Gionee Elife E7 hands-on and first impressions


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Gionee, one of the biggest smartphone brands in China, has sprung out of nowhere in India this year. We have been pretty impressed with the brand’s portfolio of mid-end smartphones that offer good design and build quality at an affordable price. The company had launched its flagship Elife E6 smartphone a couple of months ago in India to good reviews all around. Now it is taking things a notch upward with the Elife E7 with the latest hardware and a series of what it claims to be the first in the market. We had a chance to play with the smartphone at its global launch in Shanghai and here are our first impressions.

 

Posted By MANTOSH PAL

Are we in danger? Explaining meteors!


The dinosaurs didn’t get on with them, but there are things we can do to avert an impact

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In February, a meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, causing significant damage. A recent study in Nature suggests that there are more of these potentially threatening small meteors than we previously thought. We ask expert Dr Hugh Lewis from the University of Southampton to explain how we can tackle meteors, big and small.

Which asteroids can we detect?

We’ve been looking now for a number of years to try to identify all the objects that are larger than 1km in size – objects that size are going to cause a lot of damage should they hit the Earth. When you get down to smaller size, we can only see some of those objects, basically because they are darker – we rely on them reflecting light from the sun to see them in telescopes and so the smaller they get, the less sunlight they are going to be reflecting.

How much damage can a small meteor cause?

As you saw with the event over Chelyabinsk, an object that was probably less then 20m in size can have quite a significant impact on the ground. The meteor itself broke up before it hit the ground but the airburst caused all the damage — the broken windows, throwing people across rooms, and structural damage.

How can we get better at spotting potential threats?

We have the Spaceguard Survey and there are people now who are advocating the use of space-based missions to look for asteroids.

The B612 Foundation is proposing a mission called “Sentinel”, where a spacecraft will be launched into a Venus-like orbit to look for objects larger than 140m. If an asteroid is coming to us from the direction of the Sun, we can’t observe it easily with a telescope.

The Sentinel spacecraft will look out from the sun and will see a greater range of objects. But it will need to have very sensitive detectors – it is planning to use an infrared detector.

How do we avoid devastation from a large meteor?

We may have decades of warning for objects that we are able to track. An asteroid threat is a natural hazard that we could probably do something about now with the technology we already have.

All we need to do is make it miss Earth, but in such a way that it doesn’t then come back some years later and collide with the Earth. A big nuclear bomb going off in orbit is probably not the way you want to do it. Nasa has already demonstrated something that you could use to deflect an asteroid, it was its “Deep Impact” mission — it basically flew a spacecraft into the asteroid and hit it at high speed. If you nudge it 30 years before it is due to hit the Earth then that little nudge is enough.

What can we do if a small meteor reaches Earth?

We don’t have time to deflect it, we probably don’t have time to evacuate an area, but what we can do is start to educate people. If you see something like this — bright flash in the sky, huge smoke trail that’s formed, [then] the last thing you want to do is be standing next to a window.

Posted By MANTOSH PAL

Mark Zuckerberg Thinkspace Pioneers hunt for the next teenage


A group of Plymouth teenagers is hoping to ‘mould and inspire the next generation of digital thinkers, makers and doers’

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Thinkspace Pioneers aims to find the next digital Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg.

The search for the next Mark Zuckerberg or digital Richard Branson is on, and it’s a group of teenagers doing the searching.

Pioneers, the new off-shoot project from coding non-profit Thinkspace, is looking for the next generation of entrepreneurial app developers – a hand-picked bunch of talented teenagers given access to like minds, venture capitalists and mentoring backers. At least that’s the plan.

“We believe that the work of talented students should be cherished and recognised, which is why we formed Pioneers,” said Thinkspace’s 16-year-old co-founder James Anderson talking to the Guardian. “What we’re looking for is more than just coding skills and knowledge. We’re looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson – they have to be serious, but unique and innovative with the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Wheat from the chaff

Launching today, Thinkspace Pioneers will be opened up to applicants aged 13-18 with projects spanning apps, games and websites – anything that shows promise in the digital space.

The application procedure is free, and anyone can apply, but won’t be easy, as Anderson says “they will only have 400 characters or less to get their proposal across, so we’re hoping the best and brightest will really be able to sparkle and standout”.

The selection of applicants to be put through to the incubator-like project falls to Belfast-based Jordan Earle, director of the Pioneers project for Thinkspace. His task is to weed out the wheat from the chaff as “only a handful will make it though the application process.”

“What I want to be able to see is that they have a passion for technology,” said Earle. “I really hope we can inspire and mould the next generation of digital thinkers, makers and doers.”

“It’s incredibly important that young people are given as many opportunities as possible these days so they can discover their full potential,” he said.

