October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

Driven mainly by financial technology (fintech) investments, blockchain has seen a fast uptick in adoption for application development and pilot tests in a number of industries and will generate more than $10.6 billion in revenue by 2023, according to a new report from ABI Research in New York. 

That revenue figure is expected to come mainly from software sales and services.

Driving much of the interest in blockchain are multinational corporations rolling out proofs-of-concept and pilot programs, moves that have bolstered the credibility of and investment in the distributed ledger technology, according to ABI Research director Michela Menting, the report’s lead author.

Menting also pointed to tech giants such as IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, SAP, HPE, and Oracle, among others, who are pushing Blockchain-as-as-Service (BaaS) for first-time enterprise adopters, often enabling integration with existing enterprise software and cloud services.

Most notably, Menting said, use cases for tackling endemic problems in the global supply chain are proving particularly popular.

“Blockchain is being leveraged to resolve complex issues around transparency, efficiency and cost,” Menting said in a statement. “Successful pilots run by the likes of Walmart and Maersk in tracking and monitoring products on a global scale are emerging into commercialized platforms that will be market-ready in the next few months.”

October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

The developers behind open source SQL database PostgreSQL, long vaunted as both an underappreciated gem and a potential replacement for Oracle, has officially released PostgreSQL version 11.

Current users of PostgreSQL shouldn’t find the changes in the new edition too jarring, but several new and revised features are worth a look—either for future database projects or incremental changes to existing ones.

PostgreSQL has long supported partitioning tables for better performance and easier management. PostgreSQL 11 adds many table-partitioning options, such as supporting “upsert” (UPDATE or INSERT) functions on partitions to simplify database application code, faster queries for partitioned tables generally, and the ability to partition tables using the hash function of a given key, as well as ranges for a column value or a list of possible keys. This last feature includes automatic rebalancing of shards when rows have their hash key altered, so that rebalancing doesn’t have to be done as a regular maintenance task.

Stored procedures in PostgreSQL 11 can now perform their own transaction management. This makes it easier to write database-native functions that perform complex server-side operations like bulk alteration of data.

For faster queries, PostgreSQL 11 offers the option, disabled by default, to perform just-in-time (JIT) compilation on some query expressions, using the LLVM compiler framework. JIT compilation is most useful for queries that are heavily CPU-bound—for instance, when row results are being transformed on the fly.

Benchmarks demonstrate that JIT compilation provides a general speedup of about 20 percent, with performance boosts up to five times when paired with other optimizations. PostgreSQL’s developers have left open the possibility that other operations could be JIT-accelerated in the future as well. 

October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

Apple iPhone XS event

In July 2010, I wrote about the next-generation iPad and what Apple needs to deliver.

Based on information gleaned from updates in iOS and intelligence coming out of the semiconductor industry at the time, I polished the crystal ball — in my usual purely speculative way — of what I thought successive iPads might look like, or the features they should contain.

Read also: If Apple’s Mac has any future, it’s in the cloud

I iterated this over the years — for the third-, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-generation of the iPad. Some stuff I got right, some stuff I got wrong.

Typically, I’ve done this shortly after an iPad’s release. This time, I’m going to do it only a few weeks before the October 30, 2018 event, because, up until recently, I didn’t think we had enough clues.

When Apple announced its new, lower-cost, Apple Pencil-compatible iPad at its education event, it did not announce new iPad Pro models, which have not had a revision since June 2017 and, arguably, have not changed much since September 2016.

Now that the iPhone XS, the XS Max have been released, and the iPhone XR is due shortly, I would like to concentrate on the iPad Pro models and speculate what features they might contain.

NEXT APPLE IPAD PRO: SENSORS AND CAMERAS

The Touch ID sensor, which has been part of the iPad Pro since its inception in 2015, is likely to make a departure with the introduction of the 10-inch and 12.9-inch models in favor of the Face ID sensor first introduced in the iPhone X and now the XS, the XS Max, and the XR.

