Free Sakura app means cherry blossoms could be blooming on your monitor right now

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As of yesterday, it’s officially cherry blossom season in Tokyo, with media outlets reporting the first flowers of the year spotted inside the capital. While we’re still a week or two away from the sakura being in full bloom, their incredibly short life span means they’ll be gone before you know it, so most people are looking to spend as much time watching the delicate pink flowers as they can in the coming days.

Much as we’d like to, though, most of us can’t spend all of the next few weeks stretched out on the grass under a cherry tree. But should you find yourself stuck in front of a computer monitor with work or social responsibilities to take care of, you can still soak up a bit of the cherry blossom atmosphere with this app that produces a cloud of sakura petals on your desktop.

Developer Studio-Kura doesn’t throw any curveballs in the naming of its newest Mac app. The program is called Sakura, and that’s exactly what it gives you.

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Given the short window in which cherry blossoms bloom, it’s always a roll of the dice what sort of conditions you’ll be able to see them in. The Sakura app gives you a bit more control, though. By adjusting a series of sliders, you can increase or decrease the volume of petals flittering down from the top of your monitor, adjust the force of the wind blowing them about, and even make the pink flowers more opaque or translucent, depending on your preferences. There’s also a toggle that allows you to choose whether the sakura appear in front of or behind inactive windows.

Previously, Studio-Kura had been distributing the program directly, but Sakura is now available here on the Mac App Store, free of charge. Just be careful not to spend so long staring transfixed at the beautiful virtual cherry blossoms that you miss your chance to see the real ones.

Apple’s plan for greater emoji diversity backfires

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RocketNews 24:

With expressions ranging from happy to sad to ironic, emoticons serve as a kind of virtual extension of the self on online messaging platforms. As a result, many rejoiced when Apple decided to import Japan’s Emoji keyboard back in 2011, eliminating the need for app extensions. Yet something was still missing. “Where’s the diversity?”asked everyone from Tahj Mowry to Miley Cyrus, addressing the notable lack of non-white cartoon faces.

It looks like Apple has been listening closely to these concerns, with plans to implement a more racially and socially diverse set of emoji for iOS 8.3 later this year. Problem solved? Not quite. As Apple unveils its most recent developer betas, a furor has broken out in China regarding what some regard as a prejudiced depiction of Asians. While one can certainly make a case for this position, Apple claims the startlingly yellow emoji at the heart of the uproar doesn’t depict a normal human face at all.

The controversy began with the series of emoji shown above. At first glance, it seems Apple’s aim with these new emoji is to provide a greater range of skin tones, thereby promoting one aspect of diversity. This then leads to the inevitable question of whether the emoji are also intended as a visualization of race.

Many Chinese citizens seem to think the emoji do, in fact, depict a variety of races, rather than a mere progression of skin tones. Therefore, they argue, the yellow face furthest to the left cannot be construed as anything but Apple’s idea of an Asian face. At this point, the problem becomes obvious. Comments on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging platform, included the following:

“That emoji is seriously yellow. How does a person get to be that kind of color?”

“That can’t be an Asian person… I’ve never seen anyone so yellow in my life.”

“Has anyone ever actually seen someone who shade of yellow? I’d be worried they were ill.”

However, the ultra-yellow emoji might not be showing a natural skin color at all, Asian or otherwise.

As it happens, the developer of the emoji is not Apple itself, but rather Unicode Consortium, which aims to promote a greater range of skin tones in 2015. In a document on the subject, they write:

“Five symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji are planned for Unicode Version 8.0 (scheduled for mid-2015). These characters are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology… The exact shades may vary between implementations.”

This is followed by a graphic showing the emoji modifiers.

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You can see how the sample colors on the left side align with those of five emoji in the upcoming release. So what about the bright yellow face? The reason it is absent from this chart is because the yellow tone is, as Ritchie noted, the default color. Gradations in skin tone are achieved by adding a color modifier to the default, as seen below:

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In light of this information, Apple’s explanation suddenly becomes much more plausible. Even so, it might be too late to reverse the damage. Sales of last year’s iPhone were higher in China than they were in America, making the former a vital market for Apple–which must now surely be concerned about its image among Chinese consumers. Ultimately they will decide with their wallets whether or not to give Apple the benefit of the doubt.

