Friday, January 31, 2014

Mantle gets a PC debut with Catalyst 14.1 beta driver and 'Battlefield 4'

AMD”s Mantle API will soon be available for PC users, and with Battlefield 4 on Windows also getting a Mantle update, users with AMD hardware should start seeing a marked increase in performance — at least that is what AMD claims.

After lengthy delays, AMD is finally set to launch the Mantle API on the PC later today. When AMD announced Mantle late last year, it was with an intention to enable low-level access to hardware, better utilization of resources, and a “console-like” development environment — which many assumed to mean the ability to write common code for any GCN platform. Mantle was also touted as an alternative to DirectX (Direct3D) and OpenGL, two high-level APIs that can be used across a wide range of hardware.

However, while Direct3D and OpenGL enable broad access to hardware, Mantle has been tailored for AMD’s hardware. In fact, it is now being seen that Mantle will provide better performance not by tweaking the GPU, but by reducing the workload of the CPU. AMD claims that APIs like Direct3D have limitations when it comes to scaling out to CPUs with many-core configurations, and that Mantle would be ideally suited “for the majority of PC gamers that have entry-level and mid-range processors.”

Therefore, if you’re running a high-end configuration already, there isn’t much that can be gained from Mantle. AMD has released information regarding how much of a difference Mantle makes in various use cases, and based on the data, it is clear that the most amount of difference will be seen in the entry-level section.

AMD has decided to cobble a FX-8350 CPU with the high-end R9 290X to demonstrate the benefits Mantle would have. In Battlefield 4, there was a 23.8 percent increase in performance when using Mantle. EA has similarly made a chart detailing how much of a difference Mantle would make in Battlefield 4:

While these numbers do show a marked difference, these are likely controlled tests. We will be running the latest Catalyst drivers and running our own test suite to see if the gains are as huge as AMD claims.

Source: AMD

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Lenovo acquisition will not affect Motorola’s device release schedule

Motorola will continue to work on its devices, which include a second generation Moto X, after the Lenovo acquisition.

Yesterday, it was revealed that Lenovo was acquiring Motorola Mobility from Google for $2.91 billion. It has been learnt that even after the deal goes through, after regulatory signoff (of which there is to be a considerable amount), Motorola will continue to finish working on devices that are already underway.

Among the devices rumoured to be launched include the second generation Moto X, which might launch later this year or earlier next year. There is also talk of a 6-inch phablet device that will be announced in 2015. In addition, Motorola is said to be working on a smartwatch. It has been alleged that Lenovo will let Motorola release all these devices, and then focus on launching Lenovo-designed Motorola handsets. It has also been rumoured that Lenovo will allow users to customize future Motorola handsets through the Moto Maker customization utility, but the facility which undertakes these customized orders will likely change.

While the device release schedule might still remain unchanged, the manufacturing of these devices might. Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola works in its favor in this regard, as the Chinese manufacturer has an established base in most emerging countries. In Brazil, Lenovo is investing $100 million in research efforts, and the manufacturer has an established distribution hub in India. For the next year at least, Motorola will function as an individual entity. Lenovo has issued a challenge to the likes of Samsung after the acquisition, so it should be interesting to see the direction the Chinese manufacturer envisages for Motorola.

Source: Sina Weibo (registration required)

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Upcoming Samsung SM-W750V Windows Phone expected to don 4.3-inch Full HD screen

Samsung’s alleged next Windows Phone 8 effort, model numbered SM-W750V, may revolutionize the mobile market as we know it, sporting a 4.3-inch Full HD display with unequaled pixel density.

It’s a near guarantee, the leader of the mobile tech world will abandon the Tizen project before long (and before it can take off), focusing almost entirely on Android. “Almost” being the key word, as apparently Samsung hasn’t completely turned its back on Windows Phone.

Remember the SM-W750V that surfaced online a couple of weeks ago with a 1,080p panel? According to Ad Duplex, this thing is looming large on the horizon, so a Mobile World Congress intro is in the cards, but it might not be a direct rival for the Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2 or Nokia Lumia 1520.