The usability changes on the iPhone X were substantial enough to cause some controversy because it required significant user adaptation.

I would expect that those folks who did not migrate to the current generation of iPhones — who would be using Face ID for the first time on an iPad Pro — would endure similar issues, although iOS 12 has undergone enough tweaks in the intervening time period that a lot of the quirks have been sorted out.

I’m still not crazy with the double-click action on the side power button to confirm purchases in the App Store on an iPhone X/XS/XR. I’d probably dislike it even more on an iPad Pro, because you can’t do it one-handed, assuming Apple uses the same UX mechanism.

Another issue that goes beyond usability — and unlearning learned habits with the home button and Touch ID with a Face ID-based iPad Pro — is how well we can expect Face ID to work on a much larger device that is held further away from the face and in two different orientations.

Read also: Rescuing tablets from the abyss: Can education and field applications save them?

I tended to use my iPad Pro most in a landscape orientation because it was the 12.9-inch model and holding it in a portrait mode was cumbersome. On the 10-inch model, it is less cumbersome, but I still feel that most people tend to use this device in landscape due to how most apps are written to take advantage of the screen real estate.

Placing the Face ID sensor with the front-facing camera on the top of the screen in portrait mode, as it is on the iPhone X would be aesthetically weird, but it would probably still work.

However, if the iPad Pro has the same iPhone X-style “notch” in a similar position on the device, it would likely annoy a lot of users, because it would appear on the right side or the left side of the screen in landscape.

So, I am going to go against convention and say that on the next iPad Pro, the selfie camera and the Face ID sensor will be placed on the top of the screen in a landscape orientation — not a portrait one.

As to cameras, it’s very likely that at least the 12.9-inch SKU of the iPad Pro will inherit the front- and rear-camera configurations of the iPhone XR, and that includes the 12-megapixel sensor in the rear and 7-megapixel sensor in the front with optical image stabilization (OIS). I’m not expecting the same dual cameras in the rear from the XS and XS Max, but it’s possible.

NEXT APPLE IPAD PRO: SYSTEM ON A CHIP/CPU/GPU

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It is in this area where I believe the most amount of (modest) speculation is going to occur. The fastest chip Apple has right now is the 2.49Ghz 64-bit A12 Bionic , which utilizes a big.LITTLE-style asymmetrical-multiprocessing architecture using two larger “Vortex” cores and four smaller “Tempest” cores.

The existing A10X in the second-generation iPad Pro utilizes three large “Hurricane” cores and three “Zephyr” cores.

While Apple could simply dump the existing A12 Bionic from the iPhone XS into the new iPad Pro, I think they will revision the chip to an A12X, by adding one (maybe two) additional “Vortex” and a perhaps as much six “Tempest” cores using the existing TSMC fabrication process in the iPhone XS.

So a 3-4 Vortex/Tempest configuration. Or a 3-6 or 4-6. If I had to take bets, more likely a 3-6.

I don’t expect 6-6 or 6-8 or 8-8 until the introduction of an A13 or A13X potentially in an ARM-based Mac.

The A12 in the iPhone XS uses the M12 motion chip. I expect there will be an M12 — that’s a given.

The A12 uses a 4-core custom Apple GPU, which is a departure from the 12-core PowerVR-based architecture on the A10X. I expect that the core count will probably increase, likely to six based on display requirements.

I also feel it is safe to assume that the iPad Pro will have modest RAM improvements over the previous model (and the iPhone XS) which had 3GB LPDDR4X onboard. So, 4GB is probably what we are going to end up with, with 128K instruction/Data of L1 and 8MB of L2 cache, respectively. 6GB of RAM would be nice, but I doubt it.

NEXT APPLE IPAD PRO: DISPLAY

I believe that the 10-inch version of the iPad Pro is likely to maintain the same or similar screen technology and specifications as the previous version at 1920×1080, but the 12.9-inch is likely to undergo significant improvements.

