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  1. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is now trying to reduce SMS spamming using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in the country. TRAI was the first authority in the world that previously implemented the use of blockchain-based application that would look for unexpected calls and messages in transit and scrub them before it reaches to users or the network itself. However, the solution saw mixed results after there were several reports of it scrubbing legitimate messages like One Time Passwords (OTP) as well. This led the authority to suspend the application altogether, with people relying on third-party spam blocking applications like Truecaller and Google Messages. Unsolicited commercial communication or UCC has become a major concern in the country. Even after registering their numbers on TRAI's National Do Not Call (NDNC) registry, almost all Indian phone numbers are prone to spam text messages everyday from various unregistered telemarketers (UTM). The Department of Telecommunication (DOT) had also planned to levy fines ranging from ₹1,000 per violation for 0-10 breaches, ₹5,000 each for 10-50 breaches, and ₹10,000 each for more than 50 breaches by registered telemarketers. However, the department is yet to implement the rule. Now, TRAI is trying new methods to curb spam messages. The regulator announced in a press release (PDF) new methods that will significantly reduce spam messages. TRAI in coordination with various stakeholders is taking necessary steps to check UCC from UTMs also. These steps include- implementation of UCC detect system, provision of Digital Consent Acquisition, intelligent scrubbing of the Headers & Message templates, using AI (Artificial Intelligence) & ML (Machine Language), etc. The regulatory body also announced the formation of a Joint Committee of Regulators (JCR) that will comprise of TRAI itself, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI), and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MoCA). The committee will work to curb financial frauds that happen over phone or text messages. According to a report from Truecaller, one spammer alone made over 202 million spam calls in 2021. Majority of the spam calls in India are sales or telemarketing calls. Another popular spam genre remains the KYC (know your customer) scam where a scamster pretends to be a representative from a bank or a digital payment services asking for documents mandated by the RBI. Plenty of spam text messages and calls also make it outside the Indian borders which makes it even more important to regulate. Although unwanted SMS can be tackled by the authority, it cannot do much to address WhatsApp spams until the internet-based messaging app takes an initiative itself. Source: TRAI [PDF] (via The Register) India's telco authority plans to implement AI and ML-based solutions to curb SMS spam
  2. India officially launched 5G services on October 1, almost a month after Apple's newest iPhone 14 models went official. Despite being 5G capable, iPhone devices can not run 5G in India while they are on Airtel and Jio networks. Worse, iPhone users in India will have to wait a few more months for Apple to release 5G software updates to fix this. How many are a few months, you ask? Well, in a statement to Economic Times, an Apple representative said that it was eyeing December to release the 5G software updates for iPhone devices in India. The company did not disclose the exact date, but it should be rolled out to everyone by the end of December 2022 or early January 2023. The full statement given to ET reads as follows: We are working with our carrier partners in India to bring the best 5G experience to iPhone users as soon as network validation and testing for quality and performance is completed. 5G will be enabled via a software update and will start rolling out to iPhone users in December. If you own models older than iPhone 12, you will not benefit from 5G networks. Since those models are not 5G supported, no 5G-related software updates will be rolled out to them in December. Apple is not the only company that has to roll out a software update to enable 5G in its handsets. Companies like Samsung will have to do the same to bring 5G to their users in India. However, not all Android devices require an update. All the latest flagship devices, unlike iPhone handsets, from major brands launched this year do not need additional updates to run 5G. If you are based in Indian cities where 5G is currently available, have you tested 5G networks yet? Share your experience with us in the comments. Source: Economic Times Apple reveals when it will roll out 5G software updates for iPhone models in India
  3. The orbiter most definitely exceeded expectations. Full-disk image of Mars captured by the Mars Orbiter Mission. ISRO Despite its modest overall achievements, India's Mars Orbiter Mission is one of the more notable successes of the modern spaceflight era. Launched in 2013, it was the first Mars mission built by an Asian country to reach orbit around the red planet—only the United States, Soviet Union, and European Space Agency had done so before. And perhaps most importantly, India proved that a durable, capable Mars spacecraft could be developed on a shoestring budget. Instead of costing hundreds of millions of dollars, the Mars mission was developed for only about $25 million, through a process described by Indian officials as "frugal engineering." But all good things come to an end, and this weekend the Indian space agency, ISRO, announced that the mission was "non-recoverable." The update came following a one-day meeting to discuss the spacecraft and whether it could be salvaged after communication was lost with the vehicle in April during a long eclipse when Mars moved between the orbiter and the Sun. "During the national meet, ISRO deliberated that the propellant must have been exhausted, and therefore, the desired attitude pointing could not be achieved for sustained power generation," the space agency said in an update posted Monday. "It was declared that the spacecraft is non-recoverable, and attended its end-of-life. The mission will be ever-regarded as a remarkable technological and scientific feat in the history of planetary exploration." The orbiter most definitely exceeded expectations. Originally designed for a lifetime of six months, it returned data back to Earth for nearly eight years. Among its scientific contributions were regular images of the full disk of Mars, in color, due to the spacecraft's elliptical orbit. Most spacecraft in orbit around Mars spend their time relatively near the planet, looking straight down at the surface. The Mars Orbiter Mission also provided valuable data about the thin Martian atmosphere and observed dust storms. Indian officials said more than 7,200 users have registered to freely download data collected by the mission. During the meeting, scientists and engineers discussed the challenge of surviving increasingly long eclipse periods of up to seven hours. Much of the spacecraft's onboard propellant had to be expended five years ago to reposition the vehicle to survive these eclipses and ensure enough sunlight was reaching its solar panels. Following the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission, India committed more resources to lunar and Martian missions. The country is planning several missions to the lunar surface, with the eventual goal of returning samples. Another Mars orbiter is planned within the next few years, to be followed by a rover during the second half of the 2020s. After an amazing run at Mars, India says its orbiter has no more fuel
  4. Apple has been working to diversify its supply chain from China for its iPhone manufacturing. The Cupertino company plans to begin manufacturing of the iPhone 14 in India after about two months from the device's September launch. The move comes after the long running trade war between China and the US is forcing global companies to rethink their manufacturing strategies. More and more companies are now looking for alternatives out of China to suit their assembly lines. China’s Zero Covid policy, which has resulted in multiple lockdowns across key manufacturing hubs like Shanghai and Beijing, hasn’t helped either. Ming-Chi Kuo, who is a reputed Apple analyst, anticipated that Apple will ship the next iPhone from both the countries at roughly the same time. This is a significant benchmark for Apple as it diversifies its supply chain. Previously, it would take new iPhones six to nine months from the launch date to get assembled in Foxconn’s Indian plant. Now, Apple and Foxconn have reduced this to two months. The first iPhone 14s from Chennai, India would realistically come to the markets in late October or November after their initial release in September. As part of Apple and Foxconn’s long term goal, this time period will further reduce. The time frame is quite ambitious for the Indian market, as the Diwali festival begins on October 24. iPhones manufactured in India are shipped to global markets just like the Chinese made ones. Source: Bloomberg Apple to start manufacturing iPhone 14 in India to remove dependency on China
  5. Monkeypox virus is an enveloped double-stranded DNA virus with two distinct genetic clades—the central African (Congo Basin) clade and the West African clade. The fluid inside skin lesions of an infected patient was used to isolate a live virus, since this fluid has concentrations of the pathogen. (HT Photo) The National Institute of Virology in Pune said on Wednesday that it has successfully isolated the monkeypox virus from the clinical specimen of a patient, overcoming a key hurdle for any future vaccination plan since this now allows researchers in the country to begin working on an inoculation as well as test kits. At present, the sole licensed vaccine for monkeypox is the one made for smallpox by a Danish company, and the live virus on which it is based – the variola virus, a family of pathogens to which both diseases belong – is stored only at two locations, the Centers for Disease Control lab in Atlanta, Georgia and the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR Institute) in Koltsovo, Russia. “The isolation of the monkeypox virus will help in the development of diagnostic kits and also vaccines in future. For smallpox, live attenuated vaccine was successful for mass immunisation in the past. Similar approaches on new platforms can be tried for making vaccines,” said Dr Pragya Yadav, a senior scientist at NIV Pune. She added that the virus isolate will also researchers study its behaviour and how it infects, helping work on containment measures. Monkeypox virus is an enveloped double-stranded DNA virus with two distinct genetic clades—the central African (Congo Basin) clade and the West African clade. The fluid inside skin lesions of an infected patient was used to isolate a live virus, since this fluid has concentrations of the pathogen. Health experts explained that pathogen isolation is challenging and requires a sophisticated facilities to ensure there is no contamination and scientists do not het infected. “Taking the process of virus isolation to vaccine production is even more complicated because that requires really high bio-safety levels. Only few facilities in the world have this,” said Dr Giridhar Babu, professor and head life course epidemiology at Public Health Foundation of India. “They did it in case of Covid-19 where the virus was isolated at NIV and it production was initiated by Bharat Biotech. They can follow the same process but not every vaccine works in the same way,” he added. NIV Pune is certified as a Bio Safety Level 4 (BSL 4) laboratory, which allows it to handle live viruses. Wednesday’s development harks back to the early days of the pandemic when NIV Pune isolated the Sars-CoV-2, and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) then entered into an agreement with Bharat Biotech to produce a vaccine, which eventually was branded as Covaxin and is now one of the two most widely used in the country. The lab also entered into an agreement with Cadila Healthcare, sharing the details of the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen that allowed the Gujarat-based company to create its vaccine, the ZyCoV-D. India is among the world’s pharma powerhouses, with some of the biggest vaccine producers by volume, such as Serum Institute of India and Biological E churning out millions of doses of various inoculations every month. India isolates monkeypox virus, first step to vaccines