Instead, it could take on diminutive versions of flagships such as Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact, the GS4 mini or HTC One mini. Wait, so what about 1,080p? Well, if Ad Duplex is right, the top-notch resolution isn’t going anywhere, and it’s to be plastered all over a tiny 4.3-inch piece of glass.

Resulting pixel density? 512 ppi. Breathtaking. Also, a little impractical, some say. Overkill I guess is the term many prefer. Oh, stop fretting, it’s just a rumor for now. Also a rumor – it’s headed straight for Verizon and no other carriers. Both stateside and worldwide.

Nah, I don’t buy it. Big Red can’t have two high-end WP handhelds in the pipeline, this and Nokia’s Lumia Icon, and hold them off for nigh launches in February. Can it?

More importantly, is a 4.3-inch Full HD, presumably quad-core and 2 GB RAM-toting state-of-the-art slab of silicon practical? Could it be the beginning of the end for Android or a desperate, unlikely to succeed move to make Windows Phone 8 popular?

Sources: AdDuplex Blog, Phone Arena

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Best Buy discounts 128 GB Microsoft Surface Pro to $500 for limited time

For two days only, Best Buy sells the first-gen Microsoft Surface Pro with 128 GB built-in storage space at just $499.99, a whopping $400 less than the tablet’s list price.

So you say Surface sales are on the rise but still unable to drive profits or challenge Apple’s iPads in any way. Classic good news-bad news scenario for MS, though Redmond’s head honchos and partners appear to be less interested in profits than actual sales or brand awareness.

Voluntarily or compelled by lack of interest from hardware buyers, Microsoft has heavily relied on promotions to boost demand for 2012 Surface models of late, going down the same road today, alongside Best Buy.

The retailer has a pretty unbelievable deal going on right now both on and offline, as the 128 GB Surface Pro costs $499.99. Technically, that’s a $400 price cut. In reality, Amazon’s been selling it for a while at $599.99. Via Microsoft’s online store, it’s also $599, albeit through Sunday every purchase comes bundled with free $50 credit on You know, since the Super Bowl is on February 2.

However you look at it, BB’s promo is clearly the most lucrative, so at the end of the day they’re your men. Hurry though, the special offer expires Saturday night.

Again, this is the 2012 Surface Pro, so its overall performance and battery life aren’t stellar. On the bright side, the 10.6-inch display is, with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution, plus you get 4 GB RAM and the “full” Windows 8 Pro experience.

On a somewhat unrelated note, Best Buy’s annual yellow tag sale event also includes savings on other types of electronic gear, like MacBooks (all models are $100 off), AT&T and Verizon’s Samsung Galaxy S4 (free with contracts), and select Sony Vaio laptops at $200 discounts. So yeah, it’s the Surface Pro or nothing.

Source: Best Buy*

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‘Titanfall’ Xbox One console spotted, ‘Halo 5’ coming in 2015

Another batch of Microsoft leaks reveal a Titanfall edition Xbox One console, along with Halo 5 release information.

Microsoft is considering launching a Titanfall limited edition Xbox One console that should be available at the same time the game launches. While the news regarding the console is still a rumor at this stage, Microsoft has revealed a Titanfall edition controller for the Xbox One earlier this month that features a similar design.

In other Microsoft-related news, it has been revealed that Halo 5 is set to launch in 2015, and that Halo 2 will get an Anniversary edition that will feature 1080p content. A limited edition Halo war bundle will see ports of Halo 3 and Halo 4 for Xbox One. 343 Industries will be making the Halo 2 Anniversary edition. In addition, Microsoft is also making a live-action Halo TV series that will debut alongside the next Halo game.

The only news that has been corroborated thus far is the information that the white color variant of the Xbox One would launch sometime in October.


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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo goes official with hexa-core CPU and Android 4.3

Following a recent bundle of leaks, Galaxy Note 3 Neo’s formal announcement looked like a mere formality, so Samsung finally decided to go for it, but not make a huge fuss about it.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with choice. Diversity, variety. In fact, it’s what makes the Android décor special, compared with, oh I don’t know, iOS. But one has to draw the line somewhere. Unless Samsung plans to soon roll out a different device for every particular customer.

Which would be totally cool as long as the gizmos were actually different. But look at the Galaxy Note 3 Neo. Outed by Samsung Poland (?), this thing is a toned-down Note 3. It’s also basically a redesigned Note 2.

