shopping centers and airports are getting descriptions accessible from a “P” symbol next to driving time. v9.44 beta for some users shows them descriptions and it clearly will be area specific. To follow the progress on this find, go here.

  • Microsoft Releases Xbox PIX Game Performance And Debugging Tool For Windows 10

We, at Tekqio, have often found that modern games seem to lack some level of performance optimization. That lack could sour the experience unless you have a bleeding edge system, maybe (Will it run Crysis?). When compared to modern game consoles, PCs often have greater hardware potential and yet, the games don’t seem to act like it. Console games must perform almost flawlessly or else what is the point in having the appliance? Developers have long had tools that help in the optimization process and MS has finally brought one of such tools to Windows 10. Beta of course but this means good news for PC gamers in the future, or so we hope.

  • Report: PC gaming hardware market expands to an all-time high

Asia-Pacific region driving most of this growth as it seems they don’t dig into the whole console thing. They loves them PCs it seems. As for the US and Western-Europe, those that do by PCs seem to tend to buy high-end hardware (which always comes with a premium). Still $30B is a massive amount of money.

  • Flying car prototype ready by end of 2017, says Airbus CEO

Airbus has been working on an Uber style autonomous flying car for people transport. They say they are talking this “development very seriously” and expect to have a running (flying?) prototype ready by year’s end. We, however, ask how loud will it be?

  • Seagate is Shutting Down One of Its Largest HDD Assembly Plants

“The factory, located in Suzhou, China, is one of the company’s largest HDD production epicenters…” SSDs are marching strong into the territory of the old magnetic media drives. This is to be expected considering that most laptops already ship with SSDs these days. More here.

  • Hackers Once Again Hijack Samsung’s SmartCam With iWatch Root Exploit

Samsung SmartCams were already hacked once before and instead of really fixing the problem, Samsung just disabled the venerable interface that was the problem. Now, these hackers were able to use a firmware update script still left on the camera where a bug in it gave the hackers full access by restoring the interface on the unit.

  • Google’s former head of search joins Uber to lead its maps division

Amit Singhal, former head of Google’s search division, will be joining Uber catching up with other ex-Googlers further bolstering a team that is all about maps. Uber wants to build a map of the entire world with the intention of using it for it’s autonomous vehicle efforts.

  • First Android Wear 2.0 devices revealed: Google and LG’s Watch Sport and Watch Style

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G and LTE,GPS and NFC all on your wrist but this time from Google+LG. Running Android Wear 2.0 these units will be out by February 9 but the mockups look neat. Want the watch but also want to keep your real phone+number? The sport model can do untethered telephony. More here.

  • Nokia 6 sells out in a minute on launch day

Yep, you read that right. 1 minute. 60 Seconds. The preorders reached a million so clearly there is interest. 5.5″ 1080p, Spandragon 430 octacore, 4GB RAM, 3000mAh. Not bad.

Tesla farms the sun, Apple TV?, HTC+AI, US is sweating, NSA shares, Rasha Abu AlSaud, SpaceX launch again!

Tesla:

  • Tesla will power its Gigafactory with a 70-megawatt solar farm

70MW makes that nearly 7 times the size of the current largest rooftop solar array. The factory will also have a water recycling facility that will allow it to recycle an estimated 80% of all water demand. Any excess power will be stored in batteries of course and be put to use as necessary. More here.

Apple:

  • Apple planning to make original TV shows and movies as hardware sales soften

The WSJ soft-wall was scaled by Venturebeat to bring us this story about Apple’s venture into the video content creation world. But not just any video content, we are talking scripted shows. Apparently Apple is looking to buy rights to ‘television’ programming bringing it into the fighting ring with Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime. Apple is a huge name with piles of cash but the story claims they aren’t looking to spend a whole lot on this just yet.

Mobile:

  • HTC’s new flagship phone has AI and a second screen, but no headphone jack

AI because HTC wants the phone to suggest things that cater to your habits. The phone will have a new Sense Companion that will “…suggest you recharge it if it knows you’ll be away from a power outlet for longer than it expects its battery will last. Or it will tell you to dress warm on a cold day.” Also, there is a tiny 2-inch screen that will serve as kind of like the Apple TouchBar. And, no headphone jack.

