Воскресенье, 11 февраля 2018 20:08

Asus becomes the latest brand to be a notch follower with the ZenFone 5

Apple’s decision to make a notch on the iPhone X had its valid reasons. However, what many Android OEMs are doing following Apple’s lead is both needless and looking ugly from my point of view. There, I said it. There’s no need to go around putting a notch on your flagship devices just because Apple did. To top it, these OEMs don’t want to get rid of the bottom bezel, one of the reasons for the notch to exist. Even then, Asus has become the latest company to adopt the herd mentality.

 

New renders of the ZenFone 5 have surfaced that clearly show the notch on the flagship device. The design isn’t much different from the Huawei P series that has leaked in its entirety. Besides that, what is visible is the dual camera on the back, fingerprint reader, USB Type C as well. The leak comes from a reputed source and we have all reason to say this is authentic. There isn’t much to go about the spec sheet here. But we’ll get to know them soon.

 

Besides the ZenFone 5 which will house flagship hardware, the ZenFone 5 Lite has also leaked in the past sporting a different design than its premium counterpart. The ZenFone 5 family that usually has more than 3 variants will be launched at the MWC 2018.

 

Воскресенье, 11 февраля 2018 20:04

OWWO X Doesn’t Sport A Full-Screen Design Like iPhone X

In the era of full-screen smartphones, each and every manufacturer is trying to come in with smartphone looking like the top branded models. Honestly, the market is full of various models copying the succeeded design of the iPhone X, Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, and other bezel-less smartphones. But what surprised us more was the OWWO X announced a few days back. Though this brand is not known to larger masses, we have been thinking with the launch of this model it could gain some popularity. Alas, it’s fake. Almost everything in this handset is fake. Let’s find out what a great marketing move they made, and what a poor device they came with.

 

The OWWO X was said to sport a 5.7-inch full-screen with an aspect ratio of 18:9. Moreover, its design was identical to the iPhone X. So we have been thinking the manufacturer decided not to spend money on a new design and just copied what is already popular. Well, this is a common practice for many non-first-tier China-based smartphone vendors. Alas, the OWWO X doesn’t come with a full-screen design. As you can see in the photos above and below, there are two wide frames on the forehead and chin. So we should state this handset comes with a regular 16:9 screen.

 

Apart from this, the OWWO X has been promoted as a smartphone running on a deca-core 64bit processor, dual-camera with a 16MP Sony sensor, 3+32GB of memory combination, and Android 7.0 with a few AI elements. We still didn’t get our hands on it, but once we do it’ll become known the number of its CPU cores as well.

 

The OWWO X is priced at 1499 yuan ($238), which sounds unattractive for a mid-range iPhone X clone with a few fake features, doesn’t it?

 

Воскресенье, 11 февраля 2018 20:01

Sony Xperia XZ2 Pro Leaked on A HTML Benchmark Screenshot

Earlier we have seen some news concerning the Sony Xperia XZ2 disclosed by Irish carriers. So there was every reason to think this flagship will be uncovered at MWC 2018 later this month in Barcelona, Spain. But today another spotted screenshot makes us think there will be one more premium flagship along with the mentioned handset. And the upcoming phone is the Sony Xperia XZ2 Pro, which is considered to be the world’s first 4K OLED screen smartphone.

 

According to a leaked HTML benchmark test screenshot, a mysterious phone codenamed as the Sony H1866 is the Sony Xperia XZ2 Pro. The latter is said to sport an 18:9 aspect ratio display with a whopping 4K resolution. And as we have heard the next Sony flagship will be using OLED display, we think this is the case. Apart from this, the benchmark screenshot shows this handset will be running on Android 8.1.

 

We have heard there is a Sony smartphone in works that should come with a 4K screen resolution. But all rumors were about a device relatively named the Sony Xperia XZ Pro. So this test screenshot not only confirms its existence but also reveals its name.

 

So as there is no doubt the Sony Xperia XZ2 Pro will be unleashed at MWC 2018 and it will be the industry’s first 4K OLED screen phone, let’s collect all the rumors into one place. According to them, the phone’s display will be supplied by LG, which is quite reasonable. LG is a leading manufacturer in this niche, and almost all innovations concerning displays come from it. Other than that, the Xperia XZ2 Pro will be packed with a Snapdragon 845 chip, 6+64GB of memory combination, and a 12MP dual-camera. It should also cancel the 3.5mm audio jack, and support wireless charging.

Воскресенье, 11 февраля 2018 19:57

VLC 3.0 brings Chromecast support and many others new features

Popular jack-of-all-codecs app VLC Media Player has received a big update to version 3.0 and it packs lots of new features.

 

Codenamed ‘Vetinari’, major additions in this version include support for Chromecast, 10-bit HDR video, hardware decoding for 4K and 8K video, and support for Blu-Ray Java. Version 3.0 is also the first VLC version to sync development between its desktop and mobile ports.