  6. R Lakshmanan has been making steel frames in the southern Indian city of Chennai for 20 years. His job involves standing for long hours outdoors at construction sites, pounding screws with careful precision onto steel rods. Each day he makes nearly 600 frames, which end up becoming the skeleton of a home. Often he works 12-hour shifts, beginning at 6 am. He always feels fortunate when he gets to work under a shady tree. But this year, that protection hasn’t been enough. Ever since temperatures in March hit a sizzling 38 degrees Celsius—4 degrees above normal for Chennai—the conditions have been stifling. The metal frames Lakshmanan works with have been too hot to touch, the steel burning his fingertips and leaving behind painful sores. He has seen construction workers, especially women, collapse around him, and has had to take breaks during the workday to cope with fits of dizziness and nausea. “On some days, there’s so much heat, it feels like you’re living in a fireball,” he says. When faced with these conditions, our bodies call upon a well-known mechanism to keep us from overheating: sweating. As perspiration evaporates from the skin, it cools the body’s temperature. But if the air is not only hot but also already filled with moisture, less sweat can evaporate, and this safety feature fails. In India, high temperatures and humidity are increasingly combining to pose a deadly threat—one the country isn’t prepared for. This danger to human life is measured using “wet-bulb temperature”—the lowest temperature that air can be cooled to via evaporation. It’s determined by wrapping the bulb of a thermometer in a wet cloth and seeing what temperature is recorded. Essentially the bulb is you—or me, or Lakshmanan—the wet cloth is our sweating skin, and the temperature recorded is the coolest we can hope to get by sweating. When heat and humidity combine to push wet-bulb temperatures past 32 degrees Celsius, physical exertion becomes dangerous. Consistent exposure to high wet-bulb temperatures—35 degrees Celsius and above—can be fatal. At this point the sweating mechanism shuts down, leading to death in six hours. On May 1, 2022, the wet-bulb temperature in Lakshmanan’s home city of Chennai hit 31 degrees Celsius. The same day, the district of Ernakulam in the Indian state of Kerala recorded a wet-bulb temperature of 34.6 degrees Celsius—a record high for the area. “Without the mechanism to rid the body of that excessive heat, there are many physiological changes that happen in quick succession,” says Vidhya Venugopal, a researcher in public health at the Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research in Chennai. Raise your internal temperature by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius, and you’ll start to struggle. “As the body tries hard to restore your core temperature, all other processes slowly grind to a halt,” Venugopal says. Blood vessels dilate and circulation slows, particularly to the extremities. Not enough blood will flow to the brain, affecting its functioning. You lose alertness, become drowsy, and don’t feel thirst anymore. Soon organs shut down, one by one. “When the brain stops giving messages to the heart, the pulse slows and the person goes into a coma,” she says. “Humidity aggravates the killing power of heat,” says Ambarish Dutta, professor of epidemiology at the Indian Institute of Public Health in Bhubaneswar. “It can trigger catastrophic events like heart attacks and strokes, aggravate secondary conditions like diabetes, change the regulatory capacity of the kidneys, affect the endocrine system by triggering stress hormones. In short, it’s a silent killer.” World Weather Attribution, an international collaboration that analyzes extreme weather events, estimates that India and Pakistan’s recent heat wave has led to at least 90 deaths across both countries. During India’s 2015 heat wave, wet-bulb temperatures in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh rose to 32 degrees Celsius. That year, the heat killed over 2,500 people. Such events are going to become increasingly common as climate change warms the world. What magnifies the problem is that as temperatures rise, so does the absolute humidity in the atmosphere, says Jane Baldwin, assistant professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. Thanks to what’s known as the Clausius–Clapeyron relationship of thermodynamics, “for every 1-degree increase in temperature, you see a 7 percent increase in humidity,” she explains. It means that for countries like India, climate change has a compounding impact. The effect is strongest over the world’s oceans, and particularly the Indian Ocean, whose rapid warming is a big trigger of South Asia’s high wet-bulb temperatures. In response, the Indian government has had an expanding heat action plan in place since 2013. Its biggest feature is an early warning system for forecasting heat waves in cities across the country, with alerts aired by the media. But beyond this, safeguards for people vary significantly across the country. Some states have systems for closing workplaces and schools when temperatures are high, some for distributing rehydration salts and offering more drinking water to the public. Others have plans to increase tree cover in cities and to fit buildings with reflective roofs that keep their interiors cooler. The latter, though, are long-term actions that have yet to be properly implemented. One additional proposal is the idea of the “cooling room”—an air-conditioned space in a hospital where people with heat exhaustion can recover. But there are no significant coordinated nationwide efforts yet to help vulnerable, low-income workers access these. It’s also rare for employers to provide any kind of health insurance specifically for heat stress or to institute emergency care in case of heat stroke, especially in the unorganized labor sector, which contains over 700 million workers in India. In the face of this, academics like Venugopal are researching what else can be done. Working with about 120 companies, she’s focusing on how industries can reduce heat exposure for their workers. Recommendations include engineering solutions—such as cooling workspaces with air conditioners—while in industries that involve additional heat exposure, such as glass welding or steel-making, she suggests additional tools be used, like heat shields, special uniforms, or even vests piped with cooled air or fitted with ice packs. While these may sound outlandish, they are “standard industrial hygiene practices,” Venugopal says. “But they need to be adopted more widely.” Where technical solutions can’t be used, there are still administrative controls that could help, she adds—like frequent breaks for people working under heat wave conditions. The body has another protective mechanism—exhaustion—that tells you to rest when overheating, but workers may not always have the opportunity to stop working, she says. In such cases, Venugopal recommends that two people do a job on rotation if it requires heavy exertion or being outdoors. But the challenge lies in getting buy-in across India’s many cottage and small-scale industries. Until the government adopts stringent mandates requiring employers to protect their staff from extreme heat, individual businesses can choose whether to adopt or ignore suggestions coming from advisers like Venugopal. It’s also not just workers who need to take care when wet-bulb temperatures are high. Rising humidity and heat lift nighttime temperatures as well, which affects everyone. “When the humidity rises, the temperature doesn’t drop quite so fast at night,” says Steven Sherwood, a professor at the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Center in Australia. When the sun goes down, infrared radiation disperses some of the heat that has built up on Earth during the day. “When humidity is higher, there is greater cloud cover, which acts like a blanket preventing that escape of heat,” he says. At night the body should recover from the daytime assault of heat, but because nights are getting hotter, that recovery is hampered, says Dutta. Whenever people talk about the effects of heat, they usually refer to its direct effects—such as heat exhaustion and stroke, which can be fatal or debilitating—but these are only the tip of the iceberg, he says. “If heat stays high in the night, it affects the body’s homeostasis, its ability to regulate and maintain its internal body temperature.” Upset this and your cellular and metabolic activities become disrupted, which can be a driver of disease, and can even be fatal itself. This is a big concern, given that only an estimated 8 percent of Indian households have access to air conditioning. Analysis by World Weather Attribution suggests that climate change has made deadly weather events in South Asia 30 times more likely than they used to be. In the pre-industrial age, extreme heat waves would crop up once every 3,000 years. Now the probability is once every 100 years. Across India, on average nine heat waves were recorded every year from 1980 to 1999. The average between 2000 and 2019 is almost triple that, at 23. South Asia is also not the only area at risk. Potentially fatal mixtures of heat and humidity have been increasing around the globe. Coastal cities on the Persian Gulf seem particularly susceptible to very high wet-bulb temperatures in the future, says Luke Harrington, senior research fellow in climate science at the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute. According to data from NASA, other countries will experience more critical wet-bulb temperatures in the future too, including the United States. States such as Arkansas, Missouri, and even Iowa are at risk. And while some places may have more resources to handle the issue, people outside of India might not be so adapted to cope. We can’t be certain that dangerous temperature thresholds are going to be breached more frequently around the world—but it is likely, says Sherwood. “At 3 to 4 degrees Celsius of global average warming, a lot of places will experience more fatal wet-bulb temperatures, which will lead to more deaths,” he says, referring to the amount of warming the world is likely to see this century if climate action isn’t taken. If this is the future that’s ahead of us, then how heat increases in India—and is handled—could be a lesson for what the rest of the world should expect. For Lakshmanan, the heat remains an immediate problem. He can’t afford to let it affect his concentration, he says. If he’s off the mark by even half an inch while crafting his metal frames, all of the material he uses is wasted, and he’s responsible. “There are machines to do my job now, so I need to be alert regardless of the conditions I work in,” he says. “But this summer especially, it’s been really hard. It has tested the limits of our endurance.” India Isn’t Ready for a Deadly Combination of Heat and Humidity (May require free registration to view)
