Toyota 86 gets twin-charged

This year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed will see Toyota’s GT86 (known in South Africa as the 86) TRD joined by a twin-charged sibling tuned by Gazoo Racing to develop 235 kW. Although the concept has been developed with motorsport in mind, it is technically road-legal.

The GRMN Sports FR Concept features a twin-charger (sequential super- and turbocharging) set-up for the existing 2,0-litre engine that hikes the outputs up from 147 kW and 205 N.m to 235 kW and 422 N.m of torque. Toyota and Gazoo racing have not yet divulged any details regarding performance, but it’s fair to say that this model will require less provocation to get it sideways than its stock stablemate.

Gazoo Racing has also tacked on an in-house-developed sports exhaust system while uprating both the suspension and brakes.

The GRMN Sports FR concept features a suitably sporty body kit comprising sculpted side skirts, deeper front and rear valances and a prominent rear wing. The whole shooting match rolls on a set of 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 245/40 R18 rubber up front and 265/35 R18s at the rear.

We recently procured pricing for Toyota’s eagerly awaited rear-wheel drive sports coupé, and while there is a great deal of excitement surrounding this newcomer it has to be said that the 147 kW normally aspirated 2,0-litre model appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.

While the TRD version only features a specialised body kit and race-tuned suspension, there is talk of a production 86 variant with a forced-induction powerplant as well as a possible turbocharged version of the mechanically similar Subaru BRZ. Watch this space!

Apple Lightning cable inspection finds an extra-smart connector, won’t make for cheap substitutes

Apple Lightning cable inspection finds an extrasmart connector, won't offer a cheap substitute

Apple made much ado of the Lightning connector it launched side-by-side with the iPhone 5, but what we’ve known about it has been limited outside of the presence of an authentication chip. Double Helix Cables’ Peter Bradstock has delved deeper and tells AppleInsider that there’s some clever wiring that clinches the reversible design. While Lightning’s power supply is truly symmetrical among the contact pins, the data isn’t — which suggests a chip inside is redirecting data to keep the plug working as intended. The technique helps explain why Apple would need any elaborate circuitry in the first place. No matter the wizardry inside, Bradstock doesn’t see any cut-rate Lightning alternatives being useful in the near future: as it’s unlikely that anyone outside of Cupertino knows how the authentication works at this stage, clone cables may amount to little more than heaps of metal and plastic ~ Jon Fingaz

New comet might blaze brighter than the full Moon

halebopp_400x223
File photo of Comet Hale-Bopp which wowed observers in 1997. Image: Kazuhiro Seto.

A new comet has been discovered that is predicted to blaze incredibly brilliantly in the skies during late 2013. With a perihelion passage of less than two million kilometres from the Sun on 28 November 2013, current predictions are of an object that will dazzle the eye at up to magnitude —16. That’s far brighter than the full Moon. If predictions hold true then C/2012 S1 will certainly be one of the greatest comets in human history, far outshining the memorable Comet Hale-Bopp of 1997 and very likely to outdo the long-awaited Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) which is set to stun in March 2013.

The new comet, named C/2012 S1 (ISON) was found by the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) in Russia on 21 September when astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok captured it on CCD images taken through a 0.4-metre reflector. Its near-parabolic orbit suggests that it has arrived fresh from the Oort Cloud, a vast zone of icy objects orbiting the Sun, pristine remnants of the formation of the Solar System.

C/2012 S1 currently resides in the northwestern corner of Cancer. At magnitude +18 it is too dim to be seen visually but it will be within the reach of experienced amateur astronomers with CCD equipment in the coming months as it brightens. It is expected to reach binocular visibility by late summer 2013 and a naked eye object in early November of that year. Northern hemisphere observers are highly favoured. Following its peak brightness in late November it will remain visible without optical aid until mid-January 2014.

Comet brightness predictions sometimes exceed their performance. Amateur astronomers of a certain age may remember the Comet Kohoutek hype of 1973 – not quite the ‘damp squib’ it has been portrayed, since it reached naked eye visibility! Even if C/2012 S1 takes on the same light curve as Kohoutek it is certain to be spectacular, quite possibly a once-in-a-civilisation’s-lifetime event. ~ Peter Grego

Einstein’s brain FOUND ON APPLE iPAD

Albert Einstein’s brain can now be downloaded to your trusty Apple iPad, should you own one.

