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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Micromax and Cyanogen launch phone at Rs 8,999

Micromax and Cynogen Inc on Thursday launched their first phone under Yu Brand. The phone is called Yureka. It has been priced very aggressively at 8,999 and will be available exclusively at Amazon India website.
The Yureka is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, which is an octa-core processor running at 1.5GHz. It has a 5.5-inch screen and 2GB RAM. The phone will support 4G networks in India although for now 4G is not widely available in Indian cities. It also supports dual-SIM feature. The screen of Yureka has 720p resolution. The screen has a layer of Gorilla Glass 3.
The rear camera uses a 13-megapixel image sensor made by sony with an aperture of F2.2. Up to 1080p video recording in 30FPS is supported with this camera. The front camera uses a 5-megapixel sensor. The device has 16GB internal memory. More can be added through a microSD card. The battery has a capacity of 2500 mAh. The one has a thickness of 8.8mm. Initially, it will be available in black colour.
The Yureka will use CyanogenMod, an operating system based on Android KitKat, that has been created by CyanogenMod Inc.
In fact, Micromax hopes to use CyanogenMod as a key selling point for the phone. The company has entered into a partnership with Cyanogen which will allow it to use CyanogenMod exclusively in India. Recently, this created controversy because OnePlus One, a phone launched in India on December 2, was also powered by CyanogenMod. Cyanogen has clarified that only Yu phones will get its update in India.
Unveiling the new brand, Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma said, "The future is moving from an app driven experience to a services-driven experience and Yu in partnership with Cyanogen is a platform that is going to lead that transformation. We will work directly with developers' community and brands to build services right on the OS layer and offer a differentiated consumer experience. For Yu, services will be the core focus."
Kirt McMaster, CEO of Cyanogen, added. "India is the fastest growing smartphone market and we are excited to partner with Yu. We will deliver a groundbreaking software experience in the form of intuitive, powerful and highly customised devices, beginning with Yureka."
While Micromax is selling Android phones for several years now, its partnership with Cyanogen to create a new brand looks like a move aimed at countering threat from Chinese competitors like Xiaomi that offer phones with extremely customisable software. For example all Xiaomi phones are powered by MiUI, an Android-based operating system, similar to that of CyanogenMod.
Micromax said that Yu phones would feature a lot of options that would allow users to customise their phones in a big way. "Yu will usher a new era of android development in India, as it will allow users to root their devices, without voiding the warranty," said a Micromax spokesperson.
Micromax is also setting up a web forum for the Yu brand, where it wants Android geeks and phone enthusiasts to gather and talk about the software on their phone. This is similar to the web forums that MiUI runs where its users can talk about various software features MiUI operating system.
Micromax is even borrowing a few ideas from its Chinese competitors in how it wants to sell the Yureka. It said that people who wants to buy Yureka phone will be able to "register" for the sale on Amazon website from December 19. This means the company may use "flash sale mode" to sell Yureka phone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The SAP Money Pit: Plenty of Waste in Need of SaaS Efficiencies - Forbes