No, seriously, it’s got almost the exact same specs and features as 2012’s “big thing”. A 5.5-inch Super AMOLED 1,280 x 720 pix res display, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB on-board storage, microSD card slot, 8 MP rear-facing camera, 2 MP front snapper, S Pen support and 3,100 mAh battery.

In theory, you should notice an upgrade in the processing speed department, as the LTE-enabled Note 3 Neo model packs a one-of-a-kind hexa-core Exynos chip, comprised of four Cortex A7 1.3 GHz cores and two A15 clocked at 1.7 GHz.

Solid upgrade, if we’re to trust unofficial benchmarks. However, as far as the 3G-only Note 3 Neo is concerned, it sounds like Samsung truly recycled old hardware, branding it as new. Quad-core 1.6 GHz CPU? It’s what the Note 2 packed back in the fall of 2012.

Besides, the Note 3 Neo isn’t even completely up to date software-wise. It runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and, while it’ll surely score a 4.4 KitKat bump before long, it’s never ideal to start off behind the times.

Lastly, from a design standpoint, it’s obvious from a mile away what the inspiration is. Shave 0.2 inches off Note 3 Neo’s screen real estate, and voila, you get this faux leather back cover-touting copycat. Worst thing? Rumor has it the recommended retail price in Europe will be roughly $820 (€600) off-contract. Thanks, but no thanks, Samsung.

Sources: Sammy Today , Samsung Poland

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The iPod might not be dead just yet

It is quite possible that Apple might not be killing off the iconic iPod in the near future, contrary to popular belief.*

Earlier this week Apple announced its Q1 2014 earnings. It was a record quarter for the company, almost all devices posted record sales, all except the entire iPod lineup. Year over year shipments were down 53 percent, with the company only being able to sell six million iPod units around the world in the last quarter. iPod sales contributed just $973 million to Apple’s over $57 billion revenue in Q1 2014. This lead many publications to speculate that the iPod lineup will be riding off in the sunset, since its brutally being cannibalized by none other than the iPhone itself.

That might not entirely be the case though. 9to5Mac has discovered various job listings at Apple that hint the iPod division is going to be around for a bit longer. The company is seeking New Product Introduction Operations Program Managers who will be tasked with managing an iPod launch by working with OEMs, component suppliers as well as ensuring supply chain responsiveness. It is also seeking a Product Quality engineer for the iPod Product Operations team as well as a Plastics Tooling Eng. Program Mgr., who will be responsible for ensuring operational technical readiness and development of tooling and new material for new Apple products, respectively. The latter might lead to speculation that the next generation iPod could come with a plastic body similar to that of the iPhone 5C, even if Apple is contemplating killing it due to lacklustre response.

This could very well mean that a new iPod product launch is on the cards for 2014. Perhaps what Apple needs to revive sales is a completely new product. The flagship model, iPod touch, hasn’t been radically changed since the fourth generation model came out. In fact, the iPod lineup hasn’t been radically changed in a couple of years, which means that its about time that Apple went down this road. Can be said for sure that new iPods are in bound? Absolutely not, mere job listings can’t simply be taken as confirmation of the company’s future plans, even if they specifically deal with the iPod team at Cupertino.

Source: 9to5Mac

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PayPal wants to collaborate with Apple on new mobile payments service

Rumor has it that eBay owned PayPal wants Apple to bring it on board as a partner for its new mobile payments service.

Earlier this week it was rumored that Apple is working on a new mobile payments service, the company is said to have made up its mind about facilitating purchase of physical goods through its mobile devices. The iPhone is believed to be the focal point of this new service, which would presumably leverage millions of existing customers who already purchase virtual content through Apple, content like music, movies, TV shows, books and applications. It was also said that top Apple executives have started meeting with industry executives to discuss the company’s plans.

Re/code claims to have heard from three payments industry executives that PayPal has been pitching Apple to bring it onboard as a partner. Moreover, PayPal is apparently willing to white-label its part of the service, working away in the background on things such as fraud detection, infrastructure and even payments processing.*Two of these executives believe that its unlikely Apple will feel the need to join forces with PayPal, but its too soon to rule out the possibility at this point in time.

