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iphone-6

Apple has announced its quarterly earnings report for Q1 2015 and the results are even better than expected.

The iPhone is the king of the earnings, Apple sold 74 million units worldwide, beating its previous record. Even though Apple did not disclose the individual sales, it is highly likely the iPhone 6 sold more units than any other smartphone over the quarter.

In Asia, Apple noticed huge gains in iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sales, alongside continued growth in the United States, Western Europe and Latin America. More iPhones were sold in China than the United States across all of 2014, for the first time.

Raw numbers show Apple had the best quarter of any company ever, with $74 billion in revenue and $18.4 billion in net profit. Both announcements beat the various oil and gas companies holding the records, showing Apple’s complete dominance.

To put this into perspective, Apple’s iPhone business alone generates more revenue than Google and Microsoft combined, noted as the second and third place technology firms.

Apple is in a better situation since it sells all of the hardware, while Microsoft and Google leave that to OEM partners. It is also reaping in the rewards of a popular marketplace for iOS, although iTunes sales are still declining and Apple Pay isn’t even 0.01 percent of the total revenue.

Even though Apple’s portfolio looks excellent, there is always “next year” when Apple needs to once again win over customers, or face drops in stock price and consumer interest. While Google and Microsoft have been able to create markets through various software and service, most of Apple’s revenue is tied to its hardware business, and the continued success of said hardware business.

Still, Apple is the most popular and relevant brand in the world, so it doesn’t seem like the hardware business will disappear any time soon.

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waze-police

Google owned traffic service Waze has been under fire by the National Sheriffs Association, due to a feature allowing people to scope out police patrols in the area and potentially avoid or stalk the police.

Waze offers various traffic warnings, including weather, congestion, real-time traffic, roadblocks, crashes and police vehicles. Most of the content is user generated, allowing the community to update users on real-time events on the road.

Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff for Southern California, claims Waze’s police tracking feature may allow criminals to avoid patrols and can potentially be used to hunt down police. Kopelev claims this has already happened, when a man managed to track down a police officer through the Waze app, before dumping the phone to hide evidence.

Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County supports Kopelev’s demands for Google’s Waze team to remove the feature, due to the threat to police officers. The National Sheriffs Association will ask Google to follow procedure, but it is not clear if Google wants to make this change.

Since Waze is still based primarily in Israel, it might be void of U.S. laws, but Google’s ownership ties it into U.S. laws, however there is currently not a law against notifying people about police cars in the area.

Some privacy advocates claim the feature should stay installed, but question how much information Waze already provides to the U.S. government, especially since it is now owned by Google.

This information on real-time traffic and updates may be valuable to U.S. authorities, and Google has a rather poor track record when it comes to privacy and security—most recently getting put in hot water over WikiLeaks employee emails.

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uk-surveillance

The UK government has tried to slyly add more surveillance laws into the House of Lords, pushing 18-pages of the Communications Data Bill, a law rejected in 2012 due to its aggressive and broad surveillance implementations.

The Communications Data Bill looks to add way more surveillance and warrantless access to information than currently available, allowing the government and police authorities to tap into a nationwide network of messages, game chats and other private communications.

Currently in the UK, authorities must provide a warrant to the ISP (internet service provider) before gaining access to basic IP address, date and time online. The authority must show the warrant to different companies (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to gain information on the specific user.

This is the right way to work around, even though reports say the GCHQ would simply find the information through illegal surveillance if a warrant could not be attained. The GCHQ used this surveillance and hacking to even attack journalists, putting investigative journalism on the same level as terrorism in threats to the UK.

Lord Blair pushed the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (CTSB) with the Communications Data Bill inside, Lord Carlisle, Lord King and Lord West all supported the notion, even with the additional surveillance entries.

It is rather disheartening to see neither Labour or the Conservatives argue with surveillance, because both of these parties seem fine with radical surveillance on all sorts of communications, removing security and privacy barriers set up to protect citizens.

Liberal Democrats have been a voice for good, but ever since the coalition between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, the Lib Dems have lost a lot of power in Parliament and in the public eye. The Greens seem to be against mass surveillance, although the party has not given a mass oversight on the issue.

