LG’s rugged X Venture is a no-frills smartphone that’ll stand up to the elements

Why it matters to you

If you need an affordable smartphone that will survive accidental drops and bumps, LG’s X Venture appears to be an affordable option.

Sometimes you don’t need a high-end smartphone with more bells and whistles than you can shake a stick at. Luckily, affordable, no-frills phones aren’t that hard to come by, and LG is among the manufacturers leading the charge. A prime example is the LG X Venture, a budget phone initially exclusive to AT&T that is now coming to U.S. Cellular.

The LG X Venture is available for $300 from U.S. Cellular’s online and brick-and-mortar stores. If the outright price doesn’t float your boat, though, there’s an alternative: Eligible customers have the option of signing up for a two-and-a-half-year, $12-a-month installment plan.

The X Venture hit AT&T’s airwaves on May 26 for $350, and it’s available for as little as $11 per month for AT&T Next customers.

The LG X Venture’s angular, textured body won’t win any design awards, but manages to cram midrange hardware into a compact package. The X Venture boasts a 5.2-inch FHD (1920 x 1080 pixels), Gorilla Glass-shielded screen and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 435 processor, plus 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. Two cameras — one 16MP camera on the rear and a 5MP on the front —  handle picture-taking duties, and a fingerprint sensor conceals your personal files and photos from wandering eyes.

The X Venture is durable, too. It can withstand 14 different military toughness tests, and it’s IP68 rated, meaning it can survive water up to a depth of 30 meters for five minutes. The X Venture’s 4,100mAh battery can charge quickly — up to 100 percent capacity in as few as two hours. And it ships with LG’s Outdoor Essentials app, which packs a compass, barometer, exercise tracker, activity counter, weather report, flashlight, and more.

Business customers can take advantage of the X Venture’s Push-to-Talk feature, which makes it possible to connect quickly to contacts over a cellular connection or Wi-Fi.

“Today’s consumers want a phone that looks great, doesn’t skimp on features and can easily handle their on-the-go lifestyle,” Juno Cho, president of LG, said in a press release. “Whether you’re an adventurist who needs a phone tough enough to be your sidekick on demanding hikes and record-setting workouts, or a multitasker who wants a phone that can withstand the curveballs and surprises each day may throw at you, the LG X venture was built to ensure you can feel unstoppable and look good doing it.”

Update: Added U.S. Cellular availability and pricing information. 

Saudi Arabia will lift its ban on women drivers

Saudi Arabia announced today that it will end its long-standing prohibition on women drivers, according to The New York Times. The ban won’t be lifted immediately, though: the kingdom stated that it will need time to both educate women how to drive and men on how to interact with women on the road.

The new policy, which will go into effect in June 2018, was announced on state-owned media and at an event held in Washington, DC, highlighting how much of this decision was geared toward changing perceptions of Saudi Arabia by Western governments. The move is also seen as part of an effort by the son of the king, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to overhaul the kingdom’s economy, society, and reputation globally.

The cultural edict is seen as partly responsible for the many obstacles that Saudi women face in joining the workforce. Lack of mobility tends to foster unemployment. According to the country’s own General Authority for Statistics, 34 percent of Saudi women were unemployed last year.

The current ban is a result of a religious fatwa issued in 1990, which prohibited women from driving within the borders of the kingdom. It is also illegal for women to be granted a driver’s license. Women who are employed have to hire private drivers to get to and from work, or use ride-hailing services like Uber or Careem to get around, which eats up much of their pay.

Lifting the ban will have an effect on the ride-sharing services that operate in the kingdom. In recent years, many Saudi women have come to depend on the app-based companies to gain freedom of movement. (Some would even say that women were a “captive market” for these services.) Soon, they may be signing up to earn money by driving for Uber or Careem, a firm valued at $1 billion that is based in Dubai and operates across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.

Uber, in particular, has a unique relationship with Saudi Arabia. Last year, the company raised a staggering $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s main investment fund. As part of the deal, Public Investment Fund managing director Yasir Al Rumayyan took a seat on Uber’s board. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud sits on the company’s policy advisory board.

At the time, Uber executives expressed support for allowing women to drive, but did not state explicitly whether they planned to hire women drivers. “We’ve always said that women should be allowed to drive,” an Uber spokesperson said today. “In the absence of that, we’re proud to have been able to provide extraordinary mobility that didn’t exist before. We look forward to continuing to support Saudi Arabia’s economic and social reforms.”

Got some cash burning a hole in your pocket? Here’s the best tech under $20

Twenty bucks might not sound like a whole lot, but you’d be surprised what you can get for such a small sum of money. We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 — so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gadgets for less than the cost of a cab ride. In this article, we’ve rounded up some of the best tech under $20, so you can ball out without breaking the bank.

If you can stretch your budget a bit further, we’ve also compiled lists for the best tech under $50, and the best tech uder $100.