Time and again it has been rumored that Apple has its sights set on the mobile payments industry, with some even viewing the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on iPhone 5S as a gateway into an improved payments experience through the mobile device. The company itself has hinted that it could play a much bigger part in the future, but it hasn’t said anything about a new mobile payments service just yet.

Source: re/code

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This day in history: Inventor of the mouse Douglas Engelbart was born

On this day, January 30th, 1925, Douglas Engelbart, pioneer of the personal computer, developer of the NLS computer system and inventor of the computer mouse, was born.

An obscure figure

Not many people will be wishing the late Douglas Engelbart a happy birthday today. Overshadowed by the giants who popularized personal computing, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak, Engelbart may just be the most important computer scientist that nobody has ever heard of, and a fundamental force behind the modern personal computer.

When to most people computers were boxes of 1s and 0s that did nothing but crunch numbers, Engelbart foresaw the potential for computers to become a force to focus mankind’s intellect, which would bring the body of human knowledge together in a way that would revolutionize the world.

Thinking beyond even the most forward in his field, Engelbart saw the future of computing in networked computers, anticipating the advent of the Internet.

At a famous demonstration in the 1960s, Engelbart showcased a computer system that had all the trappings of a modern PC. But his influence over the development of computers slowly faded into obscurity, and he is now remembered best for one of his many brilliant inventions: the mouse.

Humble beginnings

Born on January 30th of 1925, Engelbart grew up in a world shaken by war, brimming with thinkers, and developing technologies. It was a time ripe for the seeds of new ideas – but the real thrust for Engelbart’s career did not come until the second great war. While he was serving as a radar technician in the Phillipines during World War II, Engelbart sat down in a library and read Vannevar Bush’s ‘As We May Think’. The article described a prototype of hypertext: the memex. The memex was a hypothetical device that could store information; people’s books, records, and communications, where they could all be easily stored and accessed. This shockingly anticipatory piece had been written in 1945.

In the article, Bush poured out his war-driven fear: that science was being used as a force for destruction instead of understanding.

Engelbart went back to Oregon State college, and received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. There he met Ballard Fish, who he married two years later.

The hero’s journey

Engelbart soon hit a crisis: he realized that despite his stable job, he didn’t have any career plans or ambitions for the future, other than to live a happily married, and financially stable life.

In the next few months, he developed a simple philosophy for his future: he would devote his career to making the world a better place.

Needless to say, the way Engelbart chose to do it was with computers.

In 1956, he accepted a position at the Standford Research Institute (SRI), where he founded a research team called the Augmentation Research Center (ARC). ARC became the driving force behind Engelbart’s most lasting legacies.

The mother of all demos

To his peers, Engelbart was quixotic and embarrassing. Many computer scientists chose to distance themselves from him, and his ridiculously ambitious ideas. But everybody stopped laughing on December 9th of 1968 at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, when Engelbart delivered what would come to be known as the mother of all demos.

He called it ‘A research center for augmenting human intellect’. Here, Engelbart introduced what he had been developing at the ARC: the oN-Line System, or NLS. This computer system boasted all the commodities associated with modern computers. With a mouse, keyboard, graphical user interface, text editor, resizable windows, and a modem connected to ARC’s computer in Menlo Park for desktop sharing and video conferencing, it was a PC in the 1960s.

The NLS was a prototype for modern computing, and influenced great computer companies to follow, such as Xerox, Microsoft and Apple.

The mouse

Along with all the technology he showcased at the mother of all demos, Engelbart used a computer mouse, something he had invented five years earlier in 1964.

While the version he used at the demo was nicely polished, it was a far cry from the first, pine wood prototype developed by William English, a member of ARC.

It’s not hard to recognize a mouse, and the concept has not changed much: then, and now, it is simply a device that reads two dimensional movement, and translates it into corresponding x/y dimensions on a digital display.

The first mouse, made out of pine wood

Three buttons were put into early versions of the mouse, because at the time, nothing more would fit. Engelbart thought that up to ten buttons would be useful, and CEO of Apple Steve Jobs later tried to reduce the number to one. But three was apparently the magic number, and lives on to this day.