Those that do make it through, notified within 72 hours of application, will be invited to take part in weekly or bi-weekly networking and discussion opportunities, both online using Google+ Hangouts and in a central, likely London, location. They will also be given access to Thinkspace’s “Social” coding and development-focussed social network, which launched in closed beta earlier in the year for schools, teachers and pupils.

To support the Pioneers project, Thinkspace is looking for backing to the tune of around £50,000 or partnerships from the big names in tech, Microsoft and Google included. It has certainly had success in that department in the past year, with endorsements from Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo, Google’s senior vice president of social Vic Gundotra, Microsoft’s UK director of education Steve Beswick, Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak and even Stephen Fry to name but a few.

‘Make a real difference to the lives of students’

Thinkspace was originally launched in September this year, aiming to place a Google headquarters-style spaces filled with modern computers, minimalist furniture and bright white walls within schools in Britain to encourage children to learn to code in a creative, non-school-like environment.

“We want to make a real difference to the lives of students in the UK and globally, and Pioneers is the next stage in that dream,” said Anderson.

Posted By MANTOSH PAL

Facebook is used One in five minutes spent on your mobile on daily basis! isn’t?


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 Dubai: Approximately one in every five minutes spent on mobile is on Facebook, leading marketers to use Facebook mobile for both branding and commerce/direct response messages, a leading company official has said.

“This is one of the busiest times on Facebook. We’re seeing more people share and consume more content and it’s happening on mobile devices. During the holidays, everyone is always on the go, traveling, planning and preparing for festivities,” said Nicolas Franchet, Facebook’s head of Retail & E-Commerce, Global Vertical Marketing.

According to him, Facebook News Feed is the new mobile shopping aisle where Omni channel retailers can reach all of these people every day and merchandise products to strengthen their brands and increase sales – both in stores and online.

“Our scaled reach and laser-focused targeting make Facebook a powerful partner for retailers during the holidays,” he said in a statement released here.

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Mars Orbiter spacecraft all set for 300-day voyage to the Red Planet


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 Mars Orbiter Mission, MOM, Mars mission, Mars Orbiter, Trans-Mars injection, Red Planet, ISRO, NASA

Bangalore: India’s Mars Orbiter spacecraft is set to begin its 300-day voyage to the Red Planet on Sunday.

The spacecraft entered the final orbit around the Earth early Wednesday with the scientists gearing up for trans-Mars injection on December 1.

“For the trans-Mars injection, we are planning to depart on 1 December 2013, early hours at 00:49 hours IST and we are going to burn a liquid engine for a duration of roughly 23 minutes which will impart an incremental velocity of 648 metres per second consuming a fuel of 198 kgs,” said ISRO scientific Secretary V Koteswara Rao.                                                                                                                                                                     “Then it travels a long path… after travelling roughly for 680 million kilometres through this path, it comes closer to Mars on 24 September of next year 2014,” added Rao.

The 1,337 kg Orbiter was raised to an apogee of 192,874 km on 16 November 2013 in the sixth orbit raising manoeuvre.

The velocity of the spacecraft will increase by 648 metres per second as it begins new journey and is expected to reach the Red Planet on September 24 next year, three days behind NASA’s MAVEN mission.

Rao said that ISRO would closely monitor if there is any minor deviation in the path.

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), informally called Mangalyaan, is a Mars orbiter and was launched into Earth orbit on board PSLV rocket on 5 November by the Indian Space Research organisation from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

posted by mantosh pal

Product of the Week: The Truly Beautiful Yoga Tablet


Sometimes you see an industrial design that’s amazing — a product that’s almost more art than anything else — and your first reaction is damn, that is nice looking. Lenovo’s new Yoga Tablet is that way. It doesn’t lead on performance, outside of an amazing 18 hours of battery life, but on appearance this thing is a 10 out of 10. Lenovo has placed most of the componentry into a cylindrical compartment that makes the rest of the tablet paper-thin, yet still allows decent speakers and a massive battery.

The Yoga has a built-in kickstand so you can set it down, and that cylindrical section makes it far more comfortable to hold than a standard tablet, as it fits your hand better. The price is decent as well: $249 for the 16-GB 8-inch and $299 for the 16-GB 10-inch model.

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It comes with an SD memory slot so you can expand it, or you can pay other $10 and go to 32-GB versions of both. Compare that to Apple pricing.

It has a $69 optional wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard that magnetically attaches to the unit. It needs stronger magnets but otherwise works fine. The display isn’t Retinal class, but it is an acceptable HD 1280 x 800. The processor isn’t a Tegra or Snapdragon, but it is quad-core.

For not a lot of money, you get a beautiful design, segment-leading battery life, and a unique built-in kickstand that should come with every tablet. However, at the end of the day, what is best about this product is that it is drop-dead gorgeous and a natural for my product of the week.