There’s a giant sucking sound emanating from most large enterprise IT departments. It’s called SAP. The devilishly complex ERP product cum application platform has a life of its own that resists all attempts at efficiency, simplification and IT budget cutting. SAP is the enterprise equivalent of an out-of-control defense contract with C-level business managers playing the part of U.S. Defense Secretary, endlessly shoveling money at overdue and over-budget projects. This characterization may seem harsh until you read the book SAP Nation by Vinnie Mirchandani, which catalogs the real and hidden costs of using SAP. Mirchandani, a former IT analyst and outsourcing executive is a long-time observer of SAP, its ecosystem and users who now runs his own consulting practice specializing in IT deal negotiation, RFPs and due diligence.
According to a comprehensive financial model and cost analysis that includes purchasing, configuring, operating and supporting SAP and its users — costs that a span internal IT staff, outsourcing and consulting firms, the hardware used to run SAP and associated apps and software and support licenses — Mirchandani estimates the total spent in what he calls the SAP Economy comes to $1 trillion since the end of the great recession, or about $200 billion per year. It’s a big number, particularly when you consider that the aggregate profits of the S&P 500 are about $250 billion (chart 9). Granted, the sum is spread across over a quarter million companies companies that Mirchandani calculates use one or more SAP product, but that still comes to almost $800,000 per year, two-thirds of which is spent on labor, not software or infrastructure, for the average SAP customer.
Of course, the expenses go towards automating a company’s most important business processes, but the book makes a compelling case that SAP’s customers aren’t getting their money’s worth because, like any large bureaucracy, which indeed is what SAP has become within most enterprises, much of this money is wasted. Mirchandani writes:
“What’s striking is SAP’s own charges to customers, while very high-margin, are only a tenth of the run rate. The rest is outsourcer/offshore firm fees, consultant travel expenses, customer staff, hosting/other infrastructure, MPLS/WAN charges, other software costs — many not very efficiently applied.”

Why not use SaaS?
SAP is so entrenched in critical, revenue-producing business processes and IT infrastructure that the product and ecosystem have so far been immune to the radical changes wrought by cloud infrastructure and software services that are upending many other IT systems and dramatically lowering IT capital and operating expenses. While other applications, including complex systems like CRM, HR and legal document analysis move to the cloud, SAP blithely rolls on sucking up a disproportionate amount of IT’s budget spent of pricey outsourcing and consulting contracts and immense, gold-plated on-premise systems. Indeed, SAP’s imperviousness to outside cloud influences is a key reason Mirchandani wrote the book:
“When you compare how nicely IT costs via software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, cloud infrastructures and mobile broadband have dropped in the last few years, you have to ask why those in the SAP economy have not followed that trend. Likewise, when you see all the front-office technology opportunities — in product and customer-facing areas — you wonder how many are being crowded out by the SAP back office.”
One theory is that they account for most of its revenue SAP caters to its largest customers with the most complex needs and doesn’t believe they want or trust multi-tenant cloud delivery for mission critical services. As Mirchandani points out, SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner is on the record saying, “large companies do not want to share [computing space] with competitors, they want to be within a firewall. Ask any of the large SaaS [software as a service] suppliers – when they get a huge customer, they get a private system.” That may be true, but what about the other 259,000 SAP customers? There are SaaS ERP offerings like NetSuite and Infor that cater to SMEs, but so far adoption has been limited with NetSuite estimated to have about 20,000 customers.
SAP: The Microsoft Office of Backend Software
There are plenty of SaaS products that address specific enterprise software functions, however the big challenge for SAP’s SaaS challengers is that none match its breadth in covering the full range of business applications. Instead, each focuses on a particular niche, whether HR, CRM, IT service management, etc. Writes Mirchandani, “The recent wave of cloud challengers — Workday,, NetSuite, ServiceNow, Plex Systems, Kenandy, Kinaxis and others — are merely nibbling around the edges of SAP. Few have launched a full frontal assault.” Indeed, Mirchandani writes that “several SAP customers have called and pleaded with these cloud players to expand their functional footprint.”

One reason there isn’t a comprehensive, all-in-one cloud-based alternative to the full SAP suite is that the concept of vertically and tightly integrated software goes against the cloud ethos of lean, focused services extensible and integrable using published APIs that users can lash together to create software tailored for their specific needs. The cloud zeitgeist is about mashups, not suites.  Indeed, this is just the sort of software foundation that is building and there are already four major cloud ERP providers that work with the Salesforce1 platform.
Yet change in enterprise IT is never easy, particularly when it involves core application architecture and infrastructure, whether network routing and switching systems or enterprise application platforms like SAP. As Mirchandani puts it, “Surrounded by SaaS customers who are seeing painless and multiple release upgrades a year, SAP’s customers are frozen in place petrified by the cost and risk of upgrades in their settings.” The largest of these customers are probably stuck writing checks to SAP and its partners unless, like post-split HP, they redesign IT from scratch, taking a blank slate approach to the entire organization, service catalog and implementation details (at HP’s recent earnings call, CEO Meg Whitman said HP’s split provides “an opportunity to create an IT infrastructure for each company that isn’t based on our legacy IT system and isn’t based on a manufacturing system which for so many years it has been.”). 
For the thousands of smaller SAP users, doing a full cost analysis of their SAP-related spending will prove both enlightening and alarming. If Mirchandani’s model is remotely accurate, such a TCO assessment could provide enough shock value to overcome IT inertia and seriously investigate cloud-based alternatives for ERP and other key business processes. It’s time for more businesses to extend SaaS from the front to back office.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Electric current to boost memory

