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Interesting snippets from around the globe

Hold your iPhone in your right hand

A study has found that iPhone users should hold their phone in their right hand when making calls. Using your left hand could be ruining your call quality as the antenna signal is impaired.

According to research carried out on behalf of telecomms authorities in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, as well as the Nordic Council of Ministers, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus rated the worst performers amongst the 26 mobile devices tested.

The study found that, in terms of voice quality, holding phones in the right hand gave the following result:


HTC Desire 626

Samsung Galaxy S5 mini

Samsung Galaxy J1

Microsoft Lumia 640

DORO PhoneEasy 530X


Huawei P9

Microsoft Lumia 950

HTC 10

Apple iPhone SE

Apple iPhone 6S

Holding phones in the left hand:


DORO PhoneEasy 530X

Microsoft Lumia 640

Microsoft Lumia 650

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Xiaomi Mi5


Apple iPhone 6S plus

Apple iPhone 6S

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone SE


You may recall that this isn’t the first time Apple iPhones have encountered call problems. Back in 2010, the iPhone 4’s antenna was wrapped around the outside of the phone which meant that, when held in a certain position, the signal would be completely cut off.

Labelled ‘antennagate’, Apple had to offer customers a free booster and change the signal algorithm to fix the problem.


(Oct ‘16)


>50% of malware infected files in the Cloud apps are shared

The latest report on enterprise cloud usage and trends from cloud security specialist Netskope reveals that 55.9% of malware-infected files found in cloud apps are shared publicly.

It also finds that ransomware is now one of the most common threats, with 43.7% of malware infections found in enterprise cloud apps having delivered ransomware. These include Javascript exploits and droppers, Microsoft Office macros and PDF exploits.

Whilst attacks are often initially delivered through phishing and email, within cloud environments, infected and encrypted files can quickly spread to other users through cloud app sync and share functionality in what is known as the 'fan-out' effect.

The report is at the link below.


(Oct ‘16)


Making dating great again

With Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, a website called Maple Match promises to help Americans “find the ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency.” The tagline on the site is “Make dating great again,” a play on Trump’s campaign slogan.

The Guardian reports that it was started by Joe Goldman, 25, of Austin, Texas, who told the paper that “Americans are using this as a serious opportunity to meet Canadians.” and escape the U.S. in the unlikely event of a Trump presidency.

It’s unclear whether Maple Match began as a joke – or, for that matter, remains a joke. At the moment the site offers nothing more than an online form that asks for some personal details and promises to put registrants on a waitlist.




Google self-driving cars to glue pedestrians to the bonnet

Google has received a patent (USPTO #9,340,178) for a special kind of coating on self-driving cars that could help prevent pedestrian injuries.

The company wants to coat autonomous vehicles with a sticky substance so that if they hit a pedestrian, the person would be glued to the car instead of flying off. According to the patent, by sticking the pedestrian to the car it will ensure the pedestrian “is not thrown from the vehicle, thereby preventing a secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object."

Google says that the "adhesive layer" would be placed on the hood (bonnet), front bumper and front side panels of a car. A thin coating would protect it until an impact occurred.

It’s like human fly-paper for cars.

One wonders what the result will be if the car then rear-ends another car in front.




Point your phone at an equation to solve it

Math isn't everyone's strong suit, especially those who haven't stretched that part of their brain since university days. Thanks to the wonders of image recognition technology, you can now download Mathpix, an iOS app that lets you point your phone camera at a problem and have it calculate the solution in seconds.

The interface looks like any standard camera app: simply drag the on-screen sight lines over the equation and the app solves it. It also provides graphical answers where appropriate. Even more useful is a step-by-step guide offering the steps involved to reach a solution.

Using image recognition to capture the problem, the app pings its servers to do the mathematical heavy lifting, so it’ll require an internet connection to work.

There is a demo video at the third link.




1/3 of cash held by 5 tech companies in U.S.

Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Cisco and Oracle are sitting on $US504 billion, or 30%, of the $US1.7 trillion in cash and cash equivalents held by U.S. non-financial companies in 2015, according to an analysis by ratings agency Moody's.

Unfortunately for U.S. investors, 72% of the total cash held by all non-financial U.S. companies is stockpiled outside the U.S as companies try to avoid paying tax to Uncle Sam.

The cash or cash equivalents at the end of 2015 held by these five are estimated at (in US billions):

Apple                  $215.7
Microsoft            $102.6
Alphabet            $73.1
Cisco                   $60.4
Oracle                 $52.3



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Uber could surge price if your battery is low

I’ve used Uber a few ties and found it to be a great service.

But one of the things you may not realise if you have downloaded the Uber app is that Uber can tell when your phone battery is about to die.

In a recent episode of NPR’s The Hidden Brain, Uber’s head of economic research Keith Chen says when you hit accept to download the app, you give Uber the permission to monitor your battery in order to tell when to switch to low-power mode.