  7. Surfshark announced today they are shutting down its VPN (virtual private network) services in India in response to the new requirements in the country that demand all providers to keep customer logs for 180 days. VPN services aim to provide privacy to internet users by encrypting their network traffic and hiding their actual IP addresses behind those assigned to servers hosted at providers worldwide. This allows customers to select a country of their choice and route their traffic, so it appears as if they are in that country. Moreover, VPN providers commonly offer a no-logs policy, meaning that they do not log a customer's IP address, browsing history, timestamps, network traffic, or session information. "In short, Surfshark VPN does not keep track of your online whereabouts or actions in any way. The VPN server only keeps enough data to keep your VPN connection going, and nothing of it is kept after you’re done," explains SurfShark's no-logs policy. However, India’s new provisions added into section 70B of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, require VPN providers to abandon their core values by retaining usage details, allotted IP addresses, the purpose of using the services, user address, contact details, and more. Surfshark says that India’s legal action is radical and harms the privacy of the country’s netizens instead of protecting it. “Taking such radical action that highly impacts the privacy of millions of people living in India will most likely be counterproductive and strongly damage the sector’s growth in the country,” reads Surfshark’s announcement. “Ultimately, collecting excessive amounts of data within Indian jurisdiction without robust protection mechanisms could lead to even more breaches nationwide.” The popular VPN vendor says it will instead set up virtual servers located in Singapore and London, but which still appear as if they are based in India. Surfshark promises that India-based users won’t notice any differences in using its VPN services, neither in speed nor website accessibility. ExpressVPN already exited ExpressVPN, one of the world’s largest VPN service providers, left the Indian market last week, refusing to comply with the new rules to keep user logs for extensive periods. They, too, reverted to the solution of virtual servers with Indian IP addresses, which won’t be under Indian law jurisdiction. In fact, they commented that this would make connections more reliable in many cases. The vendor called out the Indian government for extreme measures and rebuked the authorities for leaving plenty of opportunities for abuse by the involved agencies. “ExpressVPN refuses to participate in the Indian government’s attempts to limit internet freedom,” boldly declares ExpressVPN’s announcement. “As a company focused on protecting privacy and freedom of expression online, we will continue to fight to keep users connected to the open and free internet with privacy and security, no matter where they are located.” The changes to India’s law are sweeping, pushing VPNs outside the country, and more vendors will likely follow ExpressVPN and Surfshark. Other prominent players in the market monitor the situation and hope that their pleads for last-minute changes will be heard as the deadline for the new law entering into force approaches. Surfshark, ExpressVPN pull out of India over data retention laws
  8. Last month, Motorola launched the Edge 30 in Europe and confirmed that it would also become available in Asia, Australia, India, Latin America, and the Middle East. Coming at just 6.79mm, the Edge 30 is the world's thinnest 5G smartphone, according to the company. Motorola is only a couple of days away from launching it in India, and while the specifications are now known to everyone, leaker Abhishek Yadav has the details regarding the device's India pricing. As per the leaker, the Motorola Edge 30 will come with a price tag of INR 27,999 (~$361). On top of that, you get an additional INR 2,000 (~$26) discount by cashing in on several bank offers. Although the details of the offers are not out, it brings the effective price down to INR 25,999 (~$336). Judging by its India pricing, it is fair to say that Motorola Edge 30 will compete directly with the upcoming OnePlus Nord 3, which is expected to be priced under INR 30,000 (~$387). Realme 9 Pro Plus is another mid-range device that will give some tough competition to the Edge 30 in India, as the former is priced lower. Motorola Edge 30 features a 144Hz 6.5” FHD+ OLED display and is based on the Snapdragon 778G+ 5G Mobile Platform. It comes with up to 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and has a 50MP camera system. Its 4,020 mAh battery is enough to serve you all day, but if that's not enough for you, the 33W TurboPower 30 fast-charging technology gives you hours of power in just minutes of charging. Motorola Edge 30 is set to go official in India on May 12. The company will hold an online event from 12 PM IST onwards. If you're based in India and looking to buy a new mid-range smartphone, will the Edge 30 be your next daily driver? Let us know in the comments. Motorola's world's thinnest 5G smartphone Indian pricing leaks
  9. Google’s Pixel ‘a’ series is a toned-down variant of the original flagship Pixel series. This year, it won’t be any different as the company is readying the Pixel 6a to be available in July in various markets. We’ve already started getting indications of that as the Pixel 6a is currently being tested privately, according to leakster Mukul Sharma. In one of its previous tweets, Sharma said a new Google Pixel smartphone was undergoing private testing in India. Per the tipster, this is the much-awaited Pixel 6a, though he was not fully sure of it. If true, Pixel 6a will mark the return of Google to the Indian smartphone market after almost two long years. Sharma also claimed that series production had begun in several Asian countries, hinting at an imminent launch. However, the leaker shared nothing on the official launch of Pixel 6a in India. Pixel 6 and 6 Pro were two of the best flagship phones last year but aren’t available in Indian markets. If the 6a comes to India, it will be a relief for every Pixel fan in the country. If rumors are to be believed, the 6a will come with all the best features of the Pixel 6 series, and yet it will cost less than the latter. GOOGLE PIXEL 6A RUMORED SPECIFICATIONS Google Pixel 6a will reportedly feature a 6.2-inch flat OLED display with a single centered punch-hole camera. The 6a is also expected to have dual rear cameras and a single LED flash. Rumor has it that the Google Pixel 6a will use the same 50MP Samsung ISOCELL GN1 sensor as the original Pixel 6. The tipster hasn’t given us the complete information about the smartphone’s specs. For example, details related to cameras and processors are not known. But it’s being said that the company might use the Tensor GS101 chipset in the phone. It’s expected to be available in 6GB or 8GB of RAM with up to 128GB of storage. Other features include a USB Type-C and an in-display fingerprint sensor. According to rumors, the Google I/O event will start on May 11 and continue until the next day, May 12. However, Pixel 6a is said to be available from July 28 in most markets. Pixel 6a could go official in India soon
  10. Claiming that criminals use encryption to stay anonymous, last year a parliamentary committee urged the Indian government to ban VPNs. While that didn't happen, new security-focused directions published by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology look set to make effective online anonymity a thing of the past. People being free to share and access ideas, knowledge and opinions with their peers is a universally accepted standard for the entire human race. The big problem is that the definition of ‘free’ differs widely and is often defined by the few, not the many. In online terms, true freedom is already under threat. As governments take more control over ‘their’ parts of the internet, citizens are informed that this is for the greater good, to keep their families safe and economies strong. Giving up small freedoms here….and a few others over there….are presented as insignificant sacrifices hardly worth our attention. However, once these systems are in place, governments can use them to ‘protect’ citizens from dissenting opinions, unpalatable news, whistleblowing, and our ability to absorb all information, thereby reaching educated conclusions of our own. Early adopters of VPNs recognized this years ago, and as more people retain choice by using them, some governments are calling for VPNs to be restricted or even banned. Calls for VPN Ban in India In common with many countries worldwide, India has introduced laws to render illegal certain types of content online. It blocks thousands of websites due to copyright infringement and pornography, for example, but is now engaged in censorship to suppress political opposition in the name of national security. It even threatened to put Twitter executives in prison for refusing to censor opponents. Due to the increased security and anonymity they provide, good VPN services with high standards enable people to absorb and impart information more freely. They are not a silver bullet but can be considered as part of a toolkit to unfilter internet access and restore freedoms. As a result, India’s government (and more besides) view them as a threat. Last year a Parliamentary Standing Committee called for a total ban on VPNs, advising that they allow criminals to be anonymous online. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology was urged to force ISPs to block these encryption tools and increase online surveillance to clear any remnants. While the government didn’t respond with a full ban, new directions to India’s IT sector reveal that if VPNs are to stay, the authorities will have the power to identify their users. Security Measures for a “Safe & Trusted Internet” The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) serves as the national agency for online security. It analyzes cyber threats and can obtain logging information from service providers, intermediaries, data centers and corporate bodies. After identifying gaps in its ability to analyze ‘incidents’, CERT-In recently issued directions to companies providing internet services designed to ensure a “safe & trusted Internet” in the country. While the directions focus on improved responses to security incidents, Indian authorities have also ordered all service providers, intermediaries, and data centers to enable and maintain logs. These must contain 180 days of event logging and be maintained within Indian jurisdiction for straightforward access. For other service providers the requirements are even tougher. VPN Providers Cannot Be Anonymous, Must Carry Logs Although caveats apply (and vary between providers), a good VPN service should be able to offer enhanced or even complete anonymity to users. Many do this, at least in part, by not carrying logs that can link a specific user to any IP address at any given time. India’s directions are designed to thwart this business model. All VPN services, data centers, VPS (virtual private server) providers, and cloud services must store a laundry list of information and logs for at least five years, longer if the government chooses to change the law. The rules apply to all of the above services, but given the nature of VPN services as censorship-busting anonymity tools, they appear to be the hardest hit. An email address is often sufficient when a customer signs up for a VPN service. In future, VPN providers in India will be required to obtain a customer’s real name, address, and phone number. All information provided must be validated as accurate. Providers will also be required to record the user’s email address, IP address and timestamp used at the time of registration and obtain a statement of intent from the subscriber, i.e a description of what the VPN will be used for. The ‘period of hire’ (times and dates) must also be logged to include every IP address allocated to and used by customers. All service providers must synchronize their clocks with specified NTP servers for uniform accuracy across the industry. Implications for VPN Providers and Users The full implications will become clearer over time, but the directions seem to impact VPN providers in India and, to a lesser extent, those based overseas operating servers in India. Pervasive logging throughout the entire system translates to a generally hostile environment for anonymity so after consideration, some providers may be less keen to do business locally. Especially given that prison sentences are available for non-compliance. The directions can be found here (pdf) VPN Users’ Anonymity Under Threat Following Indian Security Order
