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Cellphones

Former Apple CEO Creates an iPhone Competitor 123

An anonymous reader links to Fast Company's profile of Obi Worldphone, one-time Apple CEO John Sculley's venture into smartphones. The company's first two products (both reasonably spec'd, moderately priced Android phones) are expected to launch in October. And though the phones are obviously running a different operating system than Apple's, Sculley says that Obi is a similarly design-obsessed company: "The hardest part of the design was not coming up with cool-looking designs," Sculley says. "It was sweating the details over in the Chinese factories, who just were not accustomed to having this quality of finish, all of these little details that make a beautiful design. We had teams over in China, working for months on the floor every day. We intend to continue that process and have budgeted accordingly." Obi is also trying to set itself apart from the low-price pack by cutting deals for premium parts. "Instead of going directly to the Chinese factories, we went to the key component vendors, because we know that ecosystem and have the relationships," Sculley says. "We went to Sony. It’s struggling and losing money on its smartphone business, but they make the best camera modules in the world."
Businesses

Will a Tighter Economy Rein In Startups? 106

Nerval's Lobster writes: It's been quite a ride for the stock market this week. In China, markets cratered; in the U.S., stocks dove for two days, only to rebound on Wednesday. That made many tech firms nervous, both about the Chinese economy (which some of them depend upon) and the continuing flow of money from VCs and investors. While the economic jitters don't seem to be affecting some tech firms' ability to implode themselves, more than one pundit is wondering whether the tech industry will shift into 'fear mode,' which could be bad for the so-called 'unicorns' that need funders to keep partying like it's 1999. Are we going to see money start drying up for startups?
China

Chinese Scientists Discover Structural Basis of Pre-mRNA Splicing 48

hackingbear writes: On August 21st, the research team led by Prof. Yigong Shi from School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University in China published two side-by-side research articles in Science, reporting the long-sought-after structure of a yeast spliceosome at 3.6 angstrom resolution determined by single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), and the molecular mechanism of pre-messenger RNA splicing. Until now, decades of genetic and biochemical experiments have identified almost all proteins in spliceosome and uncovered some functions. Yet, the structure remained a mystery for a long time. The works, primarily performed by Dr. Chuangye Yan, and Ph.D students Jing Hang and Ruixue Wan under Prof. Yigong Shi's supervision, settled this Holy Grail question and established the structural basis for the related area. This work was supported by funds from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
China

Breathing Beijing's Air Is the Equivalent of Smoking Almost 40 Cigarettes a Day 182

iONiUM writes: The Economist has a story about how bad the air quality is in Beijing. Due to public outcry the Chinese government has created almost 1,000 air quality monitoring stations, and the findings aren't good. They report: "Pollution is sky-high everywhere in China. Some 83% of Chinese are exposed to air that, in America, would be deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency either to be unhealthy or unhealthy for sensitive groups. Almost half the population of China experiences levels of PM2.5 that are above America's highest threshold. That is even worse than the satellite data had suggested. Berkeley Earth's scientific director, Richard Muller, says breathing Beijing's air is the equivalent of smoking almost 40 cigarettes a day and calculates that air pollution causes 1.6m deaths a year in China, or 17% of the total. A previous estimate, based on a study of pollution in the Huai river basin (which lies between the Yellow and Yangzi rivers), put the toll at 1.2m deaths a year—still high."
The Military

F-35 Might Be Outperformed By Fourth-Generation Fighters 732

savuporo writes: Defensetech.org posted a story relaying a report from National Security Network titled "Thunder without Lightning: The High Costs and Limited Benefits of the F-35 Program". According to the story, F-35 is outperformed or showing only slight advantages in simulations and limited real-life tests by decades old 4th-generation fighters like F-16 and F18, but also MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker, that are of course made by Russia and latter also produced in China. The story also refers back to earlier report last month of F-35 performing poorly in dogfights. "In one simulation subcontracted by the RAND Corporation, the F-35 incurred a loss exchange ratio of 2.4–1 against Chinese Su-35s. That is, more than two F-35s were lost for each Su-35 shot down."
Programming