Sadly it’s not an iOS-compatible simulation of the top physicist’s mind, best known for coming up with the general theory of relativity and laying the ground work for quantum mechanics. Instead it’s a selection of photos of slices of the German-born boffin’s grey matter.

Still – the app will let iPad users get as close to the great man’s brain as any neurobiologist can.

A slide of Einstein's brain available on iPad, credit NMHMC appEinstein’s brain … a still from the app

Einstein’s brain was removed and preserved when he died in April 1955. Pathologist Dr Thomas Harvey of Princeton Hospital split it into 170 parts and sectioned them into microscope slides. He then stained the wafers to highlight the cellular structure and nerve conduction tissue.

Dr Harvey’s collection of brain samples was bequeathed in 2010 to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Chicago, which has just scraped together the cash to digitise the slides and put them in a new iPad app. The software is available from Apple’s App Store for $9.99, or £6.99, and funds will go to the museum.

The magnified high-resolution images give fanbois the view that they’d get if the brain slides were on the business end of a microscope, and the app makers hope opening up one of the world’s greatest brains to neurobiologists everywhere, as well as the the general public, will garner new insight into the workings of the Nobel prize-winning boffin’s cerebral matter.

Nothing exceptional was found about Einstein’s brain in 1955, but a 1999 survey found that it contained a rare density of connections between neurons in the language, spatial and mathematical areas.

One severe limitation of Harvey’s slides is that it is hard to tell exactly where each sample was taken from Einstein’s brain: the 170 parts are loosely attributed to the brainstem and various lobes rather than specifically located. Solving the location of the brain parts is now considered to be much more important.

The Chicago museum features another interesting brain from Dr Harvey’s collection: Henry Molaison, who died in 2008 after living for decades with profound amnesia.

Planned updates to the Einstein app will include further slides as they are digitised and will add more context to existing ones. ®

Samsung smartphones vulnerable to remote data wipe

Code that’s making the rounds on the Internet could trigger a factory reset on the handsets without warning, a security researcher discovers.

 

Samsung's Galaxy S3.Samsung’s Galaxy S3.

(Credit: Samsung)

Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3 may be vulnerable to a flaw that could allow their personal data to be deleted from their device, a security researcher has discovered.

The malicious code, which is now circulating on the Internet, could trigger a factory reset of the popular handsets, according to Ravi Borgaonkar, a researcher in the Security in Communications department at Technical University Berlin, who demonstrated the vulnerability at the Ekoparty security conference in Argentina last week (see video below).

The flaw lies in the way Samsung’s TouchWiz UI interacts with unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) codes, which execute commands on the handset’s keypad. While most dialers require the user to hit the “send” button to complete the code, Samsung’s does not, Borgaonkar said.

He showed how the flaw could be exploited on a Samsung Galaxy S3 via a single code embedded in a Web link, QR code, NFC connection, or SMS, supplying the correct factory reset code to wipe the device without warning the owner or asking for permission.

Borgaonkar also said it was possible to lock the SIM card, preventing owners from using many of the device’s features. However, attacks can be prevented by turning off “service loading” in settings and disabling QR code and NFC apps, he said.

Samsung appears to be the only Android smartphone maker affected by the flaw, Borgaonkar said.

“It’s possible to exploit this attack only on Samsung devices,” he said.

