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Friday, August 2, 2013

Apple IGZO displays could improve MacBook, iOS battery lifeApple is rumored to refresh the MacBook Pro later this year, and a new report says that the company may get access to some exclusive Intel Haswell processors to power the 2013 MacBook Pro versions.
A previous report indicated that the new MacBook Pro models could be launched at some point in October, with a variety of indirect evidence also pointing to the imminent product refresh, including recent price drops for 2012 MacBook Pro models as well as certain estimates from analysts.
Meanwhile, SemiAccurate
has published a new report according to which Intel is going to provide Apple some unique “ultra-high performance” Haswell chips to be used in the new MacBook Pro models.
Apparently the new machines will get special on-board graphics, with Intel’s GT3e (Iris Pro 5200) said to be included in the new chips.
The company has reportedly asked for “a special top bin cream-of-the-crop GT3e selection from Intel, with ‘as much GPU power as possible,’” according to MacRumors
, and Intel is said to provide such exclusive parts to the company.
This wouldn’t be the first time Apple and Intel team up for exclusive products, or when Apple is said to be the first to have access to new Intel chips.
Needless to say, the report can’t be confirmed just yet, as the 2013 MacBook Pro refresh is yet to become official. However, if the report is accurate, then it may be safe to assume that other Intel clients will not get access to these special Haswell chips just yet.
MacRumors reveals that next-gen MacBook Pro models may have already shown up in benchmark test in June in July for the 13-inch and 15-inch upcoming versions of the laptop, respectively. According to those results, the new MacBook Pro models offer a performance similar to current models with the added benefit of improving power efficiency and therefore offering better battery life – just as the 2013 MacBook Airs.
Interestingly, the benchmark test for the 15-inch MacBook Pro seems to indicate there is no dedicated graphics card on board. It is believed that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro may rely solely on Intel’s integrated graphics power and not include a standalone graphics card, as previous models do.
For example, the 15-inch 2012 MacBook Pro models pack an Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics card, but also a NVIDIA GeForce 650M with 512MB or 1GB of GDDR5 memory depending on models. The 13-inch models only have an Intel HD Graphics 4000 graphics card. The same thing applies to 2012 Retina MacBook Pro models.
The new Iris Pro 5200 integrated graphics are apparently ready to offer extra performance, with Intel saying in its promotional materials that the Iris Pro 5200 paired with a Core i7-4950HQ chip (the same chip the 15-inch 2013 MacBook Pro model used in the benchmark test mentioned above) will offer 2-2.5 times the performance of an Intel i7-3840QM and Intel HD Graphics 4000 combo.
It is not yet clear whether the Retina MacBook Pro models will be refreshed alongside the regular MacBook Pro models, but it’s worth pointing out that Best Buy offered $200 off the 13-inch and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro models during its Hot July Black Friday sale, a discount which could suggest the retailer may be interested in dumping existing stock before a product refresh.

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Is Thorium the answer to our energy needsTo hear proponents talk about Thorium reactors, you would think that Thorium is the energy panacea for which we have been searching. This readily found element can be used to create nuclear reactors that are walk-away safe, with waste that has a much shorter half life and should be easier to dispose of.  Current, nuclear reactors need multiple redundant systems and can blow up as we’ve seen with Fukishima.  Thorium reactors won’t blow up and don’t need the multiple redundant systems.  If they are so great why are we still using Uranium reactors?
According to The Thorium Dream by Motherboard TV, it is because two major nuclear powerhouses want it that way.  The other reason mentioned was that the current reactors, using 60 year old technology, are what we are comfortable with and what we know works.  The fact that there have been major disasters like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and, most recently, Fukishima have shown that that doesn’t make them safe and the results are devastating when they fail.
Enter Thorium as the miracle that will save us as fossil fuel supplies dry up and current Uranium reactors are viewed as too dangerous.  Rather than using solid fuel rods like light water reactors(LWR) do, Thorium reactors use a liquid Thorium salt mixture.  It doesn’t require redundant safety mechanisms in part because it doesn’t blow up.  Unlike Uranium, you can’t make bombs out of Thorium.