Consoles:

  • Nintendo’s Joy Con controller contains motion tracking camera, other tricks

Nintendo presented its latest Switch console last Thursday and showed something interesting in its controllers. They are dubbed Joy Con, and the entire unit is boasted to be a portable unit borrowing from technologies in the field of mobile phones and smartphones. These controllers have rumble capabilities that are meant to give simulated sensory feedback while doing certain motions yet to revealed how they will present themselves during gameplay. Swirling a drink with ice in it? That can be simulated in your
hand. Also, an IR camera that can pick up your hand gestures opposite the controller. Techradar compiled a list of 15 facts on the Switch.

Science:

  • It’s Official: 2016 Was Second Hottest Year for U.S.

Alaska saw its warmest year on record since 1925 when they first started recording temperatures there. Mind you, 2016 was actually the third year in a row this happens. Granted the temperature increase value is small, but the climatologists saw this is significant given that not only Alaska is warmer, almost everywhere else is warmer than average.

Tech policy:

  • Obama Drops One Last Executive Order Giving The NSA Leeway To Share Unwarranted Surveillance Data On Americans

The NSA collects data on anybody and everybody it can according to the documents leaked by Ed Snowden. This data previously was only shared to FBI or other law enforcement agencies through a warrant and only after the NSA screens it for unnecessary personal information. This executive order, 12333, drops the warrant requirement. “The recipient can only use the information for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, not domestic criminal cases.” More here.

  • New Windows 10 privacy controls: Just a little snooping – or the max

Windows 10 telemetry angered many users concerned about their privacy and later it was found that disabling it was not really straightforward. Now, after the Swiss Data protection commissioner sued Microsoft for its apparent hiding of the telemetry baseline, this prompted the latter to build an online dashboard that allows users to delete and basically manage their data at Microsoft, the Swiss were satisfied with that. Soon however, Microsoft will release an update that will allow users to either give MS everything it wants or almost nothing. The almost part is because MS claims it needs some info to ‘improve user experience through future updates’.

  • Microsoft sued by staff traumatized by child sex abuse vids stashed on OneDrive accounts

Microsoft’s ‘Big Brother department’ did not give enough care to it’s employees, a new lawsuit claims. 2 members of the company’s Online Safety Team have suffered from PTSD after reviewing user uploaded content for breaches of “terms of use”. These breaches, according to the lawsuit, included child-pornography and murder videos. You can find a copy of the complaint in PDF here.

Spotlight on Entrepreneurs:

  • Stronger together: uniting Egypt’s women entrepreneurs

Wamda details Rasha Abu AlSaud’s journey to bring Egyptian women entrepreneurs together to further empower them and bring their business and products to the masses. She built platforms that bring modern tools and provide training to allow women to better run their businesses.

Startup news:

  • Startup Emirates: the most well-funded tech startups in the UAE in one infographic

The UAE is a powerhouse for startups in the MENA region. This infographic tells more of that story a thousand words can’t.

Condiments:

  • WATCH: SpaceX Successfully Launches Falcon 9 Rocket, Months After Blast

After the explosion of their rocket last September, SpaceX got their act together quickly and launched their Falcon 9 rocket last Saturday carrying 10 Iridium satellites. Iridium is a satellite phone operator that has dozens of satellites in orbit providing global coverage for its customers.

  • Hacker Steals 900 GB of Cellebrite Data

“The hackers have been hacked.” Cellebrite is an Israeli company that specialized in ripping data out of mobile phones. Cellebrite is reported to have worked with law enforcement and possibly also not so freedom friendly governments.

  • Facebook’s ‘journalism project’ seeks to strengthen online news

Facebook is full steam ahead, it seems, in making changes to its role in the media universe. With this, the social media company defacto acknowledges that its service had an impact on the media landscape and in the spread of news (fake or real). Couple that to the flak it got from the recent viral spread of fake news, they are taking action by collaborating with training and news organizations to help journalists improve their reporting through FB and also give tools to journalists to be able to weed out the fake stories. Campbell Brown, now with FB, will be helping both media and FB work together. More here and here.

  • Google’s parent company killed its solar-powered internet-drone program

They are dropping the solar drone to focus on their other project ‘Loon’ which revolves around high-altitude balloons. Basically, balloons are much cheaper than drones.

  • NSA-leaking Shadow Brokers lob Molotov cocktail before exiting world stage

“The post included 61 Windows-formatted binary files, including executables, dynamic link libraries, and device drivers.” Perhaps the cloves are really off with this one. “Russian ties make sense given the inauguration [of Donald Trump] happens in a short time [from now]. If that narrative is correct and Shadow Brokers is Russian, they wouldn’t be able to release those tools after Trump takes office. If you roll with that narrative, [the burn-it-to-the-ground theory] certainly works.” Jake Williams founder of Rendition Infosec said.

