Intex Cloud Q5 Launched; Aqua Star II Gets Upgraded Variant

Intex has launched the Cloud Q5 smartphone, priced at Rs. 4,490. The new Intex Cloud Q5 will be sold exclusively on eBay India. The domestic handset maker alongside alsolaunched a new variant of its Aqua Star II smartphone with twice the inbuilt storage and RAM, as well as a better front-facing camera, priced at Rs. 7,444.The Intex Cloud Q5 is a dual-SIM (GSM+GSM) smartphone which runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat out-of-the-box. It comes with a 4.5-inch (480×854 pixels) FWVGA TFT display. The smartphone is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core Spreadtrum (SC7731G) processor coupled with 1GB of RAM.

It comes with 8GB of inbuilt storage, which is further expandable via microSD card (up to 32GB). It sports an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, while there is a secondary 2-megapixel front-facing camera also on board.

On the connectivity front, the Cloud Q5 offers 3G, GPRS/ EDGE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Micro-USB, and Bluetooth options. The Cloud Q5 smartphone packs a 1600mAh battery, which according to the official listing is rated to deliver up to 5 hours of talk time, and up to 160 hours of standby time. It measures 133x67x8.9mm and weighs 138 grams. The handset will be available in Gold, Silver, and White. The handset is currently listed as out of stock at eBay India.

intex_aqua_star_ii.jpgThe major difference between the Intex Aqua Star II and the upgraded Aqua Star II smartphone is that the latter features 2GB of RAM and 16GB of built-in storage while the former packs just 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. The new Aqua Star II also sports a 5-megapixel front-facing camera while the previous model came with a 2-megapixel front camera.

(Also see: Intex Aqua Star II vs. Xolo Cube 5.0)

Other specifications of the Intex Aqua Star II are the same as the original smartphone, which was launched in February this year. The dual-SIM Intex Aqua Star II runs Android 4.4 KitKat, and features a 5-inch display with FWVGA (480×854 pixels) resolution. The smartphone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Spreadtrum (SC7731G) processor.

Sporting an 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera, the Aqua Star II supports expandable storage via microSD card (up to 32GB). Connectivity options include 3G (HSPA+), Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, Micro-USB 2.0, GPS/ A-GPS, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The Aqua Star II packs a 2100mAh battery and will be available in White and Champagne colours.

Sony Xperia C5 Ultra, Xperia M5 Selfie-Focused Smartphones Launched

Sony, as expected, has launched the Xperia C5 Ultra and Xperia M5 camera-focused smartphones on Monday. The Japanese company revealed that both the new handsets will be available in single and dual-SIM variants.Both the Sony Xperia C5 Ultra and Sony Xperia M5 (alongside Xperia C5 Ultra Dualand Xperia M5 Dual) will be available in select countries across emerging markets starting mid-August. Sony is likely to reveal the pricing of both the handsets at launch locally. The single-SIM and dual-SIM variants are identical in terms of specifications, with the exception of the latter sporting two SIM card slots.

Much like Sony’s Xperia C3 selfie-focused smartphone, the newly announced Xperia C5 Ultra is also targeted at selfie lovers and sports 13-megapixel front and rear cameras. Both the front and rear cameras are accompanied by LED flash modules and include Sony’s Exmor RS sensor. Some of the camera tools on the Xperia C5 Ultra include video stabiliser, auto scene recognition, 25mm wide-angle lens (rear) with an 80-degree field of view, 4x digital zoom, full-HD video recording, image stabiliser, geotagging, and red-eye reduction among others.

sony_xperia_c5_ultra_screen_official.jpgThe smartphone features a 6-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) IPS display powered by Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine 2. The company touts that the handset sports a “near borderless” display.

