February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

The Breakfast Club were a fun dance/pop group who put out one album, which included their one and only hit, “Right On Track” which reached #7 in 1987. Unfortunately, that’s all she wrote for band. What makes them a fascinating bit of rock history is that they originated as a punk band in NYC in the laet 70s and their drummer was none other than Madonna! Bassist Gary Burke recounts those early days with pre-fame Madonna as well as how the Breakfast Club managed to change directions and become a solid 1-hit-wonder a few years later. It’s a fascinating glimpe into a great band and one of the most famous women of all time. 

 

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

Features limited to the iPhone 7 Plus helped boost sales of the larger smartphone, but they were not the only reasons why a higher percentage of customers went big last year, analysts said.

“The nature of the market is also shifting,” said Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies, in a recent interview. As consumers encounter large-screen smartphones with more frequency — especially ones owned by friends — there’s a bandwagon effect, he explained.

Although the shift to bigger screens has been strongest in China and other Asian markets, the iPhone 7 Plus accounted for a larger proportion of new iPhones sold in the U.S. as well, said Bajarin, citing his firm’s research.

Apple does not separate iPhone sales by market, or even say exactly what percentage of total sales was of the 7 Plus, but CEO Tim Cook did claim that the number was the highest yet for its 5.5-in. model. “We saw especially strong demand for iPhone 7 Plus, which was a higher portion of the new product mix than we’ve ever seen with Plus models in the past,” Cook said during the December quarter’s earning call on Jan. 31.

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

One of the trickiest parts of proving the value of emerging smart city technology is showing how city residents could benefit from data being picked up by sensors located on light poles and along streets.

On Tuesday, officials in Kansas City, Mo., took steps to connect how such real-time data gathered by sensors provides benefits to its citizens.

City officials unveiled an online interactive map for the public that shows available parking, traffic and KC Streetcar locations in real time with data gathered from 122 video sensors along a two-mile segment of Main Street in the downtown.

Also, at a press conference on the same day, a city contractor asked the Alexa voice service running on an Amazon Echo device which city’s buses were running late. In the demonstration, Alexa was able to come back with an answer naming the top five late buses by correlating bus routes with an array of available data.

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

One out of every 50 new U.S. jobs last year came from the solar industry, with growth in that industry outpacing the overall U.S. economy by 17 times, according to a new report.

Overall, there were 260,077 solar workers in 2016, representing 2% of all new jobs, according to the Solar Foundation’s Solar Jobs Census 2016.

solarcity solar powerLucas Mearian

SolarCity workers prepare to install panels on the rear of a home.

Solar employment increased by more than 51,000 workers, a 25% increase over 2015, according to the report. Solar industry employment has nearly tripled since the first National Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010 — rising at least 20% annually for the past four years.

Along with growth in solar and other forms of renewables, energy storage is a rapidly growing industry, comprising 90,831 jobs — of which 47,634 are focused on battery storage.

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

For H-1B workers, one of the most hated and frustrating parts of working in the U.S. is this: Their spouses were idled, unable to work under law. That changed in 2014, when President Obama signed a regulation that allowed some spouses to get a job. But the future of this rule may be in doubt under the new administration.

President Donald Trump’s administration, which is broadly repealing Obama-era regulations, is reviewing the H-1B spouse rule as well, according to a new court filing.

The Obama rule change affected H-1B holders who were seeking green cards or permanent residency. It allowed their spouses to get work authorization. There may have been as many as 180,000 spouses eligible, according to a lawsuit that’s challenging this rule.

After the Obama administration finalized the spouse rule, a group of former IT workers at Southern California Edison (SCE) — who were laid off after training their replacements — filed a lawsuit arguing that this new regulation was not only unlawful but unfair.

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

A flaw in an old Intel chip could crash servers and networking equipment, and the chipmaker is working to fix the issue.

The issue is in the Atom C2000 chips, which started shipping in 2013. The problem was first reported by The Register.

In January, Intel added an erratum to the Atom C2000 documentation, stating systems with the chip “may experience [an] inability to boot or may cease operation.”

The chip is the last among Intel’s line of short-lived, low-power Atom chips for servers. It was used in microservers and in networking equipment from companies like Cisco, which has issued an advisory about a product defect related to a component degrading clock signals over time. A clock signal degrade hurts the ability of the chip to carry out tasks.

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

Hey Google: Has it really been three full months since Google Home came into the world?

