Tiny FM transmitters deliver news and entertainment inside Syria

in hardware on (#Z784)
On the top floor of an old brick building in the heart of Berlin, a group of journalists and tech enthusiasts are working to spur the Syrian media revolution. Their weapon is an unassuming black case the size of a shoebox that allows opposition radio stations in Syria to transmit inside hostile territory. Dubbed PocketFM, the device is basically a low-powered radio transmitter. Coupled with a satellite dish to receive new programs, a car battery for power and a one-meter (three-foot) antenna, it can broadcast FM radio within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius. That's enough to cover a town or a city district, said Philipp Hochleichter, who oversees development of the device for the Berlin-based nonprofit organization Media in Cooperation and Transition.

The group has been training journalists in conflict zones for more than a decade and often relies on FM radio to reach populations in far-flung areas that don't have access to the Internet or smartphones. But when the group realized that shifting front lines and the brutal treatment of journalists meant operating large broadcast antennae could become too cumbersome or risky, it developed PocketFM. It's now being used to covertly broadcast in nine locations, including two that are controlled by the Islamic State group, said Hochleichter. Connected to a solar panel, a PocketFM transmitter can theoretically work autonomously for long periods of time.

New Raspberry Pi Zero: the $5 computer

in hardware on (#W9ZP)
story imageThe original Raspberry Pi Model B and its successors put a programmable computer within reach of anyone with $20-35 to spend. Today, I’m pleased to announce the immediate availability of Raspberry Pi Zero, made in Wales and priced at just $5. Zero is a full-fledged member of the Raspberry Pi family, featuring:

A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor 1GHz ARM11 core (40% faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
A micro-SD card slot
A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
Micro-USB sockets for data and power
An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
An unpopulated composite video header
Our smallest ever form factor, at 65mm x 30mm x 5mm

Raspberry Pi Zero runs Raspbian and all your favourite applications, including Scratch, Minecraft and Sonic Pi. It is available today in the UK from The Pi Hut and Pimoroni, and in the US from Adafruit and in-store at your local branch of Micro Center. We’ve built several tens of thousands of units so far, and are building more, but we expect demand to outstrip supply for the next little while.

You'll need a mini-HDMI and a micro-USB adapter/cable

Happy hacking!

Understanding the US government's dismal IT project track record

in legal on (#VZGD)
A lot of times the systems are politically mandated in the sense that you have somebody on the Hill or Congress who will mandate a system and they'll mandate a particular period of time and they'll mandate the amount of money to spend and they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. So what happens is, if you're there as a government person, you’re trying to translate some political wish into something that's topical and it’s not very easy,” Bob Charette says. Another problem is that there isn’t much accountability when it comes to projects that fail.

One infamous example of government failure is the system that handles disability claims for Social Security. In the early 2000s, Congress spent money to try and reduce the massive backlog in claim processing that had built up. The backlog, however, only grew. Then in 2007, they spent more money — an estimated $381 million — to try and integrate 54 different IT systems that the Social Security Administration uses to process claims in the state. In 2011 they spent another $200 million on the project. “After six years ... they found out that they really didn't have anything.” The backlog for Social Security claims continues to grow, and the latest attempt to fix the problem failed again this past summer. “By any stretch of imagination, it's scandalous.”

Verizon exploring $10 billion sale of enterprise assets

in internet on (#TNCR)
Verizon Communications Inc is exploring a sale of its enterprise assets which could be worth as much as $10 billion. The sale would include the business formerly known as MCI (acquired in 2006), which provides landline and Internet services for large business customers, as well as Terremark (acquired in 2011), its data center unit. The assets have estimated annual earnings of around $2 billion. The businesses have struggled to keep up with advances in cloud computing, and face fierce price competition from players such as Google and Amazon. Verizon is still considering how some of these asset sales could best be structured and no deal is imminent.

Wireline provider CenturyLink Inc was in talks with Verizon earlier this year to buy some of the assets but could not agree on terms. In a strategy shift, CenturyLink announced this week it would instead explore options for its data centers, including possibly selling them. The enterprise telecommunications industry has had to adapt in recent years to corporate customers seeking more sophisticated and cheaper offerings to manage their data. AT&T Inc has been exploring a sale of its data center assets for some time, while Windstream Holdings Inc sold its data center business for $575 million to TierPoint last month.

Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said, during the company's third-quarter earnings call on Oct. 20, that it continues "to work through secular and economic challenges" with its global enterprise division, which posted a 4.9 percent decline in revenue in the quarter ended Sept. 30. Verizon has been looking to sell other non-core assets as well. In February, it announced the sale of residential landline assets in California, Texas and Florida to Frontier Communications for $10.54 billion, and unloaded its tower portfolio for more than $5 billion.

The future of the Internet is very much up in the air

in internet on (#SN5K)
story imageThere are a growing number of toll roads on the information superhighway. There are now more countries with a heavily censored Internet than there are ones with a completely free Internet.

Worst among the 65 countries assessed is China, which also happens to be the country with the largest number of internet users (641 million). Thanks to a new law passed last month, Chinese internet users are now even more vulnerable to criminal charges if they are found to be spreading “rumors” or politically delicate information online.

In the United States, President Barack Obama advocated for an open internet earlier this year. But the US takes the fifth spot after Iceland, Estonia, Canada, and Germany.

As more and more countries follow China's example and clamp down online, a great ideal of the Internet seems to be on the decline, if not already lost. “The future contours of the Internet are definitely up for grabs,” says Crawford.

“Very interesting countries hang in the balance, like India, where 1.2 billion people could be online — only about a quarter of them are right now,” she says. “Cuba is just coming online, and so is much of Africa. Who are they going to follow? My hope is that they look to the United States, Australia, Canada, and the EUas a model of openness. Not just for economic purposes, but for the thriving of human beings.”

Google plans to merge Chrome OS and Android

in google on (#SMM1)
Chromebooks have been wildly popular on Amazon. But what will happen to them if Google merges Chrome OS and Android? Rumors have been circulating for quite some time that Google would someday combine Chrome OS and Android, and now it looks like that might happen sooner than anybody expected. A new report indicates that the merge of the two mobile operating systems may happen by 2017.

This move make a great deal of sense. Android and Chrome OS are Linux-based operating systems, which support apps in different ways but share the same foundation. Android forms its own distribution family, while Chrome OS is based on Gentoo Linux.

Both have their own strengths they could bring to a merged smartphone, tablet, and desktop operating system. Android, which runs on more than a billion devices, is the single most popular end-user operating system, with more than 1.6 million apps. Chrome OS has shown that Web-based apps are sufficient enough for many desktop users. In addition, Android is plagued with multiple versions that are very difficult to upgrade.

It makes sense now to explore with mobile devices becoming the primary device. There are opportunities to provide an open platform for both mobile and desktop. This is already happening. Examples of this direction include Chromecast running on a version of Android and the new Pixel C Android tablet.

The actual release date is still over a year in the future. The combined "Android Chrome OS" won't ship until 2017.

360-degree cameras entering the consumer market

in hardware on (#SMK3)
Jim Malcolm pulls up a video on his smartphone he recently shot at Disneyland. We see a ride from Jim's point of view. With a swipe of his finger, the camera spins around and we see Jim's face -- same ride, different angle. He puts his finger on the phone's screen and drags it down, and now we can see his kids sitting behind him on the ride.

Malcolm didn't use a traditional camera, he works for Ricoh and the device in his hand is the Theta S, a camera with two lenses that captures images and video in 360 degrees. It is slated to launch this month at $349.99. Quite a bit more affordable than GoPro's $15,000 360-degree camera array.

A lot of cameras can do 360-degree video in the horizontal plane (the "doughnut" effect), leaving out anything above or below the camera. Just stick the Theta S camera slightly above your head, push a button, and it captures everything.

Other consumer camera makers are also giving it a shot. 360fly, a black, orb-like camera, went on sale at Best Buy in August for $399.99. It also captures video footage at all angles and is waterproof. Bublcam is another 360-degree, ball-shaped camera with multiple lenses slated to launch this year for $799. Then there's Giroptic's palm-size 360-degree camera that resembles a children's toy with three eye-like lenses. It's available for pre-order at $499. The Theta S and the Giroptic can capture in high definition. The 360fly can hit nearly 30 frames per second, which is not too shabby.

