sábado, 31 de dezembro de 2016

Don't Hold Your Failures Against Yourself, Most People Don't Even See Them

 

lifehacker.com

 

Eric Ravenscraft

You spend more time with your own failures than anyone else on Earth. Eventually, you might internalize them and come to fear failure. However, for everyone else, they barely know your failures even exist.

As personal finance site Four Pillar Freedom points out, many of the failures you internalize are completely invisible to everyone else. If you apply to a hundred jobs but only get one, most people only see you getting a job. You’re the only one who sees the hundred rejections. Sure, they might not feel great, but no one else is holding them against you:

So what does this mean? It means that no one on earth is aware of all the failures you have experienced (nor do they probably care to know). So if you feel like you are a ‘failure’ just know that you are solely responsible for giving yourself that label. Nobody else can label you as a failure. Only you can label yourself as one since only you are aware of how many times you have actually failed.

Of course, sometimes you’ll screw up in a public way that people can see. None of us can hide all of our faults. However, you’re not as much of a failure as you might think. Most people experience those same rejections. You just don’t see theirs and, naturally, they don’t see yours.

You Are the Only Person Tracking Your Failures | Four Pillar Freedom via Rockstar Finance

Photo by Emertz76.

20 Best VR Apps for Google Cardboard

 

makeuseof.com

 

Andy Betts

 

Ashampoo_Snap_2016.12.31_23h21m23s_001_

Cardboard is the simplest and most affordable way to try virtual reality today. There’s already so much content for Android devices (it works on iPhone too), and it’s getting better all the time.

But where do you start? Here’s our pick of 20 of the best Cardboard apps and games for Android.

 

The Essentials

Before you get into the more specialist stuff, there are three essential apps that every Cardboard user must download first.

1. Cardboard

cardboard app

If you download nothing else, you need the official Cardboard app from Google. It helps you set up your cardboard viewer and functions as a portal for compatible apps and videos. The My Library feature also handily groups together all the Cardboard-compatible apps installed on your phone, for easy access.

DownloadCardboard (Free)

2. YouTube

You’ve already got the YouTube app on your phone, and it’s one of the most important Cardboard apps. Just search for “360 video” and you’ll uncover an enormous (and ever expanding) range of content optimized for VR viewing.

youtube cardboard app

In addition, there’s a View in Cardboard option for standard videos, too. This won’t turn them into 360 degree videos, but instead activates a kind of virtual theater mode that fills your view with one giant cinema screen.

DownloadYouTube (Free)

3. VaR’s VR Video Player

vars vr player app

Most VR content is currently in apps or streamed. As time goes on, there’ll also be a growing amount of videos to download and watch offline. You need a compatible player to view them, which is where VaR’s VR Video Player comes in. It isn’t feature-packed, but it doesn’t need to be: just load up your clip and you’re away.

DownloadVaR’s VR Video Player (Free)

Best Cardboard Games

A lot of Cardboard games are short and simple, and many are inspired by other titles, new or classic. While the tech is still in its infancy, several are worth a look. We’ve tried to steer clear of games that need an additional Bluetooth controller in favor of those that will work with any Cardboard viewer.

4. Chair In A Room

So, you’re trapped in a room where the lights keep going out, bloody fingerprints keep appearing on the walls, and there’s no means of escape. Yikes!

By picking up odd clues, you can slowly unravel the mysteries in the two stories on offer in Chair in the Room. But mostly the game is all about the atmosphere, and some particularly delicious jump scares. One to play in the dark… if you dare.

DownloadChair In A Room (Free)

5. Minos Starfighter VR

Minos Starfighter lets you channel your inner Luke Skywalker as you hurtle through the galaxy shooting down enemy fighters. The graphics and sound are among the best of the current crop of Cardboard games. With a full 360 degree environment, a swivel chair is a must to help you as you hold off wave upon wave of bad guys. Just don’t get cocky, kid.

DownloadMinos Starfighter VR ($0.99)

6. Proton Pulse

It’s been a while since we’ve been excited about a brick breaking game, but this fluorescent, 3D version has the same addictive qualities as Atari’s original from 40 years ago. The concept is the same as always: bat the ball to break the bricks. The twist is that it’s your head movements that control the bat, making it an energetic and often frantic experience.

DownloadProton Pulse ($1.99)

7. Caaaaardboard!

caaaaardboard app

A VR version of an already popular game, Caaaaardboard! sees you freefalling from a series of skyscrapers, scoring points as you twist and turn along the way. It’s a fun arcade game, and a great use of VR, albeit one to steer clear of if you suffer from motion sickness.

DownloadCaaaaardboard! ($1.99)

8. InMind VR 2

Inspired somewhat by Pixar’s Inside Out, InMind VR 2 is set inside the brain of a teenage boy. You must manipulate his emotions and behaviors by capturing neurons simply by moving your head to look at them.

The game is found in the Educational category, although the frequent science bits will probably pass most players by. Even so, the presentation is wonderful, and the gameplay is accessible with plenty of replay value.

DownloadInMind VR 2 (Free)

9. Whispering Eons #0 VR

If you’re a fan of Deus Ex or other cyberpunk games, then you may enjoy Whispering Eons. It’s a little more ambitious than most Cardboard games, with a deeper story and puzzles, and up to an hour of gameplay. But beware, the standard controls become a little dizzying after a while since you must tilt your head left or right to walk or interact with things. Eons is best played with a controller, if you’ve got one.

