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You Can Now Listen to Twitter Spaces Without an Account

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Twitter Spaces is getting a new feature that allows everybody to listen to Spaces audio via direct links. With the latest feature, users can share direct links to their Spaces with others, and the invitees can attend the audio session via the Web without being logged into the platform. With the new update, people without Twitter accounts can also access Spaces audio. However, they will not be able to participate in the audio broadcast. The latest functionality will open up Twitter Spaces to more people. Recently, Spaces started rolling out support for all Android and iOS users to host a live audio session.

The Spaces team on Friday, November 5 tweeted about the new update. As mentioned, with the new feature, listeners and hosts can reach out to a wider audience by sending a direct link to a Spaces audio broadcast. People who do not have an account on Twitter can also hear out it on the Web version without logging in to the platform.

The micro-blogging platform has been adding new functionalities to Spaces that rival Clubhouse and Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms. Recently Spaces has rolled out the ability for everyone on iOS and Android to create their own chat room. Initially, when Twitter started rolling out Spaces in late 2020, only users who had more than 600 followers on the platform could host Spaces. All users, irrespective of the number of followers, can now create public and private audio chat rooms on Twitter. Also, Spaces can have up to 11 speakers at a time.

In September this year, Twitter updated Spaces with recording and replays features to allow people to listen to Spaces even after they have ended. Some features on Spaces, though, are currently limited to the Spaces mobile apps.


For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.


Nithya P Nair is a journalist with more than five years of experience in digital journalism. She specialises in business and technology beats. A foodie at heart, Nithya loves exploring new places (read cuisines) and sneaking in Malayalam movie dialogues to spice up conversations.
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Immutable snapshots aim to neutralise ransomware

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Ransomware has been 2021’s growth industry. The volume of attacks is in the tens of thousands, with thousands of victims and an average payout of $1.85m, according to Sophos.

We could dwell on the data – which sectors are most at risk and in which countries – but the key focus is the main way in which storage and backup suppliers are tackling the issue, namely via snapshots, which they are usually keen to call “immutable snapshots”.

But why immutable snapshots? Where do they fit as a response to the mechanism of a ransomware attack? Which suppliers provide this capability? And what are the benefits and potential drawbacks?

Ransomware attack phases and why snapshots fit

There are several key phases to a ransomware attack, namely the initial intrusion, a period of reconnaissance inside the victim’s systems, then the execution of encryption and exfiltration of data. Then come the ransom demands.

Snapshots provide customers the ability to roll back to uncorrupted copies of their data made before the execution of code introduced by the attacker. In theory, from here they can ignore ransom demands, purge their systems of the effects of intrusion and continue business as normal.

Snapshots are not backups, in that they are not just copies of data. They are a record of the state of and location of files and blocks that make up files at a specific time to which a customer can roll back. That record may comprise more than just a record of state, with metadata, deleted data, parent copies, and so on, all needing to be retained.

All snapshots are immutable: So what’s new?

Snapshots are immutable anyway, in that they are write-once read-many (Worm). What storage and backup suppliers have added are features such as encryption, mechanisms that lock snapshots from being moved or mounted externally, with multifactor authentication (MFA) required to manage them.

With no one – not even administrators, but certainly not ransomware software – having the ability to access snapshots or move or delete them, customers should always have access to clean copies of their data following a breach.

That’s the key benefit, with the added benefit over backups that snapshots are usually taken much more frequently than once a day.

Snapshots as a restore source: Pros and cons

But there are also potential drawbacks. Historically, snapshots have not been retained for long periods because they take up storage capacity. For this reason, retention periods for snapshots have often been short – around 48 hours.

With ransomware recovery the use case, the period customers need to retain immutable snapshots zooms up.

The time spent by attackers inside systems – “dwell time” – averages 11 days according to Sophos and 24 days according to Mandiant. During this period, they will be carrying out reconnaissance, moving laterally between different parts of the network, gathering credentials, identifying sensitive and lucrative data, exfiltrating data, and so on.

That means snapshot retention periods, and therefore the capacity required to store them, will creep up. Suppliers know this, and in some cases have targeted storage subsystems with bulk capacity at these use cases.

Snapshots and RPO

The question also has to be asked, what is the effect on recovery point objective (RPO)?

After all, if attackers have been inside systems for a week or two, data held on snapshots for that entire period may be compromised because it has been recorded with corruption intact. It may be possible to remove traces of the intruder, but the last completely clean copies may represent a recovery point some time in the past.

Anyway, don’t forget, all snapshots are immutable. What’s new is that suppliers are layering methods of making sure they cannot be exported or deleted so that customers’ last line of defence – or rather restore – is not compromised. Below is a selection of what suppliers are doing.