Currently, the 12.9-inch iPad has a 2732×2048 264ppi screen, which uses Apple’s Promotion screen refresh and wide-color display tech. The resolution of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch has not changed since its launch in 2015, so it is due for a change.

I believe the 2018 iPad Pro 12.9-inch will be the first Apple mobile device to integrate a 4K (3840×2160) resolution screen so that it can consume 4K native content on the iTunes store, which, currently, only some of the highest-end Mac systems and Apple TVs connected to 4K televisions can natively display.

While many of the other improvements described in this article are highly iterative, a 4K display on an iPad Pro would be a significant enhancement and departure from what the product has now, but it would also demonstrate significant value-add and a reason for existing iPad Pro owners to upgrade to a new model.

NEXT APPLE IPAD PRO: AUDIO AND INTEGRATED NETWORKING

As to communications and networking, the deed has already been done: Qualcomm modems were dumped in favor of Intel modems in current iPhone models.

Given that Apple ships much fewer iPads than iPhones, in order to simplify its supply chain, I believe we are likely (guaranteed) to see an Intel-only LTE modem in the iPad Pro just as we have now on the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

Read also: Introducing the Mac mini Pro

I also expect to see the same or a similar Apple/USI 802.11ac MU-MIMO Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module that exists in the iPhone XS.

I also think that, like the iPhones that recently did away with it, we can finally say goodbye to the headphone jack in the iPad Pro. If you are still using wired headphones (like me), it’s time to break out that Lightning-to-Mini jack dongle, in case you haven’t been using it on both your iPhone and iPad already.

NEXT APPLE IPAD PRO: DOCK CONNECTOR AND CHARGING

This is an area that can go two different ways: Either Apple does nothing and maintains the status quo by sticking with Lightning and a USB PD-compatible charging interface, or it does something different.

Going with the 7.5W Qi charging, which the iPhone 8 and iPhone XS has, is probably out of the question.

We already know what the AirPower looks like, there’s no proof it is going to be released at this October event, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to lay an iPad on top of one. It would be totally unbalanced. So, while Apple could equip an iPad with Qi charging, it doesn’t appear equipped to do it with its own accessory.

I think it is very likely the updated iPad Pro will maintain the Lightning connector and USB PD from the previous model.

While USB-C-to-USB-C (Thunderbolt) connectivity, as used on the current MacBooks, would be nice and inject some long-term sanity and industry standards into the equation, there are enough people who own both iPhones and iPads that keeping two (or three) different sets of cables would be perceived as annoying.

Read also: Apple now powered by 100 percent renewable energy worldwide

It’s bad enough that those of us who have iPhone 7s and older phones have to keep USB-A-to-Lightning cables around. Can you imagine, in order to take advantage of the latest fast charge technologies, having to keep USB-C-to-Lightning and USB-C-to-USB-C cables (assuming you don’t already do, as a current MacBook owner), as well?

One reason for moving to a USB-C-to-USB-C dock interface would be if Apple decided to fully implement Thunderbolt on an iPad so it could be used as a makeshift workstation with a much larger external display, mouse, keyboard, and an external GPU.

This sounds like a natural evolution for the iPad Pro, particularly if we see device convergence with the Mac, and the company finally decides to take on Microsoft’s Surface professional vertical markets. I just don’t see that happening this year, though.

What technologies do you think will be introduced into the new iPad Pro? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

Twitter has been making a series of moves to improve its platform, and one in particular has drawn attention by raising the profile of a pro-Trump meme used to troll liberals. If you’ve been seeing lots of references to “NPC,” this would be why. Kevin Roose of the New York…

October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

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Apple has more in the making, according to an invite sent out to members of the press on Thursday.

The company will hold a special event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in the Howard Gilman Opera House on Oct 30. The event will start at 10 am EST.

