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Porsche to offer Apple CarPlay in future models


In a quiet update to Apple’s dedicated CarPlay webpage, legendary German automaker Porsche was added to a rolling list of companies promising support for the iOS-based infotainment system.

Porsche is the latest brand to commit to CarPlay after Apple CEO Tim Cook last month said all major car manufacturers plan to incorporate the third-party infotainment platform in models rolling out this year.

The previously unreported addition to the CarPlay lineup came sometime in mid-March, according to Internet caches of the website. Porsche owner Volkswagen Group is offering substantial CarPlay support across its marques, including Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Suzuki and Volkswagen.

It is not yet clear how or when the Stuttgart luxury brand plans to build in compatibility, as the company has already developed a fairly comprehensive in-house solution called Porsche Communication Management. PCM offers the usual assortment of niceties like GPS navigation, voice control and digital audio, but bakes in advanced features such as speed limit indicators called up from data stored in the system’s navigation database.

In its fight for the dashboard, Apple faces stiff competition from stalwart industry players and fellow tech companies like Google and Microsoft. Google is pushing an Android Auto platform similar to CarPlay, while Microsoft last year saw its Sync tie-up with Ford dissolve, to be replaced by a new iteration powered by BlackBerry’s QNX.

Aside from buying a new car, iPhone owners can get access to CarPlay by swapping out stock head units for compatible hardware made by aftermarket audio companies like Alpine, Parrot and Pioneer.

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Review: Zivix Jamstik MIDI guitar controller for iOS & OS X


Aspiring musicians looking to learn to play guitar with the aid of lessons on their iPad, iPhone or Mac should check out the Zivix Jamstik, a small, convenient and unique MIDI controller that uses technology to offset the learning curve associated with learning an instrument.

Jamstik, a 5-fret guitar-like instrument / MIDI controller.

In the past, learning to play the guitar usually involved going to a music shop and learning from a professional teacher. This is still a solid means of learning, but digital music lessons have increasingly become the norm.

Over the years, there have been innovations like Fretlight, a system that runs fiber optic lights through the fretboard and lights up to indicate where the player is supposed to put their fingers. This is very good, and through diligent practice will help a player get better, but it lacks an interactive component. The Fretlight software doesn’t know whether you’ve played something correctly or not, and thus can’t help you correct it.

Enter the Zivix Jamstik.

Jamstik and its accompanying lessons go further than its predecessors. Because Jamstik is a MIDI controller, the iPad knows whether or not the note was played because it receives the pitch and attack signals from the guitar. How does it do it?

The Jamstik uses infrared LEDs at each position on the fretboard and can tell when your finger blocks one of the LEDs, to determine pitch. It receives vibration of the string to determine the velocity and attack at that pitch. It is able to determine string bends as well, although this setting is off by default.

Infrared LEDs barely show up in the dark.

Unlike Fretlight, which is a full scale guitar, Jamstik is a 5-fret instrument, which can be used as a controller for performances as much as a learning tool. It uses real guitar strings, although they’re clearly shorter than those on a full length neck, and they don’t require replacing or tuning.

Jamstik has a D-pad, power button and power LED. Using the D-pad, we were able to shift octaves easily.

An allen wrench is provided inside the battery door, under the battery, to bring the strings up to tension. The device charges using MicroUSB, and has a bi-color LED to indicate charge status, red for charging, green for charged.

The opposite side of Jamstik has a common Micro-USB connector and LED to indicate charge status when charging. It also has a small port for MIDI out.

So, we placed the Jamstik in the hands of my 9-year-old daughter, who has had a few months of guitar lessons at the local guitar shop, and asked her what she thought.

It takes a bit of work to fret a string on the Jamstik, causing her to remark, “This is harder than I thought!” It works, but it’s not as easy as a properly set up full-scale guitar.

Underneath the battery is the allen wrench used for adjusting tension on the strings when restringing.

The apps provided by Zivix are Jamstik Connect, Jamstik Tutor and JamMix. Jamstik Connect helps guide the user through initially connecting the guitar to an iPad, iPhone or Mac, and trialing sounds. Lest you think 5 frets is too limiting, it’s possible to use the UP and DOWN arrows of the D pad on the Jamstik to change octaves.

These allen screws adjust the tension on the strings. There’s no tuning, per se.

Jamstik Tutor provides lessons, and does it in a few different ways. One interface sets the goal and marks progress in the upper left quadrant of the screen, has a video of Chris Heile, Jamstik’s musical ambassador, in the upper right demonstrating the skill, and then shows a 2D drawing of the fretboard, both showing the desired note (like Fretlight) and where your fingers are actually positioned on the fretboard. This way, you can move your fingers to match the goal.

