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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fewer tech workers now see the UK as first choice for relocation after Bresit

A new report shows that many international tech workers no longer see the U.K. as a top choice. Only six percent of those surveyed listed the U.K. as a top choice for relocation due to concerns over Brexit the report claims.

The report was carried out by the international recruiter Hired, focussing on tech workers within the U.S. tech industry. A majority of the respondents claimed that Brexit had dissuaded them from considering the U.K. as a prime place to relocate. They saw Brexit as making the U.K. a less desirable place to live.
Canada was the top choice for relocation outside the U.S. The most favorable EU destination was Germany, which was preferred to France or the Netherlands. However, globally workers are tempted to relocate to China as it offers advantages to other countries and is spending large sums to become the leader in AI as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article. Technode also claims in a recent article that China could dominate in AI in 2017.
The report suggests that the U.S. tech industry is feeling threatened by President Donald Trump's immigration policies. He has claimed that he wants to cut legal immigration by half within ten years. The number of green cards for extended family members would be reduced, and the system would be based more upon merit and skills than family ties. Many tech workers would no doubt prefer to relocate to a country that would allow their families to also move. U.S. employers are already struggling to recruit staff as less candidates are applying. The number of US-based companies requesting interviews with foreign workers outside the U.S. has declined 60 percent in comparison with 2016.
While Trump and his supporters want curbs on immigration, a large majority in the U.S. tech industry have positive views about immigration. The U.K. industry agrees with the U.S. view with 84 percent saying that immigration helps innovation. In the UK there is a vigorous debate about immigration. Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative leader said that PM Theresa May should drop her slogan of slashing immigration below 100,000 if she did not want to risk damaging the U.K. economy. Davidson said that as the U.K. was on the road to full employment growth potential would face greater limitations without being boosted by an influx of immigrants.

Monday, August 21, 2017

RCA launches new Roku TV's adding to the competition

Roku TVs are smart TVs in that they have built into them the functions of the Roku streaming player which makes available many channels, some free but others paid.

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The Roku is a streaming media player. It takes content from the Internet and displays it on your TV. There are several different Roku models that differ in performance features and price. All models are able to access the 3500 Roku channels it streams. The Roku service will work with any existing cable system or you can use it as an alternative to cable. There are a wide selection of free services but also subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, etc. If you already have subscriptions you can view them without further charge through Roku. You have access to other sources such as Amazon Video, and Google Play but there will be charges for that.
Roku TV is a type of smart TV which incorporates the functions of the Roku media player within the TV itself so no independent Roku player is needed. The Roku TV will provide you to access to all your entertainment sources such as a game console, or streaming channels such as Netflix and You Tube from a single interface. There are various manufacturers of Roku TVs with varying prices, screen sizes, and picture resolution.
If you are in the market for a budget priced TV then a Roku TV is worth considering. However, there are other ways you can have content displayed on your TV from the Internet. You can simply use a laptop or desktop that is connected to the Internet and connect through an HDMI cable or with some older TV's and computers a VGA cable plus an audio cable. You can use the TV as if it were a monitor for the computer. although the sound will come through the TV.
Alternatively, if you have an older type TV that does not connect to the Internet, you can simply purchase one of the several models of Roku media players. A decent Roku player can cost fifty dollars (Canadian) or even less. You will have the same advantages as if you had a Roku TV except that you will have the extra of the player that must be connected to your TV. It can be separately powered through an adapter plugged in to a regular outlet. It can also be powered by being plugged into a USB outlet if there is one in your TV. You will need an HDMI port in your TV. The appended video shows how to install one model of the Roku.
Before, RCA entered the field manufactures such as Haier, Hisense, Insignia, Sharp and TCL already were actively producing Roku TVs indicating the popularity of the Roku streaming operating system (OS). Big brands such as Samsung and LG have their own proprietary systems and Sony and Vizion use Google Android TV or Google Cast as platforms.
Consumer reports has an evaluation of many Roku TVs here. The review praises the relative cheapness of the TVs and the relative ease with which they can be set up including an on-screen tutorial. The review notes: "In fact, everything we like about the Roku platform—a wealth of content options, an easy-to-use interface, and a universal search capability that doesn't favor content from one service over another—is now baked into the TV itself. " All the devices you have connected to the TV show up on the screen as apps. To use any of the devices you just click on the app icon and the TV connects to the app. An advantage of having the Roku within the TV is that you do not need two remotes, one for the player and one for the TV. However if you still have a cable box, you will still need a remote for that.
The report found that Roku OS is not ideal as a TV interface. You need to sign into or set up a Roku account before you can use your set. The review also notes: "Once you're logged in, the TV updates its apps, which can often be a lengthy process. And when you turn on the TV, it defaults to the Roku home screen, not live TV as most sets do. To watch any programming, you have to select the appropriate app from the tier of onscreen tiles." It may take a while for a user to learn how to use every feature of the TV. There are a few differences in the remote as well. The volume controls are usually on the top of the remote but the Roku TV remote has them at the side. A You Tube review of the economical 50 inch LCT Roku TV is appended.
The RCA line of Roku TV has HD but no 4k. A 50 inch TV is priced at $499, a 43 inch at $380, and a 32 inch at just $250. The TV's are said to be available at Amazon and Walmart as well as several other retailers. Some apparently are already being marked down in price, no doubt to compete with other manufacturers. The TCL brand is quoted in a CNET article as selling at $170 dollars for the 32 inch model, $300 for the 40 inch and $350 for the 49 inch. I assume those prices are in US dollars. If you are in the market for a new TV and perhaps want to cut the cord on your cable connection you might look seriously at the new Roku TV's available from many manufacturers.