  11. OnePlus no longer makes only phones. The Shenzhen tech company is entering different product markets to diversify its business. OnePlus will reportedly include a tablet, the OnePlus Pad, in its product portfolio. With the OnePlus Pad trademark now registered in India, it’s safe to assume that it will be the official name for the tablet when it launches. Renowned leaker Mukul Sharma has said that the internal testing of OnePlus has begun, which is a clear indication that the company’s first tablet will debut in India sooner than you think. Mukul Sharma’s prediction is perfectly in line with what the previous rumors suggested. Rumor has it that the OnePlus Pad would go official in the first half of 2022. So, all these rumors suggest that the OnePlus tablet will launch within the next couple of months. The OnePlus Pad isn’t a mysterious device, though. Thanks to previous leaks, we’ve learned about its specifications and pricing. However, we might get additional details on specs from the company on the launch day. Meanwhile, you can read the leaked specifications below. ONEPLUS PAD RUMORED SPECIFICATIONS ONEPLUS PAD PRICE(RUMORED) ONEPLUS PAD RUMORED SPECIFICATIONS According to previous rumors, the OnePlus Pad features a 12.4-inch FHD+ OLED screen and is powered by Snapdragon 865 coupled with 6GB of RAM. It has 128GB of storage. Rumor has it that the Oppo Pad packs a 10090mAh battery with fast charging support of 45W. As for the camera, the tablet has a dual-camera setup on the backside and has a single selfie camera on the front. The dual camera consists of 13MP and 5MP lenses, while the front camera is 8MP. Other features may include a side fingerprint Sensor, 3.5mm Jack, and Bluetooth 5.1. The tablet will reportedly be based on Android 12. ONEPLUS PAD PRICE(RUMORED) As per the leaker, OnePlus’ upcoming tablet will cost CN¥2999(~$471) for the 6GB/128GB variant. However, this could be the launch price in China, and you cannot tell the price in other countries just by doing the currency conversion. OnePlus Pad may officially launch in India soon
  12. On April 7, Ranendra Ojha, a marketing professional in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata was looking forward to installing and using the new super app, Tata Neu. Super apps are umbrella mobile applications under which companies offer a bunch of services. But as soon as Ojha installed and signed up for Tata Neu on his phone number, he was appalled to see that this newly launched app already had three of his old addresses along with his full name—details he never shared with the app. As he dug further, Ojha realized that the app seemed to have pulled data from the grocery app Big Basket, which Ojha uses frequently. Like Big Basket, Tata Neu is owned by the almost 155-year-old Tata Group. One of India’s largest conglomerates and a household name, the Tata Group sells everything from salt to software and recently forayed into the world of consumer tech through a slew of acquisitions. “Frankly, I was quite shocked that Tata had picked up my personal details from one of the apps they owned and used it for this new app,” Ojha says. “In effect they have shared my personal details with the whole Tata Group companies without my permission.” Another user based in the southern Indian city of Bangalore was equally shocked when he saw multiple addresses (including the address of his old home, where he doesn’t live anymore) and his date of birth already preloaded on Tata Neu when he signed up for it using his phone number and a one-time password. What he found more perplexing was that his wife’s Tata Neu also had her old office address, which he says they never used for any purpose. “Personally I am a very big fan of Tata Group, and there is trust when it comes to the Tata brand,” says Naren, who requested to be quoted under a pseudonym, fearing backlash from the company. “But that trust is lost when they do these sorts of sneaky things under the name of user experience.” Tata Neu was launched in the first week of April and has had at least 2.2 million downloads. The app houses all of the company’s brands ranging across industries such as ecommerce, financial services, airline tickets, grocery, medicines, and hotels. But the inclusion of preloaded personal data in a new app means that the Tata Group has managed to save customer data across its online and offline companies and create their profiles. According to privacy advocates, this is problematic because it happened without users giving explicit consent and in the absence of a comprehensive data-protection law in India. The Tatas, with a market cap of over $300 billion at current exchange rates, have had a strong offline presence across a wide range of sectors. But, until relatively recently, consumer tech remained an untapped market. So a few years ago, in a bid to compete with tech biggies like Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart, Tata started building its digital profile by acquiring startups like Alibaba-backed online grocery firm Big Basket and medicine delivery startup 1mg, along with an investment in health-and-fitness startup Cult.Fit. Some customers of these startups acquired by Tata received an email with updated terms and conditions. Others, including the author of this piece, received no email and are unaware of any other form of notice. And while previous privacy policies of these apps vaguely said that they may share customer data with partner companies or other third parties in the event of an acquisition, experts say it’s the lack of explicit consumer consent coupled with the fact that this is data collected from acquired companies which, according to long-time privacy advocate Nikhil Pahwa, makes it “an ethical failure on the part of the Tata Group.” “All super apps already do this [data sharing] but the difference for Tata Neu is the fact that they have acquired companies and then connected all of this data together,” says Pahwa, founder of digital media portal Medianama. “There is a different threshold of accountability for them, because customers who were using an app or service before acquisition naturally didn’t expect that the data would be linked to data from multiple different apps when an acquisition takes place.” In response to queries sent by WIRED, a Tata spokesperson defended the company’s business practices and asserted that it is committed to user privacy and security. “Respecting and safeguarding our customers' privacy is vital to our business at Tata Digital. We take great care to maintain the confidentiality of their information,” the spokesperson said. “Tata Digital complies with, and will continue to comply with, applicable data regulations, both in letter and spirit.” Last year, WhatsApp—for which India is the largest market—updated its privacy policy to require users to accept sharing their data with its parent company, Facebook (now known as Meta). This led to an outrage among its users, many of whom abandoned WhatsApp (if only temporarily) and moved en masse to other messaging apps like Signal and Telegram. The Competition Commission of India, India’s antitrust agency, soon initiated regulatory action against WhatsApp for the unilateral changes to its privacy policy on the grounds of abuse of dominance. But antitrust and privacy lawyers say it may be difficult to make the argument of unfair policy terms as a form of abuse of dominance in the case of a new entrant like Neu, because it has a relatively small market share so far. “However, if any of the Tata affiliates hold a clear dominance in the markets that they operate in, then any sort of coercive data sharing with Neu could potentially raise competition law issues for that entity,” says Smriti Parsheera, a tech policy researcher with the think tank National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. Tata’s data sharing stands against the void of a lack of a comprehensive data protection law in India. The closest thing the country has is now a finalized Data Protection Bill, 2021. But the legislation hasn't been passed and relies on “informed” consent as one of the main grounds of data processing—meaning companies could still bury alerts about how their data could be used under a mountain of legalese while giving people no opt-out beyond not using the service. “Merely having the new law would not completely solve the problem,” says Parsheera. “But it will create a framework of accountability where the new regulator can take actions, and consumers can seek redress.” The new regulator would also be expected to frame regulations around the tools that can be used to make privacy policies more understandable to users. Ojha, for one, is not waiting for the Indian government to bring a legal framework for data protection. He decided to delete the app the same day it first resided on his phone’s home screen. “I found it very cumbersome and absolutely zero value addition to me,” he says. “Also, I was uncomfortable that they were using my personal information without my explicit permission.” India’s New Super App Has a Privacy Problem (May require free registration to view)