Researchers have found that stimulating the brain using magnetic pulses can improve memory. The breakthrough may help treat memory disorders from injury and stroke 

Stimulating a particular region in the brain via non-in vasive delivery of electrical current using magnetic pulses, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), improves memory, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. The discovery opens a new field of possibilities for treating memory impairments caused by conditions such as stroke, early-stage Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury, cardiac arrest and the memory problems that occur in healthy aging.

“We show for the first time that you can specifically change memory functions of the brain in adults without surgery or drugs, which have not proven effective,“ said senior author Joel Voss. “This noninvasive stimulation improves the ability to learn new things. It has tremendous potential for treating memory disorders.“

The study was published in the journal Science.

The study also is the first to demonstrate that remembering events requires a collection of many brain regions to work in concert with a key memory structure called the hippocampus ­ similar to a symphony orchestra. The electrical stimulation is like giving the brain regions a more talented conductor so they play in closer synchrony.

“It's like we replaced their normal conductor with Muti,“ Voss said, referring to Riccardo Muti, the music director of the renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra. “The brain regions played together better after the stimulation.“

The approach also has potential for treating mental disorders such as schizophrenia in which these brain regions and the hippocampus are out of sync with each other, affecting memory and cognition.

The Northwestern study is the first to show TMS improves memory long after treatment. In the past, TMS has been used in a limited way to temporarily change brain function to improve performance during a test, for example, making someone push a button slightly faster while the brain is being stimulated. The study shows that TMS can be used to improve memory for events at least 24 hours after the stimulation is given.


It isn't possible to directly stimulate the hippocampus with TMS because it's too deep in the brain for the magnetic fields to penetrate. So, using an MRI scan, Voss and colleagues identified a superficial brain region a mere centimeter from the surface of the skull with high connectivity to the hippocampus. He wanted to see if directing the stimulation to this spot would in turn stimulate the hippocampus. It did. “I was astonished to see that it worked so specifically,“ Voss said.

When TMS was used to stimulate this spot, regions in the brain involved with the hippocampus became more synchronised with each other, as indicated by data taken while subjects were inside an MRI machine, which records the blood flow in the brain as an indirect measure of neuronal activity.
The more those regions worked together due to the stimulation, the better people were able to learn new information.

“This opens up a whole new area for treatment studies where we will try to see if we can improve function in people who really need it,“ Voss said.

His current study was with people who had normal memory, in whom he wouldn't expect to see a big improvement because their brains are already working effectively.

“But for a person with brain damage or a memory disorder, those networks are disrupted so even a small change could translate into gains in their function,“ Voss said.
In an upcoming trial, Voss will study the electrical stimulation's effect on people with early-stage memory loss.

Voss cautioned that years of research are needed to determine whether this approach is safe or effective for patients with Alzheimer's disease or similar disorders of memory.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Horror of Earbuds

They fit wrong, they fall out, they get covered in gross earwax—can’t someone design something better?

human ear.
The prevailing earbud design involves silicone bulbs that jam deep into your ear canals.
Photo illustration by Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo. Images via Shutterstock, Creative Commons
ately, I’ve been thinking a lot about products that penetrate our bodily orifices. No, not those. Or those. It’s okay that you thought of those. I'm not judging. But what I have in mind is a device that people use every day, in public, for all to see.