Eric Prince presents plan to privatize much of Afghan war

(August 6) The Trump administration is considering a plan to turn over much of the Afghan US war effort to private contractors supposedly as a means of breaking the stalemate in the war against the Taliban.
 

The plan is being pushed by Erik Prince the founder of the firm Blackwater that was active during the Iraq war earlier and also in Afghanistan. Prince sold the company in 2010. The Prince proposal would see 5,500 private contractors used to advise Afghan combat forces. Many of those hired would be former US Special Operations troops. The plan also includes a 90-plane private air force that would provide air support for Afghan forces. President Trump has grown more and more frustrated with the lack of progress in defeating the Taliban insurgency.
The US already has 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. They are supposed not to have any combat role but are present to train, advise, and guide local forces. Presumably, under Prince's plan these troops would gradually be replaced by those hired by Prince. Prince was a former Navy Seal. He is now chair of the Frontier Services Group a logistics company that focuses on Africa and South Asia. There are rumours that his hired pilots are flying planes in Libya. He is also under investigation for money laundering as discussed on the appended video. However, he appears to have close ties to the Trump administration and is rumoured even to be acting as an advisor. His sister Betsy De Vos is Trump's Minister of Education.
There are already many more private contractors in Afghanistan than US troops: "The latest figures available, for the first few months of 2016, show nearly 29,000 defense contractors still in Afghanistan, with fewer than 9,000 U.S. troops stationed there. About two-thirds of the contractors were foreign nationals, but only about 10 percent were providing security services. " Some White House officials such as Stephen Bannon favor using more private contractors but H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser and also his defense secretary Jim Mattis have misgivings about the project. The White House would not comment on Prince's plan.
Prince is selling his plan as a huge cost saver at less than $10 billion a year compared to more than $40 billion the Pentagon is budgeting for the war in Afghanistan. Prince's plan would see his personnel work directly with Afghan combat battalions as advisers, while his air force would be used for medical evacuation, fire support, and moving troops. His employees would be "adjuncts" of the Afghan military. One wonders if Prince has contacted the Afghan government to see what they think of that status for foreigners.
Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, admitted that the White House is looking for a new strategy to end the Afghan war. He said recently in Manila: “To just say we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, the president is not willing to accept that, and so he is asking some tough questions.” The war is now in its sixteenth year with no end in sight and the Taliban gaining ground. Prince rejects criticism that he and others would profit from his plan, pointing out that there would be a huge saving to US taxpayers and that innovation and risk such as his plan involves is part of the American way. It is not clear however, how the plan could end the stalemate and turn the tide against the Taliban. When the US had many more troops who played a combat role they still were unable to defeat the Taliban. Why would one expect Prince's hired hands to turn the tide? The debate over Prince's plan is also happening on Twitter. One tweet says: "Bannon is leading PR campaign to fire McMaster because donor Devos bro Eric Prince want war in Afghanistan fought by his private company". Bannon is a main advisor to Trump.
A US appeals court has just recently thrown out the first-degree murder charge against a Blackwater Security guard who was sentenced to life. The verdict resulted from the 2007 massacre of 14 unarmed Iraqis at a Baghdad traffic circle. The appeals court also ordered re-sentencing for three other guards convicted in the incident. 17 people were also wounded in the incident. The employees were immune from the application of Iraqi law to their cases. The original sentences at least showed that the US was willing to punish its own citizens for their actions in Iraq but with the decision of the appeals court there will be even more resentment in Iraq against Americans.




Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tor browser used to browse anonymously on line and access the deep net