Posted By MANTOSH PAL

Assam govt sponsors 13 meritorious students’ NASA trip


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Guwahati: In a move that could encourage students to focus in space science and astronomy, the Assam government is sponsoring 13 students for a 10-day trip to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States.

The 13 students are rank holders in the 2013 state board exams of class X and XII. Besides NASA, they will also visit Washington DC, New York, AT&T, Bell Lab and Benz Manufacturing factory.

 THE FACT! WHAT IS IT?

This is the second time that the state government is sponsoring a trip for meritorious students to NASA. The first batch took the journey last year after the Assam government initiated annual NASA visit plan in 2011 for rank holders with an aim to give students an exposure to the advances in space science and astronomy.

“During the NASA visit, the students will get to know the various aspects of space and astronomy in simulated environment including astronaut training, conducting of space experiments with NASA educators, understanding space shuttle mission control, meeting Nasa scientists and they will directly interact with the NASA astronauts,” said a government spokesperson.

While the students will be able to understand the challenges of space exploration during the trip, they will also get the chance to see the John F Kennedy Space Centre set up in Orlando – the home of every manned space flight from the US since 1968, said a senior official of the education department.

The students will also camp for two days at the US Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. They will also participate in simulated space shuttle missions, understand mission controls, monitor the progress and safety to understand successful launching and landing of the spacecraft, and conduct experiments while learning basic scientific principles in the camp.

Posted By MANTOSH PAL

85 people injured in Hong Kong high-speed ferry accident


Hong Kong: Eighty five people were injured Friday, three of them seriously, when a high-speed ferry travelling from Hong Kong to Macau hit an unidentified object in the water, authorities said.

The night-time crash, which took place on a popular tourist route, comes at a time of heightened public concern over the safety of maritime transport in Hong Kong’s harbour, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Last month the city marked the one-year anniversary of a ferry collision which claimed 39 lives, Hong Kong’s worst maritime disaster for over 40 years.

In the latest incident, the double-deck hydrofoil “Madeira” carrying 105 passengers and 10 crew “collided with an unidentifiable object” around 1:15 am (1720 GMT) near one of Hong Kong’s small outlying islands, boat operator TurboJet said.

Passengers described being hurled out of their seats by the force of the collision.

“There was suddenly a loud bang. The ferry was thrown upwards. Then many passengers were thrown out from their seats,” one passenger identified as Mr Wong was quoted as saying by Hong Kong’s Apple Daily.

Multiple passengers were stretchered into ambulances by emergency services staff, some wrapped in neck braces and breathing through oxygen masks. The walking wounded limped away in bandages after treatment at the scene.

One passenger told Hong Kong television that the crash felt like a heavy collision.

“Big, very big, I could hear the sound ‘Bang’,” he said.

Three fireboats were scrambled to search the scene but failed to find any object in the water, fire officials said.

Of those hospitalised, three were still being treated for serious injuries.

“As of 6am this morning we know 85 people were injured, three of whom are in a serious condition,” a Hong Kong government spokeswoman said.

She added that 25 men and 21 women were now in a stable or satisfactory condition and that health officials were still in the process of compiling the condition of the other 36 people injured in the crash.

Posted By MANTOSH PAL

China’s dispatch of jets over air defence zone ratchets up tension!


Analysts fear China may have miscalculated international reaction but cannot step back after raising domestic expectations,

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The islands at the centre of the air defence zone dispute.

Tensions rose further on Thursday over China’s declaration of an air defence zone over disputed regions of the East China Sea after it sent fighter jets and an early warning aircraft to patrol the area.

The state news agency Xinhua announced the patrols after Japan, South Korea and the US had all sent military aircraft through the zone in a clear challenge to the Chinese measure. Beijing had previously responded only by saying it had monitored all the flights.

Shen Jinke, a spokesman for the Chinese air force, described Thursday’s dispatch of aircraft as “a defensive measure and in line with international common practices” in the Xinhua report.

The article said China was “on high alert and will take measures to deal with diverse air threats” to protect the security of its airspace.

Many countries have similar zones requiring aircraft approaching their territorial airspace to identify themselves, and China has said it created the area to defend its national security. But its zone is controversial because it includes the skies over islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, which are the subject of a long-running territorial dispute.

Japan has administrative control of the island group and the area overlaps with zones established by Japan and South Korea.

Many analysts think China is laying down a long-term marker, but did not anticipate the forceful response it has received from the US as well as Japan.

“I would be inclined to think it’s a miscalculation – but there’s a kind of strategic logic to it,” said Rory Medcalf of Australia’s Lowy Institute.