"Part of the problem with 360-degree cameras is there's not an easy way to view or experience the content either in virtual reality or outside of it," said Brian Blau, an analyst at research firm Gartner. "And that's because it's so new, there aren't a lot of standards in software and there isn't a lot of infrastructure support yet." Facebook now supports 360-degree videos. YouTube recently announced its support of 360-degree videos, and camera makers are letting people upload their 360-degree photos and videos to their own websites.

The other challenge is in getting people to use the cameras. The technology is in its infancy, and changing consumer behavior is half the work.

San Jose could be first California city to get Google Fiber service

in internet on (#SJP0)
Google is moving forward with plans to expand Google Fiber into the heart of Silicon Valley, potentially making San Jose the first city in California and fourth in the nation to carry the Mountain View technology giant's lightning-fast fiber Internet and TV service.

San Jose leaders remained tight-lipped about the expansion plans Tuesday, but Google has applied for permits to build two of the shed-like shelters -- called "Fiber Huts" -- to house its fiber cables on Santa Teresa Boulevard, near Thornwood Drive, and Bird Avenue, near Virginia Street. The company plans to build at least eight more, city documents show.

City Hall sources say an official announcement about Google Fiber's expansion into San Jose could come as early as late November or early December.

Google's bid to bring Fiber to the city, which comes after more than a year of courtship between Google and City Hall, would make San Jose one of the largest cities to offer the fiber-optic service, which promises faster Internet with a connection of up to 1,000 megabits per second.

Today, Google Fiber is only available in Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Provo, Utah -- but rollout plans are underway in six other major cities, including Nashville, Atlanta and Salt Lake City. Google is also in talks with city officials in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and its home base of Mountain View about installing Fiber infrastructure. San Diego and Irvine are the only two other California cities being considered for the service.

Friday Distro: Ubuntu Studio

in linux on (#SG2E)
story imageUbuntu Studio was created for a specific use case: multimedia production. Ubuntu Studio focuses on three core areas – video production, audio production and graphics. It uses low-latency Linux kernel, which is built with different configurations to reduce latency, something that is critical in cases of real-time audio recording. Users can use the appropriate kernel tree suited for their work. It comes with a huge list of open source applications for these three areas. Ubuntu Studio does more than just offer multimedia production applications.

The first version of Ubuntu Studio was released in 2007 and it was based on Gnome. In 2011, with the arrival of Gnome 3, the project decided to switch its base to Xfce, a move that the founder of the project said would offer some "immediately tangible" advantages: "For example, XFCE represents a familiar desktop metaphor (@Fab thanks) for users and provides a more resource friendly environment than GNOME, KDE, or (I would expect) Unity."

ESPN videos forced off Youtube by new subscription service policy

in internet on (#RVEN)
story imageYouTube on Wednesday unveiled its long-discussed paid subscription service. Dubbed YouTube Red, the new service will offer ad-free versions of all current YouTube videos, as well as access to music streaming and additional exclusive content from some of the site’s top creators. It will cost $9.99 per month and launch on Oct. 28. With YouTube Red, subscribers will be able to save YouTube videos for offline play, listen to videos in the background while browsing other mobile apps and watch all videos without ads. Youtube has grown into an advertising behemoth, pulling in a reported $4 billion in revenue in 2014. However, YouTube still isn’t profitable, so a subscription play could make sense as a way of improving Google’s bottom line.

But where we consumers have the freedom of choice to stay with a free version of YouTube or upgrade to a paid subscription for it, YouTube Creators have seemingly been left without that same choice. It appears that YouTube played a heavy hand in pushing Creators to join the company behind their Red paywall. If a Creator chooses to continue on their own without joining the Red bandwagon, YouTube will mark their videos as "private" and will only be viewable to the Creators themselves. In short, Creators not on Red will also not be on a public YouTube. And the first notable victim is ESPN.

The majority of ESPN’s video content has been pulled off of YouTube in the US, as the sports network currently can’t participate in the YouTube Red service due to rights issues surrounding its content. Out of ESPN’s 13 featured channels — including Grantland, SportsNation, ESPNU and others — only two still have videos, notes Mashable: X Games and NacionESPN. Some channels simply have messages reading, “This channel has no content,” while over on the main ESPN channel, the most recent videos are from three years ago.