Cohesity SpanFS snapshots are retained in an immutable state and never made accessible to be mounted by an external system. Ransomware cannot affect the immutable snapshot. Cohesity allows for an air-gap in which customers can replicate data to an external cloud (see also its recent Fort Knox plan), another physical location or tape. Multifactor authentication is used to control access to protected copies.

IBM’s Safeguarded Copy is available in its all-flash storage arrays. It automatically creates immutable snapshots that are isolated and cannot be accessed or altered by unauthorised users. Safeguarded Copy keeps up to 15,000 immutable point-in-time copies that cannot be written to or read by an application and can’t be mapped to a host. Safeguarded Copy can be integrated with IBM Security QRadar, which monitors activities and looks for signs that an attack may be in progress.

Panzura is a little different, being a hybrid cloud or cloud gateway-focused operation, and its CloudFS takes a slightly different approach. It recognises altered file data and any resulting encrypted files are written to the object store as new data. So, if a file is encrypted by ransomware, users can recover to the state prior to infection by reference to the clean existing data with snapshots.

Pure Storage puts immutable snapshots in SafeMode, with Protection Groups that provide configurable snapshot policies covering frequency of snapshots, retention policy and ability to send snapshots to other destinations for recovery. Intruders can’t set retention periods to zero or eradicate snapshots. Retention can be increased, but can’t be decreased unless two authorised contacts with PINs contact Pure Support.

Rubrik’s snapshots and backups are also built as immutable so they can’t be encrypted or deleted by a ransomware attack. Impact Analysis is also possible via Rubrik, to identify what data was encrypted and sensitive data that may have been exposed, with multifactor authentication access to protected data.

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Is JioPhone Next Worth the Anticipation and Hype?

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JioPhone Next has now gone on sale in India after much anticipation. The new 4G phone that has been developed in collaboration between Jio and Google is claimed to be the most affordable smartphone thanks to its upfront cost of Rs. 1,999. However, that’s just the first instalment — the JioPhone Next price in India is set at Rs. 6,499, and the rest of its amount needs to be paid in monthly instalments of up to 24 months. The new phone offers features including a custom-designed Pragati OS (it’s more or less Android Go) and is integrated with a list of localised features.

On this week’s episode of Gadgets 360 podcast Orbital, host Akhil Arora speaks with Producer Aditya Nath Jha and Senior Reviewer Sheldon Pinto to discuss all things JioPhone Next.

Although the specifications of the JioPhone Next are quite basic and align with any low-cost smartphone, it does have a list of Google-backed features to attract customers. We talk about all these features in detail during our over half-an-hour conversation.

One of the most distinct inputs from Google on the JioPhone Next is the Pragati OS that is a tweaked version of Android 11 (Go edition). The custom operating system comes preloaded with Google Assistant to support voice commands for operating the device. It also supports language translation and read-aloud features to please first smartphone users in the country. Further, the phone comes with support for 10 distinct languages including Hindi.

JioPhone Next Goes on Sale in India, Buyers Must Register First: All Details

Alongside the basic tweaks, the JioPhone Next has a customised camera that integrates Snapchat’s augmented reality (AR) lenses and has features to support night and low-light photography. The phone also comes with the Nearby Share feature to let users share content including apps, photos, and videos, all without the Internet.

Jio also claims that with Google’s backing on the software side, the JioPhone Next is capable of receiving future updates, with enhanced customisations and feature upgrades — just like the “Feature Drops” and “Security Updates” on the Google Pixel series.

Similar to some other budget options in its price range, the JioPhone Next has a removable battery pack. This helps get a new battery if the original one fails. However, Jio has not yet provided any details about how much the battery would cost — and whether it would be officially available through any retail or service channels.

The JioPhone Next also restricts access to 2G connectivity if a customer is going for a network other than Jio. It is unlike other options available in the same price segment where you will get 4G support irrespective of the network you use. Nevertheless, the JioPhone Next does support 4G if you go with Jio’s network. It wouldn’t be a 4G phone otherwise.

In terms of key alternatives against the JioPhone Next, there are models including the Realme C11 (2021), Redmi 9A, Itel Vision 1, and Infinix Smart 5A, among others. We talk about some of these models in our conversation. We also discuss how the EMI model is something that could significantly increase the final price of the JioPhone Next.

JioPhone Next Comes Preloaded With Device Lock ‘Feature’ to Avoid Payment Defaults

You can catch all this and more by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.

In case you are new here, you can find the Gadgets 360 podcast on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Gaana, JioSaavn, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to follow it wherever you’re listening. Please also rate us and leave a review.

