Google, NIELIT Aim to Train 1 Lakh Android Developers in India

Google, NIELIT Aim to Train 1 Lakh Android Developers in India

The government-run IT institute NIELIT, in collaboration with Internet giant Google, will roll out courses to train 1 lakh students for Android application development for less than Rs. 5,000 per head.

“We will provide free of cost all course material for Android app development to NIELIT, which will then train hundred thousand students,” Google South East Asia and India Vice-President Rajan Anandan said in New Delhi while launching a series of IT initiatives with the Ministry of Electronics and IT.

Google India will equip the National Institute trainers with training modules and content. They in turn will do the outreach by leveraging the 10,000 NIELIT (National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology) centres across the country. Additionally, Google India will provide mobile training labs to reach artisan clusters across India.

“The Ministry of Electronics and IT intends to give impetus to the Prime Minister’s recent call for a ‘New India’. Collaboration with Google will be hugely beneficial in harnessing capabilities of technology for the India growth story,” MeitY Secretary Aruna Sundarajan said.

“We will soon send master trainers for training under Google for app development course. NIELIT should be able to roll out this course, maybe with a token amount of less than Rs. 5,000 per student. We are looking at making Indian youth more employable, fees are not a primary concern,” NIELIT DG Ashwini Kumar Sharma said.

Google and NIELIT will also run digital marketing training programme to train over 100,000 artisans per year across India to help them come online and tap into newer markets through improved visibility on Internet.

“Google will provide free of cost support for digital marketing course. NIELIT should be in position to start course for artisans by the end of May. We may charge a token amount for sustainability of the training for less than Rs. 1,500-2,000 per head,” Sharma said.

Google India and MeitY will undertake programme to enhance the government’s online presence, especially on mobile platforms, to enable citizen engagement and training and capacity building programmes on digital tools.

Google, MeitY and the Data Security Council of India (DSCI) will soon launch ‘Digital Payments Security Alliance’ with focus to create awareness on safe and secure practices and capacity building in digital payments.

Elgato Stream Deck Is a Control Centre for Pro-Livestreamers

Elgato Stream Deck Is a Control Centre for Pro-Livestreamers

Live streaming of video games has become big business in recent years, as anyone who frequents Twitch will tell you. The most popular broadcasters have followings in the order of millions, with some even taking it up as a full-time career. That seems to be the target market for Munich-based Elgato, which has announced Stream Deck, a programmable LCD control centre.

The Stream Deck has a total of 15 LCD keys spread across three rows, which can be configured to do a total of 210 actions – be it adjusting audio, welcoming/ thanking subscribers, displaying your Twitter username in the lower-third, or even bringing up memes on screen. It’s meant to liberate you from relying on keyboard shortcuts, and the daunting prospect of memorising dozens.

Of course, Elgato will provide you with companion software, so you can customise the functions available to you, as you please. You can create custom icons to truly personalise the Stream Deck. It will even allow you to create folders, so you can nest some common actions together.

The Stream Deck connects to your machine over USB, has dimensions of 118 x 84 x 21 mm, and weighs 190g. It’s compatible with both Windows 10 (64-bit), and macOS 10.11.

According to the website, it will be available in the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain. Currently, it’s up for pre-order in the US at $149.95, in Australia at AUD 199, in New Zealand at NZD 229.99, and Germany at EUR 149.95.

Elgato says the Stream Deck will start shipping by May, though the New Zealand retailer states a late April launch.

Malware turns PCs into eavesdropping devices

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have demonstrated malware that can turn computers into perpetual eavesdropping devices, even without a microphone.

In the new paper, “SPEAKE(a)R: Turn Speakers to Microphones for Fun and Profit,” the researchers explain and demonstrate how most PCs and laptops today are susceptible to this type of attack. Using SPEAKE(a)R, malware that can covertly transform headphones into a pair of microphones, they show how commonly used technology can be exploited.

“The fact that headphones, earphones and speakers are physically built like microphones and that an audio port’s role in the PC can be reprogrammed from output to input creates a vulnerability that can be abused by hackers,” says Prof. Yuval Elovici, director of the BGU Cyber Security Research Center (CSRC) and member of BGU’s Department of Information Systems Engineering.

