Saudi Arabia lifts ban on internet calling apps

The Saudi Arabian administration has lifted the ban on voice calls on Skype, WhatsApp and other applications. Voice and video calling apps such as WhatsApp and Skype will be “widely available to users”, said the government in a statement on Tuesday, September 19. “Access to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship – that’s why it is such an important step in the Kingdom’s internet regulation,” said the government further. The objective of this move is to improve business confidence and encourage entrepreneurship as the kingdom transitions into a post-oil era.

The ban was justified by the Saudi Arabian administration in 2013 to “protect society from any negative aspects that could harm the public interest”.

The telecom regulator in Saudi said that residents would be able to use internet voice and video call services from midnight but some residents said that they were able to use Skype and Facetime from early Wednesday morning. Earlier many people in the country used virtual private networks (VPN) to get around the ban , although calls made through VPNs were slow and often crashed.

The lifting of the ban has come after the crown prince of Saudi, Mohammad Bin Salman, launched an ambitious national strategy to diversify the country’s economy and wean it off its dependence on oil.

The strategy, known as Vision 2030, aims at bringing up new economic sectors like tourism, entertainment and telecoms.

Sources: The Telegraph UK, Scroll

Paris 2024, Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympics Confirmed

In a unique double allocation, Paris was awarded the 2024 Summer Olympic Games and Los Angeles the 2028 Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Paris, having hosted the Games twice before, will stage the Olympics 100 years after its last Games in 1924. Los Angeles, too, will organise its third Summer Olympics after 1932 and 1984. Both cities, after London, will have hosted the multi-sporting extravaganza three times.

The votes were a mere formality since no other cities had bid for the 2024 and the 2028 Games. Votes for the both cities were “unanimous” said IOC President Thomas Bach.

Earlier this year in July, the IOC decided to award both Games at the same time, following the withdrawal of four of the six cities bidding for the 2024 Olympics. The reasons cited were cost, size, and complexity of organising the world’s largest sporting event.

“In the coming seven years we will prepare the Olympic Games with all our energy,”  said French President Emmanuel Macron having personally campaigned for the bid. The French capital celebrated the announcement by unveiling a giant set of interlaced rings, the symbol of the Games, on the Trocadero Sqaure against the backdrop of a glittering Eiffel Tower.

“This is a momentous day for the people of Los Angeles and the United States. For the first time in a generation, we are bringing the Games back to the City of Angels,” said Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles.

Allegations of corruption and embezzlement surrounded the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Tokyo, the 2020 host of the Summer Olympics, has also had to fend off such allegations.

Sources: Reuters, HT

PV Sindhu bags silver after an epic world championship final

Indian shuttler PV Sindhu bagged the silver medal in the World Championships at Glasgow on August 27, 2017. The Rio Olympics silver medalist went down 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in a final that saw both the players bring their physical and mental best on court.

This was Sindhu’s third world championship medal, following two bronze medals in the previous editions. After Saina Nehwal, she is the second Indian woman to win a silver in world championships.

Sindhu and Okuhara had faced each other six times before the final winning three a-piece. Naturally, the final was expected to be an intensely fought battle.

Sindhu raced to a 11-5 lead in the first game before Okuhara turned the game by winning eight straight points. The first game see-sawed before Okuhara went on to win it 21-19.

Both shuttlers brought their best on court in the second game as they fought hard for every point. In the letter part of the game, Sindhu got the better of Okuhara in a 73-shot rally. She went on to win the game 22-20.

The third game saw a spirited battle for every point. Okuhara was at her defensive best as Sindhu kept smashing winners. The match stood even at 19-19 . Sindhu’s return to a Okuhara smash found the net which awarded the Japanese her first championship point. Sindhu drew level in the next rally. It was Okuhara’s deceptive game which was the difference. At her second championship point, she disguised a drop shot as a smash which Sindhu was unable to reach. She sealed the final game and the championship by 22-20.

She expressed her pride in winning the silver for India and was confident of winning more titles in the future.

News Sources: Indian Express, Business Standard

What’s new in the latest Android Upgrade?

Android 8.0, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, released on August 21. Named Oreo, the new Android comes with various minor and major tweaks that make the OS mature and powerful. Google’s Nexus and Pixel phones are expected to receive the upgrade first followed by others.