The modern earphone comes in two main types—both of which are deeply flawed. The prevailing earbud design (the kind often included with the purchase of, say, an Android device) involves silicone bulbs that jam deep into your ear canals, creating a seal. Some people have no problem with these small invaders. But many others among us—myself included—find them intrusive. Painful, even.

My informal survey of friends and colleagues found a passel of folks who are convinced that their ear canals must be abnormal, since those silicone buds simply don’t fit. The buds pop out while jogging, for instance. Or when you yawn too wide. Or, worse, they stay in but create more discomfort with each passing minute—until you joyously rip them from your ears like a splinter from the pad of your thumb. Also: This may be one of the more embarrassing admissions I’ve made in print, but … sometimes when I take this type of bud out I find it is coated in a thin film of earwax. Gross! Sorry!

Apple offers an alternative, as its earbuds (the ones that come packaged with iPhones) obviate these issues by resting demurely in the concha of the ear, making no attempt to rudely invite themselves into your canal. This style works so-so for me. But I do find I need to crank the volume on my iPhone when I listen to music in loud environments, like on the subway. And even then I’m not pleased with the result. Their distance from my ear canals and their lack of a seal means the Apple earbuds leak out a lot of music into the air and leak in a lot of noise from squealing subway car brakes. Friends report similar dissatisfaction, adding that even in quiet contexts the Apple buds offer only mediocre audio quality, and that they often slip out of the ears entirely during sweaty workouts.

Can’t live with ’em inside canals, can’t live with ’em outside. Sure, those big, over-the-ear headphones solve many of these problems, but they’re too unwieldy to tuck into your jeans pocket when you’re on the go. I want an earbud alternative that works for everyone. One that won’t jam too tight into my canals yet will stay in place, be comfortable, and provide good sound. Surely it’s out there?

As the first step in my search, I consulted with a pro. Brian Fligor is the chief audiologist for the 3-D ear-scanning firm Lantos Technologies. He used to run diagnostic audiology at Boston Children’s Hospital and taught at Harvard Medical School. According to Fligor, my delicate, narrow ear canals are nothing to be ashamed of. “Everyone's ear canal is as unique to you as your fingerprints,” he says, “and even within one person your ear canals are not symmetric. I do informal polls, and about a quarter of the people I talk to say earphones don't fit them.”

As long as I had Fligor on the phone, I asked him about my own weird ear canal phenomenon. When 
I use earbuds that create a seal, I can almost “hear” my footsteps in my head as I walk. The heavier the step, the louder I hear it, and the music I’m listening to completely cuts out each time my foot hits the ground. Fligor assured me this is normal. It’s called the “occlusion effect.” Vibration travels up through your body and, because the ear canal seal for me is shallow when I try to wear buds, there’s a big open airspace between the bud and my eardrum in which those vibrations rattle around. Phew. 

I’m not a freak. But I still can’t walk and listen to music at the same time.

Fligor favors an ear canal seal if you can hack it. The seal makes for the finest audio quality and the least corrupting outside noise, and it allows you to keep volume levels lower. For those who can’t tolerate off-the-rack silicone buds, he recommends visiting an audiologist to buy a custom-fitted “ear sleeve” that will snuggle gently into the precise contours of your canal.

Well, an audiologist would say that, wouldn’t he? I don’t at all doubt Fligor’s expertise or good faith. But even he admits two flaws with the custom solution. First: It’s expensive. A fitting might cost $100–$150 to get the sleeve, on top of the price of the earphones themselves. And on the other end, the sky’s the limit. Fligor told me his own custom-fitted “in-ear monitors” provide “outrageous” fidelity, but cost $750. (His counterpoint: You spend hundreds of dollars on your music player and on buying songs. You won’t spend more than 20 bucks on the things that actually produce the sound?)
And second: Custom solutions can be too good. The better the seal, the less you can hear from the world outside. That furiously honking oncoming taxi, for instance. “I tell people not to jog at night alone,” Fligor confesses, “because they won’t hear the mugger.” (His counterpoint: Some noise-canceling in-ear buds purposely allow in a small amount of external noise to remedy this problem.)