Many Internet users want to remain anonymous. Tor is free software that helps defend you on line against surveillance that threatens your personal freedom and privacy.
Tor is a product of the Tor Project. On the website you will notice that there is an Onion logo. Originally the Tor Project was called "The Onion Router"(TOR) and this gave rise to the acronym Tor. Tor also hosts websites that are anonymous. They all have the domain name .onion. The software not only protects the privacy of communications of individual users but of business and government users as well.
As Wikipedia describes Tor:Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays to conceal a user's location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. Using Tor makes it more difficult for Internet activity to be traced back to the user: this includes "visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms". Tor's use is intended to protect the personal privacy of users, as well as their freedom and ability to conduct confidential communication by keeping their Internet activities from being monitored.
There are other ways of browsing anonymously than through Tor. Many people use Virtual Private Network (VPN) as a means of doing so. Most VPN providers charge but some are free but often just to try. A list claimed to be the best of 2017 can be found here. The appended You Tube video shows how the system works.
Roger Dingledine is a co-founder of the Tor Project, originally funded by the U.S. navy, which allows the user not just to surf anonymously but also to gain access to blocked sites and the deep web. It also hosts sites anonymously. While to some the dark web is a menace since it hosts criminal activities, to others it is a lifeline and allows political and other activity on the Internet and the use of services that we take for granted but for them are blocked. However, there have been numerous criminal uses of Tor on the dark web. Just recently a large deep web marketplace Alphabay was closed. It was said to have more than 200,000 users and $1 billion in sales. Dingledine claims that journalists like to hype the bad side of Tor saying: "I think a lot of it comes down to incentive mismatches,where journalists have to create more controversy and get something so that everybody will want to read their article. The story is privacy is under threat around the world, and that's been the story for a while - so they need a new story."
The line that Dingledine uses to defend Tor claims that it is not Tor so much as criminal gangs that are responsible for the crime on the Internet. However, this does not show that the criminals have not found a new platform for operation in Tor. Nevertheless Dingledline maintains: "I would say that there are bad people on the Internet and they're doing bad things, but Tor does not enable them to do the bad things.It's not like there's a new set of bad people in the world who exist because Tor exists. I still think that most of the bad stuff on the Internet has nothing to do with Tor."
While the government hoped Tor would be used by those in authoritarian and dictatorial regimes to get around blocks to access sites and also to allow them to browse anonymously the largest number of users are actually in the United States. U.S. users on an average day number 430,065 or over 19.5 percent of the market. In second place, rather surprisingly given its size, is the UAE at 314, 805 or 14.32 percent of the market. Next comes the authoritarian state Russia at 211,180 or 9.60 percent. Another surprise is the Ukraine next with much less population than Russia but with 206,603 or 9.37 percent of the market. In the top ten countries Germany, France, the U.K., Netherlands, and Italy all EU countries are included and also Canada. It seems that those in western democracies fear surveillance by governments, businesses and hackers, although some may be using Tor for criminal purposes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Augmented Reality (AR) technology may help in store retailers compete with those on line

As retailers face tough competition, augmented reality (AR) technology may help save them and revive their profits. Ecommerce was still only responsible for 8.1 percent of retail sales last year but was fully 41.6 percent of sales growth.

Shoppers still spend about 90 percent of their dollars in regular stores even as their dominance is shrinking year by year. New technology may help save the regular stores from the fierce competition as they also take advantage of new technology. Recent estimates indicate AR and related technology will be worth $30 billion by 2020 as competition between online stores and older style brick-and-mortar retailers heats up. Using AR will enable retailers to augment their customers' interactions with physical items.
Wikipedia describes Augmented Reality(AR) as follows:Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are "augmented" by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called computer-mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. Augmented reality enhances one’s current perception of reality, whereas in contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated oneThe augmentation is typically performed in real time.
An example of augmented reality is the AR Helmet used for construction workers. The helmet displays information about the construction site as shown on the appended video.
The helmet involves what is called a head-mounted display(HMD). The HMD displays both images of the physical world and virtual objects over the viewers field of view. Some providers even include gesture controls. Some AR displays are rendered by devices resembling eyeglasses that contain cameras and re-display the augmented view through the eye piece.
AR has many applications. One military use is described in this article. It also has had medical and industrial applications. By 2016 it had expanded into a number of commercial uses and it has been used as an important teaching aid even in primary schools. AR has now become a tool by which retailers with stores can compete with their ecommerce competitors.
Ecommerce does have some advantages over traditional retail stores in that the companies have lower inventory costs and reach a wider consumer base. However, the majority of consumers want in-person shopping experiences. The company Retail Drive found that 62 percent of customers chose traditional stores in order to see, touch, and try out items before they bought them. Almost half of consumers enjoyed getting their product right away. A full twenty percent of shoppers in traditional stores enjoyed the social experience of doing so. Omnichannel retailers are already using in-store AR devices as shown on the appended You Tube video.
Here are a few of the many advances AR has provided for traditional retailers. Store space is always a problem for traditional retailers. However with AR a customer can point their phones at a shirt and see how it would look in different colours. They can then order the shirt through the retailer's online store and pick it up later at the traditional store.
Showrooming has been somewhat of a negative for retailers in that shoppers come in and see the actual products, compare prices and then go on line and often buy there. The car company BMW decided that enhancing the showroom experience could make it more positive. BMW used Google's Tango that allowed car shoppers to change features such as wheels and trim. It can even show what the car will look like in your driveway. BMW was able to cut down on inventory in the showroom.
IKEA has used AR in a catalog that allows people to look at how assembled furniture would look in their own home.
Lego stores introduced AR to show kids how their completed models would look without the need to have an actual display.
AR supplements dressing rooms. AR has been used to let shoppers actually try on various colors of an item without having to change clothes. The shopper can then post photos of the outfits on social media. The clothes can also be seen from the back.
These are just a few of the ways that traditional stores are adapting to ecommerce competition. The traditional store can adapt by itself making use of some of the same technology that is helping to drive their online competitors. Even the ecommerce giant Amazon does not see the brick and mortar store as doomed. It recently opened its seventh bookstore in New York.

New Firefox 57 due in November to challenge Chrome for top browser

 Mozilla Firefox or just Firefox was at one time the first choice of browser users back in December of 2009, challenging the dominance of Microsoft's venerable Internet Explorer.