  13. The Indian government has issued new directives requiring organizations to report cybersecurity incidents to CERT-IN within six hours, even if those incidents are port or vulnerability scans of computer systems. This requirement was promoted by India's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), who states it has identified specific gaps causing difficulties in security incident analysis and response, and to address them, it needs to impose more aggressive measures. These measures and various other provisions were published via a notice yesterday and were integrated into section 70B of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, so they are part of the Indian law, entering into force in 60 days. Instant notice about incidents The most notable new requirement is that any internet service provider, intermediary, data center, or government organization, shall report these incidents to CERT-In within six hours of noticing them. The same applies to incidents reported to these entities by third parties, so these service providers must ensure that incoming tips aren’t lost or ignored but timely processed and evaluated. The types of cybersecurity incidents that will have to be reported to CERT-In are the following: Targeted scanning/probing of critical networks/systems Compromise of critical systems/information Unauthorized access to IT systems/data Defacement of website or intrusion into a website and unauthorized changes such as inserting malicious code links to external websites, etc. Malicious code attacks such as the spreading of viruses/worm/trojan/bots/ spyware/ransomware/cryptominers Attack on servers such as database, mail, and DNS and network devices such as Routers Identity Theft, spoofing, and phishing attacks Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks Attacks on Critical infrastructure, SCADA and operational technology systems, and Wireless networks Attacks on applications such as E-Governance, E-Commerce, etc. Data Breach Data Leak Attacks on Internet of Things (IoT) devices and associated systems, networks, software, servers Attacks or incidents affecting Digital Payment systems Attacks through Malicious mobile Apps Fake mobile Apps Unauthorized access to social media accounts Attacks or malicious/ suspicious activities affecting cloud computing systems/servers/software/applications Attacks or malicious/suspicious activities affecting systems/ servers/ networks/ software/ applications related to Big Data, Blockchain, virtual assets, virtual asset exchanges, custodian wallets, robotics, 3D and 4D Printing, additive manufacturing, and drones For proper coordination, all of the entities mentioned above will be required to connect to the NTP server of the National Informatics Center (NIC) or that of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and synchronize their system clocks with them. Finally, all system logs of the aforementioned service providers must be maintained securely within Indian jurisdiction for a rolling period of 180 days and shall be provided to CERT-In along with any security incident reports or when requested by the agency. Retaining user data The new guidelines also include a section on VPS (virtual private server) and VPN (virtual private network) service providers, who will now be obliged to maintain a record of their users. The data acquisition period stretches for five years after the cancellation or withdrawal of the user registration, or even longer if future regulations mandate so. The data that will be maintained includes the following: Validated names of subscribers/customers hiring the services Period of hire, including dates IPs allotted to / being used by the members Email address and IP address, and time stamp used at the time of registration / on-boarding The purpose for engaging the services Validated address and contact numbers Ownership pattern of the subscribers/customers leasing services The same will apply to virtual asset (cryptocurrency) service providers, including exchanges and wallet management services, who will now retain customer details for at least five years. Bleeping Computer discussed the potential impact of these new requirements with Beenu Arora, the founder of Cyble, a cyber-intelligence firm with a strong presence in India, and he expects a challenging implementation. While the government's intent is noteworthy, complying with this directive will not be an easy task as it will require organizations to appoint additional staff and devote significant management time to meet the reporting requirements. The industry is already grappling with a massive shortage of skilled cyber security professionals, and considering that a typical organization experiences several cyber-attacks daily, reporting each of these attacks to CERT-IN in a prescribed format could pose an operational challenge. An automated incident reporting platform that allows individual organizations to submit their incident reports seamlessly to CERT-IN could help in ensuring more effective implementation. - Beenu Arora India to require cybersecurity incident reporting within six hours
  14. OnePlus 10R, OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite, and Nord Buds are three new products that OnePlus will launch in India next week. We have heard rumors from reliable sources about their specifications and other details. Today, we are hearing from leaker Yogesh Brar about what could be the possible price of these upcoming three new OnePlus devices. According to the leaker, the base variant of the OnePlus 10R with 80W fast-charging support will cost Rs. 38,999(~$510), while the most premium model will set you back Rs. 44,999(~$588) in India. The base variant has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while the premium model features 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and 150W fast-charging support. It will be available in Black and Green colors. As per Brar, OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite will also be available in two variants—one that costs Rs. 17,999(~$235), and a slightly more expensive model is priced at Rs. 19,999(~$262). It reportedly has 128GB storage and 6GB/8GB RAM depending on which variant you buy. The Nord CE 2 Lite will be available in Blue and Black color options. OnePlus Nord Buds, on the other hand, will be the company’s cheapest truly wireless earbuds to date. The new Nord Buds are expected to be priced at Rs. 2,999(~$39) and will come in Black and White color options. OnePlus confirmed that it would launch these new devices on April 28. Of course, we will get to know more information about these new launches on that date. Meanwhile, you can check out the leaked specifications of these products below. ONEPLUS 10R SPECIFICATIONS Powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 8100 chip, the OnePlus 10R will have a 120Hz high refresh rate technology and will be based on Android 12-based OxygenOS. It will also have the 80W SuperVOOC fast charging support. You can learn more about the 10R here. ONEPLUS NORD BUDS SPECIFICATIONS A 41mAh battery capacity, 480mAh charging case, and a physical button on the ear tips for play/pause, music change, and more controls are some of the exciting features of the Nord Buds. However, none of this is confirmed by the company, so take it with a pinch of salt. Let us know in the comments section if you are excited about these new OnePlus devices. OnePlus 10R, OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite, OnePlus Buds prices leak days ahead of their launch
  15. India Is Using More Solar Energy—but It Carries a Lead Risk In rural areas, solar power is stored in lead batteries. If they aren't properly recycled, contamination can cause health problems. Photograph: Getty Images This story originally appeared in Undark and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration. At the 2018 United Nations climate meeting in Poland, the European Union and the Indian-led International Solar Alliance (ISA) signed a joint declaration that climate change activists say could help India meet its renewable energy target by 2022. The country is one of several—including China, Brazil, and Bangladesh—that have announced ambitious initiatives to expand their use of solar power. A year later, at the next U.N. climate summit in Madrid, India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, urged more countries to join the ISA “to speed up this alliance to trap solar energy in a big way.” More than 60 have signed and ratified the agreement. For advocates of renewable energy and climate change activists, these initiatives seemed like good news. Fast-growing nations like India, after all, are expected to rapidly increase use of planet-warming fossil fuels in coming decades, and adoption of renewable alternatives could help to dampen the environmental and climate impacts as their economies expand. But some public health researchers are concerned that the rapid and aggressive push for solar power in some developing countries can have a frequently overlooked side-effect: Localized spikes in lead poisoning. The problem, they say, is that a portion of solar panel installations in these countries will not be connected to the national electricity network—as they typically are in the U.S., U.K., and Denmark. Indeed, while grid connectivity is reliable and rooftop solar installations don’t need lead batteries for on-site storage in many bigger Indian cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, in smaller towns, and remote rural areas—where off-grid solar activity is underway—the quality of connection to the national electricity grid is poor. Many villages get electricity for only two or five hours a day, and the power supply from the grid is erratic and unpredictable, meaning that many solar projects in these areas continue to be heavily reliant on lead-acid batteries for storing unused solar power. The situation is similar across the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, some 600 million people still lack access to electricity. In areas where grid connectivity is infeasible, microgrids that rely on solar or other types of renewable energy may offer solutions. According to a report by the United States Agency for International Development and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “the vast majority of batteries in micro-grid applications worldwide have been lead-acid” to date. In Kenya, where the government is aiming to provide electricity to all residents by 2022, off-grid systems play an important role. And according to a draft report prepared for the country’s Energy Regulatory Commission, lead-acid batteries are the main form of energy storage available on the market. Meanwhile in India, tens of millions of households remain without power. Where grid connections prove impossible, lead-acid batteries will almost certainly be used. As in most developing countries, recycling of lead-acid batteries in India is also not adequately regulated to protect public health. This results in lead being released back into the environment. “This is the, kind of, dirty side of renewable energy,” said Pamli Deka, associate director of the energy program at the World Resources Institute in India. While solar energy is considered clean, she said, not many organizations and energy enterprises are talking about the downsides, “for various reasons just like the oil and gas industry would not talk about the bad things of oil and gas.” While the impacts of prolonged lead exposure are extremely well known, those working in or living near recycling plants aren’t always aware of the dangers, which include higher risks of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. The heavy metal can also cause damage to the kidneys, reproductive system, and the central nervous system. And while for adults, lead poisoning is one of the most significant hazards to occupational health, for children’s health, the risks are even higher. “When a battery becomes old, the lead comes out in the form of lead sulfate and corrodes,” said Amod Pokhrel, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. If particles from those corroding batteries end up on the floors of nearby houses, Pokhrel says, young children could get exposed to them. Childhood behavioral problems such as reduced attention span and anti-social tendencies have been linked to early lead exposures. And studies have long connected prolonged lead exposure to developmental delays, poor performance in school, lower IQ scores, loss of appetite, weight loss, and irritability. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington found that in 2015, lead exposure was responsible for 12.4 percent of the global burden of developmental intellectual disability. Awareness of the potential connection between increased lead contamination and off-grid solar energy projects is attributable to a handful of studies conducted over the last decade. Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International, a research organization that identifies and monitors exposures to hazardous materials, said solar programs often fail to take account of where batteries are being made and where they’re getting recycled. In a 2011 study published in the journal Energy Policy, Gottesfeld and his co-author, Christopher Cherry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, noted that in countries with advanced infrastructure, about 5 percent of the mass of lead used to produce lead-acid batteries gets released into the environment. In China and India, that figure rises to 34 and 22 percent, respectively “There is a failure on the part of those who are promoting these panels,” Gottesfeld said, “including the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, even U.N. agencies that are advocating and providing financing for these systems.” To his knowledge, Gottesfeld said, none of these programs “require that the lead batteries be collected back by the supplier or the manufacturer of these systems. And that’s a huge problem in most of the world.” Officials from the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation (which has been funding various solar energy projects in India) did not respond to repeated requests for comment. According to a 2013 study of nearly 95,000 children in China, 24 percent had blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter, 16 percent higher than the global average. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s blood lead level of concern is 5 micrograms per deciliter. Lead gets stored in the teeth and bones, where it remains for decades. During pregnancy, that lead is released in the blood and affects the developing fetus. These escalating problems are not limited to Asia. In a 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Research, for example, Gottesfeld and co-authors analyzed soil samples from 15 lead battery recycling plants and one manufacturing site across Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Tunisia, Tanzania, and Cameroon. Forty-two percent of samples taken from outside these facilities had lead levels in excess of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for residential soil. Experts are concerned that the informal sector uses crude methods for lead recovery that could potentially result in millions of tons of lead being released into the environment globally—particularly with the rapid expansion of solar installations in small, developing locales. “When you’re talking about a solar panel and a lead-acid battery, of course, there’s probably 1,000 or 10,000 times more lead in the battery than in the solar panel,” said Dustin Mulvaney, an associate professor of environmental studies at San José State University. When lead-acid batteries reach the end of their life cycle after two to five years, adequate recycling plans are required to prevent lead pollution. “In the case where a project has a sponsor that has an end-of-life management plan, I probably would have less concern. But we’re talking about some very rural places that are very far from those kinds of institutions, so it’s not as likely,” Mulvaney added. Currently, India has 550 authorized lead battery recycling plants. According to a 2011 study by the Indian Bureau of Mines, only 40 percent of these registered recyclers were operating. To make matters worse, they were operating only at half of their capacity. In comparison, Gottesfeld said, the U.S. has only 11 or 12 such plants, even though the country’s lead-acid batteries market is much larger than India’s. “Consolidation is key because you can’t afford to do this with the pollution-control equipment on a small scale,” Gottesfeld said. “It only is economically feasible on a large scale.” In order to consolidate the industry, Gottesfeld added, there need to be laws in place that require the takeback of used lead batteries. And where there is already contamination, “you need to test the children and abate the soil and the contamination in these communities.” In February, the Modi administration proposed new rules that will make it mandatory for manufacturers and sellers to collect used batteries and have them sent to registered recyclers. The rules are currently open for public comment. Last September, Modi announced a more ambitious renewable energy target than his country set at the Paris Climate Agreement, pledging to increase capacity from 175 gigawatts by 2022 to 450 gigawatts by 2030. As of December, India had installed just over 85 gigawatts of renewable energy, 44 percent of which came from solar and all of which—according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy—is connected to the grid. But in remote rural and semi-urban areas of India, the distance between the transmission line from a solar energy project’s location to the electricity point of any utility company can pose a challenge, noted Rohit Kumar, the head of the Indian subcontinent at REC Solar, a Norwegian solar panel manufacturing company. And even when connections are possible, power stations aren’t always able to accept the additional electricity. That leaves lead-acid battery storage as the more likely option in many areas. (According to Kumar, REC Solar only manufactures solar panels that are meant to be connected to India’s national electricity grid network.) Compounding the problem, lead batteries used in local solar installations join those already in use in India and elsewhere for vehicles, telecom towers, and computer servers. India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest implemented a rule as far back as 2001 to deal with the growing lead contamination issue, mandating that manufacturers of lead batteries should collect at least 90 percent of used batteries sold, and that used batteries only be sold to registered recyclers. Many manufacturers have previously failed to follow that rule due to a weak collection and enforcement system. Whether the Modi administration’s proposed update to the rule will result in any improvements is far from clear. “In India, Bangladesh, and all of Africa,” said Gottesfeld, “it is well known that a considerable proportion of the batteries get diverted to the informal sector, instead of being recycled at large facilities with pollution-control equipment.” A 2015 study published in the Journal of Health and Pollution noted that because of these factors, the amount of battery scrap that registered recyclers receive is very limited. In small and rural recycling plants, the used lead batteries from vehicles, power generators, and even solar installations are often broken open outdoors and the lead paste is immediately discarded because of a lack of awareness about its environmental impacts. In an email, B Vinod Babu, nodal officer of the waste management division of India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), admitted that there have been issues with regard to compliance by dealers, manufacturers, assemblers, and importers of lead-acid batteries. CPCB, he wrote, has been following up with the State Pollution Control Boards for more effective implementation of the rules. Meanwhile, the biggest manufacturer of lead batteries in India, Exide, which supplies batteries to off-the-grid solar installations in hospitals, gas stations, and households in rural and semi-urban places across the country, says it is following the rules. Satyabrata Pattanayak, head of solar sales at Exide Industries Limited, insisted that Exide collects nearly all of its used lead batteries. “In my mind, 90 to 95 percent of batteries are recycled by Exide.” Whether or not that’s accurate, public health researchers say they are concerned that the rise of solar usage in remote, developing areas—and the often unsafe practices undertaken in battery recycling—will inevitably come with increased childhood lead exposures. One study of children in two rural villages in Thailand who lived in houses with lead batteries that were connected to solar panels suggested significant evidence of elevated blood lead levels, for example. The government had supplied the solar panels because those two villages did not have any electricity supply. Some of the villagers had installed the solar panels right outside their bamboo or wooden houses but kept the lead batteries inside their households for storing excess solar energy. The researchers observed that 50 percent of children who lived in houses with lead batteries—a common practice in many developing regions—had elevated blood lead levels compared to 23 percent of children who lived in a house without lead batteries. More recently, in a 2018 study published in the journal Environment International, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the blood lead levels in Indian children living across the country from data published in various journals between 2010 to 2018. They estimated that lead exposure had resulted in 4.9 million years of disability-adjusted life years, which is a measure of the number of years lost due to ill-health or disabilities. Children who suffer from lead poisoning also experience symptoms like stomach aches, constipation, fatigue, vomiting, seizures, and hearing loss. “India’s certainly one of the worst countries in the world with regard to informal use of lead-acid battery processing, said Bret Ericson, the lead author of the study and now a consultant with the U.N. Environment Program. “It’s one of the countries where the problem is most severe, particularly in the northeastern part.” According to Ericson, half of the world’s lead gets recycled in the informal sector. “These are just people trying to make a living,” he said. “They just don’t know they are poisoning people.” India Is Using More Solar Energy—but It Carries a Lead Risk
  16. NEW DELHI: The government has banned 59 Chinese applications including top social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo and WeChat in order to counter the privacy security posed by these applications. The move came amid tension with China following the June 15 clashes at Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers died in action and more than 70 were injured. ShareIT, UC browser and shopping app Clubfactory are among the other prominent apps which have been banned. The government has argued that the applications are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order. The government has banned these invoking its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, it said in a statement. A top official said that the government has considered all the aspects before taking the decision. “These apps have been there for a long time, and there are some privacy and security issues with them including risks of data going out of the country,” said the person who did not wish to be identified. The statement from the ministry of electronics and IT (MEITY) said that it has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India. “The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” it said “There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country,” the statement added. Experts suggested that the ban on apps is a major blow to China's Digital Silk Route ambitions, eroding millions of dollars from valuation of its companies. This could also lead to more countries following India's path in acting against these Apps. "The Modi government shows its tremendous resolve and dexterity of engaging China on multiple fronts and hitting China where it hurts the most," said a party source. "This is India's first salvo to China after the border clashes, showing that India has a diverse range of retaliatory options," he added. Here is the full list of apps that have been banned: Read More: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/software/india-bans-59-chinese-apps-including-tiktok-helo-wechat/articleshow/76694814.cms https://www.ndtv.com/video/news/news/tiktok-stop-59-chinese-apps-banned-by-india-553123 https://indianexpress.com/article/india/china-apps-banned-in-india-6482079/