DownloadWhispering Eons (Free)

10. Sisters

VR is perfect for horror games. Sisters is an old school ghost story full of creaking doors, singing children, and strange apparitions. There’s no real interaction involved, you just look around and wait for the tale to unfold, leaving you vulnerable to the inevitable terror that follows. It’s short, sweet, and bags of fun. It also comes with a bonus Blair Witch-based VR scare-athon.

DownloadSisters (Free)

11. Gravity Pull

With a series of ingenious puzzles staged in a sterile, futuristic building, and only a gravity-defying box for companionship, it’s safe to say that Gravity Pull owes plenty to Portal.

gravity pull app

And that’s recommendation enough. But the game also has an unusual control system which makes it unique. To move forward you must literally walk, or run, on the spot. Make sure you clear away your furniture before you get started!

DownloadGravity Pull (Free)

Best Cardboard Apps

From commercial films and videos, to travel guides and productivity aids, there are loads of awesome VR apps to download.

12. Within

Within is trying to establish itself as one of the leading platforms for VR content. The app features a decent range of high quality commercial films, which you either stream or download.

within app

They’re big files, so you need a fast internet connection either way. Among the range of content on offer is a selection of music videos from the likes of Muse and One Republic, news content, and special scenes from TV shows including Saturday Night Live and Mr Robot.

DownloadWithin (Free)

13. Jaunt VR

Similar to Within, Jaunt offers over 150 pieces of premium content to Cardboard users (and the app works if you don’t have Cardboard, too). They include a short, five-part series from Bourne Identity director Doug Liman, concert footage from Paul McCartney, and documentaries from ABC News.

DownloadJaunt VR (Free)

14. GoPro VR

One of the best things about VR is how it enables you to experience things you’d never get to do, like swimming with sharks off the Galapagos Islands, or paragliding across the Chilean desert. These are among the spectacular videos you can enjoy through the GoPro VR app. There are hundreds on offer, split across 14 categories from Flying and Underwater, to Street and Fashion.

DownloadGoPro VR (Free)

15. Bohemian Rhapsody Experience

Bohemian Rhapsody is often credited with being the first song to be accompanied by a music video. Maybe it’s now giving us a glimpse into what the next generation of videos will bring.

Bohemian Rhapsody Experience takes the legendary Queen hit and repackages it as part of a unique animated film described as a “journey through Freddie Mercury’s subconscious mind”. It’s best played through headphones, as the spatialized sound changes depending on where you’re looking at any given moment. For fans and non-fans alike.

DownloadBohemian Rhapsody Experience (Free)

16. Public Speaking VR

Public Speaking VR is one of the more intriguing ideas about the practical uses of VR. The app places you in various situations, including on stage in front of a crowd, at the head of a boardroom table surrounded by virtual work colleagues, or in an interview.

It uses the immersiveness of Cardboard to enable you to practice your speech or presentation free from nerves. Whether it actually works as an aid, I couldn’t say. But given that people famously fear public speaking more than death, it has to be worth a try.

DownloadPublic Speaking (Free)

17. Inside Abbey Road

This guide to the legendary recording studios opens with a nine-part tour hosted by Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George.

inside abbey road app

After that you can stroll around and explore on your own, where you’ll eventually find yourself standing in the middle of a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra. The app serves as a companion to the desktop version, which even lets try your hand at mixing a track of your own.

DownloadInside Abbey Road (Free)

18. Apollo 15 Moon Landing VR

Don’t worry if Elon Musk’s planned trips to Mars are beyond your budget. You can still get a taste of space exploration with this app, based on the 1971 Apollo 15 Moon Landing. You get to land, then walk, on the moon, before driving around in the Lunar Rover. It’s only a tech demo, really, but it’s a delight that will fill you with a sense of wonder.

DownloadApollo 15 Moon Landing VR (Free)

19. Cardboard Camera

cardboard camera app

VR isn’t just about consumption, you can create your own cardboard images too. Cardboard Camera enables you to shoot 360 degree stills that you can share, and you can add some ambience to your creation by recording sound at the same time. A surefire way to breathe life into your vacation photos.

DownloadCardboard Camera (Free)

20. Coastiality VR

No Cardboard roundup is complete without a rollercoaster app. Where most are based on computer generated images, Coastiality uses real live recordings shot in amusement parks from around the world. The rollercoasters range from the cutting edge to the rickety old designs, while the screams of your fellow passengers help to add to the authenticity.

DownloadCoastiality (Free)

Your Recommendations?

These apps and games should help you on your way to discovering the power of Google Cardboard.

But what are your favorites? Which apps or games have you been wowed by? Share your recommendations with us in the comments.

Image Credit: Alexandru Nika via Shutterstock.com

The best smartphone tech coming your way in 2017

 

newatlas.com

 

David Nield

 

2017-phones-1

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge was one of the hits of 2016, but what does 2017 have in store?

http://bit.ly/2iPhu4e

While we don't have a magic crystal ball, a combination of what we've seen in 2016, plus one or two murmurs from the supply chains, gives enough clues to be able to make some fairly educated guesses about what's ahead.

The smartphone tech of 2017

We may not see a huge leap forward in the evolution of the smartphone over the next 12 months, but that doesn't mean there won't be any surprises along the way, and here's what might be in store – though we should mention this is based mainly on leaks and rumors, so don't get your hopes up too high just yet.

Iris scanning technology hasn't appeared on many phones to date, but one handset it did show up on in 2016 was the doomed Samsung Galaxy Note 7. With the necessary components now becoming cheaper and more accurate, you can expect to see more phones feature this futuristic form of security. It's been linked with the Samsung Galaxy S8, among other handsets.