While that’s interesting, what’s even more revealing is how much people are willing to pay with surge (dynamic) pricing depending on their phone’s battery level. Chen says users will pay up to 9.9 times in surge pricing if their battery is critical just so they’re not stranded wherever they are.

Customers with a fully-charged phone can afford to wait for surge pricing to drop. Uber typically pings you in the next 30 minutes if surging goes down.

What’s also interesting is that Uber found users are more willing to accept a 2.1x surge than 2.0x. Chen says people don’t like round numbers and think Uber might just be trying it on. However, if they see a 2.1x surge, they might think it’s due to algorithmic calculations (e.g. driver supply versus demand volume) that makes the 2.1 number reasonable and worth the extra money.

In the interview Chen promised that Uber does not use low battery information to pry you to pay the surged price. If you’re not sure whether to believe that, ensure your phone is charged or carry an external battery.




Turn a license plate holder into a parking sensor

Many new cars come with parking sensors but trying to retrofit them onto older cars can be a fairly expensive exercise. One company thinks it can out-do the automakers using a license plate frame.

The company is called FenSens (from fender sensor, get it?).

It’s a license plate cover loaded with sensors similar to the ones delivered with new cars. It detects things up to 10 feet (3 metres) away and will send visuals, audio alarms and vibrations to your Bluetooth connected iPhone or Android device. Every five months you’ll need to recharge the battery for a couple of hours.

The company claims it works with all vehicles no longer than 30 feet (~9 metres), likely because of low-energy Bluetooth constraints. It also has a limited vertical range, so if your plate frame is more than 4 feet (1.2m) off the ground, it may not work that well.

On the website, FenSens is offering $US99 early bird pricing, but retail is $US149.

Technology is pretty cool, innit?




Google teaching its cars to honk

Google’s driverless cars look fairly friendly with headlights that look like eyes and a sensor that looks like a nose. One could almost say they are rather cute, except for the fact that Google is now teaching them to honk.

In Google’s May self-driving car report (2nd link below), Google describes the honk as the self-driving car’s “voice.” But instead of the human method of honking (reflexive, irrational, aggressive, and often accompanied by a barrage of expletives) Google assures us that its driverless cars will be well behaved.

“Our self-driving cars aim to be polite, considerate, and only honk when it makes driving safer for everyone,” the report says. Okay.

To help train the fleet, the horn was initially only allowed to honk inside the car so as not to disturb other drivers. The test drivers noted whether each beep was “appropriate” which then allowed Google’s engineers to tinker with the software.

“If another vehicle is slowly reversing towards us, we might sound two short, quieter pips as a friendly heads up to let the driver know we’re behind. However, if there’s a situation that requires more urgency, we’ll use one loud sustained honk.”

Just as Google occasionally hides Easter egg pranks in its search engine, one wonders if there will be the occasional more devious use for the horns?

Will the car also honk at the lady-in-red with the great legs strutting along the footpath as it passes? Will it honk at the elderly who take all afternoon to traverse the pedestrian crossing?

Will it burst into a road-raging audio blast for the driver in the next lane who continues to get too close?

Only time will tell.




Norway bans gas-powered car sales by 2025

An all-electric future may be closer than you think—at least if you live in Norway. The country’s four leading political parties have reportedly agreed to a plan to stop selling gasoline-powered cars by 2025. Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla (the leading electric car manufacturer) must be pretty chuffed.

Norway was the first European country to get Tesla charging stations, and in April 2015, the country reached its target of registering 50,000 beating its 2018 deadline by two years. About one in four cars sold there is electric.

The country has provided generous subsidies and incentives to people who wanted to buy electric cars, including tax exemptions, toll exemptions, and free parking and charging although these incentives are expected to be scaled back.

Ironically, Norway is also one of the world’s top oil exporters, pulling in billions from the production and sale of oil and gas.




Swiss robot assists travellers with luggage

A Swiss airport is testing a robot named Leo which can carry a passenger's luggage once they're approaching the terminal.

Leo's baggage compartment opens when passengers press his 'Scan & Fly' touch interface, which can also print luggage tags and display a departure time and boarding gate, before delivering their luggage to a baggage handler.

Genčve Aéroport’s head of IT said the new robot "limits the number of bags in the airport terminal, helping us accommodate a growing number of passengers without compromising the airport experience inside the terminal."

It is assumed that there is no need to provide Leo with a tip.




A $US190 million mis-click

A court has ruled that Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners under-priced the buyout of Dell Inc. in 2013, and will have to make restitution to investors who opposed the deal.

But one of those early opponents won’t benefit from the ruling because, in essence, they checked the wrong box.

The investment firm T. Rowe Price was a vocal opponent of the deal, and had over 30 million shares scattered throughout its mutual funds. However, an automated system at T. Rowe Price used its default setting – which indicated support for the buyout. That blunder cost the firm more than $US100 million, or around $US190 million with interest.






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