Richard Martin talked about Thorium on The Leonard Lapate Show.  According to Martin, the amount of Thorium needed to produce electricity is significantly less than needed in a Uranium reactor.  A liquid Thorium-Fluoride salt reactor is actually a breeder reactor where it creates more fuel as it producing electricity.  These types of reactors would require less maintenance and could run longer on the same fuel producing less nuclear waste.  Should something happen to the reactor it would not blow up.  At the bottom of the reactor is a and salt plug that would melt draining the radioactive fuel into a lead lined safety chamber. In other words we are talking about a type of nuclear reactor that is much safer than Uranium reactors, with less waste, and less maintenance.
A Thorium reactor was brought on line in the 1960’s but was shut down after 6 years primarily because market forces decided to continue focusing on Uranium reactors.  Watch The Thorium Dream
to get a better picture on why. While the United States may have taken a pass on these safer types of reactors, other countries like India and China are funding Thorium research and will probably have Thorium reactors before we will. 
Unlike fossil fuels, Thorium doesn’t produce any carbon byproducts which makes it cleaner even than natural gas.  It is readily available so one country or area of the world, think OPEC, can’t manipulate the cost.  It would not require such risky methods as fracking or trying to extract oil from shale using pollution producing methods.
All in all it looks as if Thorium reactors would actually help solve a number of our energy problems.  While renewable energy is continuing to grow, it is growing so slowly that we still use coal fired plants for much of our electricity.  Thorium nuclear reactors would produce cleaner electricity.  We would have cheaper electricity and could power our lives (including cars) using only a golf ball size of Thorium. 
The Thorium Dream will become reality.  Too bad it won’t happen here first.
More information on Thorium can be found here and here.
       Thorium-Flouride reactor
Tags: nuclear energy, Thorium, Thorium-Flouride Reactors Posted on: February 26th, 2012 by Susan Wilson
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image001The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met on July 18, 2013 in a joint session with the Council for Science and Technology (CST) from the United Kingdom.  This was the first time the two similar bodies met together.  The first agenda item was Big Data: Smart Cities.  The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) has been involved in Big Data for quite some time, having convened a Big Data Study Group in 2008. The conversation began with Steven Koonin discussing The Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) at New York University (NYU).  CUSP is a public-private research center that uses New York City as both its laboratory and classroom.  CUSP is leading the emerging field of “Urban Informatics.”  Koonin spoke about the rationale for this new field and provided suggestions for a national program:
The encouragement of data sharing across government functions and with the private sector;Data standards need to be defined;Privacy research and regulation must be furthered;Funding;Cross disciplinary training in undergraduate and graduate programs must occur;Partnerships must be formed;Urban Informatics Research needs to have a “home.”
Next up, Sir Alan Wilson spoke about the Future of Cities Project and Science of Cities and Regions in the United Kingdom.  For the Future of Cities Project, Sir Wilson will be looking at the system of United Kingdom cities and some demonstrator cities to answer some Big Questions, such as: What makes a successful city? His work aims to build theories to help all cities in the future.
After the presentations, the members of PCAST and CST asked several questions of the presenters.  The webcast of the meeting can be viewed here.

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AT&T adds LTE for pre-paid customersIf you want a fast data connection without a contract, add AT&T to your list of options. The company is adding LTE to its pre-paid contracts, which are currently available in a limited area only.
AT&T launched a pre-paid service under the Aio Wireless brand name last month. It’s a contract free deal where you pay between $35 and $70 for unlimited voice, text and 3G data, plus a fixed amount of 4G data (the amount varying with the price.)
The service arguably launched a little earlier than would be ideal as it only offered HSPA+ rather than the more widely available LTE. That’s being fixed with an over-the-air update for compatible handsets.
The LTE support will also come ready-installed on new handsets, including the forthcoming ZTE Overture, a so-so looking Android phone.
Adding LTE support will be most important with the iPhone 5, the only real high-end handset available on the Aio Wireless deal. Analysts had noted getting LTE was pretty much essential if AT&T was going to compete with T-Mobile in the market for pre-paid iPhones.