Samsung will be back with more than one flagship phone

Then there's curves: If there's one running thread through all the smartphone 2017 rumors, it's curves everywhere you look. Handset makers are said to be experimenting with curved back plates, curved front screens, curved edges for displays, and more. What Samsung helped to start with the Galaxy Note Edge back in 2014 could well be the norm in 2017, whichever part of the phone you're looking at.

Speaking of displays, both Apple and Samsung are rumored to be testing all-glass fronts for their upcoming phones – that means buttons, fingerprint scanners and everything else is all hidden behind one plain sheet of (curved?) glass, with barely a bezel in sight. It could be the smartphone design trend of 2017.

Another technology that's already with us but which is poised to go even more mainstream in the next 12 months is wireless charging. We're familiar with it on Samsung's flagships already but there are persistent rumors that Apple is finally going to add it next year too, and then Google may well follow suit with its next batch of Pixels. We'd say expect the same with full waterproofing as with wireless charging – it's already around, but it'll become more of a standard in 2017.

Apple is expected to launch at least two new iPhones in 2017

Accessories may not be the most exciting of innovations, but there have been whispers that Apple's iPhones will get the smart connector sockets of the iPad Pros (for hooking up keyboards and other add-ons) and that the Galaxy S8 will come with S Pen stylus support to fill the void left by the Note 7. If you're going to be buying a phone in 2017, expect to be able to do more with it.

You can also expect to see new mobile virtual reality headsets, including Gear VR and Daydream, that at least inch forward in the new year. We can hope for radical leaps ahead, like positional tracking or motion controls (for "hand presence") but that may be too tall an order for smartphone-based VR in 2017.

Finally, one of the more far-fetched rumors we've heard from both the iOS and Android camps surrounds foldable phones. Apparently everyone is looking into this technology and working out how to implement it, although it's very unlikely that it's going to make the cut by 2017, no matter how many patents get filed. One to look out for in the future.

The models to look out for

As far as smartphones go, predicting the future has got a lot easier since all the major manufacturers settled into the same yearly cycles. As a result, you can expect flagship launches from all the major players in 2017: Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC and Sony.

Perhaps the biggest unknown is where Google goes next with its Pixel line, but it's likely the company will simply slide into the same year-on-year release cycle as everyone else – that's (roughly) what it did with the Nexus line, and there's no reason to think the follow-up Pixel phones will be any different.

LG unveiled the G5 in 2016 at Mobile World Congress

The Asian manufacturers all pushed hard to expand into new markets in 2016, particularly Huawei and OnePlus, and again you can expect a flagship launch (or maybe two) from each during 2017. Xiaomi, Oppo and Lenovo (which now owns Motorola) will have plenty to show off as well.

Brace yourselves then for the iPhone 7S (or iPhone 8), the Samsung Galaxy S8, the Pixel 2, the LG G6 and the HTC 11. Those are the phone series named in the most predictable format – it's less clear which way the likes of Sony and Motorola will go with their naming next, but we'd expect them to play a big role as the year goes on.

For several of these big firms, Mobile World Congress is the event to look out for, which in 2017 runs from February 27 to March 2. Even if there are no major reveals at MWC, we'd expect Samsung, LG and HTC to all show their cards in the first half of the year.

2016 also saw the arrival of Google's new Pixel phone

In the latter half of 2017 that leaves the stage clear for Apple (in September) and Google (probably in October or November). If you're thinking about upgrading then you might want to make a note in the calendar.

There's always a small chance of a Kickstarter coming out of nowhere, but we wouldn't hold our breath for one over the next 12 months. The smartphone business is a tough one even for the biggest players, and that makes the bar for entry a very high one – though it's not impossible to get over.

Upgraded hardware across the board

Apart from the key features we've mentioned above, all of the brand new handsets unveiled for 2017 should come with improved innards across the board. Apple always has a new mobile processor for its new iPhones, and may even give them a RAM bump this year, though it usually prefers to focus on internal optimizations rather than specs.

Samsung is much keener on pushing the boat out in terms of internal component specs, and one or two rumors say the Galaxy S8 could boast as much as 8 GB of RAM (the Samsung Galaxy S7 had 4 GB).

Qualcomm's Keith Kressin and Samsung's Ben Suh show off the Snapdragon 835, in New York

If you get excited by mobile CPUs, then the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is the one to watch in 2017, and is set to show up in many an Android flagship during the course of the year. As with most processor upgrades, it should provide more power for your phone's apps while reducing the strain on its battery, and should enable quick charging technologies to go up another notch too.

In terms of displays don't expect anything too revolutionary, although some are predicting a jump up to 4K-resolution screens – not because it makes much of a difference on a smartphone, but because it will provide better quality for next year's mobile VR headsets. We've also heard Apple will make the switch to OLED display technology rather than IPS, perhaps to enable the curved displays we mentioned earlier.

Camera quality remains a key part of rating and choosing a phone, though improvements are likely to come in software and image processing rather than a massive jump up in the number of megapixels on offer. The very best handsets may well all adopt a dual-lens approach in 2017, allowing for more flexibility and quality.

Siri and the other digital assistants will once again play a big role

Apple's acquisition of Israeli startup LinX Imaging back in 2015 is about to bear fruit according to a number of analysts, who say that some kind of 3D mapping or depth technology is on the way to the iPhone camera. No doubt all the major manufacturers will attempt to wow us with their mobile camera offerings next year, but we'll have to wait to get our hands on them for a proper assessment.