New Orbital episodes release every Friday, so make sure to tune in each week.

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NetApp adds CloudCheckr to Spot portfolio

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NetApp has added another element to the cloud piece of its jigsaw of offerings with the acquisition of Cloudcheckr.

Cloudcheckr allows customers to audit their cloud storage usage across multiple providers and analyse it in terms of cost-benefit analysis. It enables customers to assess current cloud deployments and spend, and to address security and governance aspects of their cloud usage.

Cloudcheckr will be folded into the existing NetApp Spot portfolio and allow customers to analyse and reflect on the state of existing cloud deployments.

Spot by NetApp, which results from the company’s 2020 acquisition, is geared towards allowing customers to optimise placement of compute and storage workloads via Kubernetes with cloud providers, with an eye on cost.

Meanwhile, CloudCheckr is a well-established third-party cloud management tool – formed in 2011 – that offers visibility and optimisation of cloud deployments, resource management and billing monitoring, with the ability to audit for security and governance.

CloudCheckr works across cloud deployments in AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform, and allows customers to track spend, predict future billing, right-size resource usage and handle invoicing. CloudCheckr can also monitor users’ cloud activity and implement identity and access management (IAM). Admins can receive alerts when changes are made to cloud resources. Dashboards and summaries provide an overview of resource usage.

It has been a paid-for service, so the question is begged whether that will be the case in future or whether it will be folded into wider NetApp services. Pricing in 2017 ranged from a free version to an enterprise plan priced at 2% of the customer’s AWS bill.

NetApp’s Spot portfolio forms part of a wider company offer that ranges from cloud-based storage and management solutions to on-premise storage hardware.

On the cloud side, NetApp’s strategy centres on providing its storage software as cloud-native services such as subscription products that include NetApp Cloud Volumes on AWS and Google Cloud Platform, and Azure NetApp Files.

It also offers various implementations of its Ontap storage operating system via the cloud, including the recently launched and fully managed Amazon FSx for Ontap in AWS.

Last year, NetApp acquired Talon Storage, a product for global file caching and data sync plus CloudJumper to provide virtual desktop delivery.

Containers are also a focus on the cloud side. NetApp launched Project Astra last April as a containerised version of OnTap. It manages, protects and moves Kubernetes containerised workloads in public cloud and on-premise. Before that, NetApp’s Trident saw the release of an open-source driver for provisioning container storage. 

Keystone, launched in 2019, is NetApp’s consumption model for its hardware storage products. Customers commit to a minimum storage capacity and time period, and select from three performance levels and service offerings such as file, block or object.

NetApp’s FAS array line-up expanded in 2020, with the FAS500f high-capacity model outfitted with quad-level cell (QLC) NAND solid-state drives (SSDs). Compared with previous NAND generations, QLC flash has a limited endurance and performance profile, with the trade-off being a lower cost per gigabyte.

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Amitabh Bachchan’s First NFT Series Sells for Nearly $1 Million

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Amitabh Bachchan emerged as one of the first major Indian celebrities to announce his series of non-fungible token (NFT) earlier this year. Excited fans of the Bollywood actor purchased digital collectibles from his NFT series for a total amount of $966,000 (approximately Rs. 7.18 crore). The items in Bachchan’s series included a recital of his father’s famous poem “Madhubala”, autographed vintage posters of himself, as well as other items associated with his identity, work, and stardom. The bidding for this collection began on November 1, and closed on the day of India’s biggest festival, Diwali, on November 4.

“In this world of digitisation, NFTs have opened a new realm of opportunities to engage with my fans even more than before. The successful auction of my NFTs, some of the most treasured and personal moments of my life and career were so well received and invested in by my supporters,” the 79-year-old actor said in a statement, commenting on the development.

The veteran actor who is famous for his systematically numbered tweets had been expressing excitement around his NFT collection on the micro-blogging site from his handle @SrBachchan.

NFT exchange platform Beyondlife.club that auctioned the NFTs also took to Twitter to share the raging success of Bachchan’s NFT collection

The highest-auctioned item from the series was the “Madhushala” poem recital, recorded in the actor’s own voice, which crossed a total of $756,000 (roughly Rs. 5.5 crore) by the time the bidding closed. It had garnered bids up to $420,000 (roughly Rs. 3 crore) on the first day of the auction.

A special “Loot Box” was also announced by Beyondlife.club for the Bachchan’s NFTs to let buyers of this “Loot Box” win NFT gifts as well as a chance to get bonus art pieces and vintage posters of the Sholay film actor. The 5,000 LootBox NFTs were sold within the first 54 minutes of them going live and received bids worth $50,000 (roughly Rs. 37 lakh), Beyondlife.com revealed.

