Micromax’s Yu Yutopia Teased to Sport Large Battery Capacity

Yu has once again made Apple its target in the latest teaser for its upcoming Yu Yutopia smartphone. The image hints towards the smartphone’s battery capacity as compared to those found in iPhone models.

The teaser shows the Apple company logo with low battery indication and a caption stating, “Would you enjoy an apple that doesn’t last long?” The teaser directly hints at the size of the Yu Yutopia’s battery to be greater than the latest iPhone models. The image however, says nothing more about the smartphone.

The company tweeted the teaser image saying “High on price, low on juice! High time; #ThinkDifferent #RaiseTheBar! #Yutopia.” Yu Televentures has also started letting interested users register for the Yutopia on its dedicated website.

So far, the company has confirmed that the Yu Yutopia will include 32GB of inbuilt storage instead of 16GB, which is still the minimum inbuilt storage given by Apple in its iPhone models. Previously, the company confirmed a Quad HD display on the Yu Yutopia smartphone. If true, this would be the company’s first smartphone featuring a QHD display. The company also hinted that the Yutopia would sport a metal build which would be company’s first smartphone made out of metal. It recently took dig at the OnePlus 2 smartphone, which doesn’t support the Quacomm Quick Charge feature.

To recall, ahead of the Yu Yunique launch in September, a high-end smartphone from dubbed Yu550 was spotted in Geekbench listings as well as at an Indian import/ export manifest site. The Yu550 may be the high-end smartphone the company has been teasing.

To recall, the Yu550 smartphone spotted at Geekbench listing showed few specifications including a 1.5GHz octa-core Snapdragon 810 (MSM8994) processor coupled with 4GB of RAM. The smartphone was said to feature a 5.2-inch full-HD display and run Android 5.1.1 Lollipop-based build of Cyanogen OS. The Yu5050 scored 1353 in single-core test and 4622 in the multi-core test.

ISS Astronauts Can Now Enjoy Their Coffee in Zero Gravity Space Cups

Last year when Italy sent an espresso machine up to the International Space Station (ISS), researchers wondered how astronauts would sip their double shot espresso in a zero-gravity situation in space.

They came up with six funky-looking cups from a 3D printed transparent polymer that are making spending time in space a more enjoyable experience.

The astronauts’ responses when testing out the cups range from “Hey, you can smell the coffee,” to “This is eerily like drinking on Earth”.

The uniquely-designed cups simply elicit happy eruptions of laughter because the astronauts readily confess they hadn’t expected it to work.

The cup works so well that the crew is able to cruise around, do flips and even toss them back and forth – while drinking beverages such as fruit juice, fruit smoothies and coffee.

“Wetting conditions and the cup’s special geometry create a capillary pressure gradient that drives the liquid forward toward the face of the drinker,” explained Mark Weislogel, senior scientist and professor of mechanical engineering at Portland State University.

Unlike drinking a beverage from a bag, “your nose is closer to the beverage, which makes it easier to actually smell it while drinking,” he added.

An astronaut can drain the cup in sips or one long gulp in much the same manner as on Earth… without tipping their head, without gravity.

“It is a stable situation – even though drinking scalding liquids from open containers while aboard the International Space Station is generally considered a safety concern,” Weislogel added.

Of the six cups currently aboard the orbiting laboratory, five hold 150ml drink while the sixth is a 60ml cup specifically intended for espresso.

The cups are complexly shaped and demonstrate that specific control of liquids can be maintained in low-gravity environments – but with completely different fluidics principles at play than on Earth.

“We’re enjoying watching the astronauts have fun, but also collecting plenty of data on large capillary interface configurations, stability, flow rates, transients, etc.,” Weislogel noted.

“We have received great support for this project from US astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren and Japanese astronaut Kumiya Liu,” he added.

Last year, it was big news when Italy sent an espresso machine up to the ISS for Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian European Space Agency astronaut.

This, of course, inspired a team of researchers to study the related strange fluids phenomena in low gravity – such as espresso crema formation and settling, capillary interfaces and containment of potentially hazardous drinks within a spacecraft.

The next step for the team is to apply their knowledge of low-gravity capillary fluidics phenomena to design more reliable life-support systems for the space station and future spacecraft.

The team presented the findings at American Physical Society’s 68th annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, this week.