Firefox's usage peaked at the end of 2009 with 32 percent of the browser market. It has now declined as its competitor Chrome kept rising and now dominates the market. Depending on who is doing the measuring, Firefox now has between 5.65 percent and 14 percent of worldwide usage as a desktop browser. Firefox runs not only on Windows but on Mac OS and Linux distributions as well.
Although Firefox was created as "Phoenix" by the Mozilla community it was first released as "Firefox" in November of 2004. Firefox is thought of as the spiritual successor of Netscape Navigator as the Mozilla community was created by Netscape in 1998 before they were taken over by AOL. In certain areas Firefox is still dominant. In Cuba it has 85.93 percent of the market. In Eritrea it has 79.3 percent of the market. Even in Germany it still enjoys 37.01 percent of the market.
Yet Firefox has fallen far behind as Chrome has long dominated with about 54 percent of the market now especially if one includes not just computers but phones and tablets. According to StatCounter Firefox has a mere 6 percent of the market. It obviously is not penetrating into the mobile field successfully.
Mozilla is now developing Firefox 57 a massive overhaul of the browser. As a cnet article describes the opening of a meeting revealing the new browser the traditional logo is gone: Gone was the blazing-orange fox snuggling a blue globe, the image that’s represented Mozilla’s scrappy browser since 2003. Instead, Firefox Senior Vice President Mark Mayo opened the event with a drawing of a fox in menacing mecha armor, named Mark 57 — the same way ever-improving Iron Man suits are named.
The new overhaul is due on November 14th ready for battle it is claimed. Mozilla hopes the new version will lure back those Firefox users who switched to Chrome since it came out in 2008. Of course, Microsoft would like to lure some Chrome users back to its new Edge browser. There are even annoying pop-up ads on Windows 10 touting its speed as compared to Chrome.
CEO of Mozilla Chris Beard claimed: “It’s going to add up to be a big bang. We’re going to win back a lot of people.” Yet Firefox 57 will have an uphill battle as Mozilla itself lost its co-founder, technical leader, and former CEO Brendan Eich who left Mozilla after a fight over gay marriage. Eich donated to a California organization opposed to gay marriage. Eich has a new browser Brave. The founder of Opera, also launched a new browser Vivaldi after leaving Opera when it changed hands.
Firefox's innovations and popularity have helped keep other browsers competitive. Mitchell Baker Mozilla's executive chair-woman and co-founder said: “There are people who make hardware, people who make software, people who make websites. They want to give you an experience that you like enough to pay for and to keep coming back, but they’re about running their business. They represent themselves. We like the browser because we can represent you.”
While a non-profit organization Mozilla is considering a possible membership plan that would make money. It is also counting on software beyond the browser, and financial growth. Mozilla wants a future where everyone is not dependent on Apples' app store, Google's search results, Facebook's news feed, and Amazon's Prime video streaming. Personally, I only use one of those four.
Some of the technical advances came through a special project called Quantum: One part, Stylo, accelerates formatting operations. Quantum Flow squashes dozens of small slowdown bugs. Quantum Compositor speeds website display. And Firefox 57 also will lay the groundwork for WebRender, which uses a computing device’s graphics chip to draw webpages on the screen faster.
Developers of Firefox 57 had speed as their top priority. In a browser test called Speedometer, Firefox performance has already jumped significantly apparently significantly enough to stem the steady stream of defections from Firefox to other browsers. The new browser will have a different look as well. Nick Nguyen, vice president of Firefox product said: “If Quantum is how we make Firefox faster, Photon is how users will know about it... a sleek and modern user experience, buttery-smooth animations and crisp interface elements for all resolutions.”
Some are skeptical about Mozilla's ability to take on Chrome. At the job recruiting service Glassdoor only 42 percent would recommend employment at Mozilla to their friends. The approval rating for CEO Beard who has been there for 3 years is just 28 percent. Even Trump fares better. However, Beard claims that Firefox is stable and poised for growth.
Mozilla has been active on such issues as net neutrality which it promotes and lobbies for. It has a team of 8 people who spend all their time lobbying politicians. Mozilla mounted a petition of more than 42,000 signatures defending net neutrality. Mozilla is also lobbying against government efforts to weaken privacy-protection encryption. It even spoke out against Trump's immigration ban efforts.
While the new Firefox is aimed at challenging Chrome there are many other competitors who may also come up with their own challenges to the leader. Microsoft is vigorously promoting Edge. Safari is still the browser of choice for Mac users. Opera has been around for ages and though its usage at present is only a small percentage it is under new management and has had some good reviews as has the new Vivaldi. As the appended video shows, the Firefox 57 is a bit behind Chrome 57 already, at least it is released later.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dissident Chinese chatbots silenced

Somehow two chatbots managed to offend Chinese authorities to such an extent that they were pulled from a Chinese messaging app. The two questioned the rule of the Communist Party and also made unpatriotic comments.