“This is the reason people like Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg tape up their mic and webcam,” says Mordechai Guri, lead researcher and head of Research and Development at the CSRC. “You might tape the mic, but would be unlikely to tape the headphones or speakers.”

A typical computer chassis contains a number of audio jacks, either in the front panel, rear panel or both. Each jack is used either for input (line-in), or for output (line-out). The audio chipsets in modern motherboards and sound cards include an option for changing the function of an audio port with software -a type of audio port programming referred to as jack retasking or jack remapping.

Malware can stealthily reconfigure the headphone jack from a line-out jack to a microphone jack, making the connected headphones function as a pair of recording microphones and turning the computer into an eavesdropping device. This works even when the computer doesn’t have a connected microphone, as demonstrated in the SPEAKE(a)R video.

The BGU researchers studied several attack scenarios to evaluate the signal quality of simple off-the-shelf headphones. “We demonstrated is possible to acquire intelligible audio through earphones up to several meters away,” said Dr. Yosef Solewicz, an acoustic researcher at the BGU CSRC.

Potential software countermeasures include completely disabling audio hardware, using an HD audio driver to alert users when microphones are being accessed, and developing and enforcing a strict rejacking policy within the industry. Anti-malware and intrusion detection systems could also be developed to monitor and detect unauthorized speaker-to-mic retasking operations and block them.

Indigenous South American group has healthiest arteries of all populations yet studied, providing clues to healthy lifestyle

The Tsimane people — a forager-horticulturalist population of the Bolivian Amazon — have the lowest reported levels of vascular aging for any population, with coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) being five times less common than in the US, according to a study published in The Lancet and being presented at the American College of Cardiology conference.

The researchers propose that the loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles in contemporary society could be classed as a new risk factor for heart disease. The main risk factors are age, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes.

“Our study shows that the Tsimane indigenous South Americans have the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis of any population yet studied,” said senior anthropology author, Professor Hillard Kaplan, University of New Mexico, USA. “Their lifestyle suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed fibre-rich carbohydrates, along with wild game and fish, not smoking and being active throughout the day could help prevent hardening in the arteries of the heart. The loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles could be classed as a new risk factor for vascular aging and we believe that components of this way of life could benefit contemporary sedentary populations.”

Although the Tsimane lifestyle is very different from that of contemporary society, certain elements of it are transferable and could help to reduce risk of heart disease.

While industrial populations are sedentary for more than half of their waking hours (54%), the Tsimane spend only 10% of their daytime being inactive. They live a subsistence lifestyle that involves hunting, gathering, fishing and farming, where men spend an average of 6-7 hours of their day being physically active and women spend 4-6 hours.

Their diet is largely carbohydrate-based (72%) and includes non-processed carbohydrates which are high in fibre such as rice, plantain, manioc, corn, nuts and fruits. Protein constitutes 14% of their diet and comes from animal meat. The diet is very low in fat with fat compromising only 14% of the diet — equivalent to an estimated 38 grams of fat each day, including 11g saturated fat and no trans fats. In addition, smoking was rare in the population.

In the observational study, the researchers visited 85 Tsimane villages between 2014 and 2015. They measured the participants’ risk of heart disease by taking CT scans of the hearts of 705 adults (aged 40-94 years old) to measure the extent of hardening of the coronary arteries, as well as measuring weight, age, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and inflammation.

Based on their CT scan, almost nine in 10 of the Tsimane people (596 of 705 people, 85%) had no risk of heart disease, 89 (13%) had low risk and only 20 people (3%) had moderate or high risk. These findings also continued into old age, where almost two-thirds (65%, 31 of 48) of those aged over 75 years old had almost no risk and 8% (4 of 48) had moderate or high risk. These results are the lowest reported levels of vascular aging of any population recorded to date.

By comparison, a US study of 6814 people (aged 45 to 84) found that only 14% of Americans had a CT scan that suggested no risk of heart disease and half (50%) had a moderate or high risk — a five-fold higher prevalence than in the Tsimane population.

In the Tsimane population, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose were also low, potentially as a result of their lifestyle. The researchers also note that the low risk of coronary atherosclerosis was identified despite there being elevated levels of inflammation in half of the Tsimane population (51%, 360 of 705 people).