According to Engelbart, the word ‘mouse’ was chosen for the device, because the wire connecting it to a computer resembled a rodent’s tail. Apparently, researchers at ARC also called the on-screen cursor a ‘bug’. But mouse won out, and ‘bug’ died off.


Engelbart died of kidney failure on July 2, 2013

It was a rare chance to watch the dawn of the digital era, the rise of the personal computer, and the advent of the Internet. But it is an even rarer thing to influence it, and make it happen.

Engelbart lived to see his ideas, once thought to be eccentric and crazy, become a reality. And while the rest of the world remembers him only dimly for his contribution of the computer mouse, his dream to improve the world lingers in all the corners of the modern age, and drives us to remember that the world we live in today was dreamed up by people who lived half a century ago.

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Microsoft offers Xbox One for $399 when you trade in your PS3

Microsoft is offering a unique trade-in program for gamers who are looking to make the jump from the PS3 to the Xbox One.

Many gamers are clamoring for Microsoft to lower the price of their premium new console to match the price point set by Sony’s PS4, and now the company is offering a discount–sort of.

To take advantage of the offer, you’ll need to relinquish ownership of your PlayStation 3 to a local Microsoft Store, and you’ll receive $100 store credit, which can be put towards an Xbox One–effectively making the console the same price as Sony’s $399 PS4.

Microsoft doesn’t stop there; they’ll accept Xbox 360′s as well, although only certain models like the Xbox 360 S or Xbox 360 E are applicable. Oh and you won’t be able to trade in a busted console to get credit, as it needs to work properly in order to be eligible.

The deal is a surprising one for Microsoft, in terms of making the terms more flexible to include Xbox 360′s, and the offer could be quite opportune for more than a few potential Xbox One owners. If you plan to jump ship and cross over to Microsoft’s playing field, now would be a good time to do so.

The offer ends March 2 in the U.S., and additional terms and conditions apply.

It’ll be interesting to see what Microsoft does with all of those traded in PS3′s…maybe they have some nefarious intent planned for the rival units?

Be sure to visit the Microsoft Store’s official page for more info

Via NeoGAF

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Encrypted search will enable NSA to analyze phone records stored on telco servers

The National Security Agency is developing an encrypted search technology to prevent third parties from spying on the agency’s queries made via third-party servers. Oh, the irony!

Privacy has become one of the biggest concerns in the recent months, with the ubiquity of mobile devices (which can all be used to spy on users), plus the disclosures of whistleblower Edward Snowden regarding the National Security Agency’s activities that target both US citizens and foreign individuals. With these disclosures have come the clamor for government to ensure that the privacy of innocent people is kept intact.

Eavesdropping and espionage do have their place in the world. The ideal is for authorities to use intelligence to spot potential trouble ahead of time. This can even prevent any untoward incidents in which innocent lives might be lost or adversely affected. But the concern here is how to find a balance between freedom and security. With our dependence on online services like communication and social networking applications, these service providers have grown to become Big Brother-esque.

The NSA — along with spy agencies like the British GCHQ — has become the target of criticism of late, with exposés left and right about how these government agencies are taking advantage of mobile networks, mobile applications and even device assets like the microphone and camera, in executing their espionage work. There is also concern that government agents’ activities might be vulnerable to eavesdropping or leakages, too.

To address this,*government has funded research into how spy agencies can, themselves, avoid being spied upon. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has employed at least five research teams to develop a system that can enable a third-party to store records that are accessible to government on demand, but will evade discovery and access by third parties, even by the owners of the data centers themselves.

One such project is the*Security and Privacy Assurance Research project. While the project does not specifically cite NSA use, the DNI has confirmed that the research is relevant to the agency’s phone records program.

Such records can include communication records, content and other information that the NSA can use in keeping track of target individuals. At present, such data is stored on the agency’s datacenters. In government’s aim to resolve legal and privacy concerns, President Obama has ordered the agency to offload storage of this data onto third-party datacenters. Information can then be accessed through encrypted searches.

Other parallel projects are being undertaken at other university-based teams: one from UC Irvine, a team from*University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas at Austin, another team from*MIT, Yale and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and LA-based firm*Stealth Software*Technologies.