Finally, we should mention smart assistants: Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana and Alexa. Already hugely important, they'll become even more so over the next 12 months, and the word on the Samsung street is that the South Korean company is planning to introduce a new AI assistant called Bixby across all of its apps next year. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if some of 2017's biggest innovations came from the software side.

There's plenty to look forward to in the coming year as far as mobile phones are concerned – and as usual New Atlas will be covering everything you need to know about.

Heavy-lift drone could carry a person

 

newatlas.com

 

Ben Coxworth

 

griff-300-heavy-lift-drone-1

The Griff 300 is claimed to be able to lift 225 kg (496 lb)(Credit: Griff Aviation)

When it comes to industrial copter-type drones, it's easy to think that there are just two varieties: little ones that carry Amazon-type small packages, and full-sized unmanned helicopters. Griff Aviation, however, recently announced an aircraft that sits somewhere between the two. The Norwegian company's Griff 300 weighs 75 kg (165 lb) on its own, and can reportedly lift a payload of up to 225 kg (496 lb).

The Griff 300 is an octocopter, meaning it has eight propellers each powered by a separate motor. Depending on how much it's carrying, one charge of its battery pack is good for a claimed flight time of 30 to 45 minutes.

It's manually flown from the ground using a radio remote control, although users can also opt for a custom helicopter-cabin-like mobile control station in which they fly it by first-person view.

Buyers can of course saddle it up with whatever cargo carriers, sensors or other gear they wish, although specific payload options are available as extras. These have been designed for users such as the armed forces, law enforcement, fire fighters, and search and rescue teams. There's also a package aimed at wind turbine maintenance, along with one designed to facilitate straight-up cargo-carrying.

There's currently no word on price, although an even burlier model is on the way – the Griff 800 will reportedly be able to carry a payload of up to 800 kg (1,764 lb). Models with even higher capacities are also planned.

 

Source: Griff Aviation via SUAS News

Drone air traffic control system being developed in Singapore

 

newatlas.com

 

Michael Irving              December 30th, 2016

singapore-drones-1

NTU Professor Low Kin Huat (left) and Air Traffic Management Research Institute's Deputy Director Mr Mohamed Faisal Bin Mohamed Salleh discussing an NTU-developed air traffic simulation, which takes into account various solutions to enable safe and efficient drone travel in Singapore.(Credit: Nanyang Technological University)

The skies of the near future will be increasingly packed with drones, surveying, snapping photos and delivering an array of goods. A network with that many moving parts needs some structure, so Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is developing an air traffic control system for drones in Singaporean airspace, exploring ideas like geofencing, designated flight lanes and ground stations that track all airborne UAVs.

NTU obviously isn't the first to tackle an idea this fundamental to the success of the commercial drone industry. In the US, the Federal Aviation Authority's (FAA) strict laws have been a slowly-adapting thorn in Amazon's side, as the retail giant pushes to get its delivery drones off the ground. NASA has been testing its own UAV traffic management system, and universities in Canada and Australia have also proposed systems that might help drones integrate into urban airspace.

The NTU project is borrowing some of these ideas and developing new ones, studying how they can fit the needs of Singapore and the Asia Pacific region in general.

"At NTU, we have already demonstrated viable technologies such as UAV convoys, formation flying and logistics, which will soon become mainstream," says Professor Low Kin Huat, lead researcher on the project. "This new traffic management project will test some of the new concepts developed with the aim of achieving safe and efficient drone traffic in our urban airways."

The system would be made up of designated take off and landing zones, and once in the air, the drones would be directed along specified corridors, essentially building an invisible system of roads in the air. Sensitive locations, like airports and power stations, could be geofenced off, to prevent wandering UAVs from taking any potentially hazardous shortcuts.

Coordinating stations may be established to keep everything in order. From these facilities, aerial traffic can be monitored and adjusted, making sure the drones are flying where they're supposed to, at the right speeds, and at a safe distance apart from each other.

Current technology might not be up to the task of putting these ideas into practice just yet, so another aim of the project is to research and develop drone systems that can handle smart and safe path-finding, and collision detection and avoidance. Autonomous vehicles and some higher-end drones have already mastered these skills, so they shouldn't be too far out of reach: it's a matter of designing drones that seamlessly slot into the proposed network.

The bigger challenge in setting up a system like this might be the legal and safety issues that arise. To help direct the regulations surrounding the implementation, the team is running computer simulations of various scenarios to determine the safest and most efficient routes, altitudes and emergency procedures.

"We will also look into proposing safety standards, for instance how high UAVs should fly and how far they should be flying above buildings, taking privacy concerns and laws into consideration, and to suggest recommended actions during contingencies," says co-investigator, Mohamed Faisal Bin Mohamed Salleh.

The concept and simulation phase of the four-year project is expected to wind up by the end of 2017, and testing of new UAVs developed for the system will begin the following year.

Source: Nanyang Technological University

Solar Panels Now So Cheap Manufacturers Probably Selling at Loss

 

bloomberg.com

 

@cleantechchris More stories by Chris Martin

Bloomberg News

30 de dezembro de 2016

  • Greenback’s weighting to decline to 22.4% from 26.4%

  • China seeking currency stability as dollar strengthens

China took another step to degrade the dollar in defining the value of its currency, in an effort that cuts against its rival’s stubbornly strong hold on the global financial system.

An arm of the People’s Bank of China, which last year started setting the yuan against a basket of currencies, on Thursday said it’s adding 11 units to that reference group. The move lowers the dollar’s weighting by 4 percentage points, to 22.4 percent -- little more than twice the share for South Korea’s won, a new entrant.