PalmVid Clothes Hook Hidden Camera with DVR

best tech under 20 motion hook camera

You can file this one under “Things James Bond Would Have In His House.” The Clothes Hook Hidden Camera from video security provider PalmVid tucks a three megapixel camera with 720×480 video resolution into a barely visible hole in the top of the clothes hook. It can record up to four hours of continuous footage on a fully charged battery and has a motion-detection option that will only record when there’s movement in front of the camera. The footage is saved on a separately sold microSD card, giving you the freedom to choose how much spying you wish to capture. You may never look at someone’s closet the same again.

Price: $19

Buy one from: 

PalmVid

Techboy TB-802

best tech under 20 techboy tb 802 thumb

In just the last three years, the number of hobbyist drones has skyrocketed, but most drones are still fairly expensive. If you aren’t trying to break the bank in order to play in the sky, the Techboy TB-802 is a great choice. The coolest thing about this 1.2 ounce quadcopter is that you can fly it using a motion control remote that fits in your hand. You can simply press a button on the controller and tilt your hand to send your Techboy into a 3D flip. The remote controller can control the Techboy from up to 20 yards away.

Price: $16

Buy one from: 

Tom Top

Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation External Battery

best tech under 20 powerstation thumb

Mophie is always a great source for powerful, portable external batteries and its Juice Pack Powerstation is a buget-friendly steal. For less than $20, the 4-lb Juice Pack Powerstation can give nearly any USB-connected device hours of extra battery life, depending on what you are charging. With its smart battery technology, the Juice Pack adjusts how much charge to give without overheating your device.

Price: $15

Buy one from:

Best Buy

Anker Ultra Portable Pocket Size Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

best tech under 20 anker ultra portable pocket size wireless bluetooth speaker thumb

Anker has put out quality bluetooth speakers at reasonable prices for years, and its A7910 model is one of its best. The A7910 portable speaker is the size of a ring box, and can easily fit in a backpack or purse. The device can pump out music for up to 12 hours on a full charge and only takes three hours to fully recharge. The speaker’s miniature stature belies the impressive sound quality it pumps out via its 3W audio driver and passive subwoofer.

Price: $17

Buy one from:

Amazon Anker

Sandisk 32GB MicroSDHC Card

best tech under 20 sandisk drive thumb

If you can expand your phone’s memory (sorry iOS users!) and want to do so on the cheap, SanDisk is your best choice. With 32GB of storage you can store more than 11,000 compress photos and 480 hours of videos shot with a standard 8 megapixel cell phone. Of course, you can use this card for plenty of other things as well (action cams, DSLRs, etc.), but if you plan on shooting RAW photos or high-FPS video, you’ll probably want something with faster write speeds.

Price: $19

Buy one from:

SanDisk

LESHP HD 1080P 12MP Sports Camera

best tech under 20 random action cam

Why spend $200+ on a GoPro Hero when you can get the same specs for just 20 bucks? LESHP’s generic “waterpoof action sports camera” packs nearly all the same features and functionality that you’ll find in a first-gen GoPro, but for a fraction of the price. On top of that, it can handle greater submersion depths than some more expensive action cameras on the market. It sports a 12 megapixel camera, and provides a good 70 minutes of recording time on a single charge.

Price: $19

Buy one from:

Walmart

Google Cardboard

best tech under 20 google cardboard thumb final

Virtual reality is still relatively new, but with more than 10 million units sold, the Google Cardboard is one of the most popular VR headsets around. Don’t let the exterior fool you, either: a lot of engaging entertainment can be found inside that piece of cardboard. You can view live soccer matches, YouTube videos, and even stand next to Paul McCartney while he performs on stage. Best part is, all you need is an Android or iOS phone running the appropriate software and you are all set.

Price: $15

Buy one from:

Google Amazon

Sony ZX110 Headphones

best tech under 20 sony zx110 headphones thumb

Decent headphones usually cost a bundle of cash, but Sony’s ZX110 headphones are a rare exception. Despite the fact that they cost just $11 bucks, these badboys pump out sound that’ll put your stock Apple earbuds to shame. The foam cushions add much needed ear comfort for those long listening sessions, while Sony’s Acoustic Bass Boosting technology gives you more low-end punch than most in-ear headphones can offer. For under $20, you will seldom see a headphone deal better than the Sony ZX Series.

Price: $11

Buy one from: 

Best Buy

WONBSDOM Universal 200X Zoom Clip-On Microscope Lens

best tech under 20 clip on microscope thumb

If you think a phone is only as good as its camera, WONBSDOM’s clip-on microscope lens is great way to beef up your photography arsenal. The mini lens clips onto your phone and has dials on top for adjusting focus and zoom. The tiny lens adds a ridiculous 200x zoom to your phone, effectively transforming it into a microscope that also answers calls. The zoom is so crisp, people have been able to see the fibers in their carpet. Since the zoom attachment is a clip-on, it should work with phones no bigger than 13 millimeters in thickness, which most phones fall under. For less than an LED iPhone case you can get deeper into your pictures than ever before.