 

VLC 3.0 brings Chromecast support and can stream audio and video formats to Chromecast devices. VLC can also transcode and stream media if the Chromecast receiver lacks any third-party media codec support. The feature is still in beta and is expected to improve over time. Another major addition is hardware acceleration support on all platforms.

 

VLC 3.0 enables hardware decoding using APIs native to the platform. On Windows, this means HEVC decoding using DXVA2 and D3D11, while on Android, HEVC decoding is done using OMX and MediaCodec. On OS X and iOS devices, the program uses a new hardware decoded based on Video Toolbox. This also brings HDR10 support, deinterlacing, and chroma upscaling using Direct3D 11 in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Direct3D 11 output also works on Windows RT, Windows Phone, and Windows 10 Mobile. Android video outputs have also been significantly worked upon and the app now supports Oreo’s Picture-in-Picture mode.

 

VLC for Android now supports Android platforms such as Samsung DeX, Chromebooks, and Android Auto. Media files can be dropped on to the VLC icon from other applications and right-clicking the program will open the context menu. On Android Auto, VLC can be controlled by a simple UI or even by voice. By just saying ‘play [artist/album/song] with VLC’ Google Assistant can recognize the album, artist, or song name and play it using VLC. Also, on Android, VLC now features improved permission access management and allows media deletion on internal storage in Oreo builds as well as external devices such as SD cards.

 

There are many other new features as well, such as network browsing for remote file systems, HDMI passthrough for HD audio codes like E-AC3, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD, 360 video and 3D Ambisonic audio support, and a lot more than you can chew on. This is apart from the usual bug-fixes and performance improvements.

After barring Logan Paul earlier today from serving ads on his video channel, YouTube has now announced a more formal and wider set of sanctions it’s prepared to level on any creator that starts to post videos that are harmful to viewers, others in the YouTube community, or advertisers.

 

As it has done with Paul (on two occasions now), the site said it will remove monetization options on the videos, specifically access to advertising programs. But on top of that, it’s added in a twist that will be particularly impactful given that a lot of a video’s popularity rests on it being discoverable:

 

“We may remove a channel’s eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next,” Ariel Bardin, Vice President of Product Management at YouTube, writes in a blog post.

 

The full list of steps, as outlined by YouTube:
1. Premium Monetization Programs, Promotion and Content Development Partnerships. We may remove a channel from Google Preferred and also suspend, cancel or remove a creator’s YouTube Original.
2. Monetization and Creator Support Privileges. We may suspend a channel’s ability to serve ads, ability to earn revenue and potentially remove a channel from the YouTube Partner Program, including creator support and access to our YouTube Spaces.
3. Video Recommendations. We may remove a channel’s eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next.
 

The changes are significant not just because they could really hit creators where it hurts, but because they also point to a real shift for the platform. YouTube has long been known as a home for edgy videos filled with pranks and potentially offensive content, made in the name of comedy or freedom of expression.

 

Now, the site is turning over a new leaf, using a large team of human curators and AI to track the content of what’s being posted, and in cases where videos fall afoul of YouTube’s advertising guidelines, or pose a threat to its wider community, they have a much bigger chance of falling afoul of YouTube’s rules and getting dinged.

 

“When one creator does something particularly blatant—like conducts a heinous prank where people are traumatized, promotes violence or hate toward a group, demonstrates cruelty, or sensationalizes the pain of others in an attempt to gain views or subscribers—it can cause lasting damage to the community, including viewers, creators and the outside world,” writes Bardin. “That damage can have real-world consequences not only to users, but also to other creators, leading to missed creative opportunities, lost revenue and serious harm to your livelihoods. That’s why it’s critical to ensure that the actions of a few don’t impact the 99.9 percent of you who use your channels to connect with your fans or build thriving businesses.”

 

The moves come at a time when the site is making a much more concerted effort to raise the overall quality of what is posted and shared and viewed by millions of people every day, after repeated accusations that it has facilitated a range of bad actors, from people peddling propaganda to influence elections, to those who are posting harmful contentaimed at children, to simply allowing cruel, tasteless and unusual videos to get posted in the name of comedy.

 

The issue seemed to reach a head with Paul, who posted a video in Japan in January that featured a suicide victim, and has since followed up with more questionable content presented as innocuous fun.

 

As I pointed out earlier today, even though he makes hundreds of thousands of dollars from ads (the exact amount is unknown and has only been estimated by different analytics companies) removing ads was only a partial sanction, since Paul monetizes in other ways, including merchandising. So it’s interesting to see YouTube adding more details and ways of sanctioning creators, that will hit at their very virality.

 

As in the case of Paul, YouTube stresses that the majority of creators on its platform will not be impacted by today’s announcement because their content is not on the wrong side of acceptable. These sorts of sanctions, it said, will be applied as a last resort and will often not be permanent, but will last until the creator removes or alters content. It will be worth watching how and if this impacts video content overall on the platform.