I’ll answer that (since Google Home couldn’t — I tried): Yes! Yes, it has. That funny little air-freshener-shaped doohickey first entered our lives this past November. And while I had plenty of doubts about the need for and effectiveness of such an apparatus, I decided it was my professional obligation to pick one up and put it in our house.

(Side note: That’s more or less exactly what I told my wife when justifying the purchase. Take note, my fellow tech enthusiasts.)

The truth is that you can ponder this stuff endlessly from a theoretical perspective, but until you’ve used it in the real world — over an extended period of time — it’s impossible to understand how it actually fits into your day-to-day life.

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

Enterprise developers and users will soon have another option for a messaging platform embedded within apps.

BlackBerry on Tuesday announced its BBM Enterprise software development kit (SDK) for developers to integrate BBM’s enterprise messaging platform into third-party apps.

What’s Hot on ZDnet

For example, a developer could leverage BlackBerry’s BBM Enterprise platform into a ride-sharing app. As the driver and passenger exchange messages to arrange pickup, the driver’s status can change to “E,” indicating he or she is en route. Then as the driver arrives, the same status indicator could change to “A.”

Included in the SDK will be access to messaging, video calling, file sharing, and voice calling. The SDK will be available in February for iOS and Android developers, with support for push notifications, even if the app is in the background.

Pricing will rely on a monthly subscription, based on number of users, and number of BBM Enterprise services (voice, video, file sharing) the application will implement. Exact pricing details were not available.

Interested companies and developers can visit BlackBerry.com/BBMEnterpriseSDK for more information.

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

Arch Linux certainly has its share of fans, with some being quite passionate about their favorite distribution. Recently a writer at Linux.com wrote a post about Arch and considered it to be a “simpler kind of Linux.”

Carla Schroder reports for Linux.com:

Arch Linux is called the simple Linux because it eschews the layers of abstraction and “helper” apps that come with so many Linux distributions. It as close to vanilla Linux as a packaged distribution can get.

Consequently, you need to be more comfortable with do-it-yourself than with most modern distributions, and more comfortable with the command line and editing text files. I would rather take 10 seconds to edit a text configuration file than spend all kinds of time wading through graphical configuration menus. You know what would make me like graphical configurations more? Batch operations. Sometimes I like to change more than one thing at a time. No, really, it’s true.

But I digress. Arch’s being simpler means more work for you. Installation is a lengthy manual process, and you’ll have a lot of post-installation chores such as creating a non-root user, setting up networking, configuring software repositories, configuring mountpoints, and installing whatever software you want. The main reason I see for using Arch is to have more control over your Linux system than other distros give you. You can use Arch for anything you want, just like any other Linux: server, laptop, desktop. I had Arch on an ancient Thinkpad that was left behind by modern Linux distributions.

Arch is a rolling release, so updating your installation regularly keeps it current. It has its own dependency-resolving package manager, pacman. Arch’s standout features are the superb documentation, stellar maintenance, and stability.

More at Linux.com

Carla’s post caught the attention of Linux redditors and some of them took issue with the idea that Arch was simpler than other distros:

Rohboat: “Really? People are still flouting arch as a simpler Linux? Since it’s adopted systemd and every other freedesktop project there’s nothing any different between it and Fedora other than the fact it’s rolling release and doesn’t have a GUI installer.

In case folks weren’t aware, all that anaconda does is give you a graphical way to partition physical disks and configure lvm. It then bootstraps a base system into what you’ve partitioned and installs a boot loader. This is all you’re doing in arch, but with cli utilities instead. I’m not seeing why one could be called simpler than the other.”

E-ng: “There are a number of reasons why I find Arch simpler than, say, Fedora.

As a developer, life is so much simpler. Need to develop against a library foo? pacman -S libfoo, done. With every other distro, I would have to figure out where their packagers put the header files for that library…I don’t know, often it is a trial and error process and just time wasted. Arch packagers don’t change the name of a package because of debatable distro policies. Upstream releases a tarball named kcoreaddons.tar.xz? The arch package will be called kcoreaddons. Not kf5-kcoreaddons (like in Fedora) or libkf5kcoreaddons5 (like in Ubuntu).

As a normal user, life is so much simpler. Need a package not in the official repos? Go look in the AUR. Not there either? Just create the package yourself. Good luck doing that in rpm or deb based distros. The ABS is so useful for the very same reason.

Need to check the PKGBUILD of a package? Just type the package name in https://www.archlinux.org/packages/ and with one click I get everything I need to know about that package. Same with the AUR. This is incredibly harder with most other distros, in my experience.