Furthermore, the limited-edition vintage posters with digital NFT certificate of authenticity as well as BigB Punks and NFT Arts fetched $94,052 (roughly Rs. 69.8 lakh) and $66,900 (roughly Rs. 49.6 lakh) respectively.

The NFT trend is gradually picking pace among other Bollywood celebrities as well.

In October, Indian fashion designer Manish Malhotra had also released a five-piece NFT series on WazirX crypto trading platform.

Actress Sunny Leone also reportedly invested in NFTs last month, becoming the first Bollywood actor to have done so.

Earlier in September, NFT trading platform Colexion roped in Indian artists including Suniel Shetty, Aamir Ali, Mika Singh, and Sidhu Moose Wala among others to be part of its marketplace as well.


Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.



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DCMS appoints Plexal to drive telecoms diversity strategy

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Collaboration technology provider Plexal has been appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support the diversification of the UK’s telecoms market and stimulate the creation of products and services from small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups.

The diversity strategy is designed to alleviate supply concerns that emerged after the government’s decision to remove technology and services from so-called at-risk suppliers, in particular Huawei, from the UK’s 4G and 5G communications infrastructure, a controversial move that has led to huge cost to mobile operators such as Vodafone and BT/EE, calculated as being about €200m and £500m, respectively.

The government’s diversification strategy was formulated in December 2020 following its decision to remove Huawei equipment from national infrastructures. It has three key pillars: supporting incumbent suppliers, which will continue to be a major part of the UK market and will help the nation meet its ambitious digital infrastructure plans; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating open-interface and interoperable technologies, such as Open RAN.

The Future RAN Competition (FRANC) scheme aims to tackle the world’s over-reliance on a small number of telecoms suppliers by developing what are hoped to be “new, innovative solutions” in the UK. It is hoped this will help to build confidence in the security and resilience of new 5G technology as it delivers major social and economic benefits for people and businesses.

The appointment of Plexal also follows the publication of the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce, which was commissioned by the government to provide advice on how to effectively deliver a more competitive and diverse 5G telecoms market. It submitted its final report in April 2021, providing independent expert advice to the government on the delivery of the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy. The report suggested that private networks could prove a useful testing ground for innovation in the telecoms sector.

Working through the UK’s LORCA programme, Plexal has worked with leaders from the telecoms market to assess where there could be opportunities for SMEs to provide products or services. The aim is to create a diverse commercial ecosystem for private 5G networks that will enable large and small vendors to play a role. 

The SMEs will work with Plexal, the government and industry to carve out and develop opportunities and overcome any barriers that exist for startups to play an active role in the telecoms market. These barriers could include making sure the products are interoperable and have robust cyber security built in.

Plexal has identified SMEs that will take part in a 12-week sprint to develop robust business cases, technology roadmaps and investment plans. The sprint will support the government’s aim of developing a domestic capability for 5G and making sure the telecoms market includes a diverse range of suppliers – including a larger number of SMEs. 

Plexal is looking at current and future 5G private networks in two categories: fully private, where the value outcome remains isolated from the public; and currently private, but in future will need to integrate to the public network to realise all the benefits.

Andrew Roughan, managing director of Plexal, said: “We think there’s a big opportunity to understand and develop the role of SMEs in the telecoms market. Our open collaboration model, which is bringing industry, the government and SMEs together in a pre-competitive environment, is a novel way to approach the challenge of how the UK creates a diverse telecoms market that supports the creation of home-grown, sovereign technology.”

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iQoo Z5 Review: A Decent Step Up, but Not a Big Leap

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On paper, the iQoo Z5 does not seem like a massive improvement over the previous model in this series, the iQoo Z3. There’s no AMOLED display like on competing smartphones at around the Rs. 25,000 price point, and its cameras remain similar to what was offered on the Z3. However, its price is a bit higher – the base variant retails at Rs. 23,990. So is the new iQoo Z5 worth your money, or are there better smartphones out there that offer more for less? Let’s find out.

iQoo Z5 price in India

The iQoo Z5 is available in two variants. There’s an 8GB RAM and 128GB storage option, which is the base variant, and is priced at Rs. 23,990 in India. The second one is the 12GB RAM and 256GB storage variant, priced at Rs. 26,990.

iQoo Z5 design

The iQoo Z5 is a step up from the Z3 in terms of design. The soft finish on the previous model’s back panel has been replaced by a frosted texture, which does an excellent job of resisting fingerprints and did not slip out of my hands either. The camera module has grown in size to a rectangle with rounded corners, and it protrudes very little from the rear surface. The back panel and frame are made of plastic, but this phone felt solid. The colourways are more subtle this time around. There are two of them – Mystic Space and Arctic Dawn – and both look quite mature and elegant. I received a Mystic Space unit for review, and it shifts between dark blue and black when viewed from different angles.