Microsoft Lumia 950 Dual SIM, Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM India Launch Set for Monday


Microsoft has sent invites for the India launch of its first Windows 10 Mobile handsets – the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. The launch event is being held in New Delhi, and will see Microsoft India Chairman Bhaskar Pramanik and Microsoft Mobile Devices Country Head Ajay Mehta in attendance.

At its Future Unveiled conference in Mumbai earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadellaannounced that the company plans to launch both its newly launched Windows 10 Mobile-powered handsets in India by December.

The company’s online India store already lists the Microsoft Lumia 950 Dual SIM and Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 Dual SIM features a 5.2-inch QHD (1440×2560 pixels) ClearBlack Amoled display, offering a pixel density of 564ppi and also featuring Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Under the hood, the handset is powered by a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor clocked at 1.8GHz coupled with 3GB of RAM. There is 32GB of inbuilt storage and is expandable up to 200GB via microSD card. The dual-SIM dual standby device support dual Nano-SIMs and comes with USB Type-C port (USB 3.1). Backed by a 3000mAh removable battery, the handset sports a 20-megapixel rear camera with autofocus, OIS (optical image stabilisation), an f/1.9 aperture, and a triple-LED RGB flash module. There is a 5-megapixel front-facing camera as well. It measures 145×73.2×8.2m and weighs 150 grams.

The Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM, on the other hand, features a 5.7-inch QHD (1440×2560 pixels) ClearBlack Amoled display with a pixel density of 518ppi. It is powered by a 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor coupled with 3GB of RAM. It packs 32GB storage and is expandable via microSD card (up to 200GB). The Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM features the same camera module from the Lumia 950 and both the devices also sport a dedicated camera button as well. The Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM packs a large 3340mAh battery. It packs 151.9×78.4×8.1mm and weighs 165 grams. Both the Lumia 950 Dual SIM and Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM also support dual standby with Nano-SIM card support.

Google Adds Star Wars’ Aurabesh Language Support to Translate

Earlier this week, Google started to allow users to customise their Google apps and services (such asSearch, YouTube, and Gmail) to reflect their Star Wars preference – the Light or Dark side of the Force. The Mountain View-based company has now added some more references from one of the biggest movie franchises in its other services.

Google Translate now supports Aurebesh, a writing system that you may best remember from Star Wars. Luke Skywalker, the main protagonist of the Original Star Wars trilogy, learned to read Aurebesh in his childhood in the science fiction movie franchise. Users can now go to Translate on Web and have any word or sentence they want to translated into Aurebesh, after selecting the language from output settings.google_watch_face_star_wars.jpgSeparately, the official Star Wars Android app has received an update that offers an Android Wearwatch face. The watch face contains three themes: Dark side, Light side, and droids. The Dark side has a red theme with the Death Star in the background. The Light side is green-themed and contains a starscape in the background. The droid theme, as you could guess, is blue-themed and has R2-D2 in the background. The watch face is interactive feature, and users can tap on the date to see what happened today in Star Wars history.

Google had announced the “Choose your side” promotional campaign offer earlier this week. The company has since rolled out Star Wars references to Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Search, and YouTube. The company also plans to offer VR experiences around Star Wars for Google Cardboard next week. Star Wars: The Force Awakens releases on December 18.

Facebook Makes Paid Time Off for Baby Leave a Global Benefit

Less than a week after Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said he would take two months of paternity leave, the social media company announced it is extending its parental leave policy to full-time employees outside the United States.

The policy, which provides four months of paid time off, will be provided to all new parents regardless of gender or location, starting January 1. Employees may take leave at any point up to a year after the birth of their child, Lori Matloff Goler, the company’s head of human resources, said in a Facebook postlate Wednesday.

Facebook currently offers only US-based workers up to four months of paid leave.

“We want to be there for our people at all stages of life, and in particular we strive to be a leading place to work for families,” she added. “An important part of this is offering paid parental or ‘baby’ leave.”

Goler said the new policy will primarily help new fathers and employees in same-sex relationships outside the United States, noting that it will not change maternity leave already available to employees worldwide.

Zuckerberg last week said he would take two months off after his daughter’s birth. Zuckerberg announced in July that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were expecting a baby girl; they have not said when the baby is due.

His announcement was seen in Silicon Valley as a strong endorsement from a high-technology industry top executive on the importance of family time.