  17. Apple's iPhone 11 assembly in India has reportedly kicked off Apple's plan to move its iPhone assembly to India may have finally taken off. A new report from TechCrunch says the tech company's manufacturing partner, Foxconn, has begun assembling the iPhone 11 series in India. The report cites a person familiar with the matter, claiming that Foxconn is now manufacturing the latest-generation iPhone units at its plant near Chennai, India. Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry, also confirmed the news via Twitter, citing a report from Economic Times. Currently, the iPhone 11 production in Chennai is allegedly running at limited capacity, although there are plans to ramp up yield in the future. Nonetheless, the initial batch of units was already sent to local retailers. Reports about Apple's push for an India-based assembly of its smartphone products date back to as early as 2017 when an Indian minister suggested that possibility. In 2018, amid tensions between China and the U.S., Apple began holding talks to relocate its iPhone production to a Foxconn facility in India. Those reports gained further steam when Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed earlier this year that the company would open its first retail store in India in 2021. Foxconn is also investing up to $1 billion in its manufacturing business in that country. Source: TechCrunch Apple's iPhone 11 assembly in India has reportedly kicked off
  18. India's second wave hits the whole world through vaccine export curbs Facing a brutal new wave of coronavirus cases, India on Thursday made anyone over 45 eligible for vaccination. But the scramble to vaccinate as many people as possible has also meant sharply curtailing exports. Why it matters: The hopes of vaccinating the world have largely fallen on the shoulders of India, a vaccine manufacturing powerhouse and home to the world’s largest producer, the Serum Institute. Until recently, India was exporting most of the doses it was producing — a mix of donations to neighbors and other friendly nations, sales to countries like Saudi Arabia and the U.K., and contributions to the global COVAX initiative. Indian-made vaccines have gone to 82 countries. Then, after a long lull, cases began to surge. They are now at their highest point since mid-October and are continuing to climb precipitously. Vaccine exports, which had been ramping up, suddenly fell sharply. Rather than supplying the world, the Serum Institute appears to have redirected nearly its entire supply to the homefront. Driving the news: India has not imposed an export ban and will continue to supply doses, including to COVAX, a government source tells Axios. But given "domestic requirements," the source added, "there is some recalibration of the supply schedules.” Another official, speaking to Reuters, put it more bluntly: “Right now we are dealing with an emergency situation. Whatever we have, we will use it,” the official said. The government aims to vaccinate a minimum of 400 million people, up from 56 million at present (just 4% of the population), the official told Reuters. By the numbers: India has exported 6 million doses over the last three weeks, with less than 2 million of those going to the COVAX initiative. That’s down from 31 million in the three prior weeks, of which 16 million went to COVAX That’s a crippling setback for COVAX, which is a critical source of vaccines for low-income countries, particularly in Africa. COVAX had expected 71% of its first wave of distribution to consist of AstraZeneca doses produced at the Serum Institute, according to a preliminary forecast. A spokesman for Gavi, the vaccine alliance, said shipments expected in March and April had been delayed, and COVAX is now “in talks with the government of India in the hope of ensuring some supplies are completed during April.” What to watch: If this is anything more than a temporary delay, “that would be catastrophic,” African CDC director John Nkengasong told reporters Thursday. He said Africa would likely fall short of its vaccination targets this year. The big picture: The world currently has four major sources of vaccines. The U.S. is the second-largest producer, just ahead of India, but isn't exporting at all. China is currently the top producer and top exporter, according to Airfinity, focusing less on the domestic rollout in part because the virus remains under control in the country. The EU, meanwhile, has exported around 40% of its supply to date, but it's in the midst of a vigorous debate about whether and how to curb exports. Source: India's second wave hits the whole world through vaccine export curbs
  19. India’s finance minister reconsiders a ban on cryptocurrencies The Indian government might not completely ban cryptocurrencies. In an interview on March 5, country’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that she wants to foster innovation in crypto. “We want to make sure that there is a window available for all kinds of experiments which will have to take place in the crypto world,” she said during an interview on CNBC TV18, a business and financial news television channel in India. “We are not closing our minds.” The comments from Sitharaman counter a proposed bill from the Indian government in January of this year that would ban all private cryptocurrencies. The proposed law would also include a system for the creation and regulation of an official cryptocurrency issued by the country’s central bank and the promotion of blockchain, the technology underlying digital currencies. The Reserve Bank of India’s “digital rupee” is aimed at being similar to China’s “digital yuan“. Local business and lobbying groups like the Association for Blockchain, Crypto and Digital Asset Entrepreneurs and the Blockchain and Crypto Committee formed in response to the news of the potential ban in an effort to lobby the government and enhance its understanding of cryptocurrencies. In mid-February, Balaji Srinivasan, the former chief technology officer of the crypto trading platform Coinbase, compared the proposed law to “banning the internet”. ”It would be a trillion-dollar mistake for India, without exaggeration,” he said during an interview with The CapTable, an online business-news publication in India. While Sitharaman said the country’s central bank would take the lead on overseeing “unofficial cryptos”, her comments indicated a possible outcome of regulating cryptocurrencies instead of an outright ban. “There will be a very calibrated position taken,” she said. Source: India’s finance minister reconsiders a ban on cryptocurrencies
  20. It has been a rough few days for India when it comes to global surveys and associated criticism. Over the last week, the world's largest democracy lost it's ranking as a 'free' country on the 2021 Freedom in the World index, and led the world leaderboard for internet shutdowns. India led the world last year in internet shutdowns that affected hundreds of millions of people, as governments cracked down on political rivals and tried to suppress protests. At least 155 internet shutdowns in 2020 disrupted access for people in 29 countries, according to a report on Wednesday from digital rights group Access Now. That included 28 full internet blackouts that plunged people and in some cases entire cities, into “digital darkness," the report said. Most recorded incidents took place in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. "Like it did in previous years, India once again topped the list of internet shutdowns with at least 109 in 2020, followed by Yemen with at least six shutdowns, Ethiopia with four, and Jordan three. India, Yemen, and Ethiopia had been among the worst disruptors of the internet in 2019," the report explains. India witnessed the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the year 2020. Most of the incidents took place in India, some of the Middle Eastern countries, and some parts of Africa. A total of 155 internet shutdowns were imposed globally out of which India had 109 shutdowns. Read More: https://www.freepressjournal.in https://www.livemint.com https://www.indiatoday.in https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com https://thewire.in
  21. Amazon launches free video streaming service miniTV in India Image Credits: TechCrunch Amazon has long maintained that its video streaming service, Prime Video, helps it drive more sales on the shopping app. Now the e-commerce giant is testing what happens when it brings the video streaming service to the shopping app itself. The e-commerce giant on Saturday launched miniTV, an ad-supported video streaming service that is available within the Amazon shopping app and is “completely free.” miniTV is currently available only in India, Amazon said. miniTV features web-series, comedy shows, and content around tech news, food, beauty, fashion “to begin with,” Amazon said. Some of the titles currently available have been produced by leading studios such as TVF and Pocket Aces — two of the largest web studios in India — and comedians such as Ashish Chanchlani, Amit Bhadana, Round2Hell, Harsh Beniwal, Shruti Arjun Anand, Elvish Yadav, Prajakta Koli, Swagger Sharma, Aakash Gupta and Nishant Tanwar. “Viewers will be informed on latest products and trends by tech expert Trakin Tech, fashion and beauty experts such as Sejal Kumar, Malvika Sitlani, Jovita George, Prerna Chhabra and ShivShakti. Food lovers can enjoy content from Kabita’s Kitchen, Cook with Nisha, and Gobble. In the coming months, miniTV will add many more new and exclusive videos,” the company added, without sharing its future roadmap plans. (Amazon began integrating reviews and other web clippings — from media houses — on its shopping service in India for more than two years ago.) miniTV is currently available on Amazon’s Android app, and will arrive on the iOS counterpart and mobile web over the coming months, Amazon said. Amazon’s move follows a similar step by Walmart’s Flipkart, the company’s marquee rival in India, which rolled out video streaming service within its app in 2019. In recent years, scores of firms in India including Zomato have explored adding a video streaming offering to their own apps. The video streaming landscape in “N2B” countries — the nations with the potential to help firms find their next two billion users. (UBS) Amazon has also aggressively pushed to expand its Prime Video offerings in India in recent quarters. The company — which partnered with Indian telecom network Airtel earlier this year to launch a new monthly mobile-only, single-user, standard definition (SD) tier (for $1.22) — has secured rights to stream some cricket matches in the country. Amazon also offers Prime Video as part of its Amazon Prime subscription in India. The service is priced at 999 Indian rupees ($13.6) for a year and also includes access to Amazon Music and faster-delivery. Prime Video had over 60 million monthly active users in India in April, ahead of Netflix’s 40 million users, according to mobile insight firm App Annie (data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch). Netflix, which spent about $420 million on locally produced Indian content in 2019 and 2020, said in March that it will invest “significantly more this year” in India. But in the company’s recent earnings call, founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said investment in India was more “speculative” than those in other markets. Times Internet’s MX Player had over 180 million users during the same period, and DIsney+ Hotstar had about 120 million. Their biggest competition in India remains YouTube, which has amassed over 450 million monthly active users. But other than competition, video streaming services face another challenge in India. In late March, Amazon issued a rare apology to users in India for an original political drama series over allegations that a few scenes in the nine-part mini series hurt religious sentiments of some people in the key overseas market. Amazon’s apology came days after New Delhi announced new rules for on-demand video streaming services and social media firms. Source: Amazon launches free video streaming service miniTV in India