Arch isn’t perfect (lack of debug packages is a shame), but hell yes, is so much simpler for me.”

Insomniac_lemon: “Arch user here, not because I’m attached to it or anything… but just that it has been the best option (AFAIK) for ANY software from the AUR and not needing to reinstall. So I hope Tumbleweed is a better solution.

The thing with the Arch and the AUR is, from what I have seen, it has more users. If you want something and it exists on Github or as a .deb/.rpm, chances are that someone has already put it up on the AUR. The problem with that is that doesn’t mean it works properly, for instance 2 emulators on the AUR were added by the same maintainer using forked github repos that are outdated and have Vulkan removed/not present (tried modifying the PKGBUILD for the true github repo and it didn’t work).

With that said, I watched a video you posted in another comment (FOSDEM 2017) and am unsure about a few things.

I’ve already found a few (albeit lesser known) applications that I have from the AUR but aren’t in the OBS… so how are those added? Is it just plugging in a github/source URL and it figures it all out and compiles when the servers get around to it, or is there some work to be had like manually writing a file like a PKGBUILD?

Servers seems like an issue. With Arch, the system packages have a TON of mirrors and the AUR (and even supported non-system) packages are pulled straight from the source (github or packages on websites). And since you compile basically everything on your machine, I don’t think server computing is much of an issue, either.

Can you build your own packages and do the smoke testing on your machine, either for your own use or for the OBS? If a build fails… are there automated tools to not only find the issue, but if it’s a simple one can it use a rolled back instance of the (broken) needed libraries to make it work?”

Rohboat: “I agree that ABS and AUR simplify the creation of new packages and the installation of those not in the repos. This is my favourite aspect of arch. However I think this is the only area arch is really simpler. Other aspects of using the system are simpler because arch documents them so damn well. Not really a testament to arch’s simplicity but a glaring omission by other distros which don’t bother. This is especially true of Red Hat systems, who’s documentation is written by non technical staff to suit very specific use cases.

In the article the author goes on about a bunch of tasks he claims to be simpler than other distros, but which are the same on all of them; they just seem simpler because of Arch’s outstanding wiki.

Hmmm I thought it was possible to get debug packages in Arch…”

Duane534: “Really, if you switch to Rawhide, Fedora is rolling release, too.”

Endbringer: “It is simpler. I’ve been using it for years as well as regularly checking out other distros and arch remains the most problem free of them all. After the initial setup it just works whereas in ubuntu for example in my experience something annoying constantly pops up. Also building stuff from source is much simpler on arch too. Project says install boost. On arch you install fucking boost. On debian you have no idea which of ~30 packages to install which is very confusing to a new user.”

Masteryod: “Different strokes for different folks. It’s what Linux was always about. Both Fedora and Arch are great distributions but they’re targeted at different users.

Arch is simple but not in a regular meaning of the word. It’s easy from the home-pro-user point of view. It doesn’t try to hide system from the user and it stays very vanilla with the packages. And being rolling-release is nothing to be easily overlooked, it’s a major difference in philosophies. Arch doesn’t force you to use anything specific. Did you ever tried to configure bash prompt in another simple distribution let’s say Debian for example? There’s like 5 different files interlinked together and by default filled with lines and lines of configurations. It’s simple from another point of view.

On the contrary Fedora is very RedHatish, it’s very SELinuxy and it has almost nothing needed for a regular home user in the official repos. Is adding thirt party repo simple? It’s great distro but tell me do you still have like 3 different deamons for network configuration, nmtui and and sysconfig scripts laying around the system by default? That’s not very simple either. See my point?”

5heikki: “My favourite thing about Arch is the wiki. It’s a great resource for all GNU/Linux users. I’ve been meaning to setup Arch on my rPi3 just to see if F2FS makes any difference in speed.”

ABaseDePopopopop: “To me Arch felt simpler for its developers, not for its users.

Simpler as a user means you don’t have to do anything.”

DrDoctor13: “There’s more to Arch than Pacman and the AUR. It’s not simple. Not at all. Linux distros like Manjaro and Mint are dead simple. Arch is not simple.”

More at Reddit

Protect your privacy with a VPN for Android

Privacy has become a very important issue for many people who use mobile computing devices. One writer at PCWorld has a helpful post about how you can protect your privacy by using a VPN for Android.

