Amazon gives Alexa a new iOS widget and the ability to assign reminders

Amazon has updated the Alexa app on iOS so that you can access the voice assistant right from your home screen via a new widget. Everyone can use the assistant to remind specific members of your household to do tasks through a new “assign reminders” skill.

Due to the somewhat restrictive nature of the widgets on iOS, the new Ask Alexa widget isn’t so much Alexa itself as it is a link directly to the iOS app. But if you have the Alexa widget placed on any of your screens and you’ve already given the Alexa app permission to use your iPhone’s mic, you’ll be able to start making requests with a tap.

The Ask Alexa widget in iOS.

And now those requests can get a bit more granular. Amazon’s given Alexa the ability to assign reminders to specific members of your household if they have a Voice Profile set up on the same Amazon Alexa account. So if you say “Alexa, remind Jeff to take the lasagna out of the freezer at 10AM,” Alexa will be able to deliver the reminder to the right person, at the right time, through the Alexa app. You can add profiles to your Alexa account in Settings under Your Profile, and Amazon says you can assign relationship nicknames to each one, like mom, dad, daughter, etc.

Alexa picks up new features and skills on a monthly basis, but Amazon also announced plans in June to open up Alexa even further to third-party developers. Among many new APIs, developers will be able to create custom widgets for the Echo Show.

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Amazon Set to Accept Bitcoins, Develop Crypto Strategy

While there are big companies that do accept cryptocurrencies as payments, Amazon is not one of them, perhaps because of its unpredictable volatility. Yet the company is about to change its attitude towards cryptocurrencies and even plans to develop a special cryptocurrency and blockchain strategy. 

Business Insider has found an Amazon job listing that seeks a leader who will develop the retailer’s Digital Currency and Blockchain strategy as well as a product roadmap. The future employee of Amazon will be a part of The Amazon Payment Acceptance & Experience Team is responsible for ‘how Amazon’s customers pay on Amazon’s sites and through Amazon’s services around the globe,’ which pretty much implies that one of the world’s biggest retailers will start accepting cryptocurrency as payments sometimes in the future. 

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Xbox Series S Is “An Ambivalent Piece of Hardware,” Says Blacktail Developer

In an interview with Gamingbolt – CEO and creative director at THE PARASIGHT, the developer behind Blacktail, gave some great insights about Microsoft’s next-gen budget offering, the Xbox Series S. Kapron believes that the Series S is an ambivalent piece of hardware.

The Xbox Series S is a drastically weaker console when compared to its bigger brothers such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X. In terms of raw TFLOPs, the Series S just has a third of the graphical grunt of the Series X. Thus, many seem to have doubts regarding its future, and whether it would be able to hold it’s own in next-gen titles. Kapron shares the sentiment to some extent, but also seems grateful that budget gamers can now get into next-gen gaming with the Series S.

“I think Series S is a very ambivalent piece of hardware. On the one hand, it makes the new generation much more affordable. On the other hand, everyone has doubts as to whether it won’t be a ball and chain, especially when the next gen will kick off for good. Personally, I think that despite the obvious difference in the target resolution in the future, we may also witness setting scaling between series X and S.”

While Microsoft’s claims of providing 1440p/60fps next-gen gaming looks to be an outstretched one, but the giant seems to be doubling down on making Series S as affordable as possible. In addition to providing gamers in select countries the option to purchase the console at a monthly payment with the Xbox All Access program, Xbox Game Pass ensures gamers get a healthy chunk of fresh offerings on a regular basis.

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Restoration Hardware (RH) Outpaces Stock Market Gains: What You Should Know

Restoration Hardware (RH) closed the most recent trading day at $685, moving +1.48% from the previous trading session. This change outpaced the S&P 500’s 1.02% gain on the day.

Heading into today, shares of the furniture and housewares company had lost 0.32% over the past month, lagging the Retail-Wholesale sector’s gain of 0.19% and the S&P 500’s gain of 3.01% in that time.