The Android 5.0 Lollipop-based Xperia C5 Ultra is powered by a 64-bit octa-core MediaTek (MT6752) processor clocked at 1.7GHz coupled with ARM Mali760 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The handset packs 16GB of inbuilt storage which can be expanded further via microSD card (up to 200GB). Unlike Sony’s other mid-range and premium smartphones, the Xperia C5 Ultra doesn’t sport water and dust protection. Connectivity options on the handset include GPRS/ EDGE, GPS/ A-GPS, NFC, Glonass, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Micro-USB, 3G, and 4G LTE (not available in all markets). It packs a 2930mAh battery; measures 164.2×79.6×8.2mm and weighs 187 grams.

The Sony Xperia M5, on the other hand, is touted to be a mid-range “waterproof Android smartphone.” It features IP65 and IP68 certification making the handset water and dust proof. Much like Sony’s flagship smartphones, the Xperia M5 also features a cap-less USB port.

sony_xperia_m5_waterproof_official.jpgMuch like the Xperia C5 Ultra, the Xperia M5 also features a 13-megapixel front-facing camera with Sony’s Exmor RS sensor. The smartphone sports a 21.5-megapixel rear camera with what Sony calls “Hybrid autofocus” and a f/2.2 lens. The rear camera offers 5x image zoom, 4K video recording, auto scene recognition, image stabiliser, and geotagging among other features. It features a 5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display.

The Sony Xperia M5 is powered by a 64-bit octa-core MediaTek Helio X10 (MT6795) processor clocked at 2GHz with 3GB of RAM. It features 16GB internal storage which can be expanded via microSD card (up to 200GB).

The Android 5.0 Lollipop-based Xperia M5 supports GPRS/ EDGE, 3G, and 4G (not available in all markets) connectivity options. The smartphone packs a 2600mAh battery.

Delhi University Permits Skype Viva for Ph.D. Students

Scholars pursuing Ph.D. at Delhi University can now appear for their viva through Skype or other modes of video conferencing.The varsity has also made it mandatory that the theses submitted by the Ph.D. scholars pass a “plagiarism check” and procured specialised software for it.

“Earlier the students had to appear in person for their viva for Ph.D. programmes. So, the ones who had completed their theses and were offered any opportunities abroad, they had to travel back for the process. Now this need has been done away with,” a senior varsity official told PTI.

“The students willing to appear for viva through Skype or other modes of video-conferencing need to inform their respective departments in advance. Similarly, if certain expert on interview panel is unable to come in person, then the viva will be arranged through similar modes,” he added.

Following directives from the University Grants Commission (UGC), to discourage plagiarism in Ph.D. theses, DU has made it mandatory that all the theses submitted will be subjected to plagiarism check using specialised software.

“There are certain software which are available over the Internet too but they do not yield fool proof results. We are procuring certain specialised software to ensure the scholars cannot do any cut-paste job,” the official said.

The varsity has amended its Ph.D. ordinance in accordance with UGC Regulation, 2009 (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of Ph.D. degree) and UGC Regulation, 2010 (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education).

The amendments were approved during an Executive Council (EC) meeting of the varsity last week. The varsity has also increased the time span for finishing Ph.D. from four years to up to 6.5 years.

“The span period for submission of Ph.D. thesis shall be five years, extendable up to a maximum of six and a half years. In exceptional cases, the span may be extended after proper justification. Earlier, the students used to get four years and there was a provision for an extension of six months,” the official said.

While the admission process for Ph.D. programmes varied from department to department, it has now been made mandatory to admit the students only through an entrance test. According to the amended norms, following successful completion of the evaluation process and the announcement of the award of the Ph.D., the University shall submit a soft copy of the thesis to the UGC within a period of thirty days, for hosting the same in ‘Shodhganga repository’ which is accessible to all institutions and universities.

The varsity’s move to make plagiarism check has drawn ire from few teachers who claimed that to eliminate plagiarism the process should start from the top.

