Technology News from the LIS Helpdesk
Why is Microsoft’s new phone over £1,000?
Microsoft’s first Android phone, the Surface Duo, is coming on September 10, the company announced Wednesday.
The Surface Duo costs £1,070. OK, let’s just stop there for a second. What? That’s about the same price as a tricked out iPhone 11 Max. Yes, it’s expensive. No, people probably aren’t going to rush out to buy it. But the price and phone make sense for a few reasons.
First, it’s a dual-screen device. Microsoft described the phone as “a major new form factor,” in a blog post. It is essentially a folding tablet, which is also a phone. Each of the Surface Duo’s two screens are 5.6-inch displays that combine into a tablet-like 8.1-inch display when unfolded. It has a single camera that supports recording 4K video.
Is it a phone or an iPad?
So, if the phone is really an iPad mini that folds … and is also a phone … now we’re getting into £1,070 territory. The hinge works both ways, so you can close the phone like a book or open it fully so it’s a double-sided phone. It’s also super thin, has what could be one of the best screens on any phone. (Here’s an excellent synopsis of all the ins and outs of the Duo from our colleagues at CNN Underscored).
Second, Microsoft is promoting the Duo as a productivity device. It’s a Surface, after all — the same brand it uses for its high-end computers that are all about showcasing Microsoft’s software, including Office and Windows. Microsoft said it optimized the entire Office Suite for the Duo, helping people make video calls (super important now), and get their work done on the go.
Finally, the Duo is probably a showcase device. Like the original Surface, Microsoft is probably showing more what can be done than trying to convince millions of people that they should buy a Surface Duo. The original Surface got a ton of things wrong (Microsoft took a $1 billion write-down on the product.) But it got one big thing right — the two-in-one laptop-tablet idea was a winner. Microsoft stuck with the idea, listened to feedback, perfected it over time, and Surface is now a successful product with an avid fanbase.
Are you going to order one?
Pre-orders for the Microsoft’s new phone The Duo are available starting Wednesday. Available at Best Buy, Microsoft’s online store and AT&T, which owns Warner Media, CNN’s parent company. It’s the first Android phone from Microsoft, after it slowly stopped supporting its line of Windows phones.
Foldable phones have had their challenges in the past, such as when defective units of the nearly £1,500 Samsung Galaxy Fold were shipped out to tech reviewers, who discovered broken screens and hinges in their coverage. Samsung delayed the April launch of the device to September in response.
Despite that flub, several foldable phones have made it to the market, including the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip. Chinese brands like the Huawei Mate X and Oppo Reno 10X Zoom are also on the market, but not sold directly to US consumers in official stores.
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The world is a crazy place right now. The pandemic has caused havoc, the UK is in recession and we are sad to announce the death of the mouse. Let us pause for a moment give thanks to an inventor that has made our lives easier. Computer pioneer William English has died aged 91, as reported by the BBC. Mr English, who was born in 1929 in Kentucky, studied electrical engineering at university before embarking on a career in the US Navy.
The engineer, inventor and researcher co-created the first modern computer mouse in 1963. After his colleague Doug Engelbart, a fellow engineer at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) came up with the idea.
Working under Engelbart in the mid 1960s, William English, known to most as Bill, became the first person to use a mouse when he built the prototype at SRI.
In the 1950s, after leaving his career in the US Navy, Mr English joined SRI to work with Mr Engelbart who wanted to build a computer that anyone could use – a concept that would be the founding bricks for modern day PCs, laptops and tablets.
At the time computers were only used by specialists who would enter and retrieve information through punched cards, typewriters and printouts.
The birth of the mouse
The mouse, which got its name because of the way the cursor called CAT at the time seemed to chase the mouse movement, was a simple pinewood block with a single button and connector. Underneath the mouse were two rolling wheels at 90-degree angles that would record vertical and sideways movement on the computer.
Mr Engelbart, who died in 2013, aged 88, envisioned a device that could move a cursor across a computer screen and perform tasks by selecting symbols and pictures, Mr English helped his vision become a reality.
English and Engelbart demonstrated their first mouse and experimental multifaceted computer called oNLine System (NLS), in 1968 at an event in San Francisco that became known as ‘The Mother of All Demos’.
The Mother of All Demos unveiled early forms of online text editing, video conferencing and hypertext, the links now commonly used to navigate web pages on the internet.
Support for today’s technology and the future
What would our office look like today without pioneers like William? His invention is still going strong today and has come a long way since its original form. We may mourn the death of the mouse; however, technology is constantly moving forward. Thanks to William English’s efforts, much of the technology we use today exists.
