Day: February 10, 2014

Sony Xperia Z2 to offer 15.5-megapixel manual mode, 1080p recording at 60fps: Report

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Sony’s alleged successor to the Xperia Z1, thought to be codenamed Sony D6503 ‘Sirius’ and expected to be released as the Sony Xperia Z2, is once again doing rounds of the internet, with new reports detailing its camera feature.

The rumoured Sony D6503 ‘Sirius’, which has in the past been expected to have the same 20.7-megapixel camera as the Xperia Z1, in its recent leak of screenshots of the camera settings, shows off the ability to record 1080p video at 60 frames per second. If true, it will be more than twice as fast as Xperia Z1, which has the usual 30fps recording mode.

With the Xperia Z1, users could click 20-megapixels images only in the 4:3 aspect ratio. Users can could click widescreen 16:9 images only at a 8-megapixels resolution. With the latest report however, it seems evident that the But here the settings shown on the Sony D6503 “Sirius” suggest that one can also get the same 16:9 aspect shot with 15.5-megapixels.

Last month, XDA developer’s forum member has posted a bunch of alleged live images of the rumoured Xperia D6503 ‘Sirius’. The same XDA developer also published leaked UI screenshots of the Xperia D6503, which showed the alleged Sony device running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.

Later a report in January pointed the numerous Xperia UI changes, are expected to be skinned on top of Android 4.4 KitKat when the device ships. The other purported screenshots also detailed the new features. Some of the features said to be included are 4K recording, Timeshift video, smart backlight control, the presence of two home launchers, USB DAC audio support, and more.

The revealed specifications of the alleged Sony Xperia D6503 ‘Sirius’ so far includes a quad-core Snapdragon 800 (MSM8974-AB) chipset clocked at 2.3GHz with Adreno 330 GPU; 3GB of RAM; 5.2-inch full-HD display; and a 20.7-megapixel rear camera with a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera.


Microsoft Asks Windows XP Holdouts: Upgrade to Windows 8 Already

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Microsoft takes to its blogs and asks users to upgrade their soon-to-be legacy Windows XP operating system.

Windows XP has but 59 days left to live – officially, that is. On April 8, as we’ve reported numerous times previously, Microsoft is officially pulling the plug on the operating system. The not-so-insignificant number of users running the legacy OS will still be able to use it, but they won’t be able to count on Microsoft for patches, updates, security fixes, and other forms of support past the cutoff date.

That’s not quite news. What is news, however, is Microsoft’s renewed efforts to convince these (stubborn?) users to switch over. We can only imagine that the flurry of communications, warnings, and outright insistence from Redmond will grow as we approach various milestones closer to the shutoff date.

At 60 days out, Microsoft’s big communication is a new blog post that asks tech-savvy readers to help out those who need a little assistance making the big switch.

“As a reader of this blog, it’s unlikely you are running Windows XP on your PC. However, you may know someone who is and have even served as their tech support. To help, we have created a special page on that explains what “end of support” means for people still on Windows XP and their options to stay protected after support ends on April 8th,” wrote Microsoft senior marketing communications manager Brandon LeBlanc.

He goes on to list some steps that Windows XP users should take prior to the big cutoff date. Namely, three steps: Purchase and install Windows 8, upgrade your computer to support Windows 8, or buy a new PC that… comes with Windows 8 preinstalled. Sensing a theme?

Of course, upgrading to Windows 8 from Windows XP requires users to manually save all their critical data prior to the switch; the process won’t automatically save your data for you. LeBlanc is quick to note that Microsoft’s own cloud storage service, SkyDrive (now OneDrive), doesn’t actually have a desktop client for Windows XP – ruling out dragging and dropping ones files to Microsoft’s cloud as a means of temporary data backup.

What LeBlanc doesn’t mention, however, is that Microsoft has officially extended Microsoft Security Essentials updates for Windows XP users through July 2015. That includes updates to the application as-is, as well as signatures updates for virus and malware detection. While that still doesn’t do much for those who would prefer an up-to-date operating system, it’s still a bit of a consultation prize for those planning to ignore Microsoft’s pleas and continue running XP post-cutoff.

Interestingly enough, LeBlanc left comments on his blog post, and a number of people are using it as an opportunity to blast Microsoft, blast Windows 8, and blast the XP cutoff.

“Honestly, this sounds more like a sales pitch for Windows 8.1 than any kind of interest in what is actually best for my friends and family. Had the article actually mentioned both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 as options, I would be able to take it more seriously,” wrote user “Naru.”