Here are some key features to look out for in the new Android upgrade.

  1. Look and Feel
    Android, being a stable operating system, doesn’t feature significant changes in its user interface or functionality with every upgraded version. Oreo, hence, looks and feels a lot like Nougat, its predecessor. The most distinct visual difference is the brighter colour palette for the quick settings area in the notification shade.

 

  1. A Better Battery Life
    Apps running in the background have always been the bane of an Android device’s battery life. In Oreo, Google has limited the functionality of apps running in the background. These limitations mean that such apps will not be able to react to broadcasts in the device that are not specifically targeted at them, thus improving battery life significantly.

 

  1. Swifter Upgrades
    Google’s Project Treble initiative has created a modular structure that allows hardware companies to separate their own customizations from the OS. Owing to this, pushing firmware updates will become easier without overhauling the entire system. Thus, a hypothetical upgrade to an Android 8.1 or Android 9.0 will be simpler and quicker. However, the success of Project Treble can be realised only with time.
  1.  Picture-in-Picture
    Picture-in-picture (PiP) was introduced in Android 7.0 for Android TV devices. Android 8.0 brings this feature to phones and tablets too. PiP allows the user to shrink down a video in a floating window, started in an app, with its own playback controls while using other apps in the background. The feature is a significant upgrade for owners of extra-large phablet devices.

 

  1. Notification Channels
    Android Oreo will assist users to effectively manage the volume of notifications on the device. App developers will now be able to split notifications into categories, which will aid users to receive relevant notifications while blocking those which are irrelevant. Also, users will be able to snooze notifications to up to an hour on Android 8.0.

 

  1. Smarter Logins
    The latest Android will rid users of the tedious process of re-entering passwords on sites across various platforms. ‘Autofill with Google’ will now allow users to sign-in into accounts using information already stored in the user’s Google account using a single click. Also, if a user has signed up for a password manager service and the developers of the service have upgraded their app for Oreo, the user will be able to pull passwords directly from their app. This feature will largely be beneficial to users.

 

  1. Instant Apps:
    The instant app feature lets some services invoke parts of their Android apps, even if users have not installed them. This feature will help users to use a specific feature of a specific app without straining the memory.

 

  1. Adaptive Icons
    The addition of adaptive icons will allow developers to use different-shaped app icons, depending on the manufacturer’s preference.

 

  1. Camera App Improvements
    An improved camera app in Android 8.0 offers a double-tap feature that lets the user zoom quickly to 50%. A new dedicated button will let the user switch seamlessly between photo and video modes.

 

  1. New Emojis
    The new Android adds a handful of new emojis to the existing emojis. Google’s emoji compatibility library will allow developers to support new emojis on older Android versions, way back up to KitKat 4.4.

To sum up, Oreo is an important upgrade even without a headline feature. It makes Android, a popular and stable OS, even stronger and more valued.

Sources: Android central and BBC

 

 

What’s new in the latest Android Upgrade?

Android 8.0, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, released on August 21. Named Oreo, the new Android comes with various minor and major tweaks that make the OS mature and powerful. Google’s Nexus and Pixel phones are expected to receive the upgrade first followed by others.

Here are some key features to look out for in the new Android upgrade.

  1. Look and Feel
    Android, being a stable operating system, doesn’t feature significant changes in its user interface or functionality with every upgraded version. Oreo, hence, looks and feels a lot like Nougat, its predecessor. The most distinct visual difference is the brighter colour palette for the quick settings area in the notification shade.

 

  1. A Better Battery Life
    Apps running in the background have always been the bane of an Android device’s battery life. In Oreo, Google has limited the functionality of apps running in the background. These limitations mean that such apps will not be able to react to broadcasts in the device that are not specifically targeted at them, thus improving battery life significantly.

 

  1. Swifter Upgrades
    Google’s Project Treble initiative has created a modular structure that allows hardware companies to separate their own customizations from the OS. Owing to this, pushing firmware updates will become easier without overhauling the entire system. Thus, a hypothetical upgrade to an Android 8.1 or Android 9.0 will be simpler and quicker. However, the success of Project Treble can be realised only with time.
  1.  Picture-in-Picture
    Picture-in-picture (PiP) was introduced in Android 7.0 for Android TV devices. Android 8.0 brings this feature to phones and tablets too. PiP allows the user to shrink down a video in a floating window, started in an app, with its own playback controls while using other apps in the background. The feature is a significant upgrade for owners of extra-large phablet devices.