“Why just subject Ph.D. students to plagiarism check? If the university wants to eliminate the copy-paste tactics it should first screen the thesis and other works of its recruits… The process of intensifying the lens on plagiarism should start from top to bottom and not vice versa,” Abha Dev Habib, an EC member said

New Lab-on-a-Chip to Better Diagnose Asthma, Tuberculosis

Researchers have developed a low-cost lab-on-a-chip device to analyse sputum from patients with pulmonary diseases such as tuberculosis and asthma.”To develop more accurate diagnosis and treatment approaches for patients with pulmonary diseases, we have to analyse sample cells directly from the lungs rather than by drawing blood,” said one of the inventors Tony Jun Huang, professor at the Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“This (device) will offer quick analysis of samples without having to send them out to a centralised lab,” said first author of the study Po-Hsun Huang from the Pennsylvania State University.

“This is the first on-chip sputum liquefier anyone has developed so far,” Huang said.

There are several issues with the current standard method for sputum analysis.

The first is that human specimens can be contagious, and sputum analysis requires handling of specimens in several discrete machines.

With this device, all biospecimens are safely contained in a single disposable component.

Another issue is the sample size required for analysis in the current system, which is often larger than a person can easily produce.

The acoustofluidic sputum liquefier created by Huang’s group requires 100 times less sample while still providing accuracy equivalent to the standard system, the study said.

A further issue is that current systems are difficult to use and require trained operators.

With the lab-on-a-chip system, a nurse can operate the device with a touch of a few buttons and get a read out, or the patient could even operate the device at home, said the study published in the journal Lab on a Chip

Rs. 50,000 Crores Earmarked for 100 Smart Cities: Naidu

Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday said Rs. 50,000 crores have been earmarked to develop 100 smart cities in the country, with each selected city to get annual central assistance of Rs. 100 crores for five years.Naidu, the union urban development minister, was speaking at an international seminar on sustainable and inclusive urban development organised by the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, the Institute for Human Development (IHD) and Department of Urban and Regional Planning of the University of Florida in New Delhi.

“Special emphasis will be given to citizen participation while developing these smart cities. To recast the urban landscape of the country and make lives of urban people comfortable is the need of the hour,” he said.

Stating that “sustainable and inclusive urban development is the main focus of the government and there is a need to go for reforms in a big way”, he said, “rapid urbanisation poses grave challenges for sustainability of the human race”.

“To ensure that urban development is sustainable, the government is going to promote rainwater harvesting, replace green buildings with conventional buildings, replace conventional power with solar power, replace conventional lights with LED lights for conserving energy and create community toilets to ensure access to toilets for all,” the minister said.

Stating that “Smart cities need smart leadership”, Naidu said, “The smart city movement was classified as a mode of making life more comfortable for everyone, connecting the smart city initiative with the inclusive development mindset.”

“Good urban life also requires housing, office space and good transportation. Biggest challenge in the country has been one of creating space for cities and availability of land,” NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya said at the event.

Naidu also launched the online e-learning portal for Clean India which would impart training and education to field functionaries and workers involved in helping realise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream to ensure a clean India.

Nasa Captures Earth Flyby of ‘Space Peanut’

Nasa scientists have captured a peanut-shaped asteroid that approached close to Earth last weekend. The next time an asteroid will approach Earth this close will be in 2054.The asteroid named 1999 JD6 appears to be a contact binary – an asteroid with two lobes that are stuck together.

On July 24, the asteroid made its closest approach to Earth at a distance of about 7.2 million kms, or about 19 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

“Radar imaging has shown that about 15 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 600 feet, including 1999 JD6, have this sort of lobed, peanut shape,” said Lance Benner of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement.

To obtain the views, researchers paired Nasa’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California with the National Science Foundation Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

The images show the asteroid is highly elongated, with a length of approximately two kms on its long axis.

Nasa’s asteroid-tracking mission places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them.

Last week, Nasa said its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is preparing for the arrival of Nasa’s next Mars lander called InSight next year, with its biggest orbit manoeuvre since 2006.

On Wednesday, the Mars orbiter was engaged in a 77-second firing of six intermediate-size thrusters to adjust the orbit timing of the veteran spacecraft.

The move will put the orbiter in position to receive radio transmissions from InSight as the newcomer descends through the Martian atmosphere and touches down on September 28 next year, the US space agency said in a statement.