The plea comes as XP gained market share at the expense of Windows 8 in January, while HP started selling Windows 7 PCs again, which it said were back “by popular demand.”

For more, check out PCMag’s review of Windows 8.1.

iOS 7.1 to reportedly ship in March, alongside rumoured new Apple TV

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There has been a lot of speculation about the launch of the latest version of the iOS 7.1 in the recent past. Apple is already beta-testing the new OS, releasing it to developers. According to the latest reports, the new version of iOS 7.1 will be made available to users in March.

A total of five versions have been released during the beta testing phase by Apple for developers. It is learnt though that they will not be releasing any further beta versions now. There has not been any confirmation from the Cupertino giant about the release, but 9to5mac quotes sources that say that March would be the time for the launch, which might also coincide with the launch of the next generation Apple TV.

There are reports that the new OS will not bring any major changes with it. In fact, it is rumoured that the new OS will have a better calendar app, numerous bug fixes, and improved speed. It was reported that the new OS will also fix the random screen crashes that iPhone users have reported. Rumours also point to the fact that the new OS will include a better text frame and a background with more contrast. In addition, another report says there will be new UI tweaks to the screens for making calls, the slide to unlock and the slide to power off buttons, and new shift and backspace keys.

What remains to be seen, however, is the kind of impact the new OS will have on the Apple consumer base. Apple, in the recent past, has lost a huge market base to Google’s Android. While the new Android 4.4 KitKat version is still to pick up steam, the Google mobile operating system on the overall has the majority market share across the globe. Apple on the other hand is tapping into entry-level markets (also called emerging markets), from where the bulk of its sales in the recent past have come. The launch of the new OS might place the smartphone wars in an interesting spectrum.


The Americans Who Gave Away The Most Money In 2013

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1. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

1. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Total:$992.2 million
Recipients: Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Who gave away the most money of any American last year? Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, 29, and wife Priscilla Chan, 28, who donated nearly $1 billion to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. That gift made up a sizable chunk of the $7.7 billion the top 50 Americans gave away to philanthropic causes in 2013, according to the 14th annual Philanthropy 50, a list of Americans who pledged the most money last year, compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The 2013 total rose $300 million from 2012’s $7.4 billion but was down from $10.4 billion in 2011. That year’s tally was skewed upward by a single $6 billion bequest from the late agribusiness heiress Margaret A. Cargill .

Last year’s second-largest gift was also a bequest, $750 million from the late George Mitchell, a Texas energy tycoon and former Forbes 400 member who pioneered fracking, the hydraulic fracturing method for finding natural gas. Before he died in July, Forbes estimated his net worth at $2 billion. He left $750 million to his family foundation, which supports conservation and sustainability. One of the foundation’s goals is to make sure that fracking doesn’t cause lasting environmental damage.

The third-largest donation came from billionaire Philip Knight, cofounder of Nike, and his wife Penelope, who gave $500 million for cancer research at the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation in Portland. The Knights gave $100 million to the University in 2008 to back the Knight Cancer Institute. The new gift, aimed at kick-starting a cancer research initiative, comes with a big challenge: the foundation must match the donation within two years, or lose it. The Knights have been on the Philanthropy 50 four times in the past. Knight is ranked No. 24 on the Forbes 400, with an estimated net worth of $16.3 billion.

It’s not clear what causes the Zuckerberg/Chan donation will fund. The two have said they care about education and health (Chan is a pediatrician). In 2010 Zuckerberg gave $100-million-worth of Facebook  to the Newark, NJ public school system, before the company went public. Then in 2012 he and Chan donated 18 million Facebook shares, which at the time were worth $500 million, to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Since the stock has more than doubled in value since then, that gift is now worth over $1 billion. The Chronicle clocks the latest gift of 18 million shares at $992.2 million, but the stock price keeps rising, pushing the value of the two donations to more than $2 billion.

How will the foundation spend the Zuckerberg/Chan money? That’s confidential, says Sue McAllister, the foundation’s marketing officer, who explains that the foundation doesn’t comment unless donors give specific permission. The foundation directly supports a range of causes, from teacher training programs, to aid for immigrants, affordable housing and services for the homeless like shelters and food banks. But most of the donations that flow through the foundation are in what’s called donor-advised funds, where the foundation serves as advisor and conduit. In late January, the Ravenswood Family Health Center, which runs a health clinic in the low-income neighborhood of East Palo Alto, announced a $5 million gift by Zuckerberg and Chan that came through the foundation. The money will support the construction of a new clinic.