While the logic of determining the yuan’s value against the currencies of its trading partners is clear, the problem is that the dollar is still the dominant reference in the perception of the public and the market. The U.S. currency is on one side of 88 percent of all foreign-exchange trading.

"The dollar-yuan rate will still be the benchmark that determines sentiment," said Hao Hong, chief strategist in Hong Kong at Bank of Communications International Holdings Co., a subsidiary of China’s No. 5 lender by market value. "The basket is just a reference, so the change in the index’s composition and the efforts of keeping it stable will do little to boost confidence."

The yuan’s retreat against the CFETS RMB Index, the basket set by the China Foreign Exchange Trade System, has been more moderate this year than against the dollar, as the currencies of China’s trading partners have also declined. In recent weeks it’s even advanced.

That offers an image of stability that would appeal to a Communist leadership that’s striving to maintain economic growth in excess of 6.5 percent and reduce leverage, all while heading off any exodus of domestic capital.

The challenge is that China’s swelling middle class, along with its ultra-wealthy, are looking to diversify some of their increasing pool of savings overseas. Prospects for higher U.S. interest rates only increase the allure of the dollar.

Simply adding currencies such as the won, South Africa’s rand, the dirham of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s riyal, Hungary’s forint, Poland’s zloty and Turkey’s lira won’t be sufficient to change the public’s view, according to a panoply of analysts from institutions including Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Bank of Communications and ICBC International Research Ltd.

The background to this week’s announcement: an accelerating outflow of funds that’s seen China’s foreign-exchange reserves slide, the PBOC’s yuan positions drop last month by the most since January. The central bank said on Friday it tightened requirements for lenders to report cross-border transactions by customers as part of efforts to curb money laundering. China will require financial institutions to report any cross-border transfers of 200,000 yuan ($28,800) or more starting July 1.

"The yuan will continue to depreciate against the greenback and the pressure of capital outflow will likely persist in 2017," said Hong, who estimates a "fair" rate would be 7.5 per dollar, against 6.9468 in afternoon trading Friday.

For a QuickTake on China’s currency controls, click here.

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"Adding a batch of emerging-market currencies into the basket will likely increase two-way volatility of the yuan’s fixing and the exchange rate," said Ken Cheung, Hong Kong-based Asia currency strategist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. "If the dollar extends its rally next year, particularly against the emerging-market currencies under Donald Trump’s presidency, the onshore and offshore yuan will come under heavier pressures."

CFETS said Thursday that the weighting of the yuan’s basket will be evaluated on an annual basis and updated at the "appropriate time." The dollar and currencies that are pegged to the greenback, such as the riyal and the Hong Kong dollar, will take up 30.5 percent of the new basket, down from 33 percent currently. The won will make up 10.8 percent.

2017 Challenges

The changes start with the turn of the year. Also kicking in at that time: the renewal of citizens’ $50,000 quota of foreign-currency purchases. The likelihood of further Federal Reserve rate hikes, and concern that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will slap punitive tariffs on China’s exports to the world’s largest economy, are adding to the challenges looming over policy makers.

One thing in Beijing’s favor: a wide array of capital controls and a strong hold on the financial system, with state-owned banks dominant. Harrison Hu, chief greater China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland, says that "policy makers could offer window guidance to banks to reduce residents’ dollar buying if there’s panic next year."

Even so, "the basket will do little to anchor market sentiment, as no trader will trade the yuan against 24 currencies," said Hu, who expects the currency to end 2017 at 7.2 per dollar. "Chinese residents who want to buy foreign-exchange after the quota reset won’t really get what a stable basket means."

— With assistance by Tian Chen, and Emma Dai

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sexta-feira, 30 de dezembro de 2016

These three dietary supplements can lower LDL cholesterol

 

nutritionaction.com

 

David Schardt

LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States. It makes up the majority of the body’s cholesterol.

There are no signs or symptoms of high LDL cholesterol, so it’s important to get your cholesterol checked. If your LDL is high, your doctor may recommend changes in diet and activity habits to control it.

Your doctor may also prescribe medication, such as a statin. Stains slow down the liver’s production of cholesterol and increase the liver’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol that is already in the blood.

Several supplements can also help, though they’re not as effective as prescription drugs and shouldn’t be substituted for the drugs without consulting your physician.

Phytosterols

Phytosterols are plant extracts that keep some cholesterol from being absorbed from Plant Sterolsthe intestinal tract into the bloodstream. Their clear effectiveness is probably why so many manufacturers add them to dietary supplements. Phytosterols are also added to a few foods, such as Benecol margarine.

Taking 2 grams (2,000 mg) of phytosterols a day lowers LDL by about 8 percent; 3½ grams lowers LDL by about 12 percent. (Statins typically reduce it by more than 30 percent.) Phytosterols even lower LDL in people who are taking statins, as well as in vegetarians and vegans.

What to look for: Some labels list phytosterols as “plant sterols” or “plant stanols.” Oth­ers use brand names like Reducol, CardioAid, or Cholestatin.

Red yeast rice

Red YeastRed yeast rice contains small amounts of nat­urally occurring statin-like compounds. In four good studies, LDL cholesterol dropped by an average of 20 percent in people who took 1,200 to 3,600 milligrams a day of red yeast rice for two to six months.

But watch out!  According to consumerlab.com, an independent laboratory that analyzes supplements, only three of nine brands it tested contained enough of the LDL-lowering com­pounds to match what was used in good studies. (We can’t tell you which three. That information is available only to consumerlab.com subscribers.)

What’s more, some brands had 300 times more of the active ingre­dients than others. And the amounts in some brands varied dramatically from year to year.