Look inside Apple’s massive new store in China

RocketNews 24/Business Insider:

Apple Stores are always painstakingly designed, but the Cupertino company’s latest efforts in China take it to a whole new level. Cult Of Mac has published photos of Apple’s latest store, located in Hangzhou. Its defined by its huge glass facade, and minimalist staircases.

Here’s how it looks from the outside. Blinds are drawn during the day to avoid overwhelming customers.

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Here it is at night:

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It was designed by architects Foster + Partners. The firm previously built Apple a store in Istanbul, Turkey.

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The store is part of an aggressive international expansion by Apple. They hope to have 40 stores in the country by the end of 2016.

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According to Multi Housing News, it’s currently the largest Apple Store in Asia.

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Foster + Partners says the store’s design “combines an understanding of the local context with the philosophy of simplicity, beauty and technical innovation that characterises Apple’s products, Cult Of Mac reports.

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Apple is doing extremely well in China: Its products are now the top luxury gifts in the country.

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Apple’s head of retail Angela Ahrendts is also encouraging US employees to relocate to China to work in the company’s stores.

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See what it’s like to use a computer in North Korea

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Business Insider/RocketNews 24:

When former Google employee Will Scott had the chance to visit the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, he also purchased a copy of North Korea’s “Red Star 3 operating system before returning to America.

Little was publicly known about Red Star 3.

North Korea used to use Windows, but it has since created Red Star 3, which is designed to look a lot like Apple’s Mac OS X operating system.

From stunning and picturesque wallpapers to removing South Korea from the available time zones, here’s what it’s like to use a computer in North Korea.

This is the startup screen when you first boot up Red Star 3.

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When installing Red Star 3, you’re prompted to select a city for your time zone. Interestingly enough, Seoul, South Korea, isn’t an option.

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This is the login screen.

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You’re in! You’ll notice Red Star 3 looks a lot like Mac OS X. Past versions looked more like Windows XP. Since Kim Jong Un was spotted using an iMac at his desk back in 2013, some people believe he wanted Red Star to look more like a Mac.

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This is the word processor for creating documents.

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Here’s the email client.

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To access your saved documents, you use Red Star’s file manager, which looks a lot like Apple’s “Finder” management system.

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Red Star’s web browser is called “Naenara,” and it is a heavily modified version of Mozilla Firefox.

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This is how you personalize Red Star, and we also have access to the wallpapers that are included.

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This wallpaper is titled 다박솔초소의 설경, or “snow at the baksol outpost.”

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This wallpaper’s name translates to “Night view of Zhuangzi River fire.”

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대홍단의 감자꽃바다, or “daehongdan’s potato flowers”

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This beautiful wallpaper translates to “Iron’s Azalea,” and shows the flowering Azalea shrubs.

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“On the horizon” shows a picturesque North Korean farmland.

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This gorgeous waterfall wallpaper is called “Echo of the falls.”

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범안리의 선경, or “Beomanli’s Outskirts.”

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This is “Mt Paekdu’s Sunrise.” Paekdu is an active volcano that borders North Korea and China.

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First new Japanese Apple Store opened in eight years, Apple fans celebrate best way they know how

 

RocketNews 24:

 

On 13 June, the Omotesando Apple Store opened in Tokyo. It was a rare occasion, being the first of its kind to open in Japan since the Sapporo Apple Store in 2006. Although no new product was released, an estimated 1,000 Apple fans came out to show their support in true Apple fashion by making a huge line.

 

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First new Japanese Apple Store opened in eight years, Apple fans celebrate best way they know how

 

 

 

Video

The Grand Opening of Apple’s Omotesando Tokyo Store

Apple have unveiled their latest retail space in Tokyo’s Omotesando street, with an accompanying video showing the store’s hectic launch day. The street is already home to architecturally impressive spaces from Louis Vuitton, Prada and Dior, and Apple have given their usual sleek minimalism to the flagship’s interior.