iQoo Z5 back design side ndtv iQooZ5  iQoo

The iQoo Z5’s back panel and frame are made of plastic

 

This phone does not appear too chunky at 8.5mm, and does not feel too heavy at 197g. There is a 6.67-inch full-HD+ LCD panel with a hole-punch camera cutout at the top. While the borders at the top, left and right felt adequately thin, the one at the bottom is quite thick. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and it’s located at the top of the smartphone.

iQoo Z5 specifications and software

The iQoo Z3 debuted Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 768G processor in India, and the Z5 gets the updated 778G SoC. This updated processor has been manufactured using a 6nm fabrication process and runs at a maximum clock speed of 2.4Ghz, which is lower than the 768G. However, it has an integrated Adreno 642L GPU, which is clocked at 750MHz, rather than the 450Mhz Adreno 620 GPU on the older 768G.

The phone is offered with 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Communication standards include 5G radios (limited to n77/n78 bands only), dual-band Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.2, and support for the usual satellite navigation systems. The phone has a dual-SIM tray and there’s no microSD card slot for storage expansion. It packs in a 5,000mAh battery which can be charged with the bundled 44W charger.

iQoo Z5 front software ndtv iQooZ5  iQoo

The iQoo Z5 runs Funtouch OS 12, which is based on Android 11

 

The iQoo Z5 features Vivo’s Funtouch OS 12, which is based on Android 11. Just like the premium Vivo X70 Pro+, the Z5 also gets the widgets treatment, and you can read about it in detail here. The animated widgets work as expected but are not too deeply integrated with either native or third-party apps. They are still fun to use. The rest of the software looks similar to FunTouch 11 and appears fluid thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate display.

iQoo Z5 performance and battery life

While the LCD screen works fine given its price, I did notice a mild yellow hue at the bottom end of the panel. Sunlight legibility is excellent and viewing angles are good as well. The 6.67-inch 20:9 ratio display makes reaching out for things is a bit of a stretch. Vivo claims that its display is HDR 10 compatible, but I did not find support for this in most OTT apps including Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, the Z5 does still make for a good video streaming device, thanks to its stereo speakers, which sounded loud and clear.

iQoo Z5 side display smudged ndtv iQooZ5  iQoo

The display gets smudged easily and the fingerprints aren’t easy to wipe off

 

What I did not like about the display is that it’s a smudgy mess. The smartphone has a pre-applied screen guard. Peeling this off left a layer of residue behind, which made it sticky and did not let my fingers glide over it especially when playing games. After a gaming session, that Panda glass was a smudgy mess and was hard to clean.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G did not disappoint in our benchmark tests. The phone’s scores were on par with those of the competition, managing 5,66,151 points in AnTuTu, and 760 and 2,802 points in Geekbench’s single and multi-core tests respectively.

iQoo Z5 side buttons ndtv iQooZ5  iQoo

The iQoo Z5’s power and volume buttons sit on the right

 

Gaming performance was pretty good. I tried Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9 and both games ran smoothly. The Snapdragon 778G SoC managed to run Call of Duty: Mobile fluidly at the default Very High graphics and High frame rate settings with no noticeable heating issues. Asphalt 9: Legends also ran smoothly at Default settings.

Since this is a gamer-centric smartphone, there’s also ‘4D game vibration’, which can be activated in the Ultra Game Mode menu or in the game sidebar. It did not work as expected, sending out jarring vibrations that were either too late or didn’t make any sense, and I found this distracting at best.

iQoo Z5 back camera ndtv iQooZ5  iQoo

The iQoo Z5 features three rear cameras

 

Battery life with the 4,400mAh battery on the iQoo Z3 was quite good, and iQoo has improved things drastically with the iQoo Z5. This phone has a higher-capacity 5,000mAh battery which easily lasts a day and a half with regular use. The phone managed an impressive 21 hours and 57 minutes in our HD video loop battery life test. The slightly slower 44W charger that comes in the box still charged the phone from a dead battery to 100 percent in 1 hour and 10 minutes, which is not bad. In short, iQoo’s move of sacrificing faster charging for a longer-lasting battery seems to have paid off.