Compounding the problem: most labels don’t list the amounts of the active ingredients in their red yeast rice, so you can’t easily tell how much you’re getting or how one brand compares with another.

Here’s what one consumer wrote to consumerlab.com: “For two years, I used a red yeast rice brand which ConsumerLab.com’s report showed to contain the highest amount of lovastatin. With just one pill per day, it kept my cholesterol lower (down to 205 from 260 before starting). I switched to a supermarket store brand because it was cheaper and my cholesterol jumped to 278 (taking 2 pills per day)! I don’t think the store brand had anything in it.”

Without better information available, it looks like consumers are at a disadvantage in the marketplace. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the FDA to level the playing field.

Psyllium

Taking roughly 7 grams of the soluble fiber psyllium every day for an average of eight weeks lowered LDL cholesterol by about 11 percent. That’s around three rounded teaspoons of Metamucil, the best-known brand.Fiber

 

Prod­ucts that contain at least 1.7 grams of psyllium per serving can legally claim that they may reduce the risk of heart disease. The FDA assumes that people will consume four servings a day of psyllium.

Sources: Br. J. Nutr. 112: 214, 2014. (phytosterols); PLoS ONE 9: e98611, 2015. (red yeast rice); Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 69: 30, 1999. (psyllium)

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The US is preparing to modernize its nuclear weapons systems

 

engadget.com

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The board's chair, Dr. Werner JA Dahm, tells Defense One that a number of the US' nuclear systems need an update, including the B-21 stealth bomber and the nuclear-armed cruise missile known as the long-range standoff weapon, or LRSO.

"These systems are going to be quite different from the ones that they may replace," Dahm says. "In particular, they will be much more like all systems today, network connected. They'll be cyber enabled."

A connected nuclear system presents new challenges in terms of safety and security, potentially creating new ways for bombs to accidentally deploy or otherwise become compromised. The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board will dissect these possibilities and attempt to provide solutions before the upgrade process begins in earnest.

Dahm tells Defense One the Air Force wouldn't conceptualize new nuclear systems without first outlining ideas for addressing security or "surety" concerns.

"You have to be able to certify that an adversary can't take control of that weapon, that the weapon will be able to do what it's supposed to do when you call on it," Dahm says. "It isn't just cyber. That's definitely the biggest piece, but ... when was the last time we built a new nuclear system? Designed and built one? It's been several decades now. We, as an Air Force, haven't done certification of new nuclear systems in a long time. These systems are different. ... What are the surety vulnerabilities for such a system, so to speak? How would you address them? How would you certify that the system will work when you need it to work and will do what it's supposed to do?"

The US nuclear program took center stage this month after President-elect Donald Trump said he wished to expand the country's nuclear capabilities.

"Let it be an arms race," he said. "We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." This stance flies in the face of nearly 40 years of international nuclear disarmament agreements, laid out in the interest of avoiding global catastrophe.

The 2016 mobile tech trends with the most staying power

 

newatlas.com

 

Emily Ferron

 

2017-phones-1

New Atlas weighs in on which mobile technology trends we expect to see bigger and better in 2017

 

Which of 2016's mobile technology innovations have the most staying power? Let's cut through short-lived fads and gimmicks and identify which of the past year's mobile trends have long-term implications for the way we engage with our devices every day.

These following features may not have hit their stride just yet, but we think they have the most potential for gaining major momentum in 2017 and beyond.

 

Augmented reality

What do Pokémon Go (the mobile game with a rabid fandom) and the hulking Lenovo Phab 2 Pro (a niche phone for tech lovers) have in common? They both hit the scenes in 2016 showcasing the current state of augmented reality technology.

Augmented reality (AR) is also called mixed reality – it places virtual reality elements into your real-world surroundings. In Pokémon, you navigate the real world to catch fake creatures. The Google Tango technology in the Phab 2 Pro also places simulated objects in your real environment, complete with indoor and outdoor spatial mapping.

Screenshot from the American Museum of History's dinosaur-filled AR app on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

Pokémon Go was wildly popular, but most fans don't realize that the concepts and technology within are part of a much larger shift toward a new kind of computing. Meanwhile, Google Tango is being used in fantasy games, shopping apps and measurement tools. These primitive expressions of AR have proven evocative and marketable, but more importantly, AR has fascinating implications for everyday technology as well. It's already being tested in instruments like car windshields and cycling glasses.

In the future, we expect augmented reality will play a core role in mobile technology ecosystems. On the short-term, we could see a proliferation of AR apps, Google Tango or similar technology in more phones, or even AR variants of mobile headsets.

 

Edgeless displays

It's a consumer electronics goal that's been pursued for decades: Smaller devices, bigger screens. Smartphones, laptops and tablets are no exception, and 2017 could be the year we see a large crop of edgeless and nearly-edgeless displays.

Xiaomi Mi Mix, a concept phone with a nearly bezel-free display(Credit: Xiaomi)

Some manufacturers are already close. Each year, the Samsung Galaxy flagships' screens hug the edges more closely. In 2016, Xiaomi launched a concept phone that's nearly bezel-free on three sides, but there's still a wide border on the lower edge. The Lenovo Yoga 910 laptop took a similar approach.

Some rumors indicate that both next year's 10th-anniversary iPhone and the Galaxy S8 will have dramatic edge-to-edge displays, but it's wise to be skeptical about the rumor mill – especially this far in advance.