On the most recent Forbes 400 list in September, Zuckerberg ranked No. 20, with a fortune worth $19 billion. With the rise in Facebook stock, he’s now worth a lot more. In December 2012 Zuckerberg joined the Giving Pledge, promising to donate at least half his net worth to charity.

Of the 50 donors on the Chronicle’s list, 23 people/couples are on the Forbes 400. That group gave a total of $4.8 billion in 2013. Also if you exclude bequests from donors who have passed away, the total giving among the top 50 was $6.2 billion. That’s roughly equal to the amount living donors gave in the previous two years combined. Still, Zuckerberg and Chan’s relative youth was the exception. The median age of living donors on the list is 72.5.

Some of America’s biggest givers, like Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates are conspicuously absent from the list. That’s because of the Chronicle’s methodology. It does not count pledges made in previous years, even if the money didn’t flow until 2013. Examples: Bill and Melinda Gates gave their foundation $181 million last year, which would have landed them at No. 14 on the list, but they were paying off a $3.3 billion pledge they made in 2004. (They have given $3.5 billion to that end, more than they originally promised).

As for Buffett, in 2006 he pledged a stunning $30 billion to the Gates foundation. So far he has given more than $13 billion of that, including Berkshire Hathaway shares worth $2 billion last year, which would have landed him at No. 1 on the list. He also made payments totaling $341.3 million to four Buffett family foundations. He has pledged to give away 99% of his fortune, which Forbes last pegged at $58.5 billion in September when he landed at No. 2 behind Bill Gates on the Forbes 400.


Windows Phone 8.1: Action Center to manage all apps and system notifications

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A leaked screenshot of confidential presentation confirms Windows Phone 8.1 aka Blue will have a notification center dubbed as “Action Center”.

Windows Phone 8.1: Action Center to manage all apps and system notifications

Julia Martin | On 09, Feb 2014

The most-requested feature of Windows Phone OS, a notification center seems to have confirmed. A screenshot of Microsoft confidential presentation has leaked on the Web.

Windows Phone 8.1’s notification center – dubbed as Action Center – will function similar to the Android and iOS notification center. With a long-swipe down from the top of the screen, the Action Center will show all missed notifications; and at the same time, Apps will able to add/update and delete them silently.

In Action Center, there will also be ‘Clear All’ option to dismiss all notifications at once. In addition to Apps, it will also show alerts coming from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode and Driving mode.


By observing the screenshot, we also find the operator name, battery life and date inside the Action Center. The Verge also confirmed that these screenshots were authentic, which indeed strengthens the aspects of the leak.

Among other additions, Windows Phone 8.1 will also include a new voice assistant codenamed ‘Cortana’; actionable notifications; separate volume controls; optional on-screen keys and dual-SIM support for OEMs; SkyDrive as OneDrive, perhaps a File manager; support for larger displays; the ability to install apps and games to micro SD cards and configurable quick settings.

Windows Phone 8.1 update will be available for all Windows Phone 8 devices. Microsoft is likely to release this update sometime this spring, more precisely during the annual BUILD developer conference, to be held from April 2-4, 2014 in San Francisco, CA.

We expect plenty more leaks related to Windows Phone 8.1 in weeks ahead – and we’ll be covering them all here on So stay tuned.

Source: via The Verge



How emerging markets slowed U.S. stocks’ climb

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The Bombay Stock Exchange is in Mumbai, India, one of the nations whose stocks are seen as fragile. Photo: Mansi Thapliyal, Reuters

The Bombay Stock Exchange is in Mumbai, India, one of the nations whose stocks are seen as fragile. Photo: Mansi Thapliyal, Reuters

Something had to put the brakes on last year’s almost vertical ascent of the U.S. stock market – and that something has been emerging markets.

A stew of concerns has sent the MSCI emerging markets index down 7.3 percent this year. The MSCI developed markets index is down 4.4 percent, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is lower by 4 percent.

Surprisingly, the MSCI frontier markets index – which tracks stock markets too tiny to be considered emerging – is up 1.2 percent. The index includes Middle Eastern, Eastern European and African markets such as Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana and Bulgaria.

What’s going on here? If you haven’t been following closely, this might help explain things.

Q: When did the rout in emerging markets start?