RIM CEO: We have a ‘clear shot’ at No. 3

Research In Motion has had a hard slog over the past year, but is poised to reclaim its spot among the top mobile ecosystems, CEO Thorsten Heins said today during a press briefing at BlackBerry Jam. Heins said the company’s decision to bet everything on its new BlackBerry 10 operating system would allow the company to begin growing its user base once again in the United States and North America, where it has rapidly lost ground to devices from Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft, among others. “We have a clear shot at being the No. 3 platform in the market,” said Heins, who took the reigns at RIM nine months ago. “Carriers want other platforms. And we’re not just another open platform running on another system. We’re BlackBerry.” Becoming no. 3 in installed base of mobile devices would mean surpassing Symbian, which currently holds that spot. Android and iOS are the top two mobile platforms by a comfortable margin. Heins said developers are eager to build apps for BlackBerry’s base of 80 million users around the world, and said BlackBerry 10 was the most productive version of the operating system to date. But for all the cheerleading, there was little in the way of concrete information about the new platform: when the new devices will be available, beyond reiterating it will be in the first quarter of 2013; how they will be priced; which carriers it has signed; and, crucially, why mainstream consumers are likely to opt for these devices over robust offerings on iOS and Android. The company also declined to discuss financial data, citing a mandatory quiet period in advance of its earnings report on Thursday. “BlackBerry 10 is on track,” Heins said. “Our sales forces are getting ready. Better devices are in testing.” Heins’ remarks came after a nearly two-hour demonstration of BlackBerry 10’s user interface, which employs a system called “Peek” to allow for fast switching between apps, messages, and notifications. In a demonstration, it appeared to be an elegant way to check in quickly on various corners of the operating system. At the same time, engineers struggled at times to get it to work, occasionally having to swipe up two or three times before the gesture started to work. RIM executives worked nonetheless to rally developers back to the company’s side, pledging that certified developers will make at least US$10,000 from their apps (if they meet a few conditions), and appearing in a whimsical music video together that quickly went viral in tech circles.

MTN to raise capex in SA to 7 billion rand in 2013

MTN Group plans to spend 7 billion rand on its South African network in 2013, a 40 percent increase from the current year, the telecoms operator said on Tuesday.

The headquarters of South Africa’s MTN Group is seen in Johannesburg in this file photograph.
Image by: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS

MTN, Africa’s largest mobile phone services provider, also said it is “exploring the possibility of switching on” commercial long term evolution, or so-called 4G technology, in three South African cities within 2012.

Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, Chief Technology Officer at MTN SA says the commercialisation of technologies such as LTE (Long Term Evolution) is expected to address consumer needs for full service continuity, a seamless network and high speed Internet connection.

He says MTN is exploring the possibility of switching on its commercial LTE network within 2012 and has identified 3 key urban cities to roll out the network namely Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.

‘However pricing has not been finalised yet.’

The company said in a statement it has increased 2 Generation (2G) network coverage to 98.6% of the country’s population while the company’s EDGE and 3Generation sites cover 92% and close to 65% of South Africa respectively.

Google co-founder: Ride in robot cars within 5 years

 

(Credit: Screenshot by Charles Cooper/CNET)

 

If you’re excited about the day when your car drives itself, you may not have too wait long.

Google cofounder Sergey Brin said Google will have autonomous cars available for the general public within five years.

“You can count on one hand the number of years it will take before ordinary people can experience this,” he said at the signing of SB 1298, which establishes safety and performance standards for cars operated by computers on California roads and highways.

The new law, which puts California in line with Nevada and Florida–two states that have had similar laws in place–will allow a licensed driver to test the car. The bill had some opposition early on, with detractors fearing the bill didn’t provide enough oversight to guarantee the safety of truly driverless cars, but more discussion and a revision of the bill let the bill slide through the Legislature.

Google has already put in 300,000 miles of testing with its self-driving cars. Brin said the company will focus on improving sensors and hardware failure support for the technology. He said any obstacles for the technology will be the same as any system that can fail, such is the case with something like airplane flight.

“It’s a long list of things that humans have coped with in the past,” he said. ~ Donna Tam

The truth about iPhone 5’s first weekend sales

 

 

Customers hover around a table of iPhones and iPads at the SF flagship store.

(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)

commentary Apple supporters triumphantly cheered on the company after it sold 5 million iPhones over the weekend. Wall Street, however, was disappointed by the figure after seeing the long lines on Friday.

The correct reaction probably lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps a polite golf clap? For analysts, it was a classic case of hype feeding into the estimates, which ramped up to as high as 10 million for the first weekend, numbers that even a powerhouse like Apple couldn’t hope to achieve.

“We find it unfortunate that some analysts continue to publish irresponsible estimates without taking into account realistic demand trends and potential supply constraints,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee.