  • Uber has been built directly into Google Maps

This is an interesting development. Previously you can browse ride hailing app fares and times but booking is new. So now you can Uber through-and-through from Google Maps. More here.

  • Uber’s Movement dumps data on city planners

Speaking of Uber, New York city planners have long asked Uber for data on the routes traveled and info on the journeys but Uber refused to share this info as it was too raw in the beginning. Now, Uber built a service called Movement that anonymizes the information they have on journeys and routes with travel times. This, we believe, is what’s truly of value to city planners as travel times and routes are the basis for studying and later improving road and street design and infrastructure. Traffic engineers, rejoice!

  • Hackers trigger yet another power outage in Ukraine

The attack was started using a phishing email from a trusted account that contained an attachment (malware). The target effect rendered remote terminals that control circuit breakers in powerstations offline.

  • Google is shutting down Hangouts API as it lures consumers towards Allo and Duo

Google wants users to move to Allo and Duo, seriously. Hangouts has been for a while a very useful tool for businesses but it is getting clearer that Google wants to split business from pleasure. Hangouts will survive for businesses though but the ability to add Hangouts ability through APIs is now dead.

  • Intel’s new CPUs flawed: full system control over USB

Positive Technologies, a security firm, claims that Intel CPUs from the U series SkyLake family were found to have a debug interface that is accessible via USB 3.0 ports. More here.

  • Autocomplete a novel phishing hole for Chrome, Safari crims

Autocomplete on forms depending on who you ask, is a useful feature especially if you are required to fill in the same info over and over. However, Chrome and Safari are vulnerable in that a phishing site could pose as a form seen before by the browser and offer to autocomplete a form where some boxes might not even be visible to the user. Imagine being asked for your name and another box, hidden, would hold credit-card info. The user would select the autocomplete and know nothing of the potential disaster.

  • Google’s Waymo invests in LIDAR technology, cuts costs by 90 percent

Scaling is a key to the cost cutting. Not many details are given but we guess it is in large orders of mass produced items. Bespoke parts and mods are dropped or streamlined to mass production ready states and the economies of scale bore its fruits. Mind you the LIDAR sensors are the most expensive part of any hardcore autonomous vehicle sensor system (Tesla doesn’t use LIDAR). More here.

  • Opera Neon turns your web browser into a mini desktop

Browser multi-tasking has seen a revolution long ago when tabbed browsing was introduced. It was somewhat slowly picked up and now you can’t imagine browsing without tabs. But that system hasn’t changed in a long time and with the ubiquity of messaging and chatting and streaming usage, Opera thinks they have a better idea to tackle the situation.

Things that caught our eye at CES 2017

  • Xiaomi’s newest TV is 30% thinner than an iPhone

Smart TVs have minicomputers built into them. Xiaomi decided it should make things easier for users to upgrade the “computer” cheaper than the while display. The unit come with the soundbar holding all TV connections as well as a pair of satellite speakers and a sub-woofer. And lets not forget, this thing is really thin.

  • I rocked out in Rock Band VR at CES and I liked it

If you’ve ever played ‘Rock Band’ you know the game is about being in a Rock Band, in particular the stage experience and the music. This time Harmonix has taken the experience to a new level with VR. Darrell Etherington at Techcrunch had a blast int he new Rock Band VR. More here.

  • Up close with Ford’s new autonomous development Fusion Hybrid car

Fusion Hybrid prototype new with less bulky looking LiDAR sensors up front on the A pillar and the rest of the cameras are cleverly hidden inside roof rails. All this so as not to have obnoxious looking hardware as is currently being used with autonomous vehicles from non-electric car manufacturers (i.e. not Tesla).

  • AMD declares Ryzen will be a four-year architecture, details overclocking plans, emphasizes hard launch

AMD recently released its Ryzen chip late last year and couldn’t miss CES to add to its roll out. According to AMD is seems they are really putting their backs into Ryzen as they expect to be able to improve on it cycle after cycle with big improvements rather than tiny changes over time. Add to that Intel seems to have a hiccup in their ‘tick-tock’ strategy currently. The Ryzen chips have shown great promise for the company in the demos shown last year, lets hope we can have a decent alternative to Intel’s dominance.