Воскресенье, 11 февраля 2018 19:45

What to expect from Samsung’s next Galaxy flagships

It’s that time of year again. Samsung is getting ready to unpack some shiny new high end smartphones at the world’s biggest mobile confab. And Android fans are getting ready to cheer.

The TechCrunch team will be on the ground at MWC in Barcelona in two weeks’ time to bring you all the news. But if you’re wondering what Sammy’s got cooking ahead of the official Galaxy unboxing, read on…

 

S9 and S9+ unpacked

While most major Android smartphone handset makers are skipping a flagship launch at MWC 2018 — perhaps feeling the pinch from shrinkage in the Chinese smartphone market — Samsung most definitely is not. Not this year.

 

The world’s biggest smartphone maker by marketshare is expected to unbox the Galaxy S9 and S9+ at the show.

 

Indeed there’s a pretty gigantic clue to that in the invitation for its pre-MWC press event — in the shape of a purple-hued number ‘9’…

 

Samsung’s timing means the S9 and its phablet-sized S9+ fellow are being outted about a month earlier than last year’s S8/S8+, when it switched to a post-MWC launch in New York.

 

Some have suggested Samsung felt the need to move up the S9’s reveal by a month after Apple skipped an iPhone digit with its fall unboxing of the iPhone X (and iPhone 8/8Plus). Although that theory doesn’t really hold water, given Samsung has debuted new Galaxy flagship(s) on the eve of the MWC conference for years — and consistently so, until 2017.

 

Last year was the anomaly. And that beat-skip can be explained by it falling behind its usual release schedule after the Note 7 recall — and the subsequent pressing need to spend time making changes to its product safety processes after having such high profile problems with, er, exploding batteries.

 

Samsung is clearly hoping to put all that mess behind it now. And how better to project a ‘business as usual’ message than by returning to its usual pre-MWC global stage for the S9 launch?

 

And things are looking pretty good for Samsung to hog the hardware limelight at MWC 2018: Huawei, its main Android phone challenger in global marketshare terms, isn’t expected to launch much, having announced its own Paris-based press event for late March.

 

While the Nokia-branded upstart HMD can’t — surely — hope to tug on the nostalgia heartstrings twice in a row and pull another retro mobile phone trick this year.

 

Camera capabilities in focus

Of course Samsung is hoping its new smartphones grab attention on their own merits. And it’s drawing explicit attention to the camera as the eye-catching upgrade here.

 

In many ways this is a curiously quaint kind of premium smartphone marketing message. And not just because of the subtle allusion to film photography in the shape of the graphic. But because of how much engineering attention has already been lavished on smartphone cameras over the past decade. And how high the premium bar has consequently gotten.

 

A truly reimagined smartphone camera would have to have real superpowers — like being able to shoot through walls. Which would also be horribly weird and disturbing. So happily no one is expecting the S9 to be able to do that.

 

Apple’s iPhone X is a better explanation for Samsung’s teaser that the S9 camera will be “reimagined”, given Cupertino’s top-of-the-range iPhone packs dedicated depth sensors for powering augmented reality experiences via the camera lens — such as face masks and animated emoji that can track facial expressions.

 

The iPhone X also features a new biometric authentication method which relies on capturing a facial biometric using the same TrueDepth camera unit.

So Samsung trying to do more with sensing hardware to chase Apple’s lead here seems probable.

 

That said, judging by leaked device images — obtained by trusted smartphone leaker Evan Blass (see below) — the S9/S9+ don’t appear to be packing any additional sensor hardware up top vs last year’s S8/S8+.

 

Last month Samsung did make some noise about its latest smartphone chipset, explicitly touting the potential for the silicon to power similar experiences to what Apple has done with the iPhone X  — writing that “through depth sensing” the chipset could be used to “scan a user’s face in 3D for hybrid face detection”. So, well, [insert thinking emoji face here].

 

Another possibility: Samsung could use an engineering workaround that combines multiple existing biometrics (i.e. the S8’s face + iris scanning systems) to try to up its game vs Apple’s FaceID. This has been rumored.

 

And that approach might make most sense for the S9, given Apple has not yet pushed the TrueDepth camera across all iPhones. Indeed, the iPhone X’s sensor-packed notch remains iPhone X only. And so do associated iOS features — like Animoji and FaceID.

 

Given that premium gating by Apple, Samsung could be spying an opportunity to build some ‘animojish’ flashy and fun camera features that work across its S9 flagships — even if its FaceID competitor isn’t yet ready for the prime time.

 

(And — a little more fuel — a Blass source claims the S9 will include a selfie mode with “animated avatars kinda like animoji”.)