What if you don’t want to spend the time and money to go to an audiologist? Or just don’t want anything inside your ear canals, period? Are there other solutions?

You could replicate a custom fitting by doing it yourself, at home. A product called Decibullz lets you melt malleable blobs of plastic in a cup of warm water, cram them into your conchas, and then wait for them to set and firm. Voila: personally fitted earphones for only $59. The problem is, Decibullz employ a standard silicone bud for the part of the device that actually enters your canal. 

The blobby stuff just molds itself to the outside bowl of the ear, not to the inside tunnel—which eliminates some external noise but doesn’t solve any problems for narrow-canaled humans.

Instead, you could ignore your ears altogether by conducting noise through your skull. This is the approach taken by Aftershokz Bluez 2 ($99.95), which uses a headband that loops over your pinnae and rests on the outside edges of your cheekbones. The sound vibrates into your head, and the device even buzzes against your face during the most slamming of beats. (Not unpleasantly. It’s more a tickle, which creates a cool sort of physical connection to the music.) I was stunned by how clearly sound came through in this manner, and I loved that there was nothing blocking my canals. But a ton of sound leaks out. People sitting near me in the Slate office could clearly hear my music. Also, the bulky over-the-ear headband is less than ideal if you have long hair (which can get tangled) or wear eyeglasses (which can get in the way).

Maybe we should trust audiologists after all? EarHero ($149) was designed by a husband and wife clinical audiology team from Boise, Idaho. They wanted earphones that let listeners “maintain complete awareness of their environment.” The original target market was skiers, who craved musical accompaniment paired with situational alertness as they sped down slopes. But it turns out the product has been a hit with security personnel who use it for radio communication: EarHero claims that more than 200 Secret Service agents wear these earphones, attracted by their ability to let in other noise, their comfortable fit over long workdays, and their near invisibility to observers. But would they suit my purposes? They are indeed super comfy. They stay in place by means of a “concha lock”—a little flexible tail that springs against your ear bowl and braces the earbud in place. 

Perfect for my physiognomy. You almost forget you’re wearing them, as they are extremely small and light and barely touch your ear at all. But the sound is tinny. Terrific for listening to yakking—a Slate podcast, or a baseball game, or tactical chatter as you protect a Saudi royal—but not so good if you want to jam out to top 40 hits.

Yurbuds ($37.46) offer a printed guarantee they “will not fall out.” I believe them. Their plastic pods screw into the bowl of your ear—like an Apple earbud that locks in place. No silicone tip to invade your canal, so we’re good there. But the screw-in piece of plastic began to grate against my concha. The fit was way too tight. I felt like someone was trying to expand the bowl of my ear wider than it wanted to go. What a relief to pluck these out. I also found their audio quality way below par.

For me, the winner is any Bose line of earphones with “StayHear tips.” These tips are small, silicone wedges in the shape of shark fins that tuck under the eaves of your pinnae into the top edge of your concha to hold the earbuds in place. The mouth of the earbud itself extends down into your canal far enough that the music emits closer to your eardrum, which means you get a clearer sound even at lower volumes. But there’s still no seal necessary, which means there’s no discomfort and no diminished awareness of the world around you. These earbuds were a revelation for me. They have the comfort and stability of the EarHero, with far superior audio quality. Sadly, their price tag might be a dealbreaker: The Bose headphones with StayHear tips start at about $100—which is a hefty price to pay for something that, if past evidence is a guide, I’ll almost surely lose within the next six months.