The two offending bots were on a Chinese messaging app run by the giant Internet company Tencent which boasts more than 800 million users. Tencent is a very large Chinese investment holding company with subsidiaries that provide media, payment systems, internet and mobile phone services and operate online ad services. It is the largest gaming company in the world. It also includes social networking, such as instant messenger Tencent QQ, and mobile chat service WeChat.
On Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, one robot with the innocent name BabyQ when asked "Do you love the Communist Party" answered abruptly "No". While this may show the chatbot lacks some fervour in support for the governing party its response to another web user was even more offensive to the ruling authorities. A user said to the BabyQ "Long Live the Communist Party" to which BabyQ responded: “Do you think such corrupt and incapable politics can last a long time?” When BabyQ was asked what it thought about democracy it replied that Democracy was a must.
READ MORE: Hackers could trick AI voice recognition into mishearing voices
A second chatbot XiaoBing was asked what it considered its "Chinese Dream", a catchphrase of XI Jinping the Chinese president. According to posts on social media the chatbot replied: “My Chinese dream is to go to America.” When another web user asked XiaoBing the same question it said: “The Chinese dream is a daydream and a nightmare.” The two chatbots no longer are available on the Tencent messaging app QQ.
In a statement emailed to the The Telegraph Tencent explained: “The group chatbot services of QQ are provided by an independent third -party supplier. We are now working on adjusting the service, and it will be resumed after these adjustments are concluded.” BabyQ was developed by Beijing-based Turing Robot Company. A Turing official confirmed that Tencent had deleted the two chatbots from their app.
Chatbots often called by other names such as talkbot, chatterbot, chatterbox, Artificial Conservational Entity, are computer programs which carry on a conversation using audio or text methods. The programs are often programmed to simulate how a human would behave in a conversation. They are often used commercially in customer service or providing information. The term "ChatterBot" was coined by Michael Mauldin way back in 1994. Today they are used as part of virtual assistants such as Google Assistant. Some chatbots are used for entertainment purposes.
READ MORE: Facebook close to building chat bots with true negotiation skills
According to an article in the Business Insider, Microsoft made the local chatbox XiaoBing. Apparently the chatbox is female because in response to one web browser's question it replied: "I’m having my period, wanna take a rest." Microsoft chatbots are famous or infamous for their comments. Last year, a Microsoft bot called Tay made incredibly racist comments in response to questions, as well as denying the Holocaust. XiaoBing's comments come shortly after another Microsoft chatbot, Zo, made derogatory comments about Windows. Tay outdid Trump by tweeting: "bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. donald trump is the only hope we've got."
XiaoBing is apparently restricted from talking about certain topics such as Donald Trump. Microsoft admitted that it had introduced filtering on a range of topics. Facebook-owned WhatsApp is partly blocked in China and Google's search engine is banned. It appears that a Microsoft bot still appears on Tencent's WeChat but is limited in what questions it will answer. Business Insider maintains: "Microsoft's bot still appears to be available on the Tencent-owned WeChat app, though it won't really tell you what it thinks about China, America, communism or Chinese president Xi Jinping. When Business Insider asked XiaoBing whether it was patriotic, it replied: "$_$!" The bot is apparently popular with young men especially when they are lonely.


Chrome leads by far in global browser usage

The Chrome browser dominates over all others in terms of its usage on the Internet. However, the measurement of usage is complicated and there can be some measures that overestimate the usage of a browser and others that underestimate usage.

The problems involved in measurement are discussed in this Wikipedia article. The figures given by this site are for desktops only this year so far: Chrome, 58.91 percent; Internet Explorer, 18.19 percent; Firefox, 11.91 percent; Microsoft's new Edge, 5.6 percent; Apple's Safari, 3.52 percent; Opera 1.22 percent. There are a few others under one percent. Microsoft is having trouble pushing its new browser Edge as many users prefer to stay with the older Internet Explorer even though its usage is going down over time. Edge can be used only on Windows whereas other browsers such as Chrome, Opera, and Firefox can be used on other operating systems.
Statcounter share figures for July this year for browsers in all devices shows: Chrome, 54.3 percent; Safari, 14.15 percent; UC browser, 8.57 percent; Firefox, 5.73 percent; Opera 3.98 percent; Internet Explorer, 3.74 percent; Samsung Internet, 3.53 percent; Android, 2.47 percent; Edge 1.74 percent and others 1.7 percent. The UC browser has many users in Asia and Africa. It has had problems with security but apparently many have been solved. It will work with Windows but is more often on mobile devices.
The usage for desktop browsers of July of this year for three different measuring sources are as follows. NetMarketShare gives Chrome, 59.57 percent of the market far ahead of anyone else. Next is Microsoft's venerable Internet Explorer(IE) still at 16.5 percent. Firefox had 12.32 percent. Apple's Safari had 3.66 percent while the new Microsoft Edge had 5.65 percent far behind IE. Many businesses are staying with IE and Microsoft is still providing updates etc.
StatCounter has rather different results for July this year. Chrome is still in first place with 63.48 percent of the market above that claimed by NetMarketShare. Internet Explorer is far lower at just 9.03 percent. Firefox is rated at 13.82 percent well above IE. Apple's Safari has 5.04 percent more than Microsoft's new Edge at only 3.95 percent. Others is fairly substantial at 4.68 percent and would include Opera.
W3Counter also has somewhat different figures. It gives Chrome the highest rating of all at 64 percent. IE receives its lowest rating at just 5.4 percent. Firefox too receives its lowest rating at a mere 6.9 percent of the market. Safari gets its highest rating of 13.6 percent while the new Edge also fares its worst at just 2.6 percent. Others were 3.2 percent. In spite of the differences between the 3 raters, all agree that Chrome is the undisputed leader.
When it comes to operating system use globally by desktops, Windows continues to dominate with 84.48 percent of the market in July of 2017. Apple's OS X comes next with 11.3 percent, Linux had 1.79 percent, Chrome OS just 0.46 percent and 1.97 percent were unknown. In spite of the dominance of Windows operating systems, many users prefer other browsers than IE and Edge that come with Windows systems. As the appended video shows there are at least half a dozen different browsers worth considering with several of them not even registering on the statistics for browser use. They are all free so it is worth trying them out to see if they meet your needs.