 

Apple also used the opportunity of a major sensor upgrade on the iPhone X to ditch the home button and switch to a more gesture-heavy user interface on the device. Which, in some ways, is unfortunate as it has bifurcated the iPhone UI. (Something Cupertino will presumably move to unify again in future.)

 

Samsung was ahead on killing the home button, having removed the physical key on last year’s S8 to maximize screen real estate. Though it didn’t go all in on swipe-based navigation. Instead it added a virtual touch-sensitive button with haptic feedback at the bottom of its otherwise near-edge to edge display.

 

It will therefore be interesting to see whether Samsung decides to entirely remove that usability crutch on the S9. And, indeed, there have been a few rumors of a new, S9-only user interface incoming.

 

On the other hand, a major break with interface convention would really demand a more radical hardware upgrade than Samsung appears to have in the pipe here. So we wouldn’t bank on any overly sweeping interface changes landing here.

 

Look, no notch!

Blass got his hands on the above leaked images of the S9 and S9+ late last month. He’s since posted a few more (see below).

 

An immediate takeaway from looking at these is there’s no notch on the S9/S9+. The notch being the shaped sensor unit that takes an unfortunate bite out of the iPhone X’s screen.

 

Indeed, the sensor configuration on the leaked S9 images looks identical to the S8. So if Samsung is squeezing more sensing hardware into that slender space at the top of the phone it’s not obviously doing so.

 

(For the record the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera unit contains: An infrared camera; a flood illuminator; a proximity sensor; an ambient light sensor; a dot projector; and a 7MP camera, as well as housing a speaker and microphone. While the S8’s bevy of front sensors includes an SVC LED; a proximity sensor (detector) & light sensor; a proximity sensor (emitter) and Iris LED — the latter powering an iris scanning biometric feature.)

 

The visual design consistency between the S8 and the S9 heavily suggests Samsung doesn’t yet have sensing hardware to directly challenge the capabilities of the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera.

 

And the company’s own PR specifies that its aforementioned top-of-the-line chipset hardware does also need depth sensing hardware to be able to power 3D face scanning “for hybrid face detection” (which then enables “realistic face-tracking filters as well as stronger security when unlocking a device with one’s face”, as Samsung sells it).

 

So unless it’s managed to radically miniaturize the necessary depth sensing hardware on the S9, shrinking it to fit into pretty much the same S8 form factor — and at a time when it was also retooling its smartphone processes with a focus on safety concerns — then a comparable FaceID-style face-unlocking feature seems unlikely to be about to be unpacked.

 

Though Samsung may still manage to drum up a few animojish flourishes using the sensors it has been able to bake in.

 

So get ready to cue up your jokes about the S9’s ‘invisible notch’.

 

The other glaring design point of note is there isn’t really anything new in the look of the S9 vs the S8. Unless you could the fuchsia-ish shade of purple/lilac.

 

Design wise it’s essentially more of the same, curved screen edges — love ’em or hate ’em! — and all.

 

And talking of more of the same, we reckon Samsung won’t do an Apple and will keep the 3.5mm headphone jack on the S9/S9+.

 

Why? Because why look a rival’s gifthorse in the month and pointlessly squander an unexpected competitive advantage. Courage be damned.

 

Sticky fingers

Moving on, Blass also got his hands on some rear shots of the S9/S9+ and associated components — which show a fingerprint reader in a newly positioned location right underneath the rear camera(s). Which would certainly be a welcome tweak on the awkward S8 side-of-camera placing.

 

So — depending on your view — Samsung is taking a ‘cake and eat it’ biometrics approach vs Apple, which simply doesn’t offer iPhone X owners the option of using a fingerprint biometric (they can either choose to register a robust, depth-mapped facial biometric, or do without biometric authentication entirely).

 

Or Samsung is not entirely confident in the robustness of its own facial biometric authentication systems — which have previously been shown to be pretty trivially fooled. Hence retaining the fingerprint scanner is helpful because it offers an alternative option for users not comfortable with the company’s iris or face scanning systems.

 

In security terms at least, Apple appears to be making the iPhone X’s dedicated sensing hardware count. (Unless you happen to have an identical evil twin.) So Samsung keeping the fingerprint reader alive also fits with the notion of the S9 being more of a stopgappish, iterative upgrade than a major step change for its smartphone strategy.

 

On the plus side, at least these phones aren’t going to force you to face unlock if you don’t want to.

 

Blur when you want it

Another takeaway from Blass’ leaked images: The S9+ does have one very visible camera hardware difference vs the S9 — it’s packing two rear camera lenses. At long last!

 

This fits with widely reported rumors that Samsung is finally adding dual cameras to its flagship smartphones — having initially brought the hardware feature to its premium phablet, the Galaxy Note 8.

 

As with the Note 8, the S9+’s dual lenses will be used for enhanced photography depth effects — such as bokeh (where a subject gets crisply picked out against a pleasingly blurred backdrop), on account of the stereoscopic data that the two lenses can gather.