Also: Here’s the next iPad Pro Apple should build: Specs and speculation

It’s been expected that Apple would host another event this year, following the iPhone event in early September. During the upcoming event, the company will likely announce revamped iPad Pro models, which are rumored to include Apple’s Face ID technology and a display that goes nearly edge to edge.

apple-october-event.jpg Image: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Other possible announcements include updates to the Mac line, with perhaps a revamped MacBook Air, and a Mac Mini A new Apple Pencil, and an appearance of Apple’s wireless charging pad, the AirPower, are also products we might see.

Also: Let’s face it: Windows PCs are now just better — and cooler — than Macs

Previous and related coverage:

Yep, there’s a second Apple event this fall, and it’s later than it’s been in a decade

Tim Cook will be giving an ethics speech in Europe right around the time we thought there would be a new product event. So what’s really going to happen? We have no idea, but we can guess real good.

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Apple’s privacy tools now go beyond Europe, so more now get to download the personal data it has collected.

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iPad Pro review: A killer creative canvas CNET

The new iPad Pro is the biggest and fastest Apple tablet to date. The pressure-sensitive Pencil stylus offers superior sketching and drawing, and the Pro’s gorgeous giant screen and quad speakers are ideal for split-screen apps, multitasking and watching movies.

The iPad Pro 2018 models: 8 things the pros need TechRepublic

The iPad Pro is Apple’s effort to build a tablet for the enterprise, but it would be a better business tool with these features.

October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

If you’re reading this column, there’s a decent chance you’re among Google’s most enthusiastic users — y’know, the type of person who’s super-tuned in to the company’s latest launches and is always eager to try out the exciting new app or service of the moment.

And if you are such an individual, there’s also a decent chance you’re feeling a bit dispirited and let down right about now. The truth is, I can’t blame you. I feel that way myself.

I’m not talking about the usual “Holy moly, Google’s watching my every move!” kind of concern. No — if you’re a Google superuser, you’re well aware of the company’s business model and the options available to you in that regard. What I’m talking about is the pattern Google has established of drawing its most dedicated users into new services with lofty visions and grand promises — and then, once said users have thoroughly invested in adopting those services and integrating them into their lives, changing its tune and abandoning the efforts entirely.

It’s an all-too-familiar tale for those of us who follow Google closely — and while the notion itself is nothing new, the trend has been escalating to especially upsetting heights as of late.

Consider: In the span of a single month this fall, Google casually assassinated Inbox, the next-gen email app it unveiled to much fanfare four years earlier — and then killed off Google+, the “future of Google” social layer it spent endless energy convincing folks to embrace.

Neither was a broadly adopted service by Google’s standards, clearly. But that’s not the point. Both were services beloved by Google’s most loyal and enthusiastic users — the sort of users who spread the word about useful new products and act as (often inadvertent) ambassadors for the brand. Google emphatically urged these human beings to weave these products tightly into their lives, and then the company quietly moved on when strategies shifted and shinier opportunities arose.

October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

Laptops generally lack the raw power for seriously high-level computing, which is where portable workstations come into play. With powerful processors, plentiful storage and top-notch screens these devices don’t come cheap, and are relatively rare. Lenovo’s 15.6-inch ThinkPad P1 is certified for use with ArcGIS, AutoCAD, CATIA, Creo, Inventor, Microstation, NX, PDMS, Revit, Solid Edge, SolidWorks and Vectorworks.

Laptop makers are always trying to hit a sweet spot between power, usability, build toughness, portability and price. Although the ThinkPad P1 is Lenovo’s thinnest, lightest and sleekest workstation to date, that doesn’t mean it’s particularly compact or lightweight, or that it has a low price — it starts at £1,549 (inc. VAT, £1,290.83 ex. VAT). All of these things are traded off to meet the requirements of truly powerful computing.

Lenovo has built the ThinkPad P1 to the same exacting design and build standards it employs for its ThinkPad X1 Carbon range. So the black chassis is solid and tough, with carbon fibre used to help keep the weight down and the strength up. Even so, there’s 1.7kg of weight to tote here.