On the flip side, while 5 million is an impressively high number, and is 1 million better than last year’s iPhone 4S launch, it isn’t a genuine indicator of the longer-term appeal of the iPhone 5. There was so much pent-up demand that Apple would have sold out of however many phones it had in stock. The truth behind that first weekend statistic that Apple proudly proclaims is the number isn’t really as relevant as you might think. It’s a nice figure to boast about, window dressing, and it certainly fuels the hype and illusion that Apple is invincible. But in reality, that’s about it. There are too many factors, including supply issues, the availability of its phones in key markets, and reaction to the competition, to really make a judgment on whether the company’s latest phone will suitably carry on the legacy of success that its predecessors enjoyed. The true test of the phone’s longevity in the market won’t come until after the key holiday season, when many high-profile smartphones start to see a pullback in sales and the euphoria of the recent iPhonelaunch hype has long faded away.

Now, any company would kill to sell 5 million units of anything over the weekend, but the iPhone runs at a higher standard. Sales of the iPhone 4 were amazingly resilient, and hung on to the top spot at AT&T for more than a year (it was also helped by its introduction at Verizon Wireless). Conversely, sales of the iPhone 4S had an initial pop, but began to fizzle as the months went on. Yes, it remained a top-selling phone, but its momentum couldn’t match the previous iteration.

The iPhone 5 is poised to pick up where the iPhone 4 left off. Despite criticism that it isn’t drastically different, the phone addresses the key concerns of iPhone users, namely the larger display and a faster 4G wireless connection. Those two, alongside the thinner and lighter design, may convince consumers that it’s worth the upgrade. Despite the initial disappointment, Wall Street remains as bullish as ever. J.P. Morgan yesterday said it estimates Apple will sell 50 million iPhonesin the fourth quarter. For the quarter ending on Saturday, the firm estimates 25 million units will be sold. Sterne Agee’s Wu said the noise over the launch and the following disappointment didn’t change his estimate. He still believes the company will sell 27 million this month and 46.5 million in the quarter ending December 31. While the stock may have sold off yesterday, there remains a lot of optimism around Apple.

The lines at the Fifth Ave. Apple store in Manhattan during iPhone 5 launch day.

(Credit: Greg Sandoval/CNET)

There are some hurdles for Apple to reach those lofty expectations. For one, the company’s decision to use a new, thinner display is causing some supply shortages, according to reports. The various suppliers are having trouble producing the volume of screens needed to meet the high demand. The supply issue is one of the reasons analysts blamed for the big discrepancy between their estimates and Apple’s actual sales figure. Another unknown is whether Apple will be able to expand the availability. In China, hundreds of millions are waiting for the iPhone to show up at China Mobile. Getting the iPhone to China Mobile is important because it’s the world’s largest wireless carrier with more than 650 million subscribers, or more than twice the combined customer base of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile.

Beyond internal issues, Apple and its new iPhone 5 face unprecedented competition. Its biggest rival, Samsung, has already launched a campaign mocking the iPhone lines that even some fans have admitted contains genuine insight into the silliness of the whole affair. For once, its rivals can already boast of those key features in many of their smartphones.

Samsung’s Galaxy S III has been a blockbuster in its own right, and overtook the iPhone 4sthis past summer.

Google unit Motorola has already tweaked Apple for the maps flap, and its lineup of Droid smartphones are an attractive alternative.

The holiday season is poised to get even more crowded with a slew of Windows Phone backed by a massive push from Microsoft, vendors such as Nokia and HTC, and carriers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T. For the carriers in particular, the iPhone is no longer the phone to have, since it’s available virtually everywhere. There is also a lot of incentive to promote other phones, since they require a lower subsidy and consequently weigh less on their profits. Apple’s iPhone 5 will be successful; there is little doubt of that. But how much of a success remains to be seen, and one weekend’s worth of data isn’t nearly enough to make a call yet. ~ Rodger Cheng

‘Smaller and lighter’ PS3 confirmed for South Africa, date and price announced

Following the announcement of a new version of the PlayStation 3 during Tokyo Game Show 2012 this week, the ‘smaller and lighter’ console has been confirmed for South Africa, with date and price details announced, too.

PlayStation 3 Super Slim Console

The new 50% smaller PlayStation 3 with a 500GB hard-drive will go for a recommended retail price of R3 999.99, while the 12GB flash memory model will retail for R2 899.99. Both versions of the new ‘super slim’ PS3 will be available in South Africa from mid-October.

Will you be picking up a new PlayStation 3 this October, or are you happy with the one you’ve got? Are you in any hurry to get a PS3?