 

And for boosting low light photography — a perennial challenge for smartphone cameras, with camera sensors having to be squeezed into such small spaces.

 

On the Note 8, Samsung also uses the dual cameras for other stuff too — like a photo feature that can capture additional imagery outside the framed composition.

 

The bottom line here is it’s playing necessary catch-up. Apple introduced dual cameras to the iPhone line up back in 2016, on the iPhone 7 Plus. So Samsung definitely needs to close the gap.

 

A video version of the S9 invite which it tweeted last month emphasizes bokeh by fading out in a blur of glory. The animation also hints at a super slow-mo video capture feature — another widely reported rumor which we’re expecting will be stood up.

 

Samsung’s oddly worded claim that the S9 launch will “change how you experience everything” could be an allusion to camera-powered AR features or a hint — as has also been widely rumored — that the S9 will have a mechanically variable aperture too. (Or else, well, it’s just some horribly overreaching PR.)

 

What’s the point of a variable aperture? It allows a camera to switch between different focal lengths by controlling the amount of light entering through the lens — literally by expanding or contracting the hole through which it enters.

 

Which in turn allows for greater control over the look of photos/videos by being better able to adapt to different shooting conditions. So, again, the promise is improved smartphone photos/video, including in low light conditions.

 

But, as with all the expected features, we’re talking ‘welcome improvements’ and ‘nice-to-have enhancements’. Not a smartphone with X-ray vision.

 

Don’t get too excited — yet

All in all, we’re expecting Samsung to have a few nice extras up its sleeve for the S9/S9+. But its next Galaxys look more like they’re playing catch up — and doing the usual bit of beefing up (expect processor and battery upgrades too, of course) — than shooting for smartphone fame.

 

But — but! — if you’re hankering for a more radical Samsung smartphone upgrade in 2018, well, other rumors are available. Even though MWC 2018 probably isn’t going to be the event where Sammy finally unboxes its very-long-slated-in-the-R&D-works foldable smartphone (though the company did say, as recently as last month, that it plans to release foldable phones in 2018). If it does, well, Samsung has been keeping that powder very dry indeed.

 

Nor — we’re fairly sure — will the company be pulling out its intended iPhone X killer in Barcelona. Though, again, it might have ‘one more thing’ on that front later this year.

Воскресенье, 11 февраля 2018 19:39

HR has lost the trust of employees. Here is who has it now

Human resources has to be one of the greatest bait-and-switch professions one can join today. HR departments position themselves with a forward-facing fluffy image, whether improving the productivity of workers through training and development programs or perhaps righting the yawning inequality gap in America by encouraging diverse hiring standards. Unsurprisingly, the field often attracts starry-eyed idealists, people who seek a mission-oriented, perhaps even noble profession for their careers. They join thinking they are going to make a difference.

 

Then the corruption happens.

A superior has made a pass at a subordinate, and an executive of the company asks that the subordinate be fired to “clean up” the situation. An employee repeatedly makes homophobic, racist, or sexist remarks to their colleagues, but the company has deemed the individual critical to the functioning of the sales team, and so is merely given a warning. Company morale is suffering and complaints are showing up on online sites like Glassdoor, so HR is charged with “fixing” the company’s rating. A well-performing employee is repeatedly given poor performance reviews to make their firing tidy.

 

All of these examples are hypothetical, but they are archetypes for the near daily news of HR abuses that are now been regularly published around the world. Susan Fowler’s original memo about Uber, which did more to kick off the reporting about workplace problems faced by women than perhaps any other article, mentions HR seventeen times. At the time, Uber’s HR department may possibly have been the most rogue in the industry, but its behavior certainly resonated outside of that company’s walls.

 

Just as concerns about sexual harassment and other issues has intensified, trust in human resources, and really, the entire executive teams of companies, is reaching a nadir. The Edelman Trust Barometer, which has been studying trust in companies, people, and institutions for almost twenty years, has found that a majority of rank-and-file employees don’t trust their company’s leadership, and worse, less than a quarter believe that their CEO is ethical. As trust has declined, so has the ability of HR to diffuse complicated workplace situations without resorting to its legal toolset.

 

The obvious reality is that HR has never been “your friend.” Rather, it is an important component of a company’s legal strategy to document and mitigate any potential lawsuits that might arise from its employees, contractors, or anyone else who may interact with the firm. Occasionally, that mission might align with friendliness: HR may defuse a fight between two colleagues both to prevent legal troubles as well as to make the workplace more productive.

 

Employees, who might have been leery at interacting with HR before, are now no longer going to HR at all, and are seeking alternative options for advice. Today, there is a growing crop of new apps and services to get peer information, allowing employees to protect themselves like never before.