Microsoft HoloLens to Launch for Developers ‘Within the Next Year’

Developers, now is the time to rejoice. Microsoft’s HoloLens headset will become available to you a little sooner than originally expected. In an interview, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the first developer version of its augmented reality headset will be ready “within the next year.”

In an interview with BBC, Nadella said that Microsoft will release ‘V1’ (or version 1) of the HoloLens headset “within the next year”. He further noted that the the new hologram-projecting device will be focused “more around developers and enterprises.” To recall, the HoloLens is the company’s headset that overlays digital graphics on top of the real world, and was unveiled alongside a holographic UI for Windows.

The HoloLens lets the wearer virtually reach out and manipulate virtual objects. Nadella says that the consumer version could take considerably longer to hit the market. It’s “a five year journey,” he said. The delay suggests that Microsoft is trying to overcome the biggest limitations of the HoloLens: the field view. The additional time will also let HoloLens, and Windows 10, mature.

While still in the developing stage, the HoloLens has already attracted big players in the industry. AutoDesk, a software corporation well known for making tools for architecture, engineering, and manufacturing among other fields, recently showcased how its engineers sitting in different locations were able to interact with the physically present framework of a motorbike design project. The wearable took note of the changes they made, and also logged the comments and decisions.

Windows 10: Users, Experts Raise Privacy Concerns

In less than a week since the global release of Windows 10, the latest desktop operating system from Microsoft is getting criticised by privacy advocates and users alike. Some are even saying that the real price of Windows 10 – which is being marketed as a free upgrade – is actually users’ privacy.

Windows 10 comes with a plethora of new features including the digital voice assistant Cortana among others. But the way many of these new tools work raises questions about users’ privacy.

First up is Wi-Fi Sense, a feature that lets your friends automatically connect to your Wi-Fi network. The tool, enabled by default, does so by sharing your Wi-Fi credentialswith your Outlook, Skype, and Facebook contacts. The company notes that it does so over an encrypted network but many users are worried about the potential abuse of this feature. Not to forget, there could be people you don’t know so well in your Outlook, and Facebook accounts who too will be able to use your Wi-Fi network. Furthermore, there are security implication that if someone manages to connect to your Wi-Fi, technically, they could find their way to connect to other devices as well, though Microsoft notes that it is not possible.

Windows 10 also introduces an ad-riddled version of Solitaire. Unlike Windows 8 and other earlier versions of Microsoft’s desktop operating system (going back to Windows 3.0), Windows 10 doesn’t ship with an ad-free version of the popular game. Instead, the company is providing users with a freemium version which is riddled with unskippable video ads. If you want to avoid ads, you will have to pay Microsoft a sum of $10 every month.

The company is seemingly trying to bolster its advertising efforts with Windows 10. As pointed out by The Guardian, Microsoft has assigned a unique advertising ID to every registered email address. The company’s 45-page terms and conditions document is getting flak as well. The European digital rights organisations says that “Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties.”

Windows 10 also sports Cortana, its digital voice assistant. As we noted in our review, it’s a very handy application that integrates with the system to take notes, give you reminders, and recognise songs among other things. But the secret sauce behind this is all kinds of data it retrieves from your email and text messages including “who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device.”

In Windows 10, Microsoft also uses your data bandwidth to update others’ computer. Called Windows Update Delivery Optimisation, the feature uses your bandwidth to upload parts of update files that you’ve already downloaded with other users on your local network as well as strangers on the Internet. This sort of works like peer-to-peer network wherein instead of a centralised server, files are distributed among the connected computers. The only difference is that a centralised server exists in this case. This feature, which is also enabled by default, also has many users worried. Especially in countries like India where most broadband connections have data caps, Windows 10 could be eating into people’s quota without their knowledge.