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windows-10

Microsoft has announced some more features for Windows 10, its next step in creating one platform for all form factors.

The event was less low key than the last one, which took place in a small conference hall in San Francisco. The event also brought more information on Windows 10, including the fact Windows 8.1 users will get it for free, and Windows 7 users for the first year.

Windows 10 will be a fully cross-compatible operating system, working on PC, mobile and tablet. Microsoft even hinted Windows was just a “service”, potentially pointing to reskinned versions of the OS on Android and other platforms—this was not announced at the event however.

Microsoft has added Cortana to Windows 10 and the virtual assistant can do a lot more, including understand hashtags, show local events and answer queries more effectively. Microsoft has re-added the Start Menu, and users can drag it out to full-screen, basically swapping the Metro UI for the Start Menu.

There have been many changes to applications on Windows 10, including updates to Calendar, Photos, Outlook, Office, Music, Xbox and a new People app, a sort-of social network. Microsoft did not go into detail about the People app, but did announce Xbox One will get these updates; gamers will now be able to stream to Windows 10 PCs and tablets.

Internet Explorer has been dropped in favor of Project Spartan, a new web browser with a new rendering engine. Microsoft did not go into detail about the rendering engine, but here’s hoping more open source features are added. Spartan feature annotations, Cortana and reading lists.

Surface Hub is a new 84-inch 4K all-in-one computer for enterprise, and features Skype video conferences and presentations. Microsoft also unveiled Windows Holographic with HoloLens headset, their own virtual reality headset with no focus on games.

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elon-musk

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has always denied the potential of hydrogen fuel-cells for vehicles, and in a recent question and answer Musk reiterated how ‘dumb’ the idea is, and why electric battery cells are already more efficient.

“I don’t want to get into a debate on this because I just think hydrogen fuel-cells are extremely silly.” Musk said. “It’s very difficult to make hydrogen, and store it, and put it in a car. Hydrogen is an energy storage mechanism, it is not a source, so you have to get hydrogen from somewhere. If you get that hydrogen from water the process is extremely inefficient as an energy process.”

The chief executive followed up with reasons why the electric car is already far ahead of where hydrogen will ever be, claiming hydrogen has “very low density, it is a pernicious molecule, hydrogen leaks are invisible and it is extremely flammable.”

Musk’s comments come after Toyota and Honda both work on hydrogen based cars for mass adoption by 2020. It seems like the Japanese companies are committed to multiple charging alternatives, to move away from petrol.

Detroit’s auto-show played host to various conversations with automotive executives, but like usual the Tesla Motors CEO was the main feature at the event, alongside rumors General Motors would partner with Google on self-driving cars.

The chief executive of Tesla believes the company will be profitable without any subsidiaries by 2020, following the launch of the Tesla Model X and Model 3. The growth of Tesla manufacturing should hit at least half a million within five years.

Musk will continue to invest in automation, SuperCharger stations and new efficient energy solutions, alongside acquiring new talent to build the cars. Speaking on the Tesla stock, Musk said long term buyers should not be worried, and short-term buyers don’t deserve re-assurances.

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space-x-satellite

Google is about to make a major investment in Elon Musk’s Space X, reportedly worth $1 billion.

The investment—first reported by The Information—focuses on the development of low-orbit satellites to beam cheap internet to undeveloped nations. Facebook, Virgin Galactic and Google’s own SkyBox Imaging are also working on this type of internet.

The $1 billion investment would give Google 10 percent of Space X, if the value of the space company is $10 billion. Reports said Space X was nearing that valuation, and new interests in internet on Mars have pushed it over the milestone.

Google’s mission to connect the next 2 billion people on Earth to the internet is in full swing, following successful launches of its Project Loon balloons, and other investments into low-orbit satellites in 2014.

To launch these satellites into low-orbit and maintain the mission, it may need the help of Space X, something a 10 percent ownership in the company would bring. It is not clear if Elon Musk or any other executives at Space X actually want Google to have such a strong hold on the company.