  • LG threatens to put Wi-Fi in every appliance it introduces in 2017

1080p 29 inch touchscreen on the door, camera inside. You can see whats in your fridge without opening it. I guess connecting to it while at the grocery store might be of convenience but, c’mon. Alexa added too.

  • First Brexit, then Trump, and now, behold the smart hairbrush

Yes! IoT maddness! This brush has microphones to listen to your hair brushing, an accelerometer, Bluetooth and WiFi! It gets paired to an iOS or Android app. More here.

  •  ChargePoint ups the fast charging ante

Chargepoint is announcing ultra-fast DC Charging at 400kW called Express Plus. The aim is the new Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Volt while obviously giving charge to other models depending on support.

  • ShapeScale visualizes your body fitness with its simple 3D body scans

‘Do I look fat?’ You can track weight by number by standing on a scale but how about a 3D scan as well to track where the weight has gone/been put on? Shape will do that. Clever.

  • Nvidia hits prime time at CES this year

Nvidia is digging deep into GPU and alternative computing hardware in a big way with two key terms backing it up, Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning. With a stock price riding really high at the time of this writing, there is a lot of promise from Nvidia. Highlights of Nvidia’s event could be found here.

  • Here’s what it’s like to drive with Toyota’s Yui AI in-car assistant

Toyota is working on an in-car assistant. This AI wants to get to know you as well where it will give destinations and navigation through routes that it would deem “happy” depending on what it knows about the driver.

  • Smart canes and wheelchairs among tech empowering the disabled at CES

“Amid the confusion of smart showerheads and selfie drones at CES this year, a handful of companies are working to serve the needs of populations that are frequently overlooked by the proprietors of high tech. You won’t find these devices in every home, but homes with someone disabled by age or misfortune will welcome them more than a new voice-powered fridge.” More here.

  • HP at CES: More sleek new laptops and a huge curved all-in-one

The HP camp has made a few impressive decisions with their laptop/notebook line. The decided to go the opposite of thin and light (but only marginally) for better battery life. For all-in-one units, the curved screen is all the rage these days. The hardware in all these products look very promising. The designs look elegant too.

  • EDGE Memory reveals huge SSD fleet at CES 2017

2TB, M.2 NVMe, 2.5GB/sec read and 1.1GB/sec write. Need more?

  • GoPro wants the moments you capture on the internet instantly

Snapchat allows users to instantly upload photos and videos to the internet. Snapchat introduced Spectacles, wearable tech for Snapchat. GoPro doesn’t want to fell left out so they are working on functions and software to speed the editing process to give much shorter sharing latency.

  • LiquidSky turns any device into a gaming PC for free

Nvidia has Geforce Now, which is a game streaming service. What does that do? Simply you play a game on a fast PC, over the internet. LiquidSky offers the same but with different subscription options including free.

12 things in CES 2017

image: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

1. Samsung says its new QLED TVs are better than OLED TVs

Samsung QLEDs featured claim to have double the brightness of the previous ones (1500 to 2000 nits vs 1000 nits) and way more color reproduction meaning more vibrant greens and richer reds. QLEDs still require backlighting though unlike OLEDs but don’t suffer burn-in like OLEDs either.

2. Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 835 – the first 10nm SoC

“The Snapdragon 835 features a new Kryo 820 CPU with four high-performance cores running at 2.45GHz and four efficiency low-power cores running at 1.9GHz. These are backed by dual channel LPDDR4x memory at 1866MHz.” More here.

3.The Dell 27 Ultrathin monitor really lives up to its name

Wow this is thin. What impresses most is the idea of moving all bulky hardware to the base of the monitor leaving only the display elements to the user facing panel. Really sleek.

4. Amazon’s Alexa moves in on Google’s Android system

A far as Sci-Fi films and series go, one of the coolest features we viewers long to have is the computer assistant. While the Marvel universe isn’t Sci-Fi, who hates Jarvis? Amazon has Alexa and the IoT revolution is on its way so, it is a great time to roll your digital assistant out. Amazon is actually racing to beat giant Google to the masses as the latter shut others out of their assistant making it exclusively for Pixel smartphones. So Amazon brought Alexa to Android and top white-good manufacturers to back it to that end. Amazon is up for a head start. It won’t be long before your fridge actually tells you ‘We’re low on milk.’

5. Dell Precision 5520 is world’s lightest 15-inch mobile workstation

3.93 pounds, 15.4″ screen in a unit that feels like a 14″,  latest 7th-gen Intel Xeon and Kaby Lake CPUs. Also, that screen is 4K.