But it also has an “arcade interface” that is reminiscent of several “hero” or “band” video games from a few years ago. Having never played those games, the 9 year old said, “This is hard!”

Back in the three-pane view of JamTutor, she responded much more positively to the lesson on fretting the strings: B string. “This is nice! I’m repeating it!” And this is really a good indicator of the experience. If you can stick with it for more than 5 minutes, it grows on you. We humbly suggest if you have an interest in learning an instrument and are willing to spend the money to buy a Jamstik, that you probably are willing to stick it out.

But it does a little more. JamMix is an application that allows you to trigger loops with the frets and strings. It also works with inter-app audio and AudioBus, so it’s possible to pipe audio through AniMoog to Garageband. We also like using it with Loopy/LoopyHD.

The JamMix app allows you to play loops included with the app, and then jam over the top of those loops. You play a string at a fret once to start the loop in jamMix, and play the string open to stop the loop.


What are the downsides to the original Jamstik? It’s very intentional. You have to work very hard for arpeggios to not register the wrong notes. If you’re a guitar player then it can help you play the guitar better.

The Jamstik doesn’t do hammer-ons or pull-off notes, either. If you’re used to doing that on a traditional guitar, you’ll find those notes don’t register here. Slides from one fret to the next also aren’t allowed, because each pitch requires picking the string to generate a new note MIDI signal.

When connected to the Mac using Z-fi midi and GarageBand, the controller would occasionally have lag, and it would take a while for notes to catch up, as if they were queuing.

The included strap buttons aren’t permanent. In our tests, we found they kept falling out. It’s easy to have the strap come off while in use.

Recording the Jamstik is interesting — we found that when we recorded the input in GarageBand on Mac, our mic was picking up the plinking of the strings in addition to our voices.

If you listen to the video we made (included below), you can hear occasional wrong notes. We assure you, we played them correctly. It didn’t always understand notes perfectly, especially low F on the 1st fret of the first string, when played as a barre chord. It wanted to play it as an F-sharp. The same was true of high F on the 6th string 1st fret.

Despite these shortcomings, Jamstik is a very good learning tool, and if you understand its limitations, can be a really interesting performance tool.

Score: 3.5 out of 5


  • MIDI
  • Compatibility with Garageband, Audio Bus, Animoog, and more
  • JamTutor
  • Made in USA


  • Difficulty of playing (string height off the fretboard)
  • Not always recognizing notes correctly
  • Strap coming off while playing

Where to buy

The Zivix Jamstik is available now for $299.99 from

A new Jamstik+ Kickstarter project is currently underway and seems to come with a few improvements. Just based on the videos showing a person playing on stage on it, we suspect the action and recognition of notes to be a huge leap forward from the original. The original version uses Wi-Fi only, while the new one uses Bluetooth as well.

The new Jamstik+ also adds a hexaphonic magnetic pickup, for a more traditional guitar sound. The original version was sold in Apple Retail stores across North America, and the Jamstik+ Kickstarter has already been funded. We have no doubts about Zivix or their ability to deliver, and we can’t wait to get our hands on Jamstik+.

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The Unbundling Of Everything


Editor’s note: Joe McCann is a co-founder and CEO of NodeSource. He is a hacker, tinkerer, builder and breaker with more than 13 years of web, mobile and software development experience.

We’ve been living in a bundled world. ESPN packaged with Nickelodeon, healthcare tied to employers, learning wrapped up in colleges and degree programs. We’ve grown up surrounded by so many bundled products and services that it’s easy to become blind to the flexibility and value presented by unbundling.

Bundling can occur for a couple of reasons. One scenario is when companies try to force consumers to buy something they don’t really want by packaging it with something they do — like albums that only contain one good song. But bundling can make sense when transaction costs for individual products or services (monetary or otherwise) are too high to justify buying those products separately.

As Internet-based technologies reduce transactional inefficiencies, we have new opportunities to abandon unnecessary bundling in favor of choice and flexibility. We’re seeing this disruptive effect everywhere — from entertainment to work to enterprise technology.

Unbundling Everywhere

Consider television; instead of shelling out for bloated cable packages, we can now handpick just the channels, just the shows, or even just the individual episodes we want. This year, we will reach a key inflection point where the number of cable television subscribers is eclipsed by the number of Internet subscribers, supporting the notion that, when given a choice, consumers prefer à la carte options.

Unbundling is also changing something very personal: the way we manage our health. In the past, losing your job usually meant losing your health insurance, but the trend of medical care unbundling from employers is clear. As this occurs, patients, rather than employers, are becoming the customers, and healthcare is morphing to resemble a consumer service — giving individuals more choice and more control.