Technology companies in Silicon Valley have been rushing to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits to help recruit and retain employees.

Many high-tech workers, however, do not take advantage of such benefits for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions.

Tesla Faces German Battle Over Battery-Powered Homes

If Elon Musk’s vision of millions of households producing all their own power becomes a reality, it will probably happen first in Germany. But he will face a battle for market share against local firms with years of experience in renewable energy.

The South African-born entrepreneur’s company Tesla, best known for its electric cars, sparked global interest in the idea of self-powered homes in April, when it said it would start selling lithium-ion batteries for households next year.

The batteries, called Powerwalls, connect to solar panels on the roof of a house and aim to store enough power during the day to drive kettles and washing machines at night, raising the prospect that households one day will be able to rely fully on clean energy and become independent of the power grid.

There are big challenges.

The technology does not yet allow most users to disconnect from the grid – the German solar industry association BSW estimates batteries currently raise solar power self-sufficiency to at least 60 percent.

Then there is the price. Buying and installing solar panels and batteries costs around EUR 10,000 ($10,600 or roughly Rs. 70,95,000) or more.

But the technology is improving, and costs falling, and some analysts think Germany – with more solar panels than anywhere in the world and sky-high power prices – could become the industry’s first mass-market.

“The business model of power batteries is becoming increasingly attractive,” said Norbert Schwieters, global utilities leader at consultants PwC, noting market estimates that sales in Germany could reach half a million within a decade, up from around 25,000 now.

“Lifestyle gadget”
If the market does take off, Musk will have a fight on his hands against German companies with established retail networks and years of experience managing solar equipment.

While acknowledging Musk’s slick marketing – Powerwalls are made at his “Gigafactory” in the Nevada Desert – some of these rivals think he has created a buzz around home power storage batteries that will ultimately work in their favour.

“Tesla has made sure that they’re seen as a lifestyle gadget,” said Volker Wachenfeld, in charge of hybrid energy and storage solutions at SMA Solar.

SMA Solar is one of a number of German companies with ambitions in the market, including Sonnenbatterie, SENEC.IES and Varta. Daimler Accumotive is also due to launch a product, while Solarwatt, owned by major BMW shareholder Stefan Quandt, says it is ready to join the fray.

Sonnenbatterie, whose backers include Germany’s E-Capital and Czech firm Inven Capital, has already sold around 8,500 batteries in Europe, mostly in Germany, but its ambitions go further.

“The biggest challenge of our generation is the move to renewable and inexpensive energy supply,” said its 32-year-old managing director, Philipp Schroeder. “I started this vision and now want to take it to global success.”

Schroeder knows Tesla well – he worked there until earlier this year, leading its German and Austrian operations with a brief to roll out a network of charging points for Tesla cars in Germany. He jumped ship for his old employer Sonnenbatterie just as Tesla was gearing up for its European home-battery push.

Tesla, which has made Germany one of its three launch markets for Powerwalls, is ready for a fight, however. It has struck partnerships with German companies Beegy and LichtBlick in order to benefit from local expertise.

“Tesla is working with leading German and international solar PV (photovoltaic) distributors and installers to offer complete solar PV solutions including PV panels, a solar PV inverter, and installation,” it said.

Is the price right?
With the second-highest retail power costs in Europe, partly the result of the government’s break-neck push into renewables, Germany’s economy stands to gain massively if it can take a chunk of its back-up grid capacity offline.

Germany boasts about 39 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity, bringing its total capacity to nearly 200 GW, more than twice the level it theoretically needs.

Vast amounts of costly back-up power are required to kick in when the sun doesn’t shine. If homes, offices and factories can store their solar power, many of the country’s power stations can be scrapped and transmission systems do not have to be extended at billions of euros of cost.

Incentives for solar power producers to feed surplus supplies into the national grid are set to end in 2021, providing a reason for them to store more power themselves.

“First it was technology aficionados, today it is a broad number of home owners,” Herbert Schein, CEO of Varta Microbattery, said of the growing interest in power batteries.

Schein estimates sales at Varta’s energy storage unit have doubled this year. “In the future we will add small companies and farmers,” he said.

Battery systems of various suppliers may differ, but costs overall have fallen and lithium-ion battery packs are the norm, having pushed aside lead batteries.