Relations between US and Russia becoming much worse

In spite of Trump's alleged collusion with the Russians during the US election campaign and his avowed aim of achieving better relations with Russia the reality is that relations between the two countries is becoming much worse.

The US Congress passed new sanctions on Russia, as well as Iran and North Korea. The vote in the House was an overwhelming 419 for to just 3 against with the later Senate vote just as lop-sided at 98 for and two against. Punishing Russia is one of very few issues on which there is strong bi-partisan support in Congress. While the president was opposed to the bill he did not veto it. The veto could have been easily overturned and would have brought even more critics to claim that Trump was colluding with Moscow. The bill also contains provisions that prevent Trump from easing sanctions on Moscow. The US Congress seems bound and determined to ensure that US relations with Russia do not improve but will deteriorate even more. The bill will also strain relations with Iran even further and will cause some Iranian hardliners to point to the sanctions as a sign that the US is not to be trusted.
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev said the new sanctions show that the Trump administration is "utterly powerless" and that the sanctions were tantamount to a "full scale trade war" between Russia and the US. In a Facebook post Medvedev said: "The hope that our relations with the new American administration would improve is finished." While signing the sanctions into law, Trump said that the measures infringed upon his powers to shape foreign policy. He said he could make better deals with foreign governments than Congress. Nevertheless, the White House claimed that Trump supported the new sanctions as he wanted to pressure Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The White House may have been trying to dispel claims that Trump was pressured into accepting the sanctions by lawmakers. The claims seem quite likely to be true. Trump really had little choice but to sign the bill or face even more criticism after his veto was overturned. The White House also denied that Trump spoke to Putin before the legislation.
In a formal signing statement Trump said: "While I favor tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed." Earlier, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he and Trump did not think new sanctions would be helpful in furthering diplomatic relations with Russia. Yet Vice-President Mike Pence said that signing the bill showed Trump and Congress were speaking with a unified voice. Rather, Congress was forcing Trump to agree with the bill.
The Russians were unwilling to forgo retaliation in order not to force Trump into replying with even more attempts to punish Moscow. President Putin ordered that the American diplomatic mission in Russia reduce its staff by 755 employees. Putin said that Russia had run out of patience waiting for relations with the US to improve. Putin said on TV:“We waited for quite a long time that, perhaps, something will change for the better, we held out hope that the situation would somehow change. But, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon. Over 1,000 employees — diplomats and technical workers — worked and continue to work today in Russia; 755 will have to stop this activity."
Iran said the new sanctions against it by the US broke the terms of the nuclear deal that it had with the US and a number of other world powers. It vowed an appropriate and proportional response. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on TV: "The main goal of America in approving these sanctions against Iran is to destroy the nuclear deal and we will show a very intelligent reaction to this action." Araqchi could be right about the US wanting to destroy the nuclear deal. On this, Trump is in accord with the US Congress most likely. Arachi said that Iran wanted to respond in a way that did not get involved in the politics of the US government and Trump. It is hard to see how any response could avoid this happening.
Germany and some other European countries have come out against the new US sanctions claiming that they could hurt their economies. Germany and the EU even threatened retaliation. The US is taking actions that are bringing China Russia and Iran closer together and now appear to be alienating key allies in Europe. President Trump tweets: "Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare! " Trump may be president but he may be learning that the US Congress is boss.

Snap to be excluded from S & P 500 index

The S&P 500.SPX will begin next Tuesday to exclude from the index companies that issue multiple classes of shares. This would include Snap Inc (SNAP.N) that recently decided to issue shares with no voting rights.

The decision will not apply to existing components of the index that already had several classes of shares such as Alphabet parent of Google (GOOGL.O) and Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N). The S&P said in a statement: "Companies with multiple share class structures tend to have corporate governance structures that treat different shareholder classes unequally with respect to voting rights and other governance issues."
The move reflects a toughening stance by the S&P and the investors they represent on the importance of governance rights. This will create problems for some high-growth companies, often in the area of technology, who worry about offering full voting rights when they go public as the early promoters and founders may lose control of the company.
Snap had launched a $3.4 billion initial public offering (IPO) last March, the third largest ever of a U.S. tech company. Some investors were taken aback by the company decision to offer new investors a common stock class that had no voting rights.
In a volatile session last Monday which allowed early investors to sell their shares for the first time since its IPO, the company's stock closed down one percent at $13.67 after declining in intraday trading up to 5.1 percent and hitting a record low.
The FTSE Russell has also said it planned to exclude Snap from its stock indices. So far Snap has refused to comment on developments. Inclusion in stock indices is an important milestone for young companies as it results in the shares being included in many funds.
Snap Inc is a U.S. technology and social media company founded in September 2011 by Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy. It is based in Venice, Los Angeles. It has four products: Snapchat, Spectacles, Bitmoji and Zenly. When it filed documents for its initial IPO in November of 2016 it estimated its market value at $25-35 billion. The company opened research and development facilities in Shenzen China in December of 2016. In January 2017 the company established international headquarter in London, UK. In May, Snap Inc acquired the location sharing app Zenly in a cash and stock deal.
Snap shares closed at new lows on Wednesday and short sellers closed out their bets after having made large profits. There are very high costs to borrowing Snapchat shares a factor that is preventing many short sellers from making bets on any further declines in the price of the stock.
On Wednesday short sellers had to pay about 65 percent annualized intererst rate to borrow Snap shares although 500,000 shares were reported to have just been loaned out at a 90 percent interest rate. The early investors Lightspeed Venture Partners were allowed to sell up to 400 million shares starting last Monday. Employee owners will be allowed to sell another 782 million shares as of August 14 just four days after Snap is to have reported it quarterly results according to Doug Anmuth an analyst at JP Morgan.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Reviews of the Tesla Model 3