UK Industry Group Boss: Study Arts So Games Are Not Designed By 'Spotty Nerds' 207

nickweller writes: John Cridland is the leader of the Confederation of British Industry, a group that represents over 100,000 UK businesses. In a recent interview, he spoke about his enthusiasm for adding arts education to more traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs. Here's how he chose to express that: "One of the biggest growth industries in Britain today is the computer games industry. We need extra coders — dozens and dozens of them but nobody is going to play a game designed by a spotty nerd. We need people with artistic flair." Cridland also expressed support for an increased emphasis on foreign language education: "If we’re not capable of speaking other people’s languages, we’re going to be in difficulties. However, there is far too much emphasis placed on teaching French and German. The language we most need going forward is Spanish (the second most frequently spoken language in the world). That and a certain percentage need to learn Mandarin to develop relations with China."
Communications

Clinton Surrendering Email Server/Data To Feds After Top Secret Mail Found 676

An anonymous reader writes: Hillary Clinton's lawyer has surrendered three thumb drives with copies of emails from her server to the Justice Department, which is also where the controversial Clinton personal email server is destined as well. The FBI determined that Clinton's lawyer could no longer retain the thumb drives after two emails from a small sample were found to contain information classified as "Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information," which would also taint the server. There is no evidence that encryption was used to protect the emails. From the limited reviews to date, Secretary Clinton and her aides exchanged emails containing classified information with at least six people with private email addresses. So far four of Clinton's top aides have turned over emails to the State Department, and there are demands that six more do so. The State Department's inspector general has stated that his office is reviewing "the use of personal communications hardware and software by five secretaries of state and their immediate staffs." Current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has stated, "it is very likely" that China and Russia are reading his emails.
China

Uber Drivers Arrested By Undercover Cops In Hong Kong 231

The Stack reports that local police have raided Uber's Hong Kong office, "after several officers posed as Uber customers and arrested drivers on Tuesday morning in an attempt to put an end to illegal taxi services. Five drivers who had offered their services across the taxi-hailing app were arrested on suspicion of illegally carrying passengers and driving without third-party insurance. The men are being held for further investigation." Are local police quite this concerned in your city with car-sharing dispatch services?
Businesses

Chinese Tech Companies Building Factories In India 104

jfruh writes: Over the past two decades, China's relatively high skill, low cost workforce made the country a powerhouse of tech and electronics manufacturing. But in a sign that things might be changing, several large Chinese companies, including Foxconn and Huawei, are investing billions to start manufacturing in India. Xiaomi is expected to announce its first India-made phone today, as well. The article says that Foxconn's planned factory in Maharashtra "would create employment for at least 50,000 people, state chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said after the signing of the agreement at which Foxconn CEO Terry Gou was present."
Power

MIT "Yolk and Shell" Nanoparticle Promises Longer-Lived Rechargeable Batteries 35

jan_jes writes: A new "yolk-and-shell" nanoparticle created by researchers at MIT and Tsinghua University in China could boost the capacity and power of lithium-ion batteries. The researchers have created an electrode made of nanoparticles with a solid shell, and a "yolk" inside that can change size again and again without affecting the shell. The new findings, which use aluminum as the key material for the lithium-ion battery's negative electrode, or anode, are reported in the journal Nature Communications. The use of nanoparticles with an aluminum yolk and a titanium dioxide shell has proven to be "the high-rate champion among high-capacity anodes." The linked article goes into much more detail about the (serendipitous) discovery.
China

China To Plant Internet Police In Top Online Firms 42

itwbennett writes: Websites based in China already have to abide by strict provisions for online censorship, and will often delete any content deemed offensive by government censors. But under a new plan announced Tuesday by the Ministry of Public Security security forces will be placed at the offices of the country's major websites, so that they can quickly respond to suspected online crimes. No specific companies were mentioned in the statement put out by the Ministry, but the country's biggest Internet firms include Alibaba Group, Baidu and Tencent.
China

Houston Firm NanoRacks To Take Chinese Experiment To International Space Station 21

MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger reports that for the first time a Chinese experiment will fly on the International Space Station, thanks to an arrangement between a research group based at the Beijing Institute of Technology and a private firm in Houston called NanoRacks. The deal seems to have been designed to avoid the prohibition against space cooperation between the Chinese regime and NASA, since the space agency is not directly involved. The experiment, which involves the effects that space radiation has on DNA, will be carried to the ISS by another private firm, SpaceX. Presumably the experiment would be run by a non NASA crew member to avoid any direct involvement with the space agency.
China