 

No Longer Blind

Few apps have had as much of an impact on workplace communications as Blind, an anonymous social network of current company employees and alums. The app, which was founded in South Korea roughly five years ago, was first launched in the US in late 2015, and since then has seen tremendous success in building footprints at some of the largest and most important American companies.

 

From its homepage, the company says that it has more than 37,000 users from Microsoft, 20,000 users from Amazon and 8,600 users from Google, as well as employees from more than 3,000 other companies on its platform today (at least signed up). While the app spans industries, the tech industry remains the company’s DNA, as the founding team came from Naver, the South Korean search and content giant.

 

One growth challenge that the app has faced and is obvious from App Store reviews is that the app, although anonymous, requires the use of a work email to verify employment. That means that all posts and replies are made by people working at the same company and therefore have the same context to potentially help you. However, many users complain that they really want true anonymity without any connection with their real persona, given their fear of consequences for commenting on company policies.

 

A huge amount of the topics concern the quotidian procedures of HR, from hiring and recruiting to compensation and promotions. Indeed, for a department that — at least theoretically — is designed to communicate well with humans, it is incredible to see how many questions are about procedures that should be entirely transparent for employees.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most popular topics given the app’s heavy influence in the tech industry is around women in tech. Take a recent thread entitled “Fired for being pregnant?.” An employee of a company reported that she had recently seen an employee dismissed after she had announced that she was pregnant. The comment quickly garnered a dozen and a half responses.

 

That thread though is a perfect example of the limits of watercooler discussions. Many of the comments are supportive but ultimately useless, such as “This breaks my heart, but doesn’t surprise me, sadly.” from an employee at Sephora or completely unsupportive, such as “This shouldn’t be discrimination.” by an employee at Amazon. An employee at Slack said “Whether you feel comfortable revealing the company name on here or not, please report this company to the EEOC,” which was one of the only actionable pieces of advice in the thread.

 

Bravely Empowering Work

Clearly, people want to talk about the problems at their workplace. But venting to anonymous colleagues is about the least effective approach to ameliorating the underlying conditions making workers unhappy in the workforce. That’s why other apps are exploring how to handle difficult conversations at the workplace in a better light, often with the blessing of HR departments themselves.

 

Bravely is one such app. The company, based in New York, was founded by Toby Hervey, Sarah Sheehan, and Rasesh Patel as a platform to facilitate the kinds of hard conversations that need to happen for a workplace to thrive. Their concept is to connect workers who might be struggling bringing up a matter at work with expert “Pros” who are trained executive and life coaches who can help a worker think through their options and how best to raise their voice at a company.

 

Hervey argued strenuously to me this week that “the healthiest organizations are the ones that are most able to host difficult conversations.” He explained that one of the benefits of Bravely is that the platform can act as a neutral third-party. For HR professionals, “there is a structural challenge with representing employees,” he said, since they are obligated to represent the interests of the company who employees them. That often puts HR workers in a bind, and Hervey has seen a pattern across “hundreds and hundreds” of interviews where an HR worker will become a temporary “double agent” — helping an employee navigate a situation in an off-the-record fashion outside of company policy.

 

Part of having those hard conversations is also putting a mirror to the employee as well. Hervey said that “we are creating a resource for employees, but it is not a union rep, it is not blindly neutral.” Instead, “we are advocates for sometimes challenging on where you are coming from,” helping employees think about the root causes of their problems as well as the macro situation of the firm.

 

Bravely is purchased by companies to be an independent third-party and help people learn and actually hold difficult conversations at work. Hervey said that the app has so far gotten the best traction in companies of 100-350 employees, where HR processes are starting to solidify but the culture around communication may be relatively nascent.

 

The company was founded mid-last year and has raised a $1.5 million seed round from Primary Venture Partners.

There are other apps in the space. One example that was funded this week is Loris.ai, which is a for-profit spin out from the New York City-based non-profit Crisis Text Line suicide prevention service. Loris hasn’t launched yet, but did raise a round of venture capital from Floodgate, Kapor Capital, and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Wiener. The goal is to take some of the learnings from Crisis Text Line and apply them to workplace conversations.

 

While venture-scalable startups are one model for this space, other firms are taking a non-profit approach to improving workplace communication and building trust in organizations. Empower Work is one such firm. The non-profit, which is headquartered in San Francisco, was founded by Jaime-Alexis Fowler, who worries that “There are increasing inequalities, and those are translating in pretty profound ways in the workplace.”

 

She conducted a broad survey with workers across demographic groups and industries. What she found was that 95% of workers had faced a “difficult situation” at work, and 78% of those had rated that situation “extremely difficult.” 46% of workers had left their job as a result. The plurality of the situations were interpersonal – challenging situations with colleagues, superiors, or customers which made it hard to move forward with a particular job.