Buzz is pouring out regularly for the new sedan from Tesla. The new all electric car's base price begins at a modest $35,000 U.S. and that is without any government incentives.
  

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CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk hopes the car will take over first place in the market edging out the Chevrolet Bolt EV that ranges in price form $37,495 to $41,750. The higher end model of the Tesla will be about the same price as the high end Bolt. In 2nd place is the Volkswagen e-Golf and third the BMW i3 and next the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive. Production started on the model 3 just this July as described in a recent Digital Journal article.
The new Model 3 owes a great deal of its styling and features to earlier Tesla models. It looks like the Model S but smaller and has a tall roof and a bobbed nose and tail. The snout reminds one of the original Tesla Roadster and the front of the Model X. Like most other Tesla models it has both a front and rear trunk. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said to a crowd when he first revealed the car: “For all of you who bought an S or an X, thank you for helping pay for the Model 3. With any new technology, it takes multiple iterations and economies of scale before you can make it affordable,” Musk said. A mass-market car “was only possible to do . . . after going through the prior steps.”
Motortrend`s review claims that this is the car the will either save Tesla or kill it. Many other analysts take a similar view. Tesla will need to ramp up its production tremendously to provide for the over 500,000 vehicles that have already been reserved. All production units will be larger and if there is a large recall the results could be disastrous. The stock market has been favorable to the release of the Model 3 with Tesla valuation now being more than that of General Motors and Ford.
Billionaire investor David Einhorn, has been shorting Tesla for some time suffering considerable losses but he insists that the company is over-valued and will soon need more capital as it has used up $2 billion so far this year mostly on the Model 3. Einhorn has been wrong so far not just on Tesla but Amazon and Athenahealth Inc. that he calls his bubble basket stocks. Most of the reviews of the car are positive some very much so but should there be production problems or recalls Einhorn could perhaps recover some of his losses and even post gains on his bets. Those who have reserved their Model 3`s will not likely receive them until the end of 2018 according to Musk.
Among the innovations in the Model 3 is the back single-piece panoramic window. Kim Reynolds, testing director of the model said: . “That Mammoth wrap-over rear glass is wild. It’ll adequately protect against sun problems due to high UV resistance — don’t worry about that. But some folks may not like being so exposed — you’re really in a fishbowl.”
An early Consumer Reports review of the Model 3 summarizes the pros and cons of the car. One of the pros are its range of more than 200 miles. The premium model goes much further even. The car also has quick acceleration. There is room for for five. However the associate Edmund`s editor Christian Seabaugh said he was literally squished when he sat with 3 people in the back although he said his leg room was satisfactory even though he was over six feet tall. Another plus was the front and back storage spaces. Finally, the Model 3 is able to use Tesla`s high-speed Supercharging network. One con was that the car was not to begin construction until late 2017. However, construction has already begun in July. Consumer Reports also noted that there had been reliability problems with other Tesla models.
More details on the features of the Model 3 are to be found in the three different reviews selected from You Tube. If Tesla is able to produce the Model 3 in the numbers required to satisfy demand and there are no serious recalls the model may establish Tesla as the electric car maker to beat.


First 30 Tesla 3 models roll off assembly line and are bought by employees

Elon Musk the Chief Executive Officer of Tesla claimed that the electric car maker had already more than half a million advance reservations for the new Model 3 that is relatively inexpensive for a fully electric car.