 

  1. Notification Channels
    Android Oreo will assist users to effectively manage the volume of notifications on the device. App developers will now be able to split notifications into categories, which will aid users to receive relevant notifications while block those which are irrelevant. Also, users will be able to snooze notifications to up to an hour on Android 8.0.

 

  1. Smarter Logins
    The latest Android will rid users of the tedious process of re-entering passwords on sites across various platforms. ‘Autofill with Google’ will now allow users to sign-in into accounts using information already stored in the user’s Google account using a single click. Also, if a user has signed up for a password manager service and the developers of the service have upgraded their app for Oreo, the user will be able to pull passwords directly from their app. This feature will largely be beneficial to users.

 

  1. Instant Apps:
    The instant app feature lets some services invoke parts of their Android apps, even if users have not installed them. This feature will help users to use a specific feature of a specific app without straining the memory.

 

  1. Adaptive Icons
    The addition of adaptive icons will allow developers to use different-shaped app icons, depending on the manufacturer’s preference.

 

  1. Camera App Improvements
    An improved camera app in Android 8.0 offers a double-tap feature that lets the user zoom quickly to 50%. A new dedicated button will let the user switch seamlessly between photo and video modes.

 

  1. New Emojis
    The new Android adds a handful of new emojis to the existing emojis. Google’s emoji compatibility library will allow developers to support new emojis on older Android versions, way back up to KitKat 4.4.

To sum up, Oreo is an important upgrade even without a headline feature. It makes Android, a popular and stable OS, even stronger and more valued.

Sources: Android central and BBC

Iran says IS leader Baghdadi ‘definitely dead’

The Iranian State media has quoted Ali Shirazi, a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini, as saying Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was “definitely dead.”

According to a report by The Hindu, “Terrorist Baghdadi is definitely dead,” Islamic Republic News Agency (INRA) quoted Shirazi on June 29. Shirazi, a representative of the foreign branch of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Cops, known as the Quds force, ascertained that Baghdadi was dead without elaborating further. The Quds force is responsible for Iran’s extraterritorial operations.

Russia, on June 17, 2017, had surmised that their forces had killed the elusive IS leader in an air-strike in Syria. However, the US, on June 29, did not validate the reports citing lack of information on the matter. Iraqi officials have also been sceptical on the issue. It also is unclear whether Shirazi’s claim was related to the Russia.

Baghdadi has frequently been reported killed or wounded since he declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from a mosque in Mosul in 2014. The said declaration by Baghdadi came after IS fighters occupied large areas of northern Iraq.

 

Sources: Reuters, The News week, The Hindu

 

IndiGo interested in buying stake in Air India

India’s leading airline in terms of market share, IndiGo, has expressed its interest in acquiring a stake in India’s National Air Carrier, Air India (AI) on June 29. The Gurugram based carrier IndiGo has given an unsolicited Expression of Interest (EoI) in buying a stake in the debt-ridden national carrier. This move by IndiGo comes a day after the Union Cabinet approved Air India disinvestment.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said that the low-cost carrier’s EoI was the first formal offer for AI. He further said that a number of domestic and international carriers have expressed their interest in Air India, but none of them have approached the government formally. Air India is currently weighed down by a debt of over Rs 50,000 crore.

In a letter to the Civil Aviation Ministry, IndiGo expressed its interest in taking over the international operations of Air India and its affiliate Air India Express. If this was not available separately, the airline would be open to buy its domestic AI’s domestic operations as well, stated the letter further.

The steadily increasing debt of Air India has prompted the government to disengage itself from the national carrier. Subsequently, NITI Aayog recommended 100% disinvestment, suggesting three stake-sale options at 24%, 49% and 74%.

Before the formal approval of disinvestment came through, the Tata Group had shown a keen interest in buying a stake in Air India. This was seen as a possible homecoming for the ‘Maharaja.’

News Sources- Economic Times, Bloomberg Quint, LiveMint