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With Universal Windows Apps, Microsoft can make the case that developers are targeting not just Windows Phone customers with their apps, but the entire Windows installed base of 3.2 billion users.Will it work? It's hard to say. But one thing is clear: Far from being the proxy for Steve Ballmer that many outsiders assumed he would be, Nadella is intent on driving real change in Redmond that could see the company veering far afield of where it was headed under Ballmer.Here at Vulture Annex, that looks like a good thing. But it will take a few more quarterly earnings reports – and probably quite a few more – before we can tell whether Nadella's direction is the right one. Android is today running on one billion handsets, Pichai claimed, and users send 20 billion texts every day using the operating system and 93 million selfies, including a lot of duckfaces, he joked. But the challenge was to get it onto the next five billion users, he said.

To that end, Google is starting the Android One program with the aim of getting low-cost smartphones into the developing world. This includes a set of reference designs and partnerships with manufacturers, and he showed off a handset from Indian builder Micromax with a 4.5-inch screen, dual-SIM capability, microSD card slot, and an FM radio that retails for under $100.Google also wants Android to be a leading player in the fad for smartwatches. Almost all the presenters at the keynote were wearing a smartwatch, and from today the Play store will be selling LG's G and Samsung's Gear Live smartwatches, with a Motorola unit coming out in the summer. These and other manufacturers will be running a custom build of the operating system dubbed Android Wear which links up with the user's smartphone and allow functions to be controlled either by voice or gesture control. People check their Android phones 125 times a day, allegedly, and the smartwatch is designed to cut that number down with a wristwatch that will act as a proxy.There's also a new version of the operating system, dubbed Android Auto, which is designed to link a smartphone to your car's dashboard. Once plugged in, the car can then play your music, give turn-by-turn directions using Google maps and conduct voice searches – all without removing the driver's hands from the wheel.Over 25 per cent of automobile accidents are caused by people fumbling with gadgets, the audience was told, and Android Auto will cut this number, Google claimed. The firm said that 40 car companies had signed up to use the software, and 25 models would be available running the operating system.

CES2014 Dell has confirmed its first Chromebook will be coming to the UK, though it’s not yet saying how much the 11.6-inch Google laptop will cost over here.Apple has filed a patent for a Smart Dock that essentially extends the range and expands the capabilities of its iOS Siri voice recognition, request, and command feature, giving the somewhat dim young thing a greater role in your home life.The US Patent and Trademark Office application, entitled Smart Dock for Activating a Voice Recognition Mode of a Portable Electronic Device, was filed on May 29, 2012 and published this Thursday. It describes a docking station for not only Apple iDevices but also any electronic device that can operate in a voice recognition mode.Dell has shipped a second update to its Ubuntu-powered Project Sputnik developer laptop, and its engineers have begun testing other Dell portables with an eye to offering an even more powerful Linux workstation.

When Dell launched its first Sputnik notebook based on the XPS 13 in 2012, some customers were disappointed with its specs, in particular its ho-hum display. The PC maker fixed that problem when it released its second version earlier this year, and now it has improved the hardware even further.Phil Plait – one-time NASA astronomer, science educator, and author of the Bad Astronomy blog at Slate, recently visited Australia to renew his acquaintance with the Oz confection-cum-dentist's-nightmare Minties. While here, the Bad Astronomer embarked on a multi-city lecture tour, took part in IFLS Live in Sydney, and spent an hour with El Reg talking about science, tech, and education.PLAIT: It's an interesting conundrum. We're exposed to astronomy all the time. You wake up in the morning, you go to bed at night. The sun goes up and down, we see the moon and the stars, experience the seasons, all of it's astronomy. Yet people have a really hard time with it.

I'm not a psychologist or historian … but we're not teaching science terribly well. It is being taught well in certain circumstances, but it could be done a lot better.People think it's the memorisation of facts, and that's interesting to me because anytime you learn a subject, there's a lot of memorisation, but you tend to do that earlier in life – you do that to learn the alphabet, learn your numbers, that sort of thing.By the time you're memorising science stuff, you're older, you're already a master of spelling.PLAIT: Yes, but if you'd done this when you were six, you would have been sucked into this stuff more.People also think it's really hard, because they immediately leap into really complicated stuff. The expansion of the universe, and mitosis, and all that.There's a lot of great stuff in astronomy that's not all that hard to understand. If you have a yellow ball that represents the sun, and a balloon that represents the Earth, and a golf-ball that represents the moon, I could show you how the moon has phases, I could show you why it rises at different times.

It's actually easy to see it, but it also needs to be fun. When you're trying to memorise a lot of stuff, it's not fun.EL REG: Pursuing that teaching question a little longer. In a lot of the things we do in teaching, we try to combine a bit of fun with a bit of fact with a bit of narrative. You don't learn your native language by memorising lists of words …EL REG: Yep. And then you construct narratives. If you look at an eight-year-old's maths book, it's got narrative as well as stuff to memorise. And then science – we omit the narratives. If this went outside astronomy – what are the kinds of narratives that could bring science to kids younger than we do, but wrap that difficult stuff up in the story?PLAIT: That's a tough one. At that point – kids that young – do the same thing that you do with learning a language. Take the kids outside, have them go to the local astronomy club, have them look though a telescope. Of course, that's hard because maybe the parents don't know.But we have the Perseid meteor shower, which peaked last week – when my daughter was a little kid, ten years old, we would go outside, and it was a real treat for her, for me to wake her up.