This is a big beast too. The 15.6-inch screen is really a requirement for a workstation — anything smaller would not be suitable for those CAD, animation, video design and other creative tools. Even a 15.6-inch screen is a compromise when you consider the desktop monitor size used by most creatives.

lenovo-thinkpad-p1-workstationflat.jpg

ThinkPad P1’s 15.6-inch screen folds back 180 degrees to lie flat, but doesn’t rotate.

Image: Lenovo

But packing in an even larger screen would have boosted both the price and the size of this laptop, and the latter is plenty for a bag or backpack to cope with: 361.8mm by 245.7mm by 18.4mm. Anyone wanting to carry this beast around will also need to factor in the power brick, which is twice the usual size and also adds weight.

Given that this is a laptop aimed at those doing design tasks, Lenovo could have taken a slightly more adventurous approach with the screen arrangement. The screen will lay flat on a desk, but won’t rotate any further than that. A mobile workstation like this might benefit from a 360-degree rotating screen, to allow working with a pen in tablet mode, and to accommodate easier sharing of content. HP certainly didn’t shy away from a more modern format with its detachable ZBook X2 G4, which puts all its computing power in a tablet-style screen, to which the keyboard attaches as a separate unit.

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The speakers might also have benefited from a bit more attention. There’s no problem with volume, which at 100 percent is loud enough to reach across a conference table, and there’s no distortion at top volume either. But audio quality, although quite good, could be better: this laptop needs to show off the fruits of creative labour, so sound quality should be top-notch.

I have no quibbles with the screen though. My review sample was equipped with a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS panel, which was not touch responsive. The non-reflective finish is ideal for working on details at close range. I found the 300-nits screen a bit startling at maximum brightness — the 80 percent default setting for working on battery power is as bright as I’m ever likely to need. A 3,840-by-2,160-pixel IPS touch-screen display is also available, although this doesn’t appear on any of the three preconfigured models on Lenovo’s UK website.

lenovo-thinkpad-p1-workstationkeyboard.jpg

lenovo-thinkpad-p1-workstationkeyboard.jpg

Despite having plenty of room in its 15.6-inch chassis, there’s no separate numeric keypad on the ThinkPad P1’s otherwise excellent keyboard.

Image: Lenovo

The keyboard is built to Lenovo’s usual high standards. Those familiar, fat-bellied keys are springy and comfortable to use, while beneath them there’s a large trackpad with two physical buttons and a scroller designed for use with the TrackPoint that sits between the G, H and B keys. It’s a standard Lenovo arrangement, and one that works very well. The two-level backlight is toggled with the Fn key and space bar, and there’s a shortcut to the Windows Snipping tool via the Fn-PrtSc key combo.

A laptop like this needs to be powerful. The entry-level preconfigured model has an Intel Core i5 8400H processor with a discrete Nvidia Quadro P1000 GPU and 8GB of RAM, but move up to the most expensive preconfigured model and you get an Intel Xeon E-2176M processor, Quadro P2000 graphics and 32GB of RAM. Memory options top out at 64GB of RAM and SSD storage at 4TB.

It’s worth noting that only the most expensive preconfigured model runs Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, while all three models have the lower-resolution FHD screen. Boosting this to the 3,840-by-2,160 touch option will add further to the price.