Higher education offers a bundle of different value propositions — tuition, housing, athletics and so on — for one large comprehensive fee. But à la carte education presents a viable alternative to the traditional, and extremely expensive, college experience by streamlining learning without the cost of a full degree program. Both Khan Academy and General Assembly only require students to commit to a course at a time. Harvard and Yale now offer online certifications, suggesting that even top institutions see the value of unbundled learning.

From Monoliths to Microservices — Smaller Is Better

Unbundling is reshaping the tech world too, dismantling monolithic structures into smaller, more agile and innovative units. At a macro level, we’re in the early stages of a great unbundling taking place within technology companies. eBay and PayPal have amicably parted ways. Dell went private to be more nimble and aggressive, while Symantec split into two public companies.

In turn, this large-scale decoupling influences unbundling at much more granular levels in the enterprise, a trend that is proving critical in addressing the problems caused by the aging codebases and clunky software architecture. The difficulty maintaining legacy technology means that companies have accumulated vast amounts of technical debt, making it harder for talented developers to do their jobs, and stifling innovation as a result.

For massive enterprises, unbundling represents a key countermeasure against inertia and stagnation, as well as a valuable strategy to battle more agile competitors — innovative startups who aren’t bogged down by the same legacy technical debt and the engineering bureaucracy that comes with it.

Unbundling from monolithic legacy systems also enhances a company’s ability to attract and retain talent. Many developers would balk at the idea of maintaining a Java app with millions of lines of code soup, but this is the reality for companies that rely on legacy technologies like Java and .Net. In 2014 alone, PayPal hired more than 400 JavaScript developers, and not one of them was brought in to deal with technical debt.

Every Company Is a Tech Company

We’re seeing real, tangible value in breaking down monolithic architectures across different industries. For the consumer, unbundling is all about flexibility and choice — only paying for the products and services you actually want. But for the enterprise, unbundling is a key driver of innovation.

The reality is that today, every company is a technology company. No matter what your business is, technology is either giving an advantage to you or to your competitors. By moving away from macro-services and unwieldy legacy tech, enterprises can be as nimble and responsive as startups.

Featured Image: Tasia12/Shutterstock (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

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Blaq for BlackBerry 10 v1.5 is coming soon with some huge changes!


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ShopBlackBerry hosting BlackBerry 10 device sale!


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Cleantech Is Dead, Long Live Cleantech


Editor’s note: Rob Day is a venture capital and project finance investor with Black Coral Capital, a private-equity firm based in Boston, Mass.

I’m old enough to remember when the smartest folks on Sand Hill Road thought cleantech was going to be the next big thing. When venture dollars into the “sector” (really, a loose collection of very different markets and technologies, bundled together under a convenient label) were growing by leaps and bounds year over year. When the New York Times declared “Capitalism to the Rescue” in embarrassingly fawning terms. When Alan Salzman of VantagePoint declared that cleantech startups would be bigger than Google, Cisco, and Amgen. And of course, CalPERS’ “Green Wave.”

Today, of course, “cleantech” is almost a forbidden word on Sand Hill Road. Only a few stalwart specialist investors still wave the banner; quarterly venture capital investments into clean energy are only around a third or less of what they were at their peak in 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Cleantech specialist VCs are getting shut down, and generalist VCs often refuse to take meetings with cleantech entrepreneurs.

How on earth did we get here?

Is this the natural result of a huge “cleantech crash,” as 60 Minutes portrayed it a year ago? How can that be true, when these markets are actually booming. According to Greentech Media, US solar PV installations grew at a compound annual growth rate of over 60 percent from 2009 to 2014; the industry is now 108 times larger than it was a decade ago. The market for efficient lighting is expected by some analysts to grow to over $50 billion in 2015. Electric vehicle sales, led by Tesla, are booming.

Yes, there was a “cleantech crash,” but it was limited to selected upstream commodity markets like panel manufacturing and biofuels. And that price collapse led to an explosion of downstream markets like rooftop solar. Furthermore, the need for new resource solutions isn’t going away anytime soon — dry enough for ya, Californian readers? As a result of clear market needs and increasingly attractive economics, global revenue from advanced energy reached nearly $1.3 trillion last year.

Okay, so is it instead that investors found out — as CalPERS’ former CIO publicly stated last year — that cleantech “has been a noble way to lose money”? That, regardless of markets, even smart investors can’t make returns in the sector? Well, CalPERS’ own experience may match that negative perspective.