Snapdeal Reportedly Raises $500 Million From Alibaba, Foxconn, and SoftBank

snapdeal_packages_reuters_2.jpg

E-commerce firm Snapdeal has reportedly raised $500 million (roughly Rs. 3,197 crores) from Chinese hardware manufacturer Foxconn and e-commerce giant Alibabaalong with existing investor SoftBank, according to a news report published Sunday.

The Re/code report cites multiple people familiar with the matter. Snapdeal has so far raised over $1.1 billion in eight funding rounds so far, its last investment round in October 2014 was a reported $627 million (roughly Rs. 4,009 crores) led by Japanese telecom and media group SoftBank Corp. Other investors in Snapdeal include Bessemer Venture Partners, Ratan N Tata, Kalaari Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, and eBay.

A news report in June had covered the rumours of a potential investment in Snapdeal, where the two Chinese companies were planning to invest together for a 10 percent stake that would value the company at roughly $5 billion (roughly Rs. 32,100 crores).

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou had shared the company’s ambitions in July to set up 10-12 manufacturing facilities in India by 2020, outlining a strategy of partnerships covering areas beyond hardware – content, cloud, and bandwidth based services. For Alibaba, this would be their first major investment since Paytm, where it took a 25 percent stake in the company for $500 million dollars. We’ve reached out to Snapdeal for a comment.

Founded in 2010, Snapdeal started out as a daily deals platform, and has since diversified into a full fledged e-commerce player, with a team of over a thousand employees. The service covers an assortment of over 12 million products from 150,000 sellers across over 500 categories,, and covers over 5,000+ cities and towns in India. Snapdeal’s high-profile acquisitions include FreeCharge, Shopo, eSportsBuy, Grabbon, Doozton, Smartprix, Exclusively.in, UniCommerce, RupeePower and LetsGoMo.

Snapdeal rolled out a new design for its mobile apps and website in July, andrelaunched Shopo as an app-only, zero-commission marketplace. Most recently, itentered the hyperlocal delivery space with ‘Snapdeal Instant’, which would fulfil deliveries in three Indian cities as early as an hour.

Porn Sites Blocked in India – Everything You Need to Know

Over the weekend, many Indian Internet users on sites like Reddit and Twitter claimed that they were unable to access popular porn sites – the blocking seemed restricted to just a few ISPs, according to what the users were reporting. NDTV Gadgets was able to independently confirm that customers of MTNL and Hathway in Mumbai were greeted by a blank page when visiting websites like Youporn and Pornhub, but websites seem to be loading just fine on Airtel in Delhi, causing some confusion about why exactly sites are being blocked on some ISPs.

Now, it appears that the blocks are indeed taking place based on a government order, and it would appear that the telecom operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been asked to block a whopping 857 porn sites, in what might be the largest blocking order ever, in India.

According to a report, an ISP confirmed that it received a list of 857 URLs from the Department of Telecommunications on Friday, July 31.

“It’s a list of 857 URLs. Most of the sites [on the list] are pornographic. I would say 100% of the sites,” a senior manager of an ISP, who did not want to be named, told Legally India.

Later reports have confirmed this with three ISPs all saying that the order was received late on Friday, which is why the blocks appear to be taking place in a slapdash fashion right now. The list of URLs that the government has ordered to be blocked is not available at the moment.

When more details of the 857 URLs that the ISPs have to block become available, it will be valuable to see how accurate and relevant this new list is. However, in the past few weeks, we have witnessed many URLs sites like YouTube and Imgur also being briefly blocked, so there’s clearly need for more transparency in this process.

Although there has been talk of banning porn websites in the country, the Supreme Court recently declined a plea to pass an interim order to block porn websites in India.

“Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody may come to the court and say look I am above 18 and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room. It is a violation of Article 21 [right to personal liberty],” Chief Justice H.L. Dattu reportedly said last month.

Without transparency about whose orders the blocks are coming on, or what laws are being used for the blocks, we are left in a situation where any content could easily be banned. Today, it is pornography which is not a popular subject to publicly fight for; however these same laws could be used to secretly take down any kinds of content, which is why the entire process needs to be more transparent.