The three off-the-shelf models can all be customised, and their basic specifications are:

  • Intel Core i5-8400H, Windows 10 Pro, 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch IPS screen, Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics, 8GB RAM, 256GB NVMe M.2 SSD
    £1,549 (inc. VAT; £1,290.83 ex. VAT)
  • Intel Core i7-8850H, Windows 10 Pro, 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch IPS screen, Nvidia Quadro P2000 graphics, 16GB RAM, 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD
    £2,379 (inc. VAT; £1,982.50 ex. VAT)
  • Intel Xeon E-2176M, Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch IPS screen, Nvidia Quadro P2000 graphics, 32GB RAM, 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD
    £3,079 (inc. VAT; £2,565.83 ex. VAT)

lenovo-thinkpad-p1-workstationports.jpg

lenovo-thinkpad-p1-workstationports.jpg

The right side of the ThinkPad P1 has a smartcard reader, an SD card reader, two USB 3.1 ports and a Kensington lock slot. The other side has the power input, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI and mini-Gigabit Ethernet connectors and a 3.5mm audio jack.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The ThinkPad P1 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a pair of USB 3.1 ports, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, an SD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a fingerprint reader and an IR camera for Windows Hello, and the option for a smartcard reader. The camera that sits above the screen has the Lenovo ThinkShutter privacy cover — just slide it over the camera to avoid any accidental snooping.

It’s a little irritating that anyone wanting to use wired Ethernet will need to use an adapter for the P1’s mini-Gigabit Ethernet port, but at least a dongle is provided.

Good battery life is a must for a device like this, which needs to process demanding workloads on the move. Lenovo rates the battery as good for up to 13 hours, but I’m not convinced this can be achieved when pushing the processor and graphics. Working with a mainstream workload of writing, browsing and streaming for four hours, I depleted the battery by 40 percent with the screen at its default 80 percent brightness for working on battery power. If you’re on the road and pushing this laptop to its full potential, expect to be seeking a mains power source before the working day is out.

Conclusions

lenovo-thinkpad-p1-workstationback.jpg

lenovo-thinkpad-p1-workstationback.jpg

Image: Lenovo

Considering the punch it packs, the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is a pretty compact laptop. It’s still quite large and heavy compared to true ultraportables, but anything less than a 15.6-inch screen would compromise the ability to fulfil its workstation purpose. The display itself is superb, even in its FHD incarnation without touch support.

Lenovo’s 13-hour battery life claim is ambitious, but in the real world this device is likely to spend much of its life in the office, moving around for client sessions every now and again. The real issue is that if you want to specify top-end CPU, GPU, RAM, storage and display options, things are going to get expensive.

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October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

Spotify’s latest ad features a catchy popular pop tune and “a medley of horror film tropes” in the lead-up to its final tagline, per NPR : “Killer songs you can’t resist.” But it’s just that horror theme, along with what Billboard calls a “terrifying eyeless doll,” that has now prompted a…

October 18, 2018 brianradio2016

The days of taking care of business exclusively in an office are over. You’ve got a powerful productivity gadget in your pocket practically 24/7, after all — and with the right set of apps, you can stay synced with the same spreadsheets, documents and presentations that are on your desktop and work with them seamlessly from anywhere.

Best of all? Achieving that level of connectivity on Android no longer requires a compromise. It’s been a long time coming, but the bar has really been raised when it comes to office app quality in the Google Play Store over the past few years. The question now isn’t if you can find a worthwhile set of office apps for your phone but rather which set of commendable offerings makes the most sense for you.

I’ve spent time testing all the relevant contenders, ranging from the small-name efforts that used to dominate my recommendations to the big-name products from the more well-known productivity players. Focusing on factors such as feature availability, ease of use, ecosystem integration and overall user experience, these are the best office apps on Android today.

Note: Looking for messaging apps? I’ll be covering those in a future roundup. Keep an eye on this page or follow me on Twitter to find out when it’s available.

The best fully featured Android office apps

Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint

Microsoft was embarrassingly late to the Android app party, but since the company started taking the world’s most popular operating system seriously, its Android productivity services have been among the best around.

That remains true today with its core Office offerings: Word, for word processing; Excel, for spreadsheet editing; and PowerPoint, for presentation work. If you’re used to using the equivalent Office 365 products on the desktop — or if you just need fully featured mobile office apps with all the bells and whistles — Microsoft’s trio of Android apps is going to be your best all-around option for on-the-go productivity.