Economic progress hasn’t yet reached Myanmar’s rural children

cropped-Htet-Tayza-headshot-image.jpg

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that while progress has been made in terms of economic growth in Myanmar, life is still difficult for children in remote areas.

A report by the United Nations shows that the government’s reforms and efforts at reconciliation and improving the economy still leave around 2.2 million kids in desperate need of humanitarian help. Most of these children are in the remote areas of the particularly conflict-ridden regions of the country.

Continue reading…

The Many Advantages of Mobile Banking

cropped-Htet-Tayza-headshot-image.jpg

Technology and banking are now inextricably linked. Over the last decade, the two have combined to form a new and ever evolving way of doing business in the finance industry, whether personal, business, investing or any kind of fund management.

The term FinTech (financial technology) has emerged as an umbrella word for all sorts of technological advances in banking. It can refer to smartphone Apps that give instant access to bank accounts to websites offering financial advice without high costs or long waits.

Continue reading…

What Can You Expect from the Lumia 950?

htet-tayza-lumia-950

On the heels of Windows 10, Microsoft has announced the arrival of its latest smartphone. On the Htet Tayza blog today I ask; what can you expect from the Lumia 950?

Rise and fall 

By the end of the 1990s the word ‘Nokia’ was practically synonymous with the words ‘cell phone.’ However Nokia couldn’t keep up with companies such as Apple and Samsung as they moved into the smartphone market. The brand’s popularity declined, but it was reinvigorated when Nokia joined forces with Microsoft.

The operating system giant bought Nokia and took over its phone business; once iconic Nokia brands such as the ‘Lumia’ are now released through Microsoft. According to Nokia’s website, “Nokia adopted the Windows Phone operating system for smart devices and through their strategic partnership Nokia and Microsoft set about establishing an alternative ecosystem to rival iOS and Android.”

Lumia 950

This strategy has proved highly successful, and since the takeover Microsoft has released a number of well-received Lumia phones e.g. the Lumia 550. Wired has reported that Microsoft has now announced its latest smartphones; the Lumia 950 and the Lumia 950 XL. These devices are particularly significant because they’ll be the first to feature the Windows 10 operating system.

The Lumia 950 boasts a number of innovative features. This includes a 1.8GHz hexacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, a 5.2 inch AMOLED display with a massive 2,640 x 1,440 resolution and 20 megapixel main camera equipped with Zeiss lenses. It’s also equipped with the usual range of LTE, 32GB of storage, 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, NFC connectivity and Bluetooth.

You may also be interested to learn that the Lumia 950 supports MicroSD cards, to provide up to 200 GB of storage and has a listed battery life of 10 hours of video playback.  Furthermore along with the Lumia 950 XL, the Lumia 950 supports Microsoft’s Continuum technology, which basically transforms the device into a mini-PC.

Critical opinion

So what are the critics saying about the Lumia 950? Tech Radar’s early verdict was: “Microsoft has drafted the blueprint for how to build a Windows phone going forward, with Lumia 950 being a serious contender for the iOS and Android faithful.” However Digital Trends wondered whether a “Windows 10 mobile may be too little, too late.”

C.Net titled their review, “they’ll have to do for now,” writing that Microsoft appeared to regulate their smartphone business to an “afterthought” with the release of the Lumia 950. But Fortune argued that “with the release of the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, Microsoft’s mobile operating system can finally do things that iOS and Android can’t.”

Htet Tayza’s verdict

Critical opinion of the Lumia 950 is mixed. Some reviewers believe it heralds Microsoft’s true entry into the smartphone market; others are distinctly unimpressed. I believe that the Lumia 950 is certainly a cutting-edge piece of technology, but it’s no iPhone; it won’t change the world.

Htet Tayza.

The Flaw That Could Ruin the New Samsung

htet-tayza-samsung-galaxy-s6

Today on the Htet Tayza Blog I want to discuss the flaw that could ruin the new Samsung smartphone. This design faux pas really shows that companies need to produce useable devices if they wish to make their mark on the rapidly changing consumer technology market.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

When the smartphone was first introduced to the world, Apple dominated the market with their iPhone. However, tech companies such as Samsung soon started to challenge Apple’s monopolisation of the industry, producing Android devices that have revolutionised smartphone technology.

Samsung recently released its latest Android; the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. It was heralded as a revolutionary device around the world and the Gizmodo review of the product best explains why. This reviewer noted that “the original smartphone-with-a-stylus is all grown up.” It went on to say that “it’s easily the best smartphone Samsung has ever made, and it looks and feels the part.” The review also noted that the Note 5 has “better screens, better processors, (and) better software” than it’s predecessors.