iQoo Z5 cameras

The iQoo Z5 features three rear-facing cameras – a 64-megapixel primary, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle, and a 2-megapixel macro camera. Selfie duties are handled by a 16-megapixel front-facing camera. The camera app interface is pure Vivo, and all important controls including a toggle for the macro camera are just a tap away. The camera modes are also customisable. Video recording maxes out at 4K 30fps for the rear cameras, while the front-facing one is limited to 1080p video at 30fps.

iQoo Z5 daylight camera samples. Top: primary camera, bottom: ultra-wide-angle camera (tap to see full size)

 

Photos taken in daylight showed colours that were a bit saturated, with some mild purple fringing in the brighter areas. While they looked decent at first glance, it was easy to tell that these photos are low on resolved detail after magnifying them just a little. Selfies came out fine with good dynamic range, but edge detection in Portrait mode was average.

iQoo Z3 close-up camera samples. Top: Macro camera, bottom: Primary camera (tap to see full size)

 

Photos taken with the ultra-wide-angle camera were passable and had blurry details towards the edges of the frames. The macro camera with its fixed 4cm focal length is not easy to use, and the output mostly ended up looking dramatic with lots of oversharpening. I preferred close-up shots taken with the primary camera instead.

iQoo Z5 selfie Portrait camera samples. Top: Daylight, bottom: Low-light (tap to see full size)

 

Just like with the iQoo Z3, low-light image quality of the Z5’s cameras wasn’t great. Photos taken in low light showed murky details and lots and blotchy textures. Switching to Night mode did not help, this only added more contrast to the image and nothing else. Selfies shot in low light fell short of detail and looked quite soft, and edge detection was below average.

iQoo Z5 low-light camera samples. Top: Auto, bottom: Night mode (tap to see full size)

 

Videos shot in daylight came out with a steady frame rate and offered good stabilisation, but the Z3 could not handle bright scenes and tended to overexpose them. Oddly, I did notice a light shimmer effect when walking even in daylight. In low light, details were on the lower side. Stabilisation was quite good, but the frame rate was a bit choppy. The shimmer effect was visible in low-light footage as well. 4K video recorded when walking looked very jittery.

Verdict

While the iQoo Z3 with its sub-Rs. 20,000 starting price seemed to offer good enough value for money, the same cannot be said about the Z5, because its base price is Rs. 23,990 in India. The iQoo Z5 does offer some improvements over the iQoo Z3 (Review), namely stereo speakers, a bigger battery, and a newer processor, but that isn’t enough to take on other popular phones that cost around Rs. 25,000.

iQoo does officially plan to pull the plug on the Z3, but it’s still on sale at as little as Rs. 17,990 (6GB RAM + 128GB storage) online for now. The Z5 in comparison, is not a big enough step up in terms of overall performance and does not offer enough value. There are better smartphones available from the competition at similar prices.

From a hardware standpoint you do get the powerful Snapdragon 778G SoC, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but the competition includes the Realme GT Master Edition (Review) which offers similar specifications with a much better Super AMOLED display, good camera performance, and 65W fast charging, for Rs. 25,999. Gamers might prefer the Poco F3 GT (Review) with its maglev triggers, RGB lighting, and bigger battery, even if it is priced a bit higher, starting from Rs. 26,999.


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Want to to sidestep public cloud? AuriStor offers global file storage

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Auristor’s distributed file system looks like local NAS but reaches way beyond the single physical site, with data movement across global locations achievable rapidly and securely.

It is for customers that want to share files between users and locations but with a great deal more reassurance of data integrity, security and performance than is possible with public cloud services.

Those are the selling points for Auristor, a US-based software maker born at the end of the 2000s that brought a commercial version of Andrew File System (AFS) to market.

Like NFS and SMB, AFS allows multiple users to access file servers as easily as a local disk by navigating a hierarchy of directories.

But unlike its popular competitors, AFS works beyond the four walls of the local site, so when, for example, a company’s Australian office puts new documents on its server, offices in India, the UK or Canada can access them immediately too.

“The companies that use our product are those that no longer want to take files from their datacentres and copy them to the cloud so their international staff can access them,” said Jeffrey Altman, founder of Auristor, speaking to Computer Weekly’s French sister publication Le MagIT.

Altman spelt out the drawbacks of this way of working, which include: the cost of online storage services, with every access invoiced in addition to capacity occupied; the inertia inherent in accessing online services; a potentially anarchic multiplication of versions modified by numerous individuals; and the obvious lack of security inherent in downloaded copies of documents.

“Our solution offers the same ease of use and the same security as a local system of file sharing,” said Altman, adding that Auristor’s first customers were universities and public sector organisations in the US. Auristor later broadened its customer base to include airline giant KLM and researchers at CERN and Intel.