She hated it at first, at one o'clock in the morning, but then we would go outside, and for her to lie out in the backyard on a blanket with Daddy, that was a lot of fun. And then we'd see a shooting star, that was amazing.So once you see a meteor shower like that – this takes me to a point – you kind of own it. And that's something I was very heavily wanting to do, when I was developing educational activities for a few years, as part of my job. I wanted students to not just experience astronomy, but to be a part of it – so they would own a little piece of it, and it would become their thing.If you are somebody studying the Andromeda galaxy, and some news item came out about the Andromeda galaxy, their ears would perk up. “Oh my gosh, that's the thing I looked at!”

The narrative may have to be something as individual as that – to get them to own a piece of it.EL REG: I'm fifty-three, it's easy to see how it is intrinsically interesting. But what can you point at with something as abstract as that, that a ten-year-old can latch onto, that makes it fun to look at.PLAIT: I don't have all the answers for every age group – but in the States, at Halloween, kids dress up, go door-to-door, you give them candy, and it's a lot of fun.Years ago, I started taking my telescope out. Right around twilight. And … I lived in the edge of a sort of rough neighbourhood. There was a kid held up at knife-point for their candy, a block away from our house. That was nuts.So one year, there were kids coming around, and Saturn was in the West, setting, perfectly placed for my telescope. I would say “look through the telescope, then you get your candy. Nobody gets their candy without looking through the eyepiece first.”

They all did. And I would get some tough kids. Their not in costume, just thugs. “Give us some candy.” “You gotta look through the telescope, dude.”And they would look through the telescope at Saturn, and like – they were amazed, and awe-struck, many of them. They would be really quiet, and then … “wow”. All of that rough exterior, all of that hurt or whatever it was, just sloughed away, and they were seeing this gorgeous jewel of the sky through the eye-piece.A lot of them thought I was faking it, “you're holding a book up in front of the telescope”. “No, you see that light in the sky? That's what you're looking at. And that light is coming all this way, going through my telescope, and into your eye, and your eye alone. And those particles of light, nobody else has seen.And they were flipped out about that. I'll tell you – most astronomers and astronauts and scientists, if they have an “origin story”, it was the one thing that really turned them on? Overwhelmingly, it was seeing either Saturn or the Moon through a telescope when they were a kid.

Its not that it will turn every kid into a scientist, but if they have that predilection, if you do show them that, it may turn them on to being a scientist.Video A San Francisco-based startup has come up with a gadget it claims can turn any surface into a 3D interface for your PC or mobile device – and it wants $100,000 in funding to get the thing off the drawing board.Haptix Touch is a camera-based detection system. The point is to replace the mouse with fingers waved around within the range of the Haptix sensor. It's a compelling idea, as Fingerworks demonstrated with its Touch Stream product (on which this article is being typed) that does exactly them same thing – only without the cameras.In their first day on Kickstarter Haptix has raised $65k of the $100k it needs to turn its working prototypes into production units. The sensor clips to the top of a laptop screen, pointing down, and plots the location of the fingers - like a Leap Motion, only upside down and with a different objective, as the video demonstrates:

Sony's PlayStation 3 keypad could also be stroked and used as a touchpad, but only in the most basic of ways. When it comes to recognising gestures enacted on a keyboard surface Fingerworks led the field, and patented all the obvious ones.Apple bought that patent portfolio, along with the remnants of Fingerworks, in 2005 - a year or so before the iPhone was launched. Some of the technology was wound into Apple's new product, but most of the Fingerworks patents refer specifically to gestures made on a keyboard so have been useless in the patent wars with Samsung et al.Haptix Touch is intended to sit above a keyboard and can even work in 3D. It could potentially fall foul of Apple's acquired patents, as well as more recent filings from Cupertino.Anyone who's used a Fingerworks will know the intuitiveness of dropping two fingers into the keyboard to summon a mouse pointer, or three to scroll down a page. With Fingerworks out of production the Haptix Touch is the best opportunity to achieve that. Just get one quickly before the Cupertino lawyers notice them.

Dell announced its second-quarter earnings for fiscal 2014 on Thursday – five days early – and delivered a report that met analysts' expectations but once again showed a company struggling to remain profitable in the face of woeful trends in the PC industry.This was the second quarter in a row that Dell announced its results ahead of schedule, after its Q1 numbers were leaked to the media in May. But although no such leak appeared to have happened this time, Dell went ahead and shipped its figures early anyway – and this time, it did it without so much as a conference call.It wasn't hard to see why. As with recent quarters, there wasn't much to write home about. Non-GAAP earnings per share were $0.25, a penny better than the analysts' average bet. Total sales were $14.5bn – better than what the 17 analysts polled by Yahoo! Finance were expecting, but flat compared to the year-ago quarter.

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