6. Razer goes immersive with new in-room gaming projection and 3-screen laptop

Razer displayed their latest project, Ariana. While still just a concept sort of right now, the hardware displayed was impressive. Ariana is an ultra-bright sleek looking gaming projector coupled with immersive surround sound. Razer acquired THX recently, so the technology is probably being put to good use. Also, project Valerie, an impressive multi-monitor laptop. 3x 4K 17.3″ monitors in a laptop!

7. CES 2017: Faraday Future unveils super fast electric car

Still sounds too good to be true, especially considering all the effort put forward by Tesla in design and manufacturing of what can only be described as the most brute force approach to forcing a product to succeed. Faraday Future claims massive battery sizes and long ranges. While the vehicle does look a bit bulkier than a Tesla it will probably weigh a lot more if those claims are true. Also the features mentioned are more like a laundry list of features available in other vehicles.

8. At CES, new Vive accessories fix some of VR’s problems

Wireless HTC Vive! Pricey but very much welcome change to the Vive line as the sold out TPCast units back in November clearly showed demand. If you want to add wireless connectivity to your Vive, the TPCast is your solution. HTC is rolling out worldwide with this bad boy.

9. Dell’s Canvas is a 27-inch tablet for creative professionals

Dell’s 27″ answer to Microsoft’s Surface Studio. 18.5 pounds, anti-glare Gorilla Glass, 2 “dials” (different sizes each) as well as Stylus.

10. Honda’s Riding Assist gives motorcycles balance tricks from its Asimo bot

Motorcycles are heavy. Honda developed a self balancing motorcycle using things they learned from their Asimo humanoid robot.

11. Toshiba’s BG Series M.2 NVMe SSDs are super compact

SSDs in the M.2 NVMe form factor are really popular among performance seeking users. Toshiba’s latest GB series continues the trend towards smaller is better. Small on the outside, big on the inside (upto 512GB) and this is really small, on the outside.

12. Blitab is a Braille device for visually impaired people

Braille displays were always costly because of the complex mechanicals involved. Braille is the tactile method used by the visually impaired for reading. Blitab uses a unique braille display coupled to a real Android tablet (tiny though). The real kicker is in the relatively very low cost, almost 10 times cheaper than conventional braille hardware.

Other things that caught our eye at CES 2017.

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.

Pixels die around 30%, KillDisk wants $, Alexa might hear you, Palm handbags, Unicorns for Careem!

Mobile:

  • Some Google Pixel devices shutting down at 30% battery

Apparently the new Google Pixel seems to suffer from the same issue that was hitting some customers of the Huawei Nexus P6. The phone would shutdown around 30% and wouldn’t do anything unless a charger was hooked to the device. Google and Huawei are investigating the issue.

  • T-Mobile demos nearly 1Gbps speeds on its LTE network with unreleased phone

Although this was done in their labs, the impressive thing is that it was done over their already existing network. Some signal and frequency trickery was involved but still. This is separate from 5G networks even. More here.

Condiments:

  • Destructive KillDisk Malware Turns Into Ransomware

KillDisk was used in espionage operations in the recent past where the affected systems would get their drives or files deleted throwing a wrench into the works of their operations. Now it seems someone has developed a new “strand” that encrypts instead of wipes and ransoms the data for 222 bitcoins (1 bitcoin = $998 on 1-1-2017). Apparently the malware seems to register itself as a service on the affected machines. FYI, the older KillDisk was used as one of the tools during the BlackEnergy attacks on Ukraine’s power grid in late 2015.

  • Here’s North Korea’s Totalitarian Android Tablet

Locked down in every sense of the word. Big brother running Android. The unit doesn’t have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and you can’t just open any file you dump on it. The unit always checks for a cryptographic signature in the file to ensure the file isn’t unauthorized. If you create files locally on the unit, those are fine. There is built-in propaganda material of course.

  • Windows 10 Reportedly Adding a Game Mode That Would Improve Game Performance

Everyone knows Windows has a lot of things going on in the background when an application is running. In the past, hardcore gamers would disable services and even devices to gain that extra 1% performance boost, or more critically, eliminate the annoying microstutter. In 2008, AMD had a utility called “Fusion” that would quit certain running programs which effectively made a “gaming mode” but that was discontinued not too long after. Our experience with it was that it was a crude utility that couldn’t return the system back to it’s original state, only a reboot would do that. Nice try though. From MS however, this could mean something real.