“Conventional thinking is that inflammation increases the risk of heart disease,” said Professor Randall Thompson, cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, USA. “However, the inflammation common to the Tsimane was not associated with increased risk of heart disease, and may instead be the result of high rates of infections.”

Because the study is observational it cannot confirm how the Tsimane population is protected from vascular aging, or which part of their lifestyle (diet, physical activity or smoking) is most protective. The researchers suggest it is more likely to be a result of their lifestyle than genetics, because of a gradual increase in cholesterol levels coinciding with a rapidly changing lifestyle.

“Over the last five years, new roads and the introduction of motorised canoes have dramatically increased access to the nearby market town to buy sugar and cooking oil,” said Dr Ben Trumble, Arizona State University, USA. “This is ushering in major economic and nutritional changes for the Tsimane people.”

The researchers did not study whether coronary artery hardening in the Tsimane population impacted on their health, but note that deaths from heart attacks are very uncommon in the population so it is likely that their low levels of atherosclerosis and heart disease are associated. The researchers are investigating this in further research.

“This study suggests that coronary atherosclerosis could be avoided if people adopted some elements of the Tsimane lifestyle, such as keeping their LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar very low, not smoking and being physically active,” said senior cardiology author Dr Gregory S. Thomas, Long Beach Memorial Medical Centre, USA. “Most of the Tsimane are able to live their entire life without developing any coronary atherosclerosis. This has never been seen in any prior research. While difficult to achieve in the industrialized world, we can adopt some aspects of their lifestyle to potentially forestall a condition we thought would eventually effect almost all of us.”

Research spotlights early signs of disease using infrared light: New research

While more research is needed to confirm the findings published in the FASEB Journal, the use of FITR could herald a fast and easy way to spot early signs of infection, cancer, and difficult to diagnose neurological conditions.

The research led by Professors Peter Lay and Georges Grau used Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy to detect and characterize the release of sub-micron sized microvesicles.

Produced from the cell membranes of mammals, microvesicles play a role in cell communication and carry a “cargo” of RNA, DNA, proteins, lipids and other biomolecules that they use to dramatically change the biochemistry of other cells.

Microvesicles are involved in normal physiology but are released into the bloodstream at higher levels during the acute and early development phase of many diseases. They are also potent vectors and mediators of disease, so detecting changes in their number and biochemistry could be helpful for spotting mechanisms of early diseases development.

The researchers used FTIR to monitor microvesicle-biomolecular changes in white blood cells, known as monocytes, they stimulated with a component of deadly bacteria called lipopolysaccharide, comparing the changes to those in healthy, uninfected white blood cells.

Lipopolysaccahride from various bacteria can reach the blood and cause septic shock, a life-threatening complication of sepsis where the body’s infection-response can injure tissues and organs.

“We found a threefold increase in the number of microvesicles from white blood cells stimulated with lipopolysaccharide that points to a pathophysiological role for these microvesicles in bacterial infection and its subsequent immune response,” said study co-author Georges Grau at the University of Sydney’s Vascular Immunology Unit and Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases.

“We also saw clear biomolecular changes — more lipids and proteins — in microvesicles produced by white blood cells stimulated by lipopolysaccharides, compared to those produced by resting white blood cells.”

The researchers also discovered that most of the “cargo” of RNA, DNA, lipids and proteins released by the white blood cells were contained within these microvesicles.

“This is very important since there is an enormous research effort looking at circulating RNA, DNA and proteins in blood as diagnostics of diseases and our results indicate that they are mostly carried in these microvesicles,” said senior author, Professor Peter Lay at the University’s School of Chemistry and Vibrational Spectroscopy Core Facility.

“In many respects, the microvesicles released under bacterial stimulation during an infectious episode are like viruses whereby the altered lipid content and increases and proteins appear designed to invade and change the biochemistry of target cells by releasing their DNA and RNA.

“This use of FTIR spectroscopy to analyse microvesicles provides a new way characterize the biomolecular differences in this model of septic shock-induced white blood cell-microvesicle and could easily be applied to other models of microvesicle release, notably in a range of inflammatory diseases.”

Toddler robots help solve how children learn

Children learn new words using the same method as robots, according to psychologists.

This suggests that early learning is based not on conscious thought but on an automatic ability to associate objects which enables babies to quickly make sense of their environment.