Contact the LIS Help Desk to speak to one of our team. We can advise you about the latest computer systems and upgrades for your office. Don’t spend hours trawling the Internet for the best deal. Speak to us and let us take the pain away. This saves you time and money. We can set up your system and offer you a monthly IT contract. As well as cloud back-up systems, the latest security and telecoms.
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Apple boss Tim Cook joins the billionaires club
We have all heard the saying “ this time next year we will be millionaires”. Have you ever thought about being a billionaire?
The BBC broke the news on the website today that – Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook is now a billionaire. All thanks to the company’s rising share price. The 59 year old’s wealth was calculated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Apple’s share price has soared during his time in charge, from around £40 to more than £343 today.
He joined the technology giant in 1998 at the request of Steve Jobs, who he replaced as chief executive in 2011.
Mr Cook owns more than 847,000 Apple shares directly, worth more than £291m.
Proceeds from previous share sales, dividends and other compensation add another £497m to his net worth, according to calculations by Bloomberg.
Last year Mr Cook was paid £95m, the majority of which came in the form of vested shares. His basic salary is £2.3m.
Chief executives of other tech companies, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, have a much higher net worth because they often own a large proportion of their company’s shares.
Two years ago, Apple became the first US-listed company to be valued at a trillion pounds.
The company is now worth about £1.45tn and analysts believe it will pass the £1.5tn mark this year.
How does Mr. Cook plan to spend his fortune?
Mr Cook has said he will give away his entire fortune before he dies. He told Fortune magazine that he would fund his nephew’s education before giving his wealth to charity.
Two causes that are close to his heart are HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. As well as climate change, he said – telling the magazine he had already started to quietly donate.
“You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripples for change,” he said at the time.
How can we help to build your business?
Maybe you’re feeling a little jealous and wish you could join the billionaires club? We unable to make you successful and join the billionaire’s club. Well, we have good news for you. You can become a billionaire! It has nothing to do with your family’s money or your education. It has everything to do with you.
Contact the LIS Help Desk to speak to us about the latest hardware, software, security and cloud back up system. If you make sure your team have the best technology possible that suits your budget this will help you to achieve your goals. We can all dream… THIS TIME NEXT YEAR…
Through hard work, dedication and time you can make it. Why have the stress about worrying about your systems? Let us take the pain away and make sure your business runs smoothly.
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People in the UK have been spending record amounts of time on the Internet during the coronavirus lockdown. It’s no surprise that the surge in Internet usage has hit an all-time high. All those Zoom meetings, home working and not to mention the Netflix binging.
A recent BBC article takes a closer look and explains why we are so reliant on the Internet.
In April 2020, UK adults spent longer than four hours online each day – more than a quarter of their waking life. It marks an increase of more than half an hour since January. This means people now spend substantially more time online than watching television or listening to the radio.
The recent surge in Internet usage figures were revealed in Ofcom’s Online Nation report. It illustrates the habits and trends of internet users between November 2019 and April 2020. People aged 18 to 24 were the heaviest users, clocking an average of more than five hours spent online per day.
Average time online due to a surge in Internet usage
Number of hours spent online by age group in the UK, April 2020.
A large portion of the study focussed on internet habits in 2019, which revealed that technology giants now control an even greater share of internet traffic. The research by the regulator showed that more than a third of time spent online was spent on sites owned by either Facebook or Google.
How people spend their time online
Average number of minutes spent using sites and services per day.
The shift towards platforms like Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Messenger appears to have been accelerated during lockdown. Nearly half of all adults using the messaging apps to make video calls at least once a week.
Ofcom’s research found that the use of video calling services doubled to 70 per cent of the population during the lockdown, as people sought new ways to stay in touch.
One of the biggest benefiters from this trend has been the app Zoom, which saw a huge surge in new users at the start of the lockdown.
“Lockdown may leave a lasting digital legacy,” said Yij-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s director of strategy and research. “Coronavirus has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate online, with millions of people using online video services for the first time.”
Make sure you are connected
We cannot predict how long this pandemic will go on for. However, as we all know technology is helping us cope with the current situation. Particularly companies that are working from the office and at home. Contact the LIS Help Desk to make sure your business is receiving the fastest broadband. Make sure your remote colleagues have access to the same system as those in the office. We can upgrade your security, look after your emails and provide cloud based back up solutions.
Talk to us about IT support. Why have the worry of looking after your systems? Let us take the strain. We work with you to set up the most cost effective and productive solutions. Think of us as part of your team rather than a supplier!