“I assume there will have been voices [internally] who wondered at the wisdom of it, but [the outcome] depends as well on how the rest of us react.”

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Asia-Pacific director at the US Institute of Peace, said: “They have got huge pushback and I don’t think they expected that.”

But she said the creation of its zone had its own momentum.

“The danger in the announcement is that it empowers the People’s Liberation Army, maritime agencies and netizens [internet users] to hold the government to account,” she said.

“Within the system, it empowers actors to go out and do what they think is best for their own interests … Now people are transgressing the zone, they have to make it look to the domestic audience like they are serious. They have given birth to internal pressures.”

US vice-president Joe Biden will press Chinese leaders on the issue when he visits Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul on a trip beginning this Sunday. It was initially intended to focus on economic issues but is now expected to be dominated by tensions over the East China Sea.

Earlier, Shi Yinhong, an expert on international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, warned that Japanese flights through the zone had increased the risk of escalation from confrontation to conflict.

He said: “I think China will take flexible measures towards any aeroplane that flies over the zone, and that will still be compatible with China’s declarations.

“America is not our direct enemy, and South Korea is our friend. But Japanese armed aircraft would be a different story. If they dare to come into China’s declared zone, the Chinese air force will take action.”

The state-run nationalist tabloid Global Times warned in an editorial on Thursday that China was willing to engage “in a protracted confrontation with Japan” to “beat its willpower and ambition to instigate strategic confrontation”.

Official statements have said that the zone does not target any particular country.

But tapping into populist anti-Japanese sentiment, the Global Times wrote: “All the criticism and provocation will not pose a real challenge for the newly created ADIZ. It is a fact that China has already established its ADIZ over the East China Sea.

“Maybe an imminent conflict will be waged between China and Japan. As a staunch supporter of Tokyo, Washington is expected to refrain from confronting Beijing directly in the East China Sea, at least for now. Canberra and Seoul just chimed in …

“If the US does not go too far, we will not target it in safeguarding our air defence zone. What we should do at present is to firmly counter provocative actions from Japan. Australia, having no real conflict with China now, can be ignored at the moment.”

The newspaper is known for running hawkish pieces that do not always reflect official policy, but reflect the view of some within the power elites.

Posted By MANTOSH PAL

PlayStation 4 review: a games machine to play together


While the Xbox One wants to be your TV, cinema and games console, Sony’s PS4 was designed with a different vision,

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He new PlayStation 4, built for games creation.

Twenty years have passed since the original PlayStation games console arrived, utterly disrupting and revolutionising the industry. Sony had a simple plan: build a powerful console that would inspire gamers and developers. The company has done just this – again – with the PlayStation 4.

It is a machine built for games creation – and actually designed by a veteran game maker, Mark Cerny, who contributed to classic PlayStation titles such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. It features super-fast graphics memory and an optimised processing environment. Everything is geared towards making the technology accessible to programmers.

As a result, many blockbuster titles such as Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed IV look better on PS4 than they do on Microsoft’s rival console the Xbox One, which has a slightly less powerful set-up and is designed to drive Microsoft’s multimedia ambitions as much as it is the latest super-fast sci-fi shooter.

Sony’s designers wanted the PS4 to look like a games console with a striking, slanted chassis that repeats the architectural look of the PlayStation 2. It is smaller and lighter, and I find the new Dualshock controller, with its clever touchpad addition, curved triggers and refined analogue sticks, more comfortable than its (still very impressive) Xbox One rival. When you boot up PS4, the menu is subtle, almost ethereal, with swirling blue lines and ambient music.

Sony is clearly sold on the idea of social gaming because the user interface is filled with information on what your friends are playing – you can even log in via Facebook so that your real name is available (this can be limited, of course). Add in the Share function, which lets you record game footage or broadcast it live on the PlayStation Network, and you have a machine designed to foster gaming communities. While Xbox One wants to be your TV, your cinema and, of course, your console, the message from the PS4 interface is – this is a games machine for us to all play together.

There are the usual selection of video apps to download, including iPlayer, Netflix and Sony’s own Music and Video Unlimited services. There’s a web browser, too, which isn’t great, but it works. None of this stuff feels as well integrated as it is on Xbox One.

The launch line-up of games is no more than OK. Killzone: Shadow Fall is a noisy sci-fi blaster, Knack is a passable family adventure. The highlight, ironically enough, is a flashy retro shooter named Resogun, which packs more joy into its essentially 2D landscape than most of the blockbuster HD releases manage over entire simulated worlds.

The big disappointment is that Sony has made such a huge deal of supporting independent developers, yet so few indie titles are available for launch. On top of this, the promising open-world racing game Drive Club has been delayed, so we’re only getting a glimpse of what this machine can do.

Posted By MANTOSH PAL