 

Dual lens smartphone cameras and aperture tricks

iPhone 7 Plus' dual-lens camera was one of the best smartphone camera innovations of the year. It wasn't the first to improve mobile photography by adding an extra lens, but it was the most attention-getting, and its optical zoom feature is sure to inspire some copycats. In addition to helping you take better photos from longer distances, dual lenses can achieve sharper images with richer, fuller tones.

Achieving larger camera apertures – or at least mimicking large-aperture effects – will also be a growing trend in mobile photography. The iPhone 7 Plus' Portrait mode is one take on approximating the type of bokeh seen on a DSLR, but the Huawei Honor 8's dual lens camera also creates compelling aperture effects. We expect to see even more depth-of-field manipulation features in 2017 flagships.

 

USB-C/wireless audio

Removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus has kept Apple in the headlines for months. Still, we don't think bad press will deter other manufacturers from eventually following suit. The headphone jack takes up valuable internal real estate, and removing it is simply not a big deal.

Samsung GearIcon X earbuds are a promising alternatives to Apple AirPods(Credit: Samsung)

Thanks to ever-improving Bluetooth technology, there are many kinds of excellent wireless headphones available (and yes, they're much better than Apple's disappointing AirPods). Since USB-C/Lightning charging ports are growing increasingly universal, we'll continue to see more USB-C audio accessories. Considering how much simpler and more universal ports could be, the headphone jack seems like a strange artifact indeed.

quinta-feira, 29 de dezembro de 2016

Duolingo's clubs make language learning a competition

 

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A little friendly competition is a good motivator.

 

Duolingo debuted chat bots to help you learn a new language back in October, but now the company is looking to offer a bit more human interaction. Today, it introduced a new feature called Language Clubs so you can band together with friends and other users who are attempting to tackle another language. Think of it like how you compare accomplishments with your friends in fitness apps and you'll get the idea.

Inside the Duolingo apps for Android and iOS, the company now offers users the option of joining a group where you'll see a shared news feed that lists members' accomplishments. There's a weekly leaderboard as well, because bragging rights are always a good motivator. Language Clubs are available in 20 different languages just in time to offer some added incentive for you to keep that New Year's resolution

Map of the entire visible universe released to the public

 

newatlas.com

 

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Astronomers have publicly released a treasure trove of data gathered over four years by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii(Credit: Rob Ratkowski)

 

In 2010, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) was fired up and pointed towards the heavens. Equipped with the biggest astronomical camera in the world, with a resolution of 1.4 gigapixels, Pan-STARRS1 scanned the sky many times over four years, in different wavelengths of light. Over that time it gathered a colossal 2 petabytes of data, and now the scientists behind the project are making all of it available to the public.

From its vantage point at the top of Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, the Pan-STARRS1 observatory surveyed the sky using five different filters across the visible and near-infrared spectrum of light. Scanning 12 times with each of those filters, the telescope hunted for any moving, transient or variable objects – in particular, watching for any asteroids on a potential collision course with Earth.

"Pan-STARRS has made discoveries from Near Earth Objects and Kuiper Belt Objects in the Solar System to lonely planets between the stars," says Dr. Ken Chambers, Director of the Pan-STARRS Observatories. "It has mapped the dust in three dimensions in our galaxy and found new streams of stars; and it has found new kinds of exploding stars and distant quasars in the early universe."

The end result is data from 3 billion separate sources, such as stars, galaxies and other space objects. It's all being housed in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), which contains data from missions like Hubble, Kepler, GALEX and other NASA initiatives, from as far back as the 1970s. And beginning this week, all of that Pan-STARRS information will become freely available for the public to peruse.

"The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies," says Chambers. "With this release we anticipate that scientists – as well as students and even casual users – around the world will make many new discoveries about the universe from the wealth of data collected by Pan-STARRS."

The rollout begins with the "Static Sky" (above), a compressed view of the whole sky that's visible from the Pan-STARRS1 Observatory. Based on half a million exposures of 45 seconds each, the image is made up of the average value of each attribute of each object, including its position, brightness and color. The yellowish arc is the disk of the Milky Way, and the reddish-brown swirls are its dust lanes. Those highlights are set against a backdrop of billions of faint stars and galaxies.

The strange shape of the image comes from flattening the celestial sphere, in the same way making a 2D map of Earth distorts it. While it might not look very detailed on your monitor, this is just a relatively low-resolution version of the image. The researchers say that if it was to be printed at full resolution, it would stretch 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, and probably still require a magnifying glass to see the finest details hidden within.

But the Static Sky is just a simple, visual representation of the Pan-STARRS effort. The team plans to follow it up with the release of all the raw data and images used to create the map, which will be available on the Pan-STARRS1 archive in May 2017.

 

Source: Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii

2016 in review: Hits and misses in mobile technology

 

newatlas.com

 

Emily Ferron

 

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Some of 2016's tech hits and misses: Samsung Gear VR, Pokemon Go and the Galaxy Note 7

 

What did 2016 bring for smartphones, laptops and other mobile technology? A few heralded releases surpassed expectations, while others promptly fell flat. Let's take a look back and which products and trends came out on top with a win – and which ones chalked up a big loss.

 

Hit: Pixel, the first phone by Google

Google's province has historically been software and platforms, not hardware manufacturing. The company did head into the year with previous forays into Chromebooks and involvement in some Nexus phones, but the release of Pixel, the first Google-branded smartphone, put a lot on the line – and came through with flying colors.

We like the Pixel and Pixel XL for their no-nonsense builds, generous internal processing power and storage, elegant delivery of Android and excellent cameras. They only add more éclat to the Google name, and we bet the Pixels and their future generations earn a prominent place amongst top tier smartphones.