But data from Cambridge Associates, looking more broadly across all of the venture capital world and not just the firms that CalPERS chose to back, suggests that investors have indeed made money in cleantech. Not the kind of returns that were hyped up nearly a decade ago by Sand Hill Road’s best and brightest, sure, and certainly not in the kind of upstream, capital-intensive, commodity manufacturing plays that were en vogue back then.

But Cambridge Associates found that investments made in the sector with other strategies have actually provided results roughly on par with returns for the overall venture capital industry during the same period.

Basically, the lesson isn’t that you can’t make returns in cleantech. The lesson is that if we investors can’t figure out how to generate attractive returns off of the growth going on in these markets right now, blame the investors and the strategies we chose. Don’t blame the markets.

Well then, maybe it’s just that cleantech investors can’t generate exits? Okay, exit volumes definitely have been lower than hoped. But it’s not like there haven’t been some great outcomes to point to (you may have heard of companies like Tesla, Nest and SolarCity at some point). And despite the lack of excitement in these markets among VCs, large corporate acquirers from GE to Google have all been eagerly ramping up their commitments to these markets. Besides, what proof is there that a lack of exits dampens VC enthusiasm for putting money to work when otherwise things seem exciting?

Cleantech is on the outs among VCs right now because it got overhyped. Badly overhyped. And when the dominant investment strategy at the height of the hype cycle didn’t work out, coinciding with the overall economic meltdown of seven years ago, VCs declared the entire sector a failure. And that word got out to their limited partners. And now it’s the LPs saying “don’t go there.” Thus, cleantech specialist VCs can’t raise new funds. And generalist VCs can’t even mention being intrigued by these markets without getting pushback from even the most loyal of their LPs.

But this is 2015, not 2008. The sector now is very different. Entrepreneurs have learned hard lessons, and a new generation of investors are establishing new strategies that seem to be bearing fruit.

On the whole, capital-intensive, long-gestation-period, deep technology innovation plays don’t define cleantech entrepreneurship any longer. Instead, entrepreneurs and investors still charging ahead in the sector are following the same script that has been working well for the rest of the venture industry.

They’re tackling the market opportunity with web and SaaS models. With new financing platforms, and new service models. They’re looking to be downstream, close to those juicy, fast-growth markets, with new channels and new marketplaces. Even in hardware, they’ve moved to distributed, smaller, modular, automated and intelligent hardware. After all, as Marc Andreessen declared, “Software is eating the world” and these markets are no exception.

In fact, the commoditization of IT and communications technologies, matched with the commoditization of clean technologies like solar panels and batteries, is underpinning the rapid growth of distributed generation and other similar markets. And some of us have learned how to finance projects at massive scale without having to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into Series E rounds.

But all is for naught. Because cleantech investors can’t raise money, and thus cleantech entrepreneurs can’t raise capital, and thus cleantech is dead. The end.

Or is it? There’s a basic truth at work in entrepreneurship and innovation, that most often a key advantage of successful new approaches is that they are in some way more efficient than the old, established systems. Disruptions replace old, wasteful networks with new dynamic ones. Along the way (on purpose or as a happy accident), natural resource savings are captured. And this means it’s increasingly hard to draw boundaries between “cleantech” and mainstream venture capital right now.

To give an example from our own portfolio, Digital Lumens sells lighting systems that save 90 percent of the energy older lighting systems use — and they’re doing this by embedding controls and intelligence into every LED fixture. It’s an operating system for lights, leveraging the fact that lights are increasingly solid state devices at their core. For their customers, such as big commercial retail and manufacturers, there’s a lot more value to be gained than just the energy savings, once they start using the data from all of these ceiling-mounted intelligent devices for other purposes as well. It’s this IT-driven value proposition, and the OS-like network effects, that attracted our co-investors to the company — investors that for the most part would never label themselves “cleantech.”

After all, a list of what’s hot in VC land these days would definitely include Internet of Things, as well as food/agtech, transportation and fintech. And guess what you’ll find in many cleantech investor portfolios? The same list.

A few months back I was at a lunch with several limited partners, and when I described that my group focuses on cleantech, everyone kind of politely nodded appreciatively, mumbled something about how hard the sector is, and then started talking about other things. Much more exciting things, like Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest. “You know,” I mentioned to the person who had brought up that example, “Nest was actually a big win for the cleantech sector.”

He smirked and replied, “But Nest isn’t really cleantech, is it.”

Yes, I know energy savings weren’t the core motivation for Tony and team to tackle smart thermostats as their first product. And there were definitely investors in that company who didn’t care much about energy savings; they loved the team and their audacity. But there were also investors that I know firsthand who were attracted to the company because of the efficiency angle. Cleantech investors who rightfully point to Nest as one of their big wins.