Aio allows users to choose between paying the full cost of the handset up front ($649.99 for the iPhone 5), paying in installments by leasing it from a third-party firm, or using an unlocked handset brought from another network.
The big difference between Aio and the T-Mobile pre-paid deal is that the customer won’t have any form of credit agreement with AT&T itself and thus won’t have to undergo a credit check if they pay for the phone outright or bring their own handset.
Controversially, with T-Mobile the installments plan is linked to the phone service. The customer can stop taking the service at any point, but will then have to pay the rest of the handset cost immediately. With the Aio deal, it appears the customer can go elsewhere for service and continue paying the leasing firm in installments.
Posted in 4G, Android, AT&T | No Comments » Read more from John Lister
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Developers look over new apps being displayed on iPads at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2013 in San Francisco. Photo: AP/Eric Risberg
After Apple’s main developer portal was down for maintenance for three days, the company fessed up and revealed that the Developer Center website was compromised by an intruder late last week. The purported “hacker,” it turns out, was a well-meaning independent security researcher. Even though his actions were supposedly benevolent, the researcher could be in hot water if Apple decides to take legal action.
“Last Thursday, an intruder attempted to secure personal information of our registered developers from our developer website,” Apple wrote in an email to developers. “Sensitive personal information was encrypted and cannot be accessed, however, we have not been able to rule out the possibility that some developers’ names, mailing addresses, and/or email addresses may have been accessed.”
‘I needed to be heard, and I guess I successfully have.’ — Ibrahim Balic, the security researcher responsible for the Developer Center website’s downtime
The Developer Center is still down today. Apple said it’s “completely overhauling” its developer systems, which includes re-architecting its whole developer database and updating its server software.
Developers, while disconcerted that a security breach happened, feel confident that Apple handled the situation well.
“It seemed to take a long time for Apple to share what was going on, but I’d rather hear an accurate statement of what was compromised than a vague, possibly inaccurate statement,” Zac White, head iOS developer with Velos Mobile, told WIRED.
Apple did not disclose precise details about how the intruder gained access to its systems, but shortly after the company’s public announcement, an independent security researcher named Ibrahim Balic came forward to say he’s the one responsible for the downtime.
Balic was doing research on Apple’s website, discovering and submitting a total of 13 issues to its bug-reporting platform. While some of these were minor XSS scripting bugs, one of the issues he found gave him access to user information like the developer’s full name, email address, and user ID. Balic hasn’t elaborated on what bug allowed him to see this data, or how it worked. Four hours after submitting this bug, Balic says Apple shut down its developer portal. Then, on Sunday, Apple issued its email saying that an intruder had gained access to developer information.
That same day, Balic made a YouTube video (which has since been made private) to argue that “the blame was wrong.” Balic says he wanted to justify himself and show that he was not acting with bad intentions, and that he is not a malicious hacker. “I helped them find some important bugs that should be considered,” Balic said in an email. He switched the YouTube video from public to private on Monday in order to protect users’ confidentiality — in some of the screenshots the video included, users’ email addresses were visible.
“I needed to be heard, and I guess I successfully have,” Balic said. He does not plan on sharing any of the user data he uncovered, and says developers should not be scared, as nothing has been stolen from them.
Unfortunately, based on historical precedent, Balic could be in trouble for his well-intentioned actions.
In 2012, 26-year old Andrew Auernheimer was found guilty of identity fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. Two years previous, he had uncovered a hole in AT&T’s website that allowed anyone to access iPad users’ e-mail addresses and ICC-IDs, an identifier used in authenticating an iPad user’s SIM card. “Weev,” as Auernheimer is better known, was sentenced to three and a half years in jail under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act — the same law used against Aaron Schwartz.
Balic is not concerned that Apple will take legal action against his investigative security efforts. “I don’t think I should be worried, because I did not do anything bad towards Apple company and to their prestige,” Balic says. He also says he did not want the situation to blow up as it did — he was simply alerting Apple to a security issue with its developer system. As a professional security worker, he “could not stay in silence” after the company made its public announcement this weekend.
Balic has contacted Apple “several times” to get more information about what is going on, but has not gotten a response back.
Updated 3:43 PM PST to reflect the Dev Center is still down.

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