With a slim, curved appearance and made to be wall-mounted, Tesla’s Powerwall is designed to appeal to style-conscious consumers who agree with co-founder and CEO Musk’s statement that traditional batteries “suck”.

The batteries offered by most German providers can be placed in basements, common in German homes, and take up no more space than a small refrigerator. Smaller batteries can be wall-mounted too.

The batteries start selling at about 1,000 euros per kilowatt peak (kWp) – the level at which experts say the technology makes economic sense for buyers – with an average four-person household usually needing a 5 kWp system.

Tesla says the 7 kWp Powerwall will cost 3,615 euros wholesale, including value added tax.

Sonnenbatterie this week announced a 3,599 euro small battery – a discounted price available if the buyer joins the company’s SonnenCommunity scheme. It offers a full home solar power and storage system at EUR 9,000-13,000.

Earth’s Magnetic Field Is Not About to Flip

The weakening intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field may actually be coming down to normal rather than approaching a reversal, a new study says.

The intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field has been weakening for the last couple of hundred years, leading some scientists to think that its polarity might be about to flip.

But now scientists said the field’s intensity may simply be coming down from an abnormal high rather than approaching a reversal.

The weakening of the Earth’s magnetic field would affect technology.

The magnetic field deflects the solar wind and cosmic rays. When the field is weaker, more radiation gets through, which can disrupt power grids and satellite communications.

“The field may be decreasing rapidly, but we are not yet down to the long-term average. In 100 years, the field may even go back the other direction [in intensity],” said study co-author Dennis Kent from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The scientists used a new technique to measure changes in the magnetic field’s strength in the past and found that its long-term average intensity over the past five million years was much weaker than the global database of paleointensity suggests – only about 60 percent of the field’s strength today.

The findings raise questions both about claims that the magnetic field may be nearing a reversal.

The study’s results fit expectations that the magnetic field’s intensity at the poles should be twice its intensity at the equator.

In contrast, the time-averaged intensity calculated from the PINT paleointensity database doesn’t meet the two-to-one, poles-to-equator dipole hypothesis, and the database calculation suggests that the long-term average intensity over the past five million years is similar to the field’s intensity today.

The study appeared the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Apps That Can Help You Screen Your Screen Time

Between daughters who prefer texting to any other form of communication, my workplace’s mandate to be follow-worthy on a variety of social-media platforms and a journalist’s general FOMO on the news, I’m on my iPhone quite often. Too often. Sometimes I catch myself picking it up and scrolling through Twitter or Facebook out of boredom, when my time would be better spent talking to a human (or even my dogs), or reading something more than a few sentences long. But, because of the aforementioned daughters, I’m not really comfortable turning my phone off and sticking it in a drawer.

Could the phone itself help me reduce my time on it, I wondered? Or was that like asking the fox to guard the hen house?

To find out, I downloaded an app called BreakFree. It uses a “highly advanced” algorithm to determine how addicted you are to your phone, crunching data such as how many times you unlock your screen and how long your phone is in continuous use. The idea is to keep your score under 40. A score of 40 to 70 puts you in the yellow zone. Above 70 is red.

Some days, I reasoned, life would make me red. Say my family was traveling somewhere, and we were using a navigation app and receiving messages from people we were meeting, plus looking up hotels and restaurants – a perfect storm of usage. But most days, I thought, surely I would stay in the yellow zone.

Turned out I was in the red. Every. Single. Day.

Checking the app’s dashboard triggered warnings such as, “Step away from the phone.” Though I tried to set up notifications to alert me to overuse, I never saw them for some reason.

BreakFree gives Android users tools to disable the Internet or send auto-text messages, which I’d find very helpful. Apple blocks those features, but developers say they are working on others.

iOS and Android. Free with $1.99 (roughly Rs. 135) in-app purchase in iPhone, $2.49 (roughly Rs. 165) per tool on Android.

With BreakFree leaving this Apple devotee still chained to her screen, I downloaded Moment, an app that tells iPhone users exactly when they start using their phone and how long they remain on it each time. You might be surprised to learn that you picked up your phone at 7am and spent 35 minutes reading email and scrolling through news feeds instead of hopping out of bed.