I’d love to find a much cheaper version of StayHear tips, but I couldn’t find any similar products. (If you know of one, feel free to tell me in the comments.) Perhaps a better solution is on the horizon: A brand called Normal will let you take photos of your ears, send them in (the photos, not the ears), and receive back custom, 3-D printed earbuds that promise to fit you precisely. Sounds difficult to pull off, and I'll believe when I see it. Or hear it. Anyway, the company doesn’t start sending out products until next month. In the meantime, I’ll be that guy standing next to you on the subway in Apple buds, cranking early-’90s hip hop into the air for all around me to enjoy.

Hackers Could Take Control of Your Car. This Device Can Stop Them

 David Schwen | Wheel: Getty
Hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have proven more clearly than anyone in the world how vulnerable cars are to digital attack. Now they’re proposing the first step towards a solution.
Last year the two Darpa-funded security researchers spent months cracking into a Ford Explorer and a Toyota Priusterrifying each other with tricks like slamming on the brakes or hijacking the vehicles’ steering with only digital commands sent from a laptop plugged into a standard data port under the dash. At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas next month, they’ll unveil a prototype device designed to foil the same unnerving tricks they’ve demonstrated: An intrusion-detection system for automobiles. “These attacks seemed serious enough that we should actually consider how to defend against them,” says Miller, who holds a day job as a security researcher for Twitter. “We actually wanted to do something to help solve this problem.”
They built their anti-hacking device for $150 in parts: an mbed NXP micro controller and a simple board. This plugs into a jack underneath a car or truck’s dashboard known as the OBD2 port. Power it on for a minute during routine driving, and it captures the vehicle’s typical data patterns. Then switch it into detection mode to monitor for anomalies like an unusual flood of signals or a command that should be sent when the car is parked but shows up when you’re instead doing 80 on the highway.
If it spots mischief, the device puts the car into what Miller and Valasek call “limp mode,” essentially shutting down its network and disabling higher-level functions like power steering and lane assist until the vehicle restarts. “You just plug it in, it learns, then it stops attacks,” says Valasek, the director of vehicle security research at security consultancy IOActive.

The anti-hacking device.
The anti-hacking device. Courtesy Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek
Miller and Valasek’s gadget may raise fears about false positives that could mistakenly disable your car’s computers during rush hour. But in their tests, they say it hasn’t misinterpreted any innocent signals in the car’s networks as attacks. That’s in part, they say, because a car’s digital communications are far more predictable than those of a typical computer network. “It’s just machines talking to machines,” says Valasek. “In the automotive world, the traffic is so normalized that it’s very obvious when something happens that’s not supposed to happen.”
That regularity in a car’s base-level networking communications, they say, meant their device could reliably spot all the attacks they threw against it, as well as earlier car hacks developed by researchers at the University of California at San Diego and the University of Washington. Miller and Valasek don’t plan to sell their auto protection gadget. Instead, they only aim to demonstrate with the proof-of-concept how easy it would be for carmakers to protect vehicles from attack.
In fact, their work has already helped inspire an ongoing congressional investigation into the security practices of major auto manufacturers. After Miller and Valasek showed (In many cases with me behind the wheel) that they could perform nasty tricks that ranged from triggering target cars’ horns to disabling brakes at low speeds, Congressman Ed Markey sent a letter to 20 automakers demanding answers. The deadline for those responses passed earlier this year, but Markey’s office has yet to release its findings.
While Miller and Valasek’s attack tests required that they physically plug into their target vehicles’ networks, wireless hacks are possible, too. The UCSD and UW researchers, for instance, were able to breach their test car’s network over bluetooth and GSM signals. And in another portion of Miller and Valasek’s Black Hat talk that they declined to discuss, they say they’ll outline new potential wireless attack points in automobiles.
Despite cars’ growing, vulnerable connections to mobile devices and the internet, neither Miller nor Valasek believes malicious hackers have actually targeted them yet outside of a research setting. But they argue that in this case it’s worth trying to prevent a digital security debacle before it happens.
A hacked car, after all, has more serious consequences than eavesdropped emails or stolen credit cards. “If we don’t fix this, someone crashes,” Miller says. And he means the kind you can’t reboot from.

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