Auristor is not the only one to offer a route from Windows, Mac or Linux workstations to Posix-compliant files located elsewhere on the internet. There are also the likes of Nasuni and Ctera, but Altman is keen to distance Auristor from these products.

“We are not a proxy,” he said. “Our solution is tailored to large enterprise use cases. We provide performance similar to HPC [high-performance computing] file systems, with the highest levels of security included.”

Auristor’s file system is called AuristorFS. It is built on the open source distribution of OpenAFS, a distributed file system that runs on Windows and Macs. OpenAFS – which still exists as a Linux package – was donated to the community by IBM and enables collaboration by people in multiple locations working on the same files. Although the files can reside anywhere in the distributed system, they appear to users as local, while AuristorFS finds the correct file automatically.

A collection of file servers connected by AuristorFS is called a cell. To reference an AuristorFS server with a global domain name, all that is needed is the server’s DNS address in the enterprise.

For each cell, administrators can configure access rights to directories that are shared between physical server locations. The administrator can decide to replicate frequently accessed directories between several instances to accelerate speed of access in each geographic location.

Access to an AuristorFS cell is enabled by an agent on the user’s machine, which also acts as a cache. When a file is opened in a cell, it is downloaded to the user machine to avoid latency during incremental changes.

Key to the AuristorFS way of working is that the agent synchronises user modifications with the file contents on the server at regular intervals. In this way, if several users modify a file at the same time, each sees the others’ changes in real time, which avoids propagation of multiple versions.

“Obviously, office file sharing is a use case that comes to mind,” said Altman. “But that’s not what customers choose us for. Rather, it is to share large files and new datasets – mapping, video, etc – or internal applications in container format.”

Compared to OpenAFS, AuristorFS is much more rapid. In each CPU core, 16 processes respond simultaneously to read/write requests, compared with just one in OpenAFS and that boosts the speed of transfer by 3x or 4x. Auristor said its software is capable of using 64 processor cores, while OpenAFS can use only 16.

The latest version – designated 0.189 by Auristor – will further improve speed of execution.

AuristorFS is built for very large-scale workloads. Its cells can group together 2^64 client machines and servers and contain 2^90 files or directories. Each of its directories can hold two million files, compared with a little less than 65,000 on OpenAFS.

It is validated with Linux distros (Red Hat, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, for example) and on Linux offered by Oracle and AWS on virtual machines in their public clouds, including on ARM and Power versions.

AuristorFS is equally good on client workstations. While OpenAFS only offers a Linux client – and Windows and macOS support hasn’t been updated since 2014 – Auristor offers an agent for macOS (Big Sur-compatible) and Windows (11-compatible). The agent is primarily tasked with synchronising contents almost immediately, while the equivalent function in OpenAFS runs every 10 or 15 minutes.

In the most recent version, the AuristorFS agent uses logical acceleration on the host processor (Intel, AMD and ARM) to encrypt and decrypt packets received and sent over the network.

On a Mac with a Core i5 CPU, transfer times are improved between 3x and 14x, according to the encryption demanded by the customer’s authentication software.

Pricing for Auristor starts from $21,000 a year. That provides for one AFS cell with four file servers, an unlimited number of clients, files and capacity and technical support for the year.

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Bitcoin Transactions Boost Square’s Quarterly Profit by Almost 60 Percent

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Square reported a nearly 60 percent rise in third-quarter gross profit on Thursday, fueled by a jump in Bitcoin transactions on its peer-to-peer payment service Cash App.

The payments firm, which is acquiring buy now, pay later pioneer Afterpay for $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,15,282 crore), posted gross profit of $1.13 billion (roughly Rs. 8,388 crore) in the quarter ended September 30.

Cash App generated $1.82 billion (roughly Rs. 13,509 crore) in Bitcoin revenue, up 11 percent from a year earlier.

But San Francisco-based Square said Bitcoin revenue and gross profit decreased from the previous quarter as relative stability in the cryptocurrency’s price drove down trading activity. Bitcoin price in India as of November 5 at 6:02pm IST stood at Rs. 49.22 lakh.

The company, led by Twitter top boss Jack Dorsey, has benefited in the past year from a pandemic-driven jump in demand for e-commerce from people staying at home.

Its gross payment volumes, a measure of the transactions processed on Cash App, rose 27 percent to $3.7 billion (roughly Rs. 27,464 crore). Total net revenue jumped 27 percent to $3.84 billion (roughly Rs. 28,503 crore).

Dorsey has been an extremely vocal supporter of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. A recent Bitcoin rally had reportedly doubled Square’ investment of $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) to over $470 million (roughly Rs. 3,526 crores) when the world’s oldest cryptocurrency was trading at around $62,000 (roughly Rs 46.52 lakhs).