Dr Katie Twomey from Lancaster University, with Dr Jessica Horst from Sussex University, Dr Anthony Morse and Professor Angelo Cangelosi from Plymouth wanted to find out how young children learn new words for the first time. They programmed a humanoid robot called iCub designed to have similar proportions to a three year old child, using simple software which enabled the robot to hear words through a microphone and see with a camera. They trained it to point at new objects to identify them in order to solve the mystery of how young children learn new words.

Dr Twomey said: “We know that two-year-old children can work out the meaning of a new word based on words they already know. That is, our toddler can work out that the new word “giraffe” refers to a new toy, when they can also see two others, called “duck” and “rabbit.” “

It is thought that toddlers achieve this through a strategy known as “mutual exclusivity” where they use a process of elimination to work out that because the brown toy is called “rabbit,” and the yellow toy is called “duck,” then the orange toy must be “giraffe.”

What the researchers found is that the robot learned in exactly the same way when shown several familiar toys and one brand new toy.

Dr Twomey said: “This new study shows that mutual exclusivity behaviour can be achieved with a very simple “brain” that just learns associations between words and objects. In fact, intelligent as iCub seems, it actually can’t say to itself “I know that the brown toy is a rabbit, and I know that that the yellow toy is a duck, so this new toy must be giraffe,” because its software is too simple.

“This suggests that at least some aspects of early learning are based on an astonishingly powerful association making ability which allows babies and toddlers to rapidly absorb information from the very complicated learning environment.”

Lenovo Z2 Plus launched in India

Lenovo India has started sending invites of the launch of its Z2 Plus smartphone in the country on Thursday. The company is holding a launch event in New Delhi that’s scheduled to begin at 11:30am IST.

The Chinese consumer electronics giant will be launching the Lenovo Zuk Z2 – which was launched in China in May this year – as the Lenovo Z2 Plus in India.

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Detailing the reasons behind the rebranding in the country, Anuj Sharma, Head of Product Marketing, Smartphones, Lenovo MBG India told Gadgets 360, “Once we are getting into a particular price band, we want to make sure consumers know the brand. We want to sell the phone. We are not bringing the device as token flagship as India is still a big market for us. However, Zuk branding will be there on the box, with the text ‘Powered by Zuk’ as a hat tip for the Zuk team.”

The Lenovo Z2 Plus will be launched in two variants in the country – 3GB of RAM with 32GB of inbuilt storage, and 4GB of RAM with 64GB of inbuilt storage. Both variants are dual-SIM, and will support 4G SIM cards in one slot, and 3G SIM cards in the other.

The Z2 Plus won’t run Cyanogen OS – like the Lenovo Zuk Z1 (Review) did – and will instead come with the Google Now Launcher pre-installed. The company says India-specific features will include gesture shortcuts via the fingerprint scanner. It will also bear a dedicated pedometer and come with the company’s new U-Health app.

The Zuk Z2 smartphone launched in China features a 5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display with 2.5D curved high-fibre glass. It is powered by a Snapdragon 820 SoC clocked up to 2.15GHz. The smartphone sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with EIS, an f/2.2 aperture, and PDAF. An 8-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.0 aperture round off the optics on board the Zuk Z2. It packs a 3500mAh battery that supports fast charging – charging up to 80 percent in one hour. The Lenovo Zuk Z2’s connectivity options include offers 4G LTE (with support Indian LTE bands), Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.1 BLE, and USB 2.0 Type-C port.

ESA Maps More Than a Billion Stars in Our Galaxy

The Gaia space probe, launched in 2013, has mapped more than a billion stars in the Milky Way, vastly expanding the inventory of known stars in our galaxy, the European Space Agency said Wednesday.

ESA Maps More Than a Billion Stars in Our Galaxy

Released to eagerly waiting astronomers around the world, the initial catalogue of 1.15 billion stars is “both the largest and the most accurate full-sky map ever produced,” said French astronomer Francois Mignard, a member of the 450-strong Gaia consortium.

In a web-cast press conference at the ESA Astronomy Centre in Madrid, scientists unveiled a stunning map of the Milky Way, including stars up to half a million times feinter than those that can be seen with the naked eye.

The images were captured by Gaia’s twin telescopes — scanning the heavens over and over — and a billion-pixel camera, the largest ever put into space.