RH will be looking to display strength as it nears its next earnings release. On that day, RH is projected to report earnings of $6.45 per share, which would represent year-over-year growth of 31.63%. Meanwhile, our latest consensus estimate is calling for revenue of $972.26 million, up 37% from the prior-year quarter.

For the full year, our Zacks Consensus Estimates are projecting earnings of $22.62 per share and revenue of $3.68 billion, which would represent changes of +26.86% and +29.23%, respectively, from the prior year.

Any recent changes to analyst estimates for RH should also be noted by investors. These revisions typically reflect the latest short-term business trends, which can change frequently. With this in mind, we can consider positive estimate revisions a sign of optimism about the company’s business outlook.

Based on our research, we believe these estimate revisions are directly related to near-team stock moves. We developed the Zacks Rank to capitalize on this phenomenon. Our system takes these estimate changes into account and delivers a clear, actionable rating model.

The Zacks Rank system ranges from #1 (Strong Buy) to #5 (Strong Sell). It has a remarkable, outside-audited track record of success, with #1 stocks delivering an average annual return of +25% since 1988. Over the past month, the Zacks Consensus EPS estimate remained stagnant. RH currently has a Zacks Rank of #3 (Hold).

Looking at its valuation, RH is holding a Forward P/E ratio of 29.85. This represents a premium compared to its industry’s average Forward P/E of 15.56.

Meanwhile, RH’s PEG ratio is currently 1.7. This metric is used similarly to the famous P/E ratio, but the PEG ratio also takes into account the stock’s expected earnings growth rate. The Retail – Home Furnishings industry currently had an average PEG ratio of 1.45 as of yesterday’s close.

The Retail – Home Furnishings industry is part of the Retail-Wholesale sector. This group has a Zacks Industry Rank of 18, putting it in the top 8% of all 250+ industries.

The Zacks Industry Rank gauges the strength of our individual industry groups by measuring the average Zacks Rank of the individual stocks within the groups. Our research shows that the top 50% rated industries outperform the bottom half by a factor of 2 to 1.

You can find more information on all of these metrics, and much more, on

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Hardware looted and torched – South Coast Herald

During last week’s unrest, a well-known family business, Dumakude Hardware at Ma Afrika in Merlewood was looted and torched.

The newly renovated hardware was fully stocked with building materials. After being repeatedly looted last Monday (July 12), the building was set alight later that day.

All that remains of the Dumakude Hardware is burnt rubble.

The owner, Yaasir Mahomed took over the business from his father, the late Imraan Hansbhai Mahomed who was well-known in the community.

A social media post doing the rounds in the community stated that the store and building was the legacy of one of the most generous and helpful men in Port Shepstone (the late Mr Mahaomed) and that he gave generously of his time and experience, as well as carried out charity work in the surrounding communities.

“We have not as yet calculated the cost of the loss,” said Nabeela Mahomed, Yaasir’s wife.

“We are grateful to those who were so generous with their time at the clean-up event last Sunday.”


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Framework Laptop DIY Edition Review: A Real Fixer Upper

If you follow technology news and policy at all, you may have heard about the right to repair — the idea that, by law or simply because it’s the right thing to do, companies that make products should provide the instructions so that people can repair and extend the life of their devices. What would the ideal device look like in that scenario?

It would probably be a lot like the Framework Laptop. The first device from Framework, the notebook (starting at $999 pre-configured or $749 for the barebones DIY Edition we tested). is  designed to be easily upgradeable, with the possibility of replacing the motherboard without tossing the whole laptop. It also allows for customizable side ports through a number of expansion cards that fit into the chassis. In theory, you’ll be able to consistently update this laptop rather than replace it entirely, reducing waste and getting precisely the laptop you want. It’s much easier to upgrade and fix than the best ultrabooks currently out there.

In my time with the DIY Edition (plus sampled components and expansion cards loaned by Framework), I was surprised at just how well this first-generation product seemed to come out. Yes, I have qualms with the reflective display and the plasticky trackpad. But I also got the motherboard out in less than 20 minutes.  While it’s promising that Framework is preparing to ship the first units (a hurdle that many companies haven’t passed), the company will really have to exist and thrive for a few years in order to see the Framework Laptop’s full potential. 