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Harvard students learn about Apple’s history through manga

 

Engadget:

 

 

There’s no doubt that Harvard‘s Business School is serious business, but its students are surprisingly learning about the history of Apple‘s two Steves through a non-traditional medium: manga. Professor Noam Wasserman has been teaching about Wozniak‘s and Jobs‘ friendship and eventual falling out for years as a cautionary tale.

But, for the first time, he’s using a more visual medium that portrays the two tech titans as smooth, baby-faced young’uns with big anime eyes as a supplement to the course’s text. To be clear, it’s not that Jobs manga you’ve likely heard of in the past. This particular Japanese-style comics is actually an adaptation of Wasserman’s Harvard case study titled “Apple’s Core,” which tells the story of Apple’s early days.

The one responsible for turning the study into a graphic novel, however, is another professor named Thomas Alexander, who got the idea during a stint teaching at a business institute in the Philippines. He realized that the story would resonate more with his students (who were mainly from India, China, Korea, the Philippines and Europe) if it were a lot more visual.

He said:

None of them had English as a strong suit. So I knew that to give them a 30- to 50-page written text, they will not read this. The participation will not be there.

 

That’s why Alexander turned Apple’s Core into a 30-page script and hired an artist to bring Apple’s history to life. Wasserman, in turn, found it so intriguing, that he’s now giving it out as optional reading material. If you’re wondering, Harvard’s MBA students seem receptive to the idea of learning from a graphic novel — enough, at least, to grab all 20 copies Wasserman made last semester.

 

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Harvard students learn about Apple’s history through manga

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8 things worth knowing about Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella

 

NPR: 

 

Satya Nadella, the Indian-born, Wisconsin-educated Microsoft veteran, is now its big boss.

Satya Nadella, the Indian-born, Wisconsin-educated Microsoft veteran, is now its big boss.

While it’s never been considered a “cool” company, Microsoft is still a force — worth $300 billion, and Windows operating systems still run on a big chunk of the world’s computers. While the profile of founder and former CEO Bill Gates still looms large, outgoing leader Steve Ballmer took the reins in 2000. And Tuesday, the board chose an internal candidate — 46-year-old Indian-American engineer Satya Nadella — to head the company. He’s only the third CEO in Microsoft’s 38-year history.

For the uninitiated, here are eight things to know about Nadella, so you’re ready for this week’s cocktail party chatter.

1) Nadella is known for his work with cloud computing at Microsoft and his deep technical knowledge. The company’s cloud platform — which Nadella came to oversee in 2013 — is the infrastructure beneath Microsoft services such as Bing, Xbox Live, Office 365 and Windows Azure. Nadella has helped Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure, become a more serious competitor to Amazon’s cloud. Before becoming head of cloud and enterprise engineering, Nadella led Microsoft’s server and tools division.

2) He’s a hyper-educated guy. Nadella’s education started in his native India, where he attended Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, and earned his bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from Manipal University. In the U.S., he picked up a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, before earning an MBA from the University of Chicago.

3) He’s a company man. Nadella knows Microsoft and its culture — he’s been working there since 1992. Before taking up the job at Microsoft, Satya was a part of Oracle-owned Sun Microsystems.

4) He sees the future of Microsoft in devices and services, not software. In a December interview with Quartz about his vision, Nadella said:

“I think reconceptualizing Microsoft as a devices and services company is absolutely what our vision is all about. Office 365 and Azure on the services side are representative of it. Does that mean we won’t have our software available for other people to build on? No. Windows is available outside of our devices. Windows server is available outside of our data centers. We think that’s important because there will always be distributed computing. But at the same time, there is also the customer expectations that we should complete the scenario. That means running a cloud platform, running a cloud service. So we’re conceptualizing the future of Microsoft along those pivots.”