Elon Musk has unveiled quite a few missions for Space X in the next 10 years, including getting people to Mars, establishing colonies, and establishing internet. Back on Earth, Space X works on low-orbit satellites, NASA missions and researching the moon and other potential planets for exploration.

One of Space X’s main focuses in the next year is landing part of the Falcon 9 spacecraft on a drone barge, allowing Space X to potentially salvage parts of the spacecraft. The current method is to leave all parts of the spacecraft and build from scratch, and unsustainable model according to Musk.

Space X will still remain a private company in 2015, unless Elon Musk finds some reason for public adoption. The space company maintains funding through venture capital and NASA investment, making it rather risky for investors at the current time.

Once the space industry of mining ores, tourism and colonisation starts to become a real thing, Space X may be interested in becoming public, but for now it does not look like the right time.

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Google Bringing Modular Smartphones To Puerto Rico

project-ara

Google is doing an early spring clean on all its moonshots projects, announcing new automotive partnerships for the driverless car project, moving Google Glass over to Nest Labs, and also bringing Project Ara to Puerto Rico later this year.

It seems like a definitive move to keep Google’s moonshots active, after a rather silent 2014 from the search giant. Project Ara has its own developer conference coming later in the year, allowing developers and manufacturers to check out the modular design.

The modular smartphone project has been worked on by Google X Labs, using a familiar DARPA-style work ethic of two years to finish the entire project. Google might use another year to test the waters with Project Ara, starting in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico might not seem like a tech hub, but Google believes it could be an excellent testing ground for the modular smartphone, and Google will deliver the experience in rented delivery trucks across the Caribbean island.

Testers will be able to view over 20 modules, including speakers, battery, and microSD modules. Google has hinted at even more modules coming soon, and potential partnerships with mobile component manufacturers in late-2015.

Google has still not given details on the release date for Project Ara, which could be pushed back to 2016 if Google finds significant problems in the Puerto Rico test — hopefully this will not happen.

Modulation of smartphone components is still new territory for Google, considering the past five years have been all about packing individual components into one single unit, like an APU. Project Ara looks to redefine this vision, but may still offer an APU for things like processor, RAM and GPU to fit in one module.

Google has not commented on price for Project Ara, although head of services Sundar Pichai said they were aiming for $50 base price.

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surveillance-uk

Je Suis Charlie might be all about freedom of speech—even though critics claim the protest is simply to allow anti-Muslim views, but still shun any abhorrent views on Jewish and Christians—however it has also allowed the UK and French governments more control over the internet systems we use daily.

The UK government has used the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ banner to call for more surveillance on messaging platforms like WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger, under the banner of freedom of speech, the government looks to filter out any “hateful” content that may be pro-terrorism.

Even though this is fundamentally flawed since reading private messages is taking away freedom of speech and privacy, it is also a way for the UK government to get around the awkward encryption services WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger use to stop government snooping.

With all of the discussion in the UK on how best to police radicals, the Conservatives—who are notorious for their lack of critical understand of internet structure—are pushing to have the police be able to pass through these encryption tools.

In a clear misjudgement, the UK government also believes by passing a law through government, these U.S. based companies will simply hand over the keys to UK authorities, when in reality Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are more likely to not hand over anything, or simply leave the country.

What the government have got right is nobody in the UK seems to care, the apathy towards having every private message read and stored by the government should be far more scary than the threat some radical Muslims pose to the West, but yet there is no march against the government on these radical plans to police the internet.

In France, the government has pursued new laws to effectively stalk Muslim and other “terrorist” groups, without a large degree of any terrorist-evidence. The law was passed without any of these “freedom of speech advocates” speaking up, sadly.

The Je Suis Charlie tragedy might be appalling for most, but for governments in Europe it is merely a ladder, allowing them access to more surveillance under the “anti-terrorism” acts established throughout two decades.

The major failure of the European people is not how to better close their borders—which seems to be the prerogative of almost every European country—but that surveillance groups have been able to seize control over most of the internet, without any real consequences.

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