A: In May, when the Federal Reserve hinted it would start tapering its bond-buying program known as quantitative easing, or QE. Emerging markets had been big beneficiaries of that policy, which reduced interest rates on safe-haven Treasury bonds and sent investors scurrying into riskier assets.

The unwinding of QE and the prospect of higher Treasury yields has reversed that money flow somewhat, sparking a sell-off in emerging markets dubbed the “taper tantrum.”

The drop accelerated after the Argentine peso plunged 15 percent on Jan. 22. Although Argentina itself is not a threat to the global economy – foreign investors haven’t loaned money to the country since it defaulted on its debt in late 2001 – it was a wake-up call.

“Speculators smelled blood in the water and said, ‘Who’s next?’ That was a trigger to set off problems for other countries that were similarly situated,” says Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist with Wells Fargo Funds Management.

Q: What countries are those?

A: Some call them the “fragile five,” generally Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil and India.

They are this year’s equivalent of the PIIGS – eurozone countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) whose economies were on thin ice after the financial crisis. Investors feared a sovereign debt default by one would spread to others. That didn’t happen, but measures taken to prevent it did cause economic pain.

The fragile five are different in that they don’t share a common currency. Each has its own set of problems. “Every unhappy emerging market is unhappy in its own way,” quips Barry Eichengreen, a UC Berkeley professor of economics and political science.

What the five have in common is a high current account deficit, the result of imports exceeding exports.

Q: Why is that a problem?

A: Countries import more than they export by borrowing from the outside world. When U.S. interest rates were low, “everyone was enthusiastic about lending them money because their interest rates were higher. Now that everyone thinks U.S. interest rates will go up because of tapering, there is at least the possibility that it will be harder for them to finance their deficits,” Eichengreen says.

If borrowing gets more expensive, these countries will have to tighten spending and could end up in recession.

Q: Which of these is the biggest risk?

A: Turkey, probably. It grew like wildfire during the boom, building a tunnel under the Bosphorus Strait and high-speed rail thanks to cheap foreign money.

But when capital started flowing out of the country, its currency, the lira, began to plunge. To stem the drop, the central bank announced a sharp increase in overnight lending rates on Jan. 28.

“Raising interest rates is a way to buy time, to convince investors to stick it out a little longer,” Eichengreen says. “But they are only going to stick around if other steps are taken to fix whatever is wrong.”

Turkey’s prime minister, however, “undermined the effectiveness of that policy. He said he didn’t support it,” Jacobsen says.

Q: Why is this affecting the United States?

A: “Emerging markets make up 40 percent of the world economy, and their forecasted growth is twice that of the U.S.,” says Nathan Rowader, director of investments with Forward Management.

Bill Rocco, a senior fund analyst with Morningstar, says some emerging market funds buy stock in multinationals, such as Procter & Gamble or Nestle, “because so much of their revenues come from the developing world.”

Q: Why are frontier markets outperforming emerging markets?

A: They have a lot of the same characteristics, such as high growth rates and reasonable valuations, Rowader says. But they didn’t participate in the Fed-fueled boom that swept many emerging markets.

“You have a lot more patient money that has been going in there. You don’t have a lot of fast money going in and out,” Jacobsen says.

Their economies and stock markets are dominated by local banks, utilities, hospitals and retail operations. “Some are fairly large exporters, but they are fairly young economies,” Rowader says. They can grow by modernizing their economies and improving banking controls.

Q: How will this play out?

A: “Keep your eye on China,” Eichengreen says.

Unlike the fragile five, China has a large external surplus. The problem there is slowing growth and possible problems lurking in its financial system.

“Historically China has grown about 10 percent a year, for the next 10 years, it is expected to grow 7 percent,” Rowader says.

That is still robust by U.S. standards, but any slowdown could expose problems in its financial system and could lead to a slowdown in emerging markets, which have been exporting commodities to China.

Rowader says investors should reduce their exposure to emerging markets. “Sentiment has not quite gotten negative enough,” he says. “I see a larger drawdown on the horizon” that will present a better buying opportunity.

But Jacobsen says the worst may be over for some emerging markets. “I think we will see continued pressure and problems in Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil,” he says. Turkey “is as wild card.”

Other countries, such as India, are already turning, he says. He predicts that both emerging markets and U.S. stocks will end the year higher than they are now, but they could go down more before they go up.

“Now is the time to be looking, not running from emerging markets,” Jacobsen says.