5) His hometown has deep ties to Microsoft. Nadella’s hometown, the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, is a technology hub that is home to one of the biggest Microsoft research and development centers outside of the United States. His father, B.N. Yugandhar, still lives in Hyderabad. According to Reuters, the senior Nadella was a member of the elite Indian Administrative Service and a member of the Planning Commission during 2004-2009 under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

6) Nadella is the father of three children; two with special needs. In an interview with New Zealand-based Paymark last September, Nadella talks about balancing his professional goals with personal ones:

“At home, raising kids or maintaining a loving relationship, realizing that you have achieved something fantastic is much harder to see. For example: making sure you are at home, reading to your kids every night, just trying hard to be a great parent with just hope that it may make your children great people and parents themselves, but that for most people you won’t know the result of your efforts for 20 years and nothing is certain.”

7) Nadella joins the growing list of Indian-born executives heading major global corporations. They already include PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Deutsche Bank co-CEO Anshu Jain.

8) The man likes exclamation points. A brief scan of what appears to be his Twitter account shows it, though the brand-loyal feed doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2010.

 

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8 things worth knowing about Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella

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Sony to shutter two-thirds of its US stores

 

Engadget:

Sony Electronics is closing 20 of its 31 US-based store locations, the Japanese consumer electronics giant announced this afternoon. The news follows layoffs at Sony affecting approximately 5,000 employees worldwide; it’s unclear if European or Asian Sony stores are affected by today’s news (we’ve asked). The announcement release cites Sony’s need, “to maintain its competitiveness in an evolving consumer electronics market” as the reason for the closures.

The company also sold off its PC business last month, making today’s news yet another step in the ongoing restructuring of Sony.

The 11 remaining stores are mostly in or near major markets: New York City, Los Angeles, and Orlando and Houston. Sony’s two-floor flagship store in New York City is slated to remain open, though the building above it (housing a variety of Sony offices) was sold last year for a cool $1.1 billion. At the time (January 2013), Sony said it’d stay in the building as a renter for “up to” three years.

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Sony to shutter two-thirds of its US stores

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Sony sells its VAIO PC business, is splitting TV arm into a separate company

Engadget:

 

Sony said it was “addressing various options” as recently as yesterday when it came to its VAIO PC and laptop arm, and while announcing its financial results for Q3 2013, it’s apparently come to a decision. Amid reforming its TV arm (and splitting it into a standalone entity by June 2014), it’s going to sell its PC business and VAIO brand to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP), with the final deal set to be done by the end of March 2014. The company has reported a drop in demand for its PCs in prior financial statements, and (barring the VAIO Flip 11A), Sony didn’t really have much to show from its VAIO range at this year’s CES. During the earnings call today, CEO Kaz Hirai said that it was an “agonizing decision“, and that it was “a very Sony brand… It stirred up the PC market.”

The company says it’s no longer designing and developing PC products, while manufacturing and sales will wrap up after the company’s final VAIO range goes on sale globally. It has decided to focus on those post-PC products (yep, smartphones and tablets), meaning that it had to make some big decisions with less successful parts of the business. During Q3 2013, it saw “significant profit improvements” compared to the same period last year. Sony saw year-on-year sales increases from its mobile arm, but still forecasts an annual loss of around $1.1 billion (110 billion yen) for the full year: it had previously projected a 30 billion yen profit. The blame is leveled at the businesses its now looking to change. Other highlights include the PS4, which sold 4.2 million units and 9.7 million games in its first six weeks. The games arm also saw a “dramatic increase” in PlayStation Plus subscriptions — something that’s mandatory for multiplayer on the company’s new console.

Sony will cut a total of 5,000 jobs worldwide (1,500 in Japan) by the end of the 2014 fiscal year, while the new PC company has stated that it will hire around 250 to 300 Sony employees, encompassing design, development manufacturing and sales, and will be based in Nagano — where Sony’s current VAIO HQ resides. The company is promising to fulfill all its aftercare warranties. Sony is signed up to invest 5 percent of the new company’s capital to support its launch and smooth over the transition. Restructuring costs across both the TV and PC segments are now set to cost an extra 20 billion yen. Sony is now set to focus on its high-end sets and 4K screens, and hopes that changes will ensure the TV business returns to profitability within the next financial year.

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Sony sells its VAIO PC business, is splitting TV arm into a separate company