According to a report in Bitcoin Magazine, Square holds nearly 8,027 Bitcoins, acquired at an aggregate purchase price of $220 million and an average price per Bitcoin of $27,407 (Rs. 20.56 lakhs), inclusive of fees and expenses.

Square first announced it had purchased 4,709 Bitcoins at an aggregate purchase price of $50 million (roughly Rs. 375 crores) in October 2020. In the full-year 2020 report, the company said it had purchased approximately 3,318 Bitcoins at an aggregate purchase price of $170 million (roughly Rs. 1,275 crores). Of the other companies — MicroStrategy and Tesla — whose Bitcoin investments recently doubled, Square has acquired its Bitcoin for the lowest average price per coin, the report said.


Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

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What will the 2025 end of life mean for enterprise Windows 10?

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With the launch of Windows 11 earlier in October, the time-bomb has started counting down to Windows 10 end of support.

Microsoft has said it will continue to support at least one Windows 10 Semi-Annual Channel until 14 October 2025. Unlike Windows 7, where Microsoft guaranteed support of the latest service pack release until 14 January 2020, each semi-annual release of Windows 10 is only supported for two years. For instance, the last semi-annual update, H12021, will be supported until 31 December 2022.

When asked about how the semi-annual releases of Windows are being supported, Microsoft said: “We previously noted that the next version of Windows 10 (version 21H2) will be released later this calendar year, we’ll have more information to share at a later date. Microsoft recommends that customers should always install the latest version of Windows before the current version reaches end of servicing to remain supported by Microsoft.”

With four years to go before the end of support deadlines, organisations may feel there is no rush to update their Windows desktops. Stephen Kleynhans, a research vice-president at Gartner, said: “Enterprise IT departments tend to be like supertankers. They don’t change direction quickly.”

Just like its predecessor, Windows 7, Windows 10 is regarded across the business world as a solid, well-supported operating system platform. While it was originally released in 2015, Kleynhans said most enterprises are only now getting good at supporting it.  “In particular they are refining their processes for dealing with an annual feature update,” he said.

Part of this process involves letting the update simmer for a while, during which time the IT department runs a series of simple validations and pilots, before ultimately deploying across the estate of PCs.

“In most cases, enterprises take about six to nine months to work through this process,” said Kleynhans. “So even with something as basic as a Windows 10 feature update, it takes a while to get deployed. Even if Windows 11 was just a run-of-the-mill feature update, most enterprises wouldn’t be rolling it out in a big way until the third quarter of 2022.”

However, Kleynhans does not expect many IT departments to embark on major Windows 11 roll-outs any time soon. “Windows 11 will see a drawn-out process,” he said. “Whenever the user experience changes, IT wants to be cautious and ensure the changes settle down. As such, most IT organisations will want to wait about a year for the first feature update to Windows 11 before investing a lot of effort.”

During that time, IT departments are likely to spend the next year learning and doing preliminary testing, after which they will put Windows 11 through the process of validation and piloting. This piloting phase is likely to occur during the second half of 2022. Kleynhans expects final deployments to start during 2023 and 2024. “Organisations aren’t in a huge rush to roll this out and will take their time,” he said. “This may change as we learn more about the OS [operating system], but I expect that for the next year, Windows 11 is mostly about consumers. Things will pick up quickly in the second half of 2023 until the end of support for Windows 10 in 2025.”

Along with validating the new operating system, IT departments will also need to check their PC hardware inventory, since older laptops and desktops circa 2017 may not meet the prerequisites for Windows 11.

In particular, older devices may not have the TPM 2.0 crypto processor required by Windows 11, which may impact the useful life of such PCs if the IT department plans to change its PC estate to Windows 11 and then reissue the devices to other users who do not require the latest hardware specifications.

Gartner PC market share data for the third quarter of 2021 shows that EMEA PC market grew 11.8% year over year to 23.5 million units. The analyst firm noted that this reflected a mixed picture of strong business demand and weakening consumer demand. Desktop PCs showed a robust growth of 23% year-over-year.

Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner, said: “Business PC demand remained strong, led by economic recovery in key regions and the return of some workers to offices. However, business PC growth was concentrated in the desktop segment as semiconductor shortages continued to constrain laptop shipments. These component shortages are expected to persist into the first half of 2022.”

From a hardware asset management perspective, this means that desktop and laptop devices not compatible with Windows 11, which were purchased in 2017 or earlier, will be up for being replaced during 2022 as part of a PC refresh cycle. The new machines will have the necessary chipset to support Windows 11 – however, as Gartner noted, semiconductor shortages may delay this PC refresh.

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