The stylus flaw 

The Note 5 seemed like a slam dunk for Samsung, yet users have now discovered a flaw which could ruin the reputation of their latest flagship product. The BBC reported that users have noticed that if you insert the stylus pen into the body of the device the wrong way round, it snags on an internal device.

The stylus is supposed to be inserted point-end first. When used correctly, it fits into the Note 5 handset snugly, via a spring-loaded mechanism. However when the stylus pen is removed forcibly, it damage’s the phone’s S-Pen detection feature, stopping it working permanently. This means that the stylus can no longer be used to work the Note 5’s touch screen.

Samsung has responded to the outcry this discovery caused among consumers with a statement. It notes: “We highly recommend our Galaxy Note 5 users follow the instructions in the user guide to ensure they do not experience such an unexpected scenario caused by reinserting the S-Pen in the other way around.”

Useable tech 

I doubt Samsung’s statement will prove effective; most people don’t read manuals extensively before they use handsets these days. This reminds me that as technology grows more advanced, companies need to make sure that consumers can keep up. If they don’t, they’ll produce devices such as the Galaxy Note 5 that can be rendered unusable by a single, easy-to-avoid flaw.

Htet Tayza.

Intel Releases Hawking’s Speech Tech

htet-tayza-intel-hawking

This week on the Htet Tayza blog I want to discuss a piece of news that I believe could have monumental benefits for people across the world. I’m talking about Intel’s decision to release the software it developed to help genius Stephen Hawking communicate to the World Wide Web.

Stephen Hawking

I’ve always been a big admirer of Stephen Hawking, and I’m sure that many of you Htet Tayza blog readers can say the same. He is the theoretical physicist and cosmologist who according to Biography.com, has conducted ground-breaking work on black holes and published a series of very popular science books. He’s particularly known as the man who discovered that matter, in the form of radiation, can escape the gravitational force of a collapsed star.

Hawking was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) disease in 1963. Also called Motor Neurone Disease (MND), ALS is an incurable condition which gradually paralyses a victims’ muscles until they can no longer breathe. As Hawking’s star has risen, he has become as famous for the software he uses to talk, as he is for his innovative scientific research.

Intel’s big decision 

This software has been continually developed by tech firm Intel over the course of the past 20 years. Labelled the Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT), it interprets visual signs and translates them into words which are spoken by a computer. In Hawking’s case, for example, ACAT interprets sensor data by capturing movements in his cheek muscles, or other parts of his body, and uses this to communicate.

The software also allows ALS sufferers to interact with rapidly advancing modern technology. Lama Nachman, ACAT’s principal engineer, was quoted by the BBC saying that the software has “contextual menus to access all different parts of your computer.” This means that “if you want to use Word, surf the web or speak you can use ACAT for that,” and experts add that the programme also provides users with precise cursor control.

Endgadget has reported that Intel has now decided to release ACAT online for anybody to download for free. The base software is now available to download for free on GitHub, whilst Intel have developed a separate site which will give people the information they need to get started using ACAT. This includes documentation, videos on features and compatible sensors, and a detailed manual.

Impact of ACAT 

I can’t stress enough how much of a positive impact this will have. When ALS sufferers lose the power to speak, they can still communicate by writing with a pen and paper or typing. Eventually they lose the use the use of their hands too, so Intel’s decision to make the ACAT software publicly available for anyone to download will massively improve their quality of life.

Htet Tayza.

Experts Create Self-Improving Robots

htet-tayza-robots

A report recently published in the journal PLOS One, has shed light on a matter I want to discuss on the Htet Tayza blog today; the future of industrial robotics.

Industrial robots 

The vast majority of people see robots as the stuff of science fiction. Furthermore, society at large believes that if robots were ever to become a reality, such an event would take place decades, even centuries in the future. However robots already exist, and we use them to fuel global expansion and prosperity.

We have developed a range of industrial robots that act as key cogs in the construction of items such as cars and digital technology. Industrial robotics is coming to play an increasingly prominent role in global industry.  According to Statista, worldwide shipments of industrial robots are forecast to exceed 207,000 units in 2015, up from around 159,000 in 2012, largely due to their increased use in the automotive sector.

Robots building robots 

This revolutionary technology has always been held back the fact human intervention was to required to create and maintain industrial robots. However, the BBC recently reported that engineers in Zurich and Cambridge have created a robotic system which has the ability to evolve and improve its performance without human intervention.

The system uses robot arms which build robot “babies” that get progressively better at moving with each generation. The “mother” robotic arm builds “baby” robots which consist of plastic cubes with motors inside, which it can glue together into a number of different configurations.

Once the baby’s built, the mother assesses how far it can move to improve its design, so that the next baby it constructs can move further. The robot mother created ten generations of robotic children; the tenth version had the ability to move double the distance of the first version, before its power drained away.