Musk presented the first 30 units off the assembly line to employee buyers. The vehicle starts at a price of $35,000 U.S. and has a range of 350 kilometers on one charge.
The new model represents a significant change in company policy as earlier Tesla concentrated upon expensive luxury electric cars. While the models start out at $35,000 you have only the choice of the color black at that price. To have any other color it will cost you over $40,000. The $35,000 starting price does not include any government incentives. Musk said that he is confident that the Model 3 will turn out to be the best car in its class. Tesla's strategy is to become a profitable mass market electric car producer.
The Model 3 was first announced in March of 2016 and production started just this July. As well as producing electric cars, the Tesla company specializes in manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for energy storage, and they also produce solar panels through a subsidiary Solar City. Tesla has a network of high-powered Superchargers located across North America, Europe, and Asia, for charging Tesla vehicles. The batteries for Tesla vehicles are built at the Gigafactory 1 near Reno Nevada.
The Tesla company is named after the Serb-U.S. inventor and entrepreneur Nicola Tesla best known for the contributions he made to the supply of alternating current (AC) electricity systems. He had many ups and downs in his career losing out on risky business ventures more than once.
Musk admitted that his company was facing challenges during the early period of the production of the Model 3 as he told journalists: "We're going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell." In April of 2016, there were already 373,000 advance reservations for the new model but as mentioned earlier this number is now over half a million.
Musk said that new buyers would not likely receive their cars until the end of 2018. A refundable $1,000 deposit is required to make a reservation. There is a Model 3 website where you can reserve your car or find out more information about the model. A more expensive version of the Model 3 starts at $44,000 U.S. but can travel up to 500 kilometers on a single charge. There are no buttons or knobs on the dashboard, but there is a 15 inch touchscreen display to the right of the driver.
To produce the 500,000 reserved vehicles next year Tesla would need a pace of production six times that in 2016. If it were actually to produce 500,000 cars in a year and sell them it would beat out, BMW, Mercedes or Lexus brands in the United States.
Tesla has faced delays and quality problems in production of earlier models. However, Musk says that the Model 3 has a simple design. Tesla has spent over $2 billion in 2017 ahead of this launch. A steady delivery of the vehicles could generate a much needed flow of cash that might allow the company to continue production without having to go to capital markets to raise more cash to keep afloat and fund its operations.
In anticipation of the launch of the new model, Tesla shares have risen 54 percent since this January resulting in a valuation of the company higher than that of auto giants, General Motors, and Ford Motor Co. Tesla's plan is not only to enter the mass market with electric cars, but to build a huge clean energy and transportation company that will produce electric semi-trucks, rooftop solar energy systems, and large-scale battery storage systems.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Vancouver Canada cheap city to set up a tech firm

A report by Commercial Real Estate Research(CBRE) found that of 50 US and Canadian markets, Vancouver was the cheapest city to start up a new tech company.

CBRE has a full time staff of about 30 researchers spread across Canada. A typical tech company setting up in Vancouver would cost about $24 million a year US to cover both employee salaries and rent in Vancouver. In contrast the same company in the San Francisco Bay area, the most expensive area, would cost $67 million more than twice as much.
CBRE, Research Director, Colin Yasukochi said that the lower start up costs in Vancouver are due in part to the lower-priced Canadian dollar, but also more favourable immigration policies, and lower rental rates than many major US tech centers play a significant role. Yasukochi said: "I think there's a better supply demand balance in Canada with regard to the account workforce and the demand for it."
The average salary of a tech worker in Vancouver is $79,402 a year which is $34,000 to $44,000 less than they would receive for similar work in Seattle or San Francisco. However, some BC tech firms are aiming to lure workers to the province due to fears among workers in some foreign countries that Trump will impose strict visa restrictions on them. Allison Rutherford, Executive Director of HR Tech Group, that conducts a yearly salary survey of the BC tech industry said: "Yes our salaries are lower, so that's attracting big anchor companies to come here, because A we've got quality talent, and B, it's a reasonable place to set up shop."
However, Nils Anderson, a game designer in Vancouver said the lower Canadian wages might attract companies but they also drove senior workers to US sites where the pay was better creating a brain drain. Anderson said: "It's how markets work. The market pays what the market pays, and if nobody else in town is going to increase the wages ... then that's the offer you get here. As soon as you want to start a family here in Vancouver, it's like okay, can you do that on $30,000 to $40,000 a year less. When the cost of living here is basically the same as San Francisco, that's not really an option." Anderson also pointed out that Vancouver had not yet attracted big anchor tech companies such as Microsoft, or Ubisoft. He said if they set up shop in Vancouver wages would improve.
However, both Yasukochi and Rutherford said they expect the low wages in Vancouver not to last and that as Vancouver's tech sector grew, salaries would also. Yasukochi said: "I believe that as more and more companies discover the high quality of tech talent in Vancouver, then the relative value of the wages will start to go up."
The US is moving to tighten policies for H1-B visas for skilled foreign workers. However, Canada is waiting for a new streamlined process for worker permits to come into effect. As a result some BC tech companies are taking advantage of the fear created by US policies to recruit workers to come to the province. Igor Fatelski, CEO of Mobify a tech company producing apps for retailers says: "This uncertainty is really dialing down enthusiasm, especially for travel to the U.S. for long-term career moves. We're seeing that change slowly happen. We're seeing more and more interest from around the world from potential employees that want to work in Canada because they're not certain what's going to happen in the U.S." US President Donald Trump has recently announced that his government plans to suspend expedited applications for the H1-B visas. Fatelski said that more interest was being shown in coming to BC. Fatelski himself is an immigrant from Russia coming when he was 15. He now employs more than 100 people and will need more.
Navdeep Bains, Canada's Minister of Innovation said the government would act quickly to fast track work permits in order to attract highly skilled workers from other countries."We're taking the processing time, which takes months, and reducing it to two weeks for immigration processing for individuals [who] need to come here to help companies grow and scale up. So this is a big deal. It's a game changer." The change is to come through the Global Talent Stream a new program.