 

Fowler told me that “we found out what people were looking for was human connection that was immediate and anonymous.” She decided to take her findings and try to solve them through Empower Work, which is a service that connects workers with “peer counselors” who can support a worker through a decision. “One of the benefits of being a 501(c)3 is that we have no skin in the game, we are focused entirely on the individual,” Fowler explained, using the tax code’s number for a non-profit organization. “What people reach out to us is personal, but in the context of something professional. We offer a space in order to grapple with whatever that is.”

 

The top three questions that come into Empower Work are fear of being fired, sexual harassment, and decisions in the everyday work of a job. Fowler has specifically targeted under-represented groups, and she said (based on self-identified demographic reports) that the company hears predominantly from women and people of color. Fowler explained that for these groups, they often have lower levels of social capital and relationships in a workplace, making work challenges both harder to handle due to a lack of peer support as well as having “dramatically worse outcomes” if they are not improved.

 

Fowler also noted the changing nature of the role of HR in our conversation. “There has always been this tension in the role that HR provides — they are straddling the employer and the employees. It is a very uncomfortable place to be,” she said. “When there is this distrust of the corporation … there is this inherent discomfort of going to them for resources.” Fowler noted that many of the employees that come to Empower Work work at smaller employers without established HR departments, and so that avenue isn’t even an option.

 

The Death and Rebirth of HR

That ultimately gets at one of the largest long-term challenges of the changing American economy. As the number of freelancers and gig economy workers skyrocket, the very design of HR today seems entirely out-of-sync with the changes that are happening in the labor markets. Tens of millions of workers are employed by small employers with no HR department, and tens of millions more workers are employed as 1099 contractors with limited access to HR resources.

 

HR may be increasingly viewed with distrust as a “corrupt” agent of the corporation, but that view also undermines what is a very necessary function for a healthy workplace: a group of people who can facilitate the politics that will inevitably crop up in even the best corporate cultures. Learning how to handle a difficult conversation while also fearing employment loss is not a skill learned in high school or college.

 

There clearly is a need for more network-based HR resources that can be responsive to worker concerns in real-time. Companies like Blind, Bravely, Loris.ai, and non-profits like Empower Work are just the tip of the spear into what is a growing reform of the HR profession. The two-faced HR role of the past no longer matches the needs of workers today. Employees realize this, and now, it is time that HR departments accept that reality as well.

Воскресенье, 11 февраля 2018 19:18

Летающее такси от Uber: что о нём известно

Как будут выглядеть машины, какова окажется стоимость полёта, когда будет запущен проект и почему не стоит называть этот вид транспорта «летающими автомобилями».

 

Впервые о подготовке нового направления под названием Uber Elevate представители компании подробно рассказали в 2017 году. Сервис пообещали запустить в 2020 году, а к работе над ним привлекли бывшего инженера NASA Марка Мура.

 

В феврале 2018 года редакция TechCrunch пообщалась с руководителем экспериментального направления Джастином Эрлихом и выяснила, каким задуман новый способ передвижения от Uber.

 

Как сконструировано такси

По словам Эрлиха, новый транспорт от Uber будет скорее напоминать гибрид самолёта и вертолёта, чем летающие автомобили. От самолёта машины позаимствуют широкие неподвижные крылья, которые позволят планировать над городом. От вертолёта — винты, которые обеспечат вертикальный взлёт.

 

В отличие от вертолётов, летающее такси от Uber будет оборудовано сразу несколькими винтами — это снизит опасность при выходе из строя одного из них.

 

Транспорт также будет использовать электрические силовые установки, изобретённые бывшим инженером NASA Муром. Эти установки помогут повысить эффективность расхода топлива и снизить количество выбросов и производимого шума.

 

Эрлих также замечает, что называть новый вид транспорта «летающими автомобилями» не совсем корректно: такая формулировка создаёт ложное ощущение, что машина сможет взлетать прямо из движущегося потока на автодороге. «До такого пока очень далеко, — говорит он. — На начальном этапе такси сможет передвигаться от одной крыши до другой, не более того».

 

Понадобится ли пилот

Поначалу за рулём летающих такси будут находиться профессиональные пилоты, но со временем Uber рассчитывает полностью перевести Elevate на систему беспилотного управления.

 

Как далеко можно улететь

Летающее такси Uber сможет передвигаться на расстояния до 60 миль (около 95 километров). Ограничения связаны с ёмкостью аккумуляторов, которые планирует использовать компания.

 

В каких случаях пользователям пригодится летающее такси

Elevate рассчитан на пассажиров в крупных и загруженных городах. На нём пользователи смогут добираться из центра города на окраины или загород — быстрее и комфортнее, чем на автомобиле и метро, говорит Эрлих. В идеальном будущем, продолжает он, летающее такси сможет доставлять пассажиров туда, куда не добираются обычные виды транспорта и станет дополнительным звеном в уже существующей транспортной инфраструктуре.