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Aqua-Fi is a Wi-Fi system for watery environments where radios typically struggle. Communicating underwater has always been a hassle. Radio transmissions, the ubiquitous wireless standard above the waves, can’t transmit very far before being entirely absorbed by the water. Acoustic transmissions (think sonar) are the preferred choice underwater, but they suffer from very low data rates. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just have Internet under the sea?
Researchers use lasers to bring the Internet under the sea
Underwater Wi-Fi is exactly what researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, have developed. The system, which they call Aqua-Fi, uses a combination of lasers and off-the-shelf components. This creates a bi-directional wireless connection for underwater devices. The system is fully compliant with IEEE 802.11 wireless standards, meaning it can easily connect to and function as part of the broader Internet.
How will Internet under the sea work?
Waterproofed smartphones can transmit data underwater. The researchers used a regular old Wi-Fi signal to connect that device to an underwater “modem.” Specifically, they used a Raspberry Pi to function as that modem. The Raspberry Pi converted the wireless signal to an optical signal. In this case, a laser that was beamed to receiver attached to a surface buoy. Established communications techniques were used to send the signal to an orbiting satellite. For the underwater device to receive data, the process is simply reversed.
Aqua-Fi stems from work that the KAUST researchers did back in 2017. The researchers used a blue laser to transmit a 1.2-gigabit file underwater. But that wasn’t interesting enough, according to Basem Shihada, an associate professor of computer science at KAUST and one of the researchers on the Aqua-Fi project. “Who cares about submitting just a file?” he says. “Let’s do something with a bit more life.”
The light bulb moment
It was that thinking that spurred the team to start looking at bi-directional communications. With the ultimate goal of building a system that can transfer high-resolution video. Internet under the sea could be a possibility.
Shihada says it was important to him that all of the components be off the shelf. “My first rule when we started this project: I do not want to have something that is [custom made for this],” he says. The only exception is the circuit in the Raspberry Pi that converts the wireless signal to an optical signal and vice versa.
The team used LEDs instead of lasers in their first design, but found the LEDs were not powerful enough for high data rates. With LEDs, the beams were limited to distances of about 7 meters and data rates of about 100 kilobits per second. When they upgraded to blue and green lasers, they achieved 2.11 megabits per second over 20 meters.
Shihada says that currently, the system is limited by the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi. The team burned out the custom circuit responsible for converting optical and wireless signals when, on two occasions, they used a laser that was too powerful. He says that in order for this setup to incorporate more powerful lasers that can both communicate farther and transmit more data, the Raspberry Pi will need to be swapped out for a dedicated optical modem.
What are the limitations?
Even with the limitations of the Raspberry Pi, the KAUST researchers were able to use Aqua-Fi to place Skype calls and transfer files. However, there’s still a big problem that needs to be addressed in order to make a system like Aqua-Fi commercially viable; and it can’t be solved as easily as swapping out the Raspberry Pi. “If you want to imagine how to build the Internet underwater,” says Shihada, “laser alignment remains the most challenging part.” Because lasers are so precise, even mildly turbulent waters can knock a beam off course and cause it to miss a receptor.
What options are available?
The KAUST researchers are exploring two options to solve the alignment problem. The first is to use a technique similar to the “photonic fence” developed to kill mosquitoes. A low-power guide laser would scan for the receptor. When a connection is made, it would inform another, higher-powered laser to begin sending data. If the waves misaligned the system again, the high-power laser would shut off and the guide laser would kick in, initiating another search.
The other option is a MIMO-like solution using a small array of receptors, so that even if the laser emitter is jostled a bit by the water, it will still maintain a connection.
Do we need the Internet under the sea?
You might still be asking yourself at this point why anyone even needs the Internet underwater? First, there’s plenty of need in underwater conservation for remote monitoring of sea life and coral reefs, for example. High definition video collected and transmitted by wireless undersea cameras can be immensely helpful to conservationists.
However, it’s also helpful to the high-tech world. Companies like Microsoft are exploring the possibility of placing data centres offshore and underwater. Placing data centres on the ocean floor can perhaps save money both on cooling the equipment as well as energy costs. If the kinetic energy of the waves can be harvested and converted to electricity. Finally, if there are data centres underwater, the Internet will need to be there too.
How can we connect you?
We are sorry to report that we are unable to help with the progress of launching Internet under the sea. However, our land-based clients are happy with our service and a support team that is not wet behind the ears! Contact the LIS Help Desk to find out more about super-fast broadband. Unlimited broadband packages are available with speeds up to 1,000mb download and upload. If that’s not fast enough we can join several lines together and the sky is the limit… yes, we ran out of sea puns!
Our experienced team can also help you with any other IT enquiries, security issues and telecoms.
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