The distinction between cleantech and tech is increasingly fuzzy and meaningless.

So… entrepreneurs are indeed still excited about these markets. And mainstream VCs are indeed still investing in cleantech. They’re just not calling it as such, or defining it with the same subcategories. Instead, innovators and investors are defining the companies in terms of what they actually do.

They’re lending platforms financing billions in commercial building improvements. They’re using the Internet of Things and automation to break up the old electric utility’s natural monopoly. They’re building new channels, touching tens of thousands of consumers every year, helping bring new technology into the home. They’re new “sharing economy” platforms that provide convenience and superior customer experience for travelers, while — oh by the way — leading to fewer hotels being built and fewer cars added to the road. Just don’t call it “cleantech” please.

We are in the midst of a radical transformation in how we feed ourselves, how we travel, and how we power our lives. There is a huge economic transfer underway, from century-old, inflexible incumbents, to new upstarts led by entrepreneurs who don’t care what label you apply to them. So why should anyone else bother with what label we all use, either, as the boundaries between cleantech and tech continue to break down?

These are exciting times, as the marriage between IT and physical innovations and new business models are poised to disrupt some of the biggest and most outdated industries in the world. Who cares what we call it.

Cleantech is dead. Long live cleantech.

Featured Image: Tom Wang/Shutterstock (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

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Google Wants To Speed Up The Web With Its QUIC Protocol


You may have never heard of it, but if you are a Chrome users, chances are you’ve used Google’s QUIC protocol already. As Google disclosed this week, about half of all requests from Chrome to Google’s servers are now served over QUIC.

So what’s the big deal here? QUIC is Google’s experimental, low-latency Internet transportation protocol over UDP, a protocol that is often used by gaming, streaming media and VoIP services. The name ‘QUIC’ stands for Quick UDP Internet Connection.

UDP’s (and QUIC’s) counterpart in the protocol world is basically TCP (which in combination with the Internet Protocol (IP) makes up the core communication language of the Internet). UDP is significantly more lightweight than TCP, but in return, it features far fewer error correction services than TCP. This means that the sending server isn’t constantly talking to the receiving server to check if packages arrived and if they arrived in the right order, for example. That’s why UDP is great for gaming services. For these services, you want low overhead to reduce latency and if the server didn’t receive your latest mouse movement, there’s no need to spend a second or two to fix that because the action has already moved on. You wouldn’t want to use it to request a website, though, because you couldn’t guarantee that all the data would make it.

With QUIC, Google aims to combine some of the best features of UPD and TCP with modern security tools.

On a typical secure TCP connection, it typically takes two or three round-trips before the browser can actually start receiving data. Using QUIC, a browser can immediately start talking to a server it has talked to before. QUIC also introduces a couple of new features like congestion control and automatic re-transmission, making it more reliable that pure UDP.

With SPDY, which later became the basis for the HTTP/2 standard, Google already developed another alternative protocol that had many of the same goals as QUIC, but HTTP/2 still runs over TCP and still runs into some of the same latency cost.

It’s reasonable to ask why Google doesn’t just work on improving TCP instead then. The problem here, the company points out, is that TCP support is often built directly into operating system kernels — and that’s not something Google has any control over. “QUIC allows us to test and experiment with new ideas, and to get results sooner,” the team writes in explaining its decision. “We are hopeful that QUIC features will migrate into TCP and TLS if they prove effective.” Given how many Windows XP installs are still out there, it’s obviously not something that will happen overnight.

If Google designed a whole new protocol, then all of the machines that make up the backbone of the Internet would also have to understand it — but they already understand UDP.

Google says that it has seen about a three percent improvement in mean page load times with QUIC on Google Search. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but you have to remember that Google Search is already about as optimized as possible. Other sites — and especially latency-heavy web apps — will likely see better improvements. Users who connect to YouTube over QUIC report about 30 percent fewer rebuffers when watching videos and because of QUIC’s improved congestion control and loss recover over UDP, users on some of the slowest connection also see improved page load times with QUIC.

Google says it plans to propose HTTP2-over-QUIC to the IETF as a new Internet standard in the future.

In some ways, this mirrors Google’s work with SPDY. There, too, the company first prototyped the protocol using Chrome and its own servers and then later proposed it as the basis of the new version of HTTP.

If you want to see if your connection to Chrome uses QUIC, by the way, here is a browser extension that can tell you and you can find all the details about Chrome’s QUIC usage under the QUIC net-internals flag.

Featured Image: Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

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