 

Как вызвать транспорт

Для заказа летающего такси пользователю нужно будет ввести точку назначения в приложении Uber — сервис предложит ближайшую точку отправления, куда нужно подойти пассажиру.

 

Где расположатся площадки с летающими такси

По словам Эрлиха, запуск Uber Elevate подтолкнёт к формированию новый рынок аренды крыш. В компании надеются, что площадки откроются не только на крышах офисных и коммерческих зданий, но и на небольших частных домах.

 

Сколько будет стоить полёт

Команда Uber рассчитывает сохранить стоимость полёта на привычном для пассажиров такси уровне. Для этого, скорее всего, придётся сделать поездки совместными.

 

Где будет работать

Первые города, в которых назначен запуск, — Даллас и Лос-Анджелес. Компания также объявляла о планах протестировать новую технологию в Дубае и Форт-Уэрте.

 

Когда запустится

Запуск летающего такси в Далласе и Лос-Анджелесе намечен на 2020 год, а в 2023 году Uber рассчитывает открыть коммерческие перевозки.

Суббота, 10 февраля 2018 00:56

dodocool DA125S 3.9ft / 1.2m Magnetic Micro USB Cable on Sale

Charging your device once or twice a day isn’t something you can’t avoid doing, sadly. Every time you plug and unplug the USB cable into your smartphone you slowly degrade the port until a point in which it stops working altogether. Even more so if you happen to mistakenly pull the cable in a rough way every now and then.

 

All these problems can be solved with only one accessory, the dodocool DA125S. The device is a magnetic cable with a detachable Micro-USB (or USB Type-C) connector that allows you to charging your phone effortlessly without the risk of damaging the port. It comes with a strong magnet which provides a stable connection during charging and syncing, it also features a reversible design to connect the cable to the connector in the right direction every time.

 

The super handy cable supports high-efficiency charging of up to 2.4A and high-speed syncing of up to 480 Mbps, it’s made of OFC cores, TPE interlayer and braided Nylon jacket which makes the 3.9ft cable more durable, flexible and tangle-free than standard cables.

dodocool’s magnetic cable is probably one of the most useful accessories you can get for your smartphone in all its simplicity.

 

dodocool DA125S Specifications

  • Material: OFC + TPE + Nylon
  • Color: Silver
  • LED indicator light color: Blue
  • Connection interface: 1 * USB 2.0 connector, 1 * Micro-USB connector
  • Data transmission speed: 480Mbps (Max.)
  • Input voltage: DC 5V
  • Output voltage: DC 5V
  • Input current: 2400mAh (Max.)
  • Conversion rate: Approx. 90%-96%
  • Compatibility: For Micro-USB equipped Huawei, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Nexus, Nokia, LG, Sony, Blackberry, smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, power banks and more.
  • Item length: Approx. 3.9ft / 1.2m
  • Item weight: Approx. 0.71oz / 20g

 

Learn more about the dodocool DA125S 3.9ft / 1.2m Magnetic Micro USB Cable on the company’s official website.

Суббота, 10 февраля 2018 00:54

Full Specs Of Snapdragon 670 Appears Online

Qualcomm chips are undoubtedly the most preferred chipset for many Android users and there is always a look-out for its flagship, mid-range and low-end chips. With the launch of Snapdragon 845 flagship processor in December 2017, all eyes turned to the mid-range Snapdragon 670 which is expected to be the successor to last year’s Snapdragon 660. Now unconfirmed reports have exposed the full specs of SD670.

 

What Does SD670 Hold?

According to the reports, this processor uses a 10nm process based on big.LITTLE architecture. SD670 uses a low-end hexa-core processor and dual-core high-end processor. The low-end cores is a modification of ARM Cortex A55 dubbed Kryo 300 Silver and it will clock 2.6GHz while the high-end core is a custom version of ARM Cortex A75 called Kryo 300 Gold and it is expected to clock 1.7 GHz. With this combination, we expect to see a solid performance from this gaming oriented chipset which has already recorded a flagship-like performanceon Geekbench and Renderscript.

 

SD670 will come with 1MB of L3 cache but each core will sport 32KB L1 cache and each cluster gets 128KB L2 cache. The GPU is Adreno 615 which is expected to hit 430 MHz or 650 MHz – in some situations, it may even clock 700 MHz. This chipset supports dual-cameras and a reference design hardware includes a 13MP + 23MP dual camera setup although the maximum camera resolution that this ship can pilot is not known. In terms of display, SD670 will support as much as WQHD display resolution and for connectivity, X2X modem with a maximum download speed of 1 Gbps will be available. The reports also state that this processor will use UFS 2.1 and eMMC 5.1.UFS 2.1 and eMMC 5.1.

 

There is no official date for the release of this chipset but any rumors have it that it may grace MWC 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. From all indications, we will likely see smartphones with SD670 in the first half of this year.

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