February 7, 2017 brianradio2016

senstone-1.jpgImage: Senstone

Thoughts and ideas flash through my head multiple times a day, and often when I wake up in the middle of the night. Too often I end up forgetting them before I reach for my smartphone to jot something down or record a voice note. I’ve spent the last week with a new small wearable device that is advertised as being five times faster than a smartphone app.

What’s Hot on ZDnet

The Senstone just launched today as a Kickstarter campaign with products planned for delivery to backers this summer. The early eval unit I have been testing is mostly complete, but currently only syncs to an iPhone, has a single mic, syncs to only one third party app, doesn’t yet have a wrist band accessory, and captures direct audio.

Even though this is an early unit, I can see the potential for this type of product for students, journalists, engineers, doctors, writers, and creators who want to capture and act upon their ideas.

Hardware

The Senstone arrives in a unique package that reminds me of one of those puzzle boxes where you have to open and move certain pieces to access the internal contents. The Senstone package is not that complicated, but it is composed of multiple layers that separate by lifting out the flat piece first.

The flat piece of the package is actually the wireless charging base that also holds the Senstone device and rubber band. The central large part of the box contains the lanyard, clip back, and USB cable.

The Senstone is a small charm piece that is modeled after brain and sound waves. It looks like a piece of jewelry with a chrome-plated silver brass frame and backside with a scratch-proof tempered glass display.

There are 17 LEDs under the display that light up in different patterns for charging, connection status, recording, and more. There is enough internal storage for up to 2.5 hours of recording.

The back has an opening with a couple of gold rings that touch the four gold pins on the charging base. The opening is notched so that you can twist the Senstone onto one of the backs. There are backs for a clip, lanyard, and wrist band. The Senstone and clip back weigh in at about 15 grams total.

You simply place the Senstone down on the charging base to charge it up wirelessly. Senstone is advertised to run for up to four days on a charge. The charging base also has a built-in battery that provides two additional full charges.

When the Senstone launches to backers, and others who order one after the Kickstarter campaign is over, it will launch the voice recorder when you tap on the display. At this time, you press in on a the side button to initiate a recording.

Software

The Senstone currently works with the Apple iPhone, but Android support is coming. It connects to the iPhone via Bluetooth and pairing is quick and easy.

Voice recordings are synced to your paired iPhone and show up as notes in the Senstone app. Notes are organized by date. One cool feature in the Senstone app is automatic speech-to-text transcription so when you see your list of notes you will see the text version of most of your notes. Some notes cannot be transcribed so a sound wave pattern appears with a play button to the right of the note.

Swiping from right to left gives you the quick options to share your note or delete it. More options are shown on Kickstarter and may be coming when the device ships later this summer.

If you want to hear the recorded audio of the Senstone, tap to open up one of the notes and then you can tap on the play button near the top of the recording. There is also an option to share your recording in various ways within iOS.

At the bottom of an opened note are options to edit, view the location, add a hashtag, or delete the note. Use hashtags to conveniently organize your notes recorded by the Senstone. When you go back to the main page, you can search notes or filter by hashtags. As you implement the Senstone into your daily life, hashtags can become essential for quick filtering and future use of your recordings.

Currently, Evernote is supported as a third party for syncing Senstone recordings. I’ve been a paid Evernote customer for years so was pleased to see this integration in the early phase of rollout.

Daily usage experiences

I tried using the lanyard/pendant mount the first couple of days, but it wasn’t appropriate to wear around the office. It would be fine for my wife or daughters to wear around as a piece of jewelry though.

Since I don’t have the wrist band mount, I tried out the clip and attached it to my shirt collar for other recordings. The majority of my recordings were made with the clip and looking at the transcription, most of my speech was correctly converted to text.

I set the Senstone down on a table between my daughter and I to conduct an interview, but for some reason nothing was recorded even though the recording initiation lights were shown at the time.

Overall, I found the Senstone to be very easy to use and accurate at capturing my thoughts. Using it prompted me to look for voice recording apps for my Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S3. While these apps do record your voice, there is no speech-to-text functionality and it is still much easier to quickly record a thought using the Senstone.

Those who desire to record thoughts and ideas when they pop into their head will like the Senstone. I likely wouldn’t wear it around and would love to see the Senstone app and technology integrated into one of my smartwatches that I already wear and charge daily.

The Senstone that is planned to ship to backers will have a second mic, support the screen tap to initiate a recording, support indirect speech capture, and also integrate more third party services. It launched on Kickstarter today at $100 with a MSRP of $145.