Aiming for “innovation and creativity

Dr Fumiya Lida of Cambridge University, who led the research with colleagues at ETH University in Zurich, explained the goal of this project to BBC News. Dr Lida said: “We think of robots as performing repetitive tasks, and they’re typically designed for mass production instead of mass customisation, but we want to see robots that are capable of innovation and creativity.”

Andre Rosendo, who worked on the project, explained how this would work in real life. He noted, “you can imagine cars being built in factories and the robot looking for defects in the car and fixing them by itself.” Rosendo elaborated that “robots used in agriculture could try out slightly different ways of harvesting crops to see if they can improve yield.”

Future of industrial robotics 

Therefore this project aims to create industrial robotic technology which can adapt to its surroundings, and it has already gained a significant measure of success. This shows that industrial robotics is focusing on fixing the flaw that has always halted its advancement, by creating technology which can improve itself without human intervention.

Microsoft Release Windows 10

Windows 10 Released

Tech giant Microsoft released the long-awaited Windows 10 last week, and I want to take a moment here on the Htet Tayza blog to discuss this monumental news.

Microsoft Windows

Ever since the release of Windows 1.0 in 1985, Microsoft has continually redefined the way we use computer technology. The Bill Gates-founded firm has released regular reinventions of its flagship product, each time revolutionising the world of computer technology all over again.

The last Windows programme didn’t go down well with users. This was the Windows 8 programme, which was decried for ditching the popular “start menu” of Windows 7 and installing live tiles, which allowed users to directly access the system’s many smart-phone like apps via touch-screen. The Telegraph reports that Microsoft decided to bypass Windows 9 and go straight to releasing Windows 10.

Windows 10

This new version of the programme is said to combine the “best elements,” of its most recent predecessors. The live tiles are still included in Windows 10, but they’re less obtrusive than they were on Windows 8. Microsoft has also decided to bring back the much-beloved start menu from Windows 7.

The programme features a whole host of new features. Perhaps most importantly this includes “Continuum,” a software programme which can detect whether a keyboard is attached to the device in question automatically, allowing it to select the proper mode for use. Windows 10 also features a new web browser which Microsoft has christened “Edge,” which gives users the ability to annotate web pages, as well as save them to read later.

The reviews

Windows 10 has received mixed reviews. Gizmodo wrote that “Windows 10 defies review,” whilst Techradar said that “it’s clear to see that it’s a very usable and flexible operating system.” Meanwhile the Telegraph labelled Windows 10 a “fresh start” for the US tech company, adding that “Windows 10 is what Windows 8 ought to have been” but “there are still bumps to iron out.”

The general consensus seems to be that Windows 10 is a significant improvement on Windows 8, but there’s still progress to be made. What seems clear to me, Htet Tayza readers, is that with the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has shown that they’ve still got what it takes to redefine the field of computer technology, however only time will tell if this proves to be the case.

Will TVs Become Obsolete?

Will Tvs become obsolete

The rise of internet streaming has made me wonder about something I’d like to explore today on the Htet Tayza blog. Will TVs become obsolete?

Cycle of technology

Once upon a time, the television was a standard feature in homes across the developed world. However the internet has changed the game, and TVs are disappearing from living rooms, family kitchens and bedrooms throughout the planet.

This is the cycle of technology; the idea that no technological innovation is permanent and every invention is eventually replaced by a better, more useful invention. Look at the commercial music industry. First we had vinyl records which were replaced by A-track tapes and CDS. However, a few decades on from the invention of the CD it too was replaced, this time by music downloads and today, the CD is classed as a relic of the 80s and 90s by a large plethora of modern society.

Disappearance of the TV

I would argue that the same thing is now happening to the television. However, I recently read an article on Wired that suggested that this is a good thing. It argued that ‘when the TV becomes obsolete, TV shows will enter their real golden era.’

It argued that streaming already has, and will continue to enhance the television experience. It used many points to make this case, but the point that caught my interest was the one that noted something I’ve already observed. The rise of streaming services such as Netflix has allowed traditional TV programming to “break with convention.”

We can look at the success of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black to make this point. This show has been heralded for its ability to break the rules that have long-governed Hollywood and promote actresses to stardom whose causes would never have been championed by traditionally-minded tinsel town execs.

A channel for every viewer

The piece noted that this will allow television to follow a trajectory that it’s already been charting for decades. Back when televisions were first invented, viewers could choose from one or two channels. The digitisation of TV technology in the 90s and 00s allowed providers to increase the number of channels they had the ability to offer consumers.

The rise of streaming has already allowed TV to travel further down this road and the ultimate example is YouTube. Hardly a traditional medium, YouTube has literally given internet users the means they need to view whatever they want, whenever they want, without limits.

Pushing the boundaries 

Therefore, of course the TV will become obsolete. Every piece of technology that was once deemed ‘the future’ eventually recedes into the past, however I would argue that this is a good thing.