China To Impose Export Control On High Tech Drones and Supercomputers 67

hackingbear writes: Following similar hi-tech export restriction policies in the U.S. (or perhaps in response to the U.S. ban on China,) China will impose export control on some drones and high performance computers starting on August 15th, according to an announcement published on Friday by China's Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs. The ban includes (official documents in Chinese) drone that can take off in wind speed exceeding 46.4km/hour or can continuously fly for over 1 hour as well as electronic components specifically designed or modified for supercomputers with speed over 8 petaflops. Companies must acquire specific permits before exporting such items. Drones and supercomputers are the two areas where China is the leader or among the top players. China is using its rapidly expanding defense budget to make impressive advances in (military) drone technology, prompting some to worry that the United States' global dominance in the market could soon be challenged. The tightening of regulations comes two weeks after an incident in disputed Kashmir in which the Pakistani army claimed to have shot down an Indian "spy drone", reportedly Chinese-made. China's 33-petaflops Tianhe-2, currently the fastest supercomputer in the world, while still using Intel Xeon processors, makes use of the home-grown interconnect, arguably the most important component of modern supercomputers.
Transportation

Epic Mega Bridge To Connect America With Russia Gets Closer To Reality 465

Sepa Blackforesta writes: A plan for an epic bridge connecting Russia's easternmost border with Alaska's westernmost border could soon be a reality, as Russia seeks to partner with China. Sijutech reports: "If this mega bridge come to reality, it would be Planet Earth’s most epic mega-road trip ever. The plans have not been officially accepted since specific details of the highway still need to be discussed, including the large budget. Allegedly the plan will cost upwards in the trillions of dollars range."
China

China's Island-Building In Pictures 140

An anonymous reader writes: The South China Sea is just small enough to have high strategic value for military operations and just large enough to make territorial claims difficult. For over a year now, the world has been aware that China is using its vast resources to try and change that. Instead of fighting for claims on existing islands or arguing about how far their sovereignty should extend, they simply decided to build new islands. "The islands are too small to support large military units but will enable sustained Chinese air and sea patrols of the area. The United States has reported spotting Chinese mobile artillery vehicles in the region, and the islands could allow China to exercise more control over fishing in the region." The NY Times has a fascinating piece showing clear satellite imagery of the new islands, illustrating how a fleet a dredgers have dumped enormous amounts of sand on top of existing reefs. "Several reefs have been destroyed outright to serve as a foundation for new islands, and the process also causes extensive damage to the surrounding marine ecosystem." We can also see clear evidence of airstrips, cement plants, and other structures as the islands become capable of supporting them.
China

What Federal Employees Really Need To Worry About After the Chinese Hack 123

HughPickens.com writes: Lisa Rein writes in the Washington Post that a new government review of what the Chinese hack of sensitive security clearance files of 21 million people means for national security is in — and some of the implications are quite grave. According to the Congressional Research Service, covert intelligence officers and their operations could be exposed and high-resolution fingerprints could be copied by criminals. Some suspect that the Chinese government may build a database of U.S. government employees that could help identify U.S. officials and their roles or that could help target individuals to gain access to additional systems or information. National security concerns include whether hackers could have obtained information that could help them identify clandestine and covert officers and operations (PDF).

CRS says that if the fingerprints in the background investigation files are of high enough quality, "depending on whose hands the fingerprints come into, they could be used for criminal or counterintelligence purposes." Fingerprints also could be trafficked on the black market for profit — or used to blow the covers of spies and other covert and clandestine officers, the research service found. And if they're compromised, fingerprints can't be reissued like a new credit card, the report says, making "recovery from the breach more challenging for some."
vivaoporto Also points out that these same hackers are believed to be responsible for hacking United Airlines.
China

The Factory of the World - Documentary On Manufacturing In Shenzhen 34

szczys writes: This Hackaday documentary (video) looks at the changing ecosystem of manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta (Shenzhen, China) through interviews with product engineers involved with the MIT Media Lab manufacturing program, Finance professionals in Hong Kong, and notables in the Maker Industry. Worth checking out for anyone thinking of a hardware startup or just interested in how hardware gets made.
China

Chinese Consumers Can Now Buy Formerly Banned Consoles, Nationwide 39

PC Magazine reports that China has entered a new phase in its liberalization of game console sales. Restrictions amounting to a nationwide ban were loosened recently, so that manufacturers which produced (and sold) consoles in Shanghai's free trade zone were allowed to also sell their wares elsewhere in China. The newest change is to remove that geographic requirement, so Chinese buyers are expected to be able to buy whatever consoles they'd like. Games to play on those consoles, though, are a different story.