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Google's super-secretive but super-cool Google X labs have designed some amazing things so far, such as Google Glass and the self-driving cars from Google. Google X have just outdone themselves today by announcing Project Loon, which would see balloon-powered Internet access to parts of the world where Internet access is hard, or impossible to come by.
Google even started testing this new initiative during the week, which would provide users with 3G-like speeds using balloons blasting Internet down to the people below in New Zealand. Google have said that they've found a way to let these balloons "sail freely in the winds" and would steer them by moving them up or down to catch the right winds. Of course, this means that Google still have some work to do, which I can see them creating the technology to at least automate this process.
The Mountain View-based search giant have said that they're solving this problem "with some complex algorithms and lots of computing power." Google would be using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to give the balloons their flight paths. The search giant are currently using 30 balloons to test the project with around 50 tests in New Zealand who are using the service on the ground.
Computex Taipei 2013 - If we weren't impressed with DisplayLink's technology powering four monitors from a single USB port on an Apple MacBook Air, then you'd better sit down for this one, folks.
The video above shows an ASUS monitor being powered by a single USB cable, from a notebook - impressive. The delay from plugging it in to the monitor working, which is 1920x1080 by the way, its mere seconds. This is such a great idea for people on the go, for someone like myself who would cover an event I can have this in my bag and when I get back to my hotel I can plug it in and have a Full HD monitor ready, all from a single USB port.
DisplayLink, you have impressed me so much today - one of the best technologies shown at Computex hands down.
Computex Taipei 2013 - We had a meeting at the gorgeous W Hotel here in Taipei today with Andy from DisplayLink, and boy did he have some ultra impressive tech to show us. DisplayLink have some output technology that is baked into various products, with the Targus device shown in the video below.
As you can see, it is running four - yes, FOUR monitors from a single USB 3.0 output. This is beyond impressive considering the MacBook Air outputs are usually limited to DisplayPort. The dock used can provide with HDMI or DVI output, with another USB dock daisy-chained in to provide another two monitor outputs for a total of four. We were very impressed with what we saw, and can't wait to get our hands on some of these for review, and general day-to-day use!
We've occasionally written about FreedomPop here on TweakTown. The company looks to offer a small amount of free 4G data--usually 500MB--and then charge if users would like to use more. Now, the company is looking to expand into the cellular communications market with a similar strategy.
FreedomPop announced that they will be offering unlimited SMS, 200 minutes, and 500MB of data each month for free. Included in this free service is unlimited calling between FreedomPop users for no extra charge. Of course, there will be no hidden charges, no dealing with wireless carriers, and no monthly fees.
The service will launch later this summer on "several popular Android phones."
Sky Broadband, one of the largest ISPs in the United Kingdom, has started blocking access to torrent proxy sites. Back in April 2012, the High Court ruled that the UK's largest ISPs had to filter access to The Pirate Bay. Numerous workarounds popped up almost immediately, but these could soon be shut down.
Without so much as a peep, Sky Broadband has blocked access to various services that allow access to The Pirate Bay and Kick Ass Torrents. The blocking appears to have started over the weekend. Customers reported being unable to access these sites. These sites could have been added to the required block list, but it's hard to say as that list isn't public knowledge.
If they are part of the block list, users of the other major ISPs in the UK will soon be unable to access these sites as well.
Two years ago if you had told me Google would be pushing their own super-fast Internet service around the United States, I would've been hesitant to believe you. Now, they're looking to expand their Fiber service, by cementing that it isn't just an expensive research project, but it is a great and profitable business for the search giant.
Google Fiber head, Milo Medin, talked to CNET, noting that Google had kept the costs down by partnering up with cities that are interested in bringing Google's gigabit fiber network to their residents. These partners have helped Google build a less expensive, and less time-consuming network. The search giant are also keeping the bills from going sky-high by building their own network in select neighborhoods, which are known as "fiberhoods", where the demand for their gigabit Internet access is strong, versus entire cities.
Medin talked about the challenges the company faced when they launched Fiber, where the executive noted that the biggest headache was offering TV service, which is some what of a must when trying to attract new customers away from the usual phone and cable companies. The TV service has cost Google the most money, as they've had to sign programming agreements, build their own set-top-boxes and create an entire system for delivering TV through their fiber network.
Google could provide Internet access to "emerging markets" like Africa and Asia, not by using the usual cables, but by balloons. Google would use "high-altitude platforms" in order to blast a wireless signal across a gigantic area which would span hundreds of square miles.
These aren't just normal Wi-Fi routers sitting in balloons, but they would use frequencies different than those used for usual television broadcasts, which is an area that Google would need governmental approval before they could take to the skies. Why would Google do this for emerging markets? Well, they do have countless services that they could provide to hundreds of millions of customers, and with half of the world's population without Internet access, this could be a large, untapped gold mine for the Mountain View-based giant.
BlackBerry is attempting to stay relevant with its latest offering of smartphones. While there is some debate as to whether or not it's working, BlackBerry is charging ahead with other attempts at stay relevant. BlackBerry has announced that they will be releasing BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) apps for both the iOS and Android platforms sometime this summer.
The app will be a free download for both iOS and Android. At the start, BBM will only support text communication, but BlackBerry has plans to add voice and screen sharing sometime down the road. Investors weren't too happy with this announcement and BlackBerry's stock price dropped by about 6 percent.
BlackBerry says the service currently handles around 10 billion messages every day, sent by over 60 million users. The mobile messaging market is heating up with WhatsApp being the messaging app currently on top. Why BlackBerry has just now decided to release BBM for other platforms isn't clear. It could be a good thing, or it could be the signal of a dying company.
Google seems serious about its Google Fiber endeavor as it has been announcing upcoming cities left and right. The latest city to join Google's growing list of cities that will be getting Google Fiber is Gladstone, Missouri. Gladstone is just north of Kansas City, as you can see on the map provided by Google:
Like the other cities currently pending for Google Fiber, Google needs to plan, engineer, and build the infrastructure. Not even a timeline or projected date has been provided to residents, but this should allow them to rest easy knowing that they will soon be getting super-fast and reasonably priced Internet access.
I'm not even enjoying 4G yet, and all I keep hearing is talk of a 5G network being deployed within the next decade. Samsung are behind the new talks, with an under-development wireless network to be capable of giving users the speed to stream data faster than ever dreamed before, even from current wired networks.
You might want to sit down to hear this, but Samsung's 5G network will be capable of 10 gigabits per second, giving users download speeds of around 1.25GB/sec. Considering 4G LTE provides around 75 megabits per second, or around 9.375MB/sec, it is a gigantic leap that can't be frowned upon. We're talking about downloading a Blu-ray movie in under one minute over your mobile Internet connection.