 

Miss: Galaxy Note 7 debacle and iPhone fumbles

We'd be remiss not to include the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on a list of the year's tech disappointments. While the phone itself was luxurious and capable, all of its good points are negated by the fact that the phones had a defect making them prone to catching fire and exploding. Samsung consequentially purged Note 7s from the market at great expense.

Apple's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus may not have literally gone up in smoke, but their omission of the headphone jack combined with other customer complaints (like the overpriced letdown of AirPods) are sparking enough criticism to damage Apple's standing.

Google Pixel (L) hit headlines for mostly good reasons, but that's not true for the Galaxy Note 7 or iPhone 7

 

Hit: Moto Z's elegantly delivered modular approach

Modular smartphones – that is, phones that are expandable with special-use accessories – had a moment this year. Lenovo's Moto Z and Moto Z Force are the best examples. Their mods add some interesting functions to the phone, and snap on and off simply and easily with understated magnetic prongs.

And even without the mods, the Moto Z phones are impressive. They pack in quality performance, displays, cameras and battery life. Apart from Pixels, they were the first phones to be Google Daydream-ready.

 

Miss: LG G5 drops the ball on modular

LG had a hyped modular smartphone release last spring, but the G5 was a nonsuccess due to its just-OK internals and unpolished approach to modularity. Its ecosystem of mods are not very user-friendly; you actually need to power down the phone and remove its entire bottom section, including the battery, to connect one of its accessories (of which there were only a few).

 

Hit: Pokémon Go

Whether or not you're a fan, there's no denying that Pokémon Go took the mobile gaming world by storm. Its 1-2 punch of Pokémon franchise revelry and emerging augmented reality tech propelled it into a global phenomenon. For a time, its popularity was so widespread that it became the closest thing we've seen to a "killer app" for augmented reality.

 

Miss: Super Mario Run

We're not saying that Super Mario Run is a bad game. It's intuitive yet challenging, more multifaceted than other constant running games we've played, and it even has liberal helpings of that characteristic Nintendo magic. We just want to call it out for not living up to hype.

It was announced at Apple's iPhone launch event in September, where a significant amount of time was dedicated to extolling it as a groundbreaking reincarnation of the beloved Super Mario Bros. franchise. Super Mario Run is good, but not that good – especially when weighed against the insane popularity of other mobile games.

 

Hit: Better, higher quality options in smartwatches and fitness wearables

Smartwatches and fitness trackers are growing incrementally more sophisticated. This year's Apple Watch Series 2 and many of its competitors added integrated GPS and water resistance. These features go a long way, especially in fitness trackers. If wristbands aren't your thing, non-bracelet options are better than ever.

 

Miss: Pebble ends its run

Pebble was a pioneering smartwatch company with up-and-coming ideas and several intriguing Kickstarter-funded projects in the works. In December, Pebble announced it was selling its assets to Fitbit and disbanding.

While a number of factors probably went into Pebble's extinction, we think it reflects more on the state of the industry than on company leadership or direction. Smartwatch companies are having a hard time convincing consumers of their value, and it's likely that only bigger companies have the ambition and resources to keep the momentum going.

Apple Watch Series 2 (L) made incremental gains this year, but the smartwatch company Pebble (R) shut its doors

 

Hit: 2-in-1 convertible laptop/tablets

Some of the year's most exciting laptop releases were 2-in-1 convertible laptop/tablets. Like many of the best consumer products, these machines take the standout features of previous technologies and streamline them into one versatile device.

Microsoft released a Performance Base edition of its well-regarded Surface Book, and Lenovo released an ambitious Yoga Book with a "Halo keyboard" that converts between a drawing tablet and a capacitive QWERTY keyboard, as well as the classy Yoga 910 laptop.

 

Miss: Apple's Touch Bar is out of touch

Apple also included a bit of mobile-inspired touch-sensitive technology in this year's crop of MacBook Pros. However, the so-called "Touch Bar" – a capacitive bar that replaces the traditional Fn keys along the top of the keyboard – failed to provoke much excitement. Between the Touch Bar option's high price tag and middling utility, along with the MacBook Pro's anemic expansion options, it's a hard time to be a MacBook Pro fan.

2-in-1 Windows laptops like the Lenovo Yoga 910 are gaining traction, but Apple's mobile-inspired Touch Bar is a dud

 

Hit: Gear VR & Google Daydream lay the groundwork for mobile VR

Although the Samsung Gear VR first hit shelves last year, 2016 was the year that mobile VR truly emerged. Not only did the Gear VR receive a minor upgrade and a proliferation of apps and games in its content library, but the mobile VR headset finally met its first real rival: Google Daydream View.

While there are a few differences in their respective platforms and hardware, the two headsets offer remarkably similar glimpses into the VR experience – for now. As competition grows in this space, we look forward to seeing each company differentiate themselves and accelerate these early days of consumer VR.

 

Miss: Sony PlayStation VR

Props to Sony for attempting to fill the sweet spot mid-range between cheap, limited mobile VR headsets and expensive, powerful PC-dependent options like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. While the idea behind the PlayStation VR is excellent, its delivery is a flop.

The system's motion-controller-tracking works so poorly that it breaks the illusion of VR and results in an enormously frustrating experience. It would be more at home amongst campy virtual reality devices of yesteryear than in 2016's lineup of consumer VR breakthroughs.

The Gear VR is a better entry point to virtual reality than Sony PlayStation VR

For more on consumer tech in 2016, you can revisit our VR year in review, our list of the best smartphones of the year and our picks for the best wearables.