Most helpful is the ability to program screen-free time, set a maximum amount of usage per day, set reminders that pop up every few minutes or hours to tell you how much time you’ve spent on the phone, and even ask your phone to force you off if you go beyond your usage limit. How does it do that? An alarm will sound continuously and notifications will pop up until you turn off the screen or disable the feature.

moment_app_screenshot.jpgParents brave enough to endure the blowback can download Moment Family, which will keep track of your loved ones’ digital time, and allow them to set limits and schedule screen-free dinners. No more furtive looks at phones hidden under the dinner table? That’s definitely something I would have appreciated when my kids were younger.


EU Wants to Give National Privacy Regulators More Clout in New US Data Pact

The European Union wants to enhance the power of the bloc’s national privacy regulators in policing a planned new EU-US data pact after the previous one was struck down by a top EU court on concerns about mass US surveillance.

Brussels and Washington are locked in negotiations to forge a new framework enabling data transfers from Europe to the United States, which are otherwise subject to cumbersome and lengthy legal processes under EU data protection law.

The previous pact, known as Safe Harbour and used by over 4,000 US and European companies, was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice in October because US national security needs trumped the privacy of Europeans’ data.

To address the court’s concerns, particularly that Europeans do not have legal channels to challenge misuse of their data, the Commission is looking for ways to involve European privacy watchdogs more deeply, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was responsible for monitoring companies’ compliance with the Safe Harbour privacy principles, although it does not deal with complaints from individuals.

A bigger role for European watchdogs would allow citizens to complain directly to their national authorities, the sources said.

A similar mechanism existed in the old Safe Harbour framework for human resources data which are often sensitive.

US companies handling Europeans’ human resources data had to commit to cooperating with European data protection authorities in case of complaint.

“That’s one issue to play around with,” said one of the people on condition of anonymity.

However, there is no agreement yet and differences remain over how the European regulators would cooperate with the FTC to avoid giving the EU extraterritorial powers.

The European Commission and the US Mission to the EU declined comment.

The Safe Harbour system allowed companies to self-certify that they complied with EU privacy law when transferring EU citizens’ personal data to countries deemed to have insufficient safeguards, which include the United States.

Both US and EU companies shuffle personal data across the Atlantic on a daily basis, whether employee data for multinationals or user data collected by internet companies for use in the billion-dollar online advertising market.

But the system came under strain in 2013 after former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of US government spying programmes.

Brussels has committed to wrapping up the talks by the end of January but is looking for further guarantees from Washington that US authorities will not access Europeans’ data on a wholesale basis, something that has drawn out the negotiations.

Vodafone Moves Delhi High Court Against Trai’s Interconnect Regulations

Telecom major Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd and its group companies Friday moved the Delhi High Court challenging Trai’s Telecommunication Interconnect Usage Charges Regulations, 2015 by which it has fixed termination charges for wireline to wireless as zero paise and wireless to wireless to Rs. 0.14 per minute.

Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) or termination charges are payable by one telco, whose subscriber makes a call, to another whose subscriber receives the call. The charge is payable by the first for using the second’s network.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, declined to give any interim relief to the telecom major saying Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has to be heard and also because the regulations came in February, 2015.

The bench asked Trai to file its reply in four weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on January 19, 2016.

During the brief hearing, senior advocate K Viswanathan, appearing for Vodafone, said the regulations are illegal, bad in fact and in law, arbitrary and in gross violation of the principles of natural justice, beyond the functions of Trai.

He said the February 23, 2015 regulations – Mobile Termination Charges (MTC) and Fixed Termination Charges (FTC) under IUC Regulation – were “ultra vires Trai Act and were contrary to the object and purpose of its provisions to the extent that it arbitrarily and in a non-transparent manner fixes the termination charges”.

Viswanathan said that it is clear that the fixation of terms of interconnectivity which includes the termination charge by Trai cannot be zero where costs are incurred by the terminating operator and therefore, the regulations fixing the charge as zero is ultra vires the provisions of Trai Act.

He said that Trai itself has stated in its 2001 Regulations that the interconnection charges shall be fixed on cost basis to provide recompense to the operators for work done for termination of calls on their network.

He further submitted that Trai, while agreeing that costs are incurred for terminating a call, has grossly erred and acted in an illegal manner and contrary to the provisions while fixing the termination charges for wireline to wireless as zero and wireless to wireless from Rs 0.20 per minute To Rs. 0.14 per minute.