Design of the Framework Laptop 

On the outside, the Framework Laptop doesn’t look like anything special. Inside, it’s making a statement. In most of our reviews, we separate out the overall design of a notebook and how you upgrade it. But on the Framework Laptop, you can’t talk about one without the other. 

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(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
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Framework Laptop DIY Edition

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

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What Are Quantum Hardware Startups Thinking?

Atom Computing adds itself to a growing list of quantum systems makers with pedigreed founders, funding announcements, and a market that even the big players haven’t mastered. With no acquisition/cash-out goals apparent, no established market to chase, and competitive differentiation so nuanced, what’s the game?

If the last five years revolved around AI chip startups, expect the next five to shift to another upstart—the quantum device makers. If the neural network hardware startup crush taught us anything, it’s that it’s hard to challenge the largest chipmakers. We suspect a similar situation with the emerging quantum systems makers.

There are already existing large-scale players in the ecosystem (IBM, Google, and Microsoft) and more established startups, including D-Wave, are also worth mentioning. But even between all of these companies there is so little of practical, real-world value happening on these machines that they do not yet represent any upset to the traditional computing world.

Nonetheless, plenty will try. As with AI hardware, it’s easy to cloak real technical merit in magic-science speak and not have to explain technical differentiation. Without any benchmarks or even functional high-qubit devices that can operate at large enough scale to warrant a multi-vendor comparative effort beyond qubit count (itself not adequate in measuring performance) quantum startups can make almost any claim.

This is not to say the devices are invalid or worse, not even real/functional. It’s to say that it’s a tricky time to enter the quantum startup world in hardware. It’s not as simple as saying “it’s still too early” it’s that the market potential in the next five to ten years could still be minimal in reality. For those who do go the quantum route, how many companies are needed? And is it likely users will look to those with the most established, long-running quantum software stacks and hardware devices.

The quantum startups that cannot compete on time in the space, and who aren’t at liberty to/can’t explain what they do exactly, how it’s different from existing approaches, and how their software works in technical detail do have one last trick up their collective sleeves. Make waves by big, famous hires and raise a lot of capital on the power of those big, famous hires. That happened in the latter stages of the AI hardware game (and has in other areas in IT for years before that).

All of this was to introduce was a sideways way of introducing yet another quantum hardware maker into the space. There’s definitely some magic science speak here, and there’s definitely some funding and pedigree. But there are also a few things worth noting that take this company beyond a few others we’ve watched crop up with no real descriptions of what they do, how it’s different, how they make it, who will use it and how, etc.

This upstart is Atom Computing. Instead of calling a qubit a “qubit” they’re calling them “atoms”. They are one of several companies we’ll see in the coming year or two basing quantum systems on spin qubits. When we got the advance press release on Atom’s news that it’s raised $15 million, this sentence caught our eye: “Atom Computing is the first company to build nuclear-spin qubits out of an alkaline earth element.” We asked the startup’s CTO, Dr. Ben Bloom, what in the hell this means.

Our qubits are made of Strontium-87. There are more than 70 levels in our atom that have lifetimes of 10 seconds+. With our first-generation system, Phoenix, we’ve figured out how to control a subset of those levels that are intrinsically stable, made out of different configurations of the nucleus of an alkaline earth atom. This allows us to write quantum information into a scalable system that is shielded from the outside world, without having to resort to dilution refrigerators or other tricks.

So spin qubits. Got it.

From the press release (emphasis ours): “The company’s first-generation quantum computing system, Phoenix, is currently capable of trapping 100 atoms in a vacuum chamber with optical tweezers. Phoenix is able to rearrange and manipulate their quantum states with lasers. The system demonstrates exceptionally stable qubits at scale, with coherence times that are orders of magnitude greater than ever reported.”

When asked about whether there is room in the market for another quantum hardware maker, Atom Computing CEO, Rob Hays tells The Next Platform, “Even with incredible advances in computing performance in the exascale era, there are still mathematical problems, complex simulations, and AI models that still can’t be effectively solved with supercomputers alone. Quantum computers offer a new paradigm in computing that allow a massive continuum of solution space to be explored in parallel with a relatively small number of qubits and new quantum algorithms. We expect quantum computers and classical HPC clusters to be mated together to reach new heights in computing performance and solve these difficult problems together.”