The resolution is sharp enough to gauge the diameter of a human hair at a distance of 1,000 kilometres (620 miles), said Anthony Brown, head of the Gaia data processing and analysis team.

Gaia maps the position of the Milky Way’s stars in a couple of ways.

Not only does it pinpoint their location, the probe — by scanning each star multiple times — can plot their movement as well.

The data release today includes both kinds of data for some two million stars.

But over the course of Gaia’s five-year mission, that catalogue is set to expand 500-fold.

Orbiting the Sun 1.5 million kilometres (nearly a million miles) beyond Earth’s orbit, the European probe started collected data in July 2014.

No Man’s Sky PR Strategy ‘Wasn’t Great’: Sony Worldwide Studios Boss

Aside from being one of the biggest disappointments of the year, No Man’s Sky was a debacle for fans and the press. Reason being, creator Sean Murray promised a host of features that never quite made it to the final game.

No Man's Sky PR Strategy 'Wasn't Great': Sony Worldwide Studios Boss

For many, No Man’s Sky was nowhere close to what Hello Games founder Sean Murray promised it would be. More so with a massive Reddit post detailing missing features (which was deleted later) albeit archived on other sites such as the aptly named One Man’s Lie.

Despite Sony’s efforts at marketing the game, it couldn’t stop consumers trying to refund it en-masse. Safe to say, the game was a public relations nightmare. And Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida agrees. Speaking to Eurogamer, the President of Sony Worldwide Studios had this to say:

“I understand some of the criticisms especially Sean Murray is getting, because he sounded like he was promising more features in the game from day one.

“It wasn’t a great PR strategy, because he didn’t have a PR person helping him, and in the end he is an indie developer. But he says their plan is to continue to develop No Man’s Sky features and such, and I’m looking forward to continuing to play the game.”

RJio’s full-fledged 4G services available to all from today

Consumers across the country can avail Reliance Jio’s services from Tuesday, as the company opens its doors to all potential users having any 4G-enabled handset in an aggressive quest to garner 100 million subscribers.

According to sources, the Jio SIM — which so far was available only at Reliance Digital stores — will now also be offered through multi-brand outlets and mobile phone shops.

“The SIMs will be available at nearly two lakh stores across the country, including locations where SIMs from other vendors are also sold,” sources said.
A major beneficiary of the offer would be users of devices like iPhone, Xiaomi, Motorola and Lenovo who were not a part of the preview offer so far. RJio, which had already roped in 1.5 million users in the test phase, is gunning for 100 million users at the shortest possible time.

Nearly 20 brands including Sony, Sansui, Videocon, LG, Samsung, Micromax, Panasonic, Asus, TCL, Alcatel, HTC, Intex, Vivo, Gionee, Karbonn and Lava were part of the preview offer which provided free 90-day unlimited calls and high-speed mobile broadband trials to 4G smartphone users of these brands.

The offer is now being rebranded as a ‘welcome offer’, which from September 5 will provide unlimited services till up to December 31, after which users have been promised voice calls – both local and STD – as well as roaming free of cost, for life. The data charges are also pegged as low as Rs 50 per GB, compared to Rs 250 a GB prevailing in the market.

The process of procuring the SIM, said sources, will now be simpler with eKYC, which does not require consumers to physically fill out lengthy forms and wait for an equally lengthy verification process.

The form filling and verification is done using Aadhaar data and the customer’s fingerprint and the facility is being rolled out at various locations.
“At the time of taking the SIM, consumers will have to choose plans – pre-paid or postpaid – and they will continue to get free services till December 31, after which tariff plans opted for will become applicable,” sources said.

The company has introduced 10 tariff plans beginning with a one-day plan at Rs 19 for occasional data users going all the way up to Rs 4,999 a month for heavy data users. Reliance is also offering a Jio apps bouquet worth Rs 15,000, complimentary to all active Jio customers up to December 31, 2017.

In the Rs 19 prepaid plan, users will get 100 MB data and 100 SMSes for a day, apart from unlimited free voice calling. The Rs 149 plan, available for both prepaid and postpaid users, will offer 300 MB data and 100 SMSes with a validity of about a month.
Under the Rs 4,999 plan, users will get 75GB of 4G data as well as unlimited 4G access at night for a period of 28 days or one month for prepaid and postpaid users, respectively.