As TV dies, online streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu will rise like the phoenix from the ashes to take its place. This will give studios the freedom they need to create highly original programming such as House of Cards and Trans Parent that push the boundaries of creativity set down by traditional media. The disappearance of the television will be the best thing that ever happened to TV.

Is it Possible to Beat Cybercrime?

htet-tayza-cyber-crime (800x530)

The recent news that yet another “impenetrable” hacking forum has been taken down has led me to ask here on the Htet Tayza blog; is it possible to beat cybercrime?

Evolution of online crime

The criminals of the world are the essence of Darwinian; as crime prevention methods have evolved, so have they. This has become particularly prevalent during the online age; the advent of digital technologies has provided criminals with new ways to break the law, and they keep finding ever more innovative methods to circumvent global efforts to crack down cybercrime.

The perfect example is hacking; the act of breaking into websites to steal data and personal information. In 2014, US online security company FireEye wrote: “Despite the over $20 billion invested in IT security technology last year, countless enterprises and government agencies have fallen victim to cyberattacks of incredible sophistication and complexity. This all points to the singular resounding reality: the next generation of cyberattacks is already here.”

Darkcode goes down

I have recently learned of the latest development in this ongoing saga. According to the BBC, a coalition of authorities from 20 countries, including the US, has taken down a forum called Darkcode and arrested 28 people.

Darkcode was a hacking forum used by the notorious ‘Lizard Squad’ hackers and other cybercriminals, which was allegedly used to share hacking tools and information. This included details of zero-day attacks; techniques which exploited product flaws that neither these products’ creators nor the wider security industry knew of and therefore, couldn’t protect against.

Believed to be impenetrable

One of the US state attorneys involved in the investigation commented that “we have dismantled a cyber-hornets’ nest… which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable.”

Part of the reason the site was believed to be unbreakable is that it protected its own security at all costs. The US’ National Crime Agency explained: “Only those proposed for membership by an existing user could join, but not until they posted a resume of the skills and achievements that could contribute to the criminal community.”

The Agency went on to say: “There was a hierarchical membership structure, and the status of users determined who they could communicate with, and their access to the commodities and services on offer.”

Fight goes on

The Darkcode story shows that the fight goes on; cybercriminals evolve and the authorities tasked with bringing them to justice evolve right along with them. Look at another example; file sharing sites like Pirate Bay. Every few years the authorities find a way to have them removed from the net, only for the criminals to turn to the dark web or proxy servers or other bypassing tools to put them back up again.

Technology Harnessed in the Fight For a New Kind of Emoji

The change of the emoji

This week on the Htet Tayza blog I want to turn your attention to a growing movement which culminated with a march on Apple HQ last weekend. The crusade for an emoji with red hair.

Technology and people power

There’s been one surprising side-effect of the rapid advancement of society’s technological capabilities that nobody expected. It’s provided people with more tools they can use to effect social change.

The results have been fascinating to watch. We have seen the rise of crowdfunding sites such as Go Fund Me, which allow a large group of small donors to fund a new project. We’ve also seen the introduction of online petition sites; portals which allow people to join their small voices together to create one large shout for social change.

We want red-headed emoji’s!

The most famous of these sites is Change.org. Activists are now using the site to take on the technological giant that is Apple. In March, Apple announced that it would introduce more diverse emoji’s for its IOS 8.3 update. These featured people from different races and sexual orientations, but they didn’t feature people with red, or ginger, hair.

A user called Emma Kelly launched a petition on Change.org to turn Apple to her way of thinking. The petition reads: “Despite the recent racial and sexual ‘diversification’ of Apple’s emoji to be released in the next iOS 8.3 update, there’s still an important group of people missing from the emoji family of 300 new symbols.

“Redheads. In all their glorious gingerness, they’ve been missed out. Again. If you say you’re going to diversify, why not add a few red-haired emoji in the mix? Natural redheads may be rare at less than 2% of the world’s population, but that is 138,000,000 iPhones waiting to happen.”

March on Apple

Believe it or not, the petition had amassed over 15,000 signatures, as of the time of writing. This is 5,000 more than the petition’s 10,000 signature target.

The organisers of the effort followed this up by marching on Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California on July 11th 2015, where Kelly presented the petition. Rather hilariously, she did so by handing over a USB stick which was shaped like a carrot. Meanwhile, the BBC reported that the petition has already effected some change; it prompted tech firm Swyft Media to create an entire line of ‘ginger emoji’s.’

Technology effects social change

This, quite frankly bizarre campaign, really does show how the rapid advancement of technology has made it easier to effect social change. Newer technologies such as social media and websites connect people around the world; this makes it easier for them to mobilise the power of social outrage to effect real cultural change.