Hays comes to the quantum startup world from the enterprise IT segment. Before Atom, Hays was Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for Lenovo’s Infrastructure Solutions Group and spent 20 years at Intel, where he was Vice President and General Manager of Data Center Group Strategic Planning.CTO and co-founder Ben Bloom spent a year at another quantum hardware startup, Rigetti Computing and two years prior to that Intel as a module and yield integration engineer.

Atom Computing has been around for almost four years with Bloom as CEO until Hays stepped into the role this week. The company secured more than $15M in Series A funding which includes investment from Venrock, Innovation Endeavors, and Prelude Ventures. In addition, the National Science Foundation awarded the company three grants.

When asked how there is market room for another startup in the quantum systems space, Bloom tells us, “Atom Computing is dedicated to building useful, gate-based quantum computers, where every Atom equals 1 qubit. We believe the only way to build a scalable quantum computing system is to try new and exciting things. Our point-of-view is that long-lived, high-coherence, scalable systems are the only way to build a successful quantum computer. It’s about demonstrating performance at scale. We are committed to showcasing technical milestones and benchmarks that actually matter for creating a universal quantum computer.”

But here’s the question: what are the technical milestones and benchmarks that actually do matter in this nascent space?

In quantum at this moment, there is tremendous device diversity, but on the micro-level. There are differences in how qubits talk to one another, how tolerant to noise they are, how usable the software stack to interface with them has become and so on. Further, for people used to following systems, we have been trained to think in core counts and clock speeds. Qubit count doesn’t mean a thing if they can’t function together and a qubit, (or “atom”, or whatever you’d like to call it to make it sound different) so competing on that doesn’t work either.

Every quantum startup wants to come out of the gate looking different. It’s nearly impossible when even our smartest readers have a difficult time explaining in any level of technical detail what makes D-Wave’s approach different than IBM’s and so on. The opportunity for a marketing-driven startup to sweep in, blind VCs and the media with science-magic-talk and hyperbole is great.

Companies like Atom Computing and those who will surely follow with their own quantum hardware story are doing something difficult (stable spin qubits, for instance) have an equally tough challenge ahead: communicating past the first funding round about how, where, and why they’ll shave out any kind of market reach.

Unlike with the AI chip startups where it was clear in some cases companies were built for acquisition/cash-out, the big companies aren’t buying quantum startups. They have their own problems getting their own hardware/software stacks to work. So, again with the title: what are quantum hardware startups thinking?

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Bosch upgrades its Dicentis system server with new hardware from HP

The Dicentis system server from Bosch has become very popular since its launch in 2019, with more than 60% of Dicentis Conference System installations now including the device. This solution has now been upgraded with new hardware from HP and an enhanced operating system (OS).

The new hardware means the Dicentis system server moves to the HP Z2 Mini G5 workstation. While looking similiar to the previous version, it offers increased performance and presents a powerful solution for systems of up to 750 devices. As the server is quiet and compact, it can also be used inside meeting rooms.

For the highest security, the server is using the latest Windows Server 2019 OS and the latest Dicentis 3.60 software. While migration to Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) was taken care of in an earlier software release, the 3.60 release has also added HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) and Transport Layer Security (TLS 1.2) protocols by default. From now on, industry standard certificate technology is not only used to guarantee secure connections, but it is also used to confirm the authenticity of the meeting notes and voting files.

The HP-branded system server is part of the IP-based Dicentis family offering a one-stop-shop solution for conference projects. The state-of-the-art system server provides all the advantages of an IP system: all Dicentis services run on an extremely reliable and easy-to-use platform, while all necessary features and functionalities have been pre-installed, virus protected and are ready-to-go. The Windows OS and Dicentis software 3.60 have been pre-configured with the specific purpose of minimizing installation time and providing assurance that the server is set up correctly.

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Podcast Server Technology: Hardware: The Heart of Digitization