Some officials are concerned that storing data offsite might make it vulnerable to attacks. Meanwhile, an encrypted search would require more resources than an un-encrypted one. However, this would make it possible for government to simply let telephone companies hold the call, messaging and IP-based data within their own datacenters. Intelligence agenies can then conduct its own searches, without the telcos knowing which records are being searched.

In short, the NSA wants a way to avoid having to store data in its own turf, but wants technology that can sift through data stored elsewhere without being snooped upon. Still, there is no assurance that the concerned agencies will be able to access only the records that they intend to access, and that there will be adequate oversight on the actual use of data.

Source: Associated Press*/ Image credit: Shutterstock

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How is Abraresto going to spend the $1.5M raised in funding

Ankur Mehrotra, CEO, Abraresto, in an interview with e27 talks about future plans and how the company is going to spend the US$1.5 million raised in funding Indonesia’s restaurant discovery and review site Abraresto announced that it has closed an investment of US$ 1.5 million from Indonesian investors. The website owned by Abratable Pte Ltd Read the full article...

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Sony makes plans to phase out existing PS Vita's in the U.K. in favor of PS Vita Slim

Sony has recently unveiled a new leaner design for their flagship handheld, coined as the PS Vita Slim, which will be available starting next month and replace the current stock of PS Vita units.

Earlier today in an official press conference in London, Sony revealed that Japan’s slenderized PlayStation Vita handheld–the PS Vita 2000–will cross over into Europe under the banner of the PS Vita Slim.

The slimmer, more lithe model is 20% thinner and 15% lighter than the current PS Vita, and emphasizes the system’s penchant for lightweight portability. The new PS Vita Slim is priced at*£180 and will ultimately replace the current PCH-1000 PS Vita handhelds, Sony has recently confirmed.

Along with being lighter and trim, the new PS Vita Slim units swap the PCH-1000′s OLED screen for a cheaper LCD screen, and Sony affirms that gamers can get 6 hours of play time with a single battery charge. Sadly this reduction in pricing also means a reduction in quality, as the slim model maintains its*£180 price tag due to the LCD screen swap.

Additionally the newer models will come with 1GB of internal memory for game saves, alleviating some of the frustrations in purchasing the handheld’s infamously expensive memory cards.

The PS Vita Slim will reportedly be available for pre-order starting tomorrow, however we’re still not sure if Sony will offer the vibrant rainbow colored options akin to the Japanese handheld.

Furthermore there was no announcement of an overseas release for North America, but given time we should hear something–but Sony’s phasing-out trend wouldn’t be very welcome news to some gamers.

While some gamers might prefer the bulk of the PCH-1000 Vitas, the internal memory is a nice addition. The LCD replacement screen, however, has been seen as a big drawback as it provides a noticeable difference in quality. The latter is a shame, considering the PCH-1000 models will eventually be phased out in favor of the newer, slimmer and cheaper units, which only goes to show that the cheapest option isn’t always the best one.

Earlier this month Sony had sent out invites for a mysterious press event focused on a “slim” announcement, so this unveiling isn’t much of a surprise. The PS Vita Slim will hit retail shelves in the U.K. on Feb. 7, 2014 for a price point of*£180.

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Vroom Vroom! Race your car to the cloud to make it smarter

Want to make your car more powerful?*Clickdrive claims it can link cars to the cloud via apps to make them more efficient Click Drive from 36frames on Vimeo With the spectre of global climate change and increasing carbon dioxide emissions, there has been a race among car makers to make more efficient vehicles. At the Read the full article...

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5 technology trends that will shape 2014

As an expert in data centre and co-location services, Clement Goh, Managing Director, Equinix South Asia, highlights five key technology trends to note in 2014 The Asia-Pacific data centre markets have enjoyed a year of robust growth and 2014 is poised to be another season of data-driven acceleration. Singapore’s prime geographical location and advanced technological Read the full article...

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Need for Malaysian SMEs to hire freelancers

A wage hike proposal in Malaysia is pushing for a minimum salary increase from RM900 to RM1,100. Can Malaysian SMEs survive? A Malaysian Insider article which came out this month reported that Democratic Action Party (DAP) Party-General and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is proposing a wage hike for local workers, from RM900 to Read the full article...

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