  22. Indications seem to suggest that HBO Max currently does not have a direct-to-consumer presence in India. But it seems like the company has set into motion to make an entrance in India. WarnerMedia announced recently that it has appointed veteran Disney executive Amit Malhotra as the managing director for HBO Max in Southeast Asia and India. Malhotra is set to now responsible for a “potential future launch” in India according to WarnerMedia's announcement. Malhotra is currently responsible for HBO Go that is currently available in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. WarnerMedia communicates that the HBO Go service will be upgraded to HBO Max in these territories. (Image credit: rafapress / Shutterstock.com) Malhotra Malhotra has been associated with Disney for 17 years prior to this and most recently, he was the regional lead for Disney+ in Southeast Asia and was involved in the launch of streaming services Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar, and Hotstar. And with him onboard, Disney's rival company, Warner Media, is "exploring possible opportunities" and a "potential future launch in India". Malhotra spoke on the occasion and said, “I am delighted to be part of the incredible team at WarnerMedia in Asia as we look at bringing HBO Max to this region. Warner Media’s brands including DC Universe, HBO, and Cartoon Network are extremely popular with passionate fans and audiences across this region. With a focus on consumers, our goal will be to bring all of these brands and content together in an exciting new world-class streaming experience as we move into the future with HBO Max." Johannes Larcher, Head of HBO Max International, commented, "With our upcoming launch across Latin America on June 29 and our plans for Europe on the horizon, we turn our sights toward Asia, where we have an incredible opportunity to bring HBO Max to millions of new fans who are just as excited about streaming as our audiences in the U.S. Amit’s experience launching streaming services in both mature and emerging markets across Southeast Asia and the surrounding region make him the ideal leader to plan and oversee the rollout of HBO Max and its expanded content offering and platform experience." HBO Max was launched in the US last year in the month of May and has since garnered 40.6 million paid subscribers. WarnerMedia has been expanding the service which started with 39 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean. This year the company upgraded its European streaming services to HBO Max. HBO Max may be on its way to India
  23. The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer is facing a Covid-19 vaccine shortage at home Come again another day. With never-before surges in Covid-19 infection every day, a vaccine shortage in India couldn’t have come at a worse time. Yesterday (April 8), India saw 131,968 new infections of the novel coronavirus, the highest single-day spike yet. Meanwhile, several states have reported extreme shortages in Covid-19 vaccines. Mumbai, India’s financial capital, is experiencing its worst-ever wave of Covid-19 yet, and the most acute vaccine shortage in the country. Nearly half of the city’s 120 vaccination centres will be shut today (April 9) due to insufficient available doses. The state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, has sent repeated requests to the central government to send over fresh stocks. States like Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana have all reported a shortage of shots. The eastern state of Odisha had to shut down 700 vaccine centres because of low supply, the state’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik wrote in a letter to central health minister Harsh Vardhan yesterday (April 8). The shortage at Serum Institute of India Currently, all vaccines are disbursed to the states by the central government. Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII), forms a majority of the immunisation programme. SII has been under fire for not delivering vaccines on time, especially to countries with whom AstraZeneca has binding contracts. The British-Swedish drugmaker has sent a legal notice to SII to fulfil the vaccine shipments on time. Covax, the global vaccine-sharing alliance, had notified its partner countries on March 25 that there would be delays in shipments coming from India in March and April. Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, has said that he is “very stressed” about the current situation, and would need Rs3,000 crore in aid from the government to speed up production. This shortage also coincides with the momentum India has gained in vaccinating its population, with over 3 million doses administered on April 8. In the 83 days since it began the vaccination drive, India has administered 94 million doses. The country is still far from its August target of inoculating 300 million Indians, which would mean 600 million shots of the two-dose Covishield or India’s homegrown Covaxin. The shortage has also renewed the criticism against India’s vaccine diplomacy. India’s vaccine friendship The Modi government has shipped over 64 million doses of either Covaxin or Covishield, either as part of the Covax agreements, as friendly grants, or under commercial contracts. The foreign ministry’s vaccine initiative, “Vaccine Maitri” (vaccine friendship) has been under fire from critics in the country, who argue that India should focus on vaccinating its population before eyeing geopolitical gains. The shortage in vaccine supplies also seems to have hit this vaccine friendship initiative now. In the month of April, India dispatched only two shipments of the vaccines to Bangladesh and the Oceanic country of Nauru. What could potentially help the dire vaccine situation in India is if the drugs regulator were to grant emergency approvals to other vaccine candidates in the queue. Other vaccines like Sputnik V India’s subject expert committee (SEC) on Covid-19 vaccines has been mercurial about granting emergency use authorisations. The committee granted Covaxin a restricted approval even without phase 3 trial data, and allowed Covishield to be used despite a lack of India-specific trial data. But the same leeway has not been granted to Sputnik V, the Russian coronavirus vaccine. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund that has partnered with Indian pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s for trials in India, has also received interest from several Indian drugmakers to produce its Sputnik V vaccine. Nearly five companies in India have tied up with RDIF, the latest being Panacea Biotech for 100 million doses. Dr Reddy’s and RDIF have also lined up 250 million doses for India’s population over the next 12 months if the vaccine were to be approved. India could also review its hesitance over allowing Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine from being approved in the country. The company was among the first to apply for an emergency authorisation in December 2020 but eventually withdrew its application because of demands for data that it could not fulfil at the time. Source: The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer is facing a Covid-19 vaccine shortage at home
  24. In an effort to attract more users to its streaming platform, Netflix has announced a price drop of up to 60% in its subscription plans in India. Netflix subscription now starts at Rs. 149($2) per month and can go up to Rs. 649($8.5) per month. The Mobile plan, which starts at Rs. 149, will let you stream content on your phone and tablet at 480p. The Basic plan costs Rs. 199 and allows you to stream on the phone, tablet, computer, and TV at 480p. Streaming in Full HD will require you to subscribe to the Standard plan, which is priced at Rs. 499. The Premium plan, meanwhile, will now cost Rs. 649 and allows you to watch movies and TV shows in 4K+HDR. Netflix attempted to expand its userbase in India in the past. Back in 2019, the company first introduced a consumer-friendly Rs. 199/M plan in India. However, this is for the first time that Netflix is slashing the price in India by a massive 60%. The company’s move to reduce the price of its subscription plans comes amid intense competition from rival OTT platforms such as Display+Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video. However, the Netflix subscription is still costlier than the Amazon Prime subscription, which starts at Rs. 129 per month. The new plans come into effect from December 14. Netflix subscription gets cheaper in India
  25. Xiaomi India today announced two new Windows laptops with premium features and affordable price tag. Mi Notebook Pro and Mi Notebook Ultra are the two laptops. You can read about them in detail below. Mi Notebook Ultra: Mi TrueLife+ 15.6-inch Display: 3200×2000 resolution 16:10 aspect ratio 242 PPI 89.1%Screen to Body Ratio 100% sRGB Wide Colour Gamut 90 Hz refresh rate TUV Rheinland Low Blue Light protection Design: Made from 6-series aerospace grade aluminium alloy. Thin: 17.9mm, Light: 1.7kg Robust Hinge: Tested for up to 30000 operations 170 Grit Sandblasted Texture 2 in 1 Fingerprint Reader + Power Button Keyboard and Trackpad: Full Size Keyboard and Larger Trackpad 3 Level Backlight Off?Bright?Brighter 5,000,000 times each key is rated to last 5M strikes 1.5 mm Deep key travel Performance: Intel 11th-Generation Tigerlake H35 Intel Iris Xe Graphics Thick 6mm Diameter Heat Pipe and Large Diameter Fan for sustained performance. Up to 16GB high speed 3200MHz dual channel memory 512GB NVMe SSD Connectivity: WiFi 6 Bluetooth 5.1 Thunderbolt 4 and Type C USB 12 Hr+ All Day Battery, 65W USB C charger Price: 59,999 INR ($810 USD) Mi Notebook Pro: Mi TrueLife+ 14-inch Display: 2.5k resolution with 215 PPI 16:10 aspect ratio 89.1%Screen to Body Ratio 100% sRGB Wide Colour Gamut TUV Rheinland Low Blue Light protection Design: Made from 6-series aerospace grade aluminium alloy. Thin: 17.3mm, Light: 1.46kg Robust Hinge: Tested for up to 30000 operations 170 Grit Sandblasted Texture 2 in 1 Fingerprint Reader + Power Button Keyboard and Trackpad: Full Size Keyboard and Larger Trackpad 3 Level Backlight Off?Bright?Brighter 5,000,000 times each key is rated to last 5M strikes 1.3 mm Deep key travel Performance: Intel 11th-Generation Tigerlake H35 Intel Iris Xe Graphics Thick 6mm Diameter Heat Pipe and Large Diameter Fan for sustained performance. Up to 16GB high speed 3200MHz dual channel memory 512GB NVMe SSD Connectivity: WiFi 6 Bluetooth 5.1 Thunderbolt 4 and Type C USB 11 Hr+ All Day Battery, 65W USB C charger Price: 56,999 INR ($770 USD) Source: Xiaomi Xiaomi India announces Mi NoteBook Pro and Ultra with premium features and affordable price tag
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