  • Tesla Autopilot avoids a crash before it happens

The Tesla’s autopilot feature on their cars was often looked at with skepticism that it would actually end up causing accidents because drivers would be thought to ignore the warnings and precautions from regulators etc. and the system would just do something that doesn’t make sense. How about it doing something that doesn’t obviously make sense and actually prevent further pileup in a crash by reacting before something obvious happens? It did just that. Nice job, really.

Tech policy:

  • Police ask: “Alexa, did you witness a murder?”

Back in November 2015, a former police officer was found dead in a hot tub in the backyard of an acquaintance. Indecently, Amazon’s Alexa was streaming music in the vicinity of the scene and the police were asking Amazon if they can “listen” to what Alexa heard that night. The thing is, Alexa does it’s voice recognition/processing in the cloud, but the original audio is packaged in the unit and sent as a JSON message to the service. Their might be a copy of that file on the unit or cloud. Alexa always listens.

  • Czech Republic sets up unit to counter fake news threat

The DNC hack, Hillary’s emails, Trump…these are all sending shivers down the spines of European countries holding elections in the near future. The latest move comes from the Czech Republic where they are setting up “The Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats”. Its job will be to monitor what goes on locally on the cyber front (i.e. Hacks ala DNC) as well as combat “fake news” (ala FB fake news). They really feel the Russians want to spoil the party for them so they want to do something about that. On a positive note, they claim they will inform the public of what they see as threats (kind of like raise awareness), this is in contrast to just pulling the plug on this whole internet thing. Fight fire with awareness.

  • South Korea slaps Qualcomm with record-setting $850M fine

Apparently Qualcomm wasn’t playing fair, according to a Korean court saying that the company refused to license essential tech to other companies that are effectively part of industry standards as they stand today. The fine the court slapped was 1.03 Trillion Won (about $850M). This isn’t a first for the company, China last year fined them almost a BILLION dollars.

  • Trio charged with $4m insider trading by hacking merger lawyers

Law firms hold documents related to mergers and acquisitions for companies. That kind of information is worth a whole lot of money provided you play your stock cards right. But the thing is, this is still considered illegal, as that would still be insider trading even though these guys are not “insiders” per se. But get this, the information was on the cyber backend of the law firms. More on these guys here.

  • Tesla and Panasonic will make solar cells in New York

Tesla will buy long term while Panasonic pays for manufacturing costs (tools, equipment etc.). And this happens in a Tesla owned facility, in New York. More here.

  • Crytek to receive $500m investment from Turkish gov

The Turkish government is backing the German developer because apparently the developer has stretched into Istanbul and was planing to invest in Turkey. The company was having trouble these past few years and it looks like it won’t be out of the woods anytime soon. More here.

Startup news:

  • Fixing Egypt’s waste crisis one handbag at a time

Aswan has around 1.8 million palm trees. These trees produce fronds and dates which means there is an excess of either and part of Nubian culture has been expressed through making things from palm products. 6 startups in Egypt have put their weight behind making products out of palm waste. Napata is one that started from $21K of the founders own money  which grew into a full fledged product line that lead to winning funding from CleanTec Arabia and later won a $10K prize from PepsiCo Social Impact competition. Nice going!

  • Egypt’s Vezeeta gets $5M Series B

Vezeeta the cloudbased proprietary automated doctor’s appointment booking app (that’s a mouthful), has received $5 MILLION dollars in series B funding. In post-floatation Egypt this is significant for a startup. Vezeeta plans to expand into 7 other countries over the next 12 to 18 months. The issue with doctor’s appointments, in the middle east’s most populous nation, is that you usually have to ask friends and family which doctor to go to and end up calling multiple times in an attempt to get an appointment. More so if the doctor is popular. This app cuts that process into an experience that can be accomplished much easier online and/or by calling a call center where they would do the booking for you.

  • Oculus acquires eye-tracking startup The Eye Tribe

Unfortunately we don’t know for how much the acquisition was for, but speculation mounts towards that the move is mainly to improve VR rendering performance by tracking the focus of the user’s eyes ultimately to allow off-focus rendering to be degraded to save computing power. More here.

Spotlight on Entrepreneurs:

  • The Day we became worth 1 Billion$

Wael Fakharany, Managing director at the ride hailing app Careem recounts his experiences that let him to be a part of the startup that was recently valued at $1B.