Price: $15

Buy one from: 

Amazon

Logitech K360 Wireless USB Desktop Keyboard

best tech under 20 logitech k360 wireless usb desktop keyboard thumb

Logitech usually offers elite wireless keyboards, and the K360 is no different. The sleek keyboard is only compatible with certain versions of Windows, but is packed with versatility. It comes with six hot keys for play, pause, play previous, play next, adjust volume, and mute functions — all of which make interacting with media much simpler. You can also customize 12 programmable F-keys to give you quick shortcuts to your favorite websites, applications, and almost anything you want to access on your device.

Price: $20

Buy one from: 

Amazon

How one healthcare initiative is using tech to train health workers in remote villages

Image: Rachel Larson/Last Mile Health

Healthcare is among one of the hottest topics circulating around the world right now. It’s an issue that no single person can solve on their own — a frustrating detail for those in critical need of help. One CEO is tired of the inaction and is fighting back by providing healthcare to those in developing communities by sourcing from within those communities. The power is, quite literally, with the people.

Dr. Raj Panjabi is CEO of Last Mile Health — a nonprofit that aids people in remote villages in Liberia and other developing countries who lack basic access to healthcare. Panjabi and his team function on the basic principle that everyone everywhere deserves adequate treatment and has designed a sustainable healthcare model that employs and deploys trained community health workers to places that are not in the public sector.

One way Last Mile Health aims to solve the healthcare crisis is by recruiting people within struggling communities by way of a digital health education system that effectively trains locals to deliver quality frontline care. 

“We’re partnering with the Liberian government to create a model where lay people from these rural villages are hired to serve as community health workers,” said Dr. Panjabi in an interview with The New York Times

“We train them in about 30 lifesaving practices. We then give them backpacks with medical supplies and smartphones connected to nurses based at clinics. The professionals on the phone supervise and coach.” 

Image: Gabriel Diamond/Skoll Foundation

It’s within these remote villages that disease can flourish, due in part to the lack of doctors, leading to outbreaks of viruses like ebola and malaria. 

After receiving a $1 million prize from TED, Dr. Panjabi and his team are well on their way to making their bold healthcare initiative a norm for countries like Liberia. Dr. Panjabi told Fortune that he aims to “recruit the largest army of community health workers the world has ever known” to make this dream come true — a move that will change healthcare as we know it.

Last Mile Health’s community health workers use any means necessary to get to the remote villages that are otherwise inaccessible by typical means of transit. Whether it’s by canoe or motorbike, they plan to get there and save 30 million people by 2030. 

Sony Xperia XZ1 vs. Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact: Is bigger necessarily better?

Sony has finally taken the wraps off its big phone releases for the year — the Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact phones. The new phones are Sony’s flagship devices, which means they boast the latest and greatest Qualcomm chip, the Snapdragon 835, as well as a decent amount of RAM and storage.

But how do the phones compare with each other? And which one should you go for? We put them to the test to find out.

Specs

Sony Xperia XZ1

sony xperia xz1 vs compact

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact

lenovo moto x4 vs sony xperia xz1 compact

Size 148 x 73.4 x 7.4 mm (5.83 x 2.89 x 0.29 inches) 129 x 64 x 9.3 mm (5.08 x 2.52 x 0.37 inches)
Weight 5.47 ounces (155 grams) 4.94 ounces (140 grams)
Screen 5.2-inch IPS LCD 4.6-inch IPS LCD
Resolution 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (424ppi) 1,280 x 720 pixels (319ppi)
OS Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage 64GB 32GB
SD Card Slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM 4GB 4GB
Connectivity GSM / HSPA / LTE GSM / HSPA / LTE
Camera Front 13MP, rear 19MP Front 8MP, rear 19MP
Video 4K at 30fps, 1,080p at 60fps, 720p at 960fps 4K at 30fps, 1,080p at 60fps, 720p at 960fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 5.0 Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor Yes (Not in U.S.) Yes (Not in U.S.)
Other sensors Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, barometer, compass Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, barometer, compass
Water Resistant Yes, IP68 Yes, IP68
Battery 2,700mAh 2,700mAh
Charger USB Type-C USB Type-C
Quick Charging Yes Yes
Wireless Charging No No
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Black, Warm Silver, Venus Pink, Moonlit Blue Black, Snow Silver, Horizon Blue, Twilight Pink
Availability September 19 October 4
Pricing $700 $600
DT Review Coming soon Coming soon

The specs of the two phones are actually almost identical — which is good news for anyone who wants a powerful phone in a smaller package. They both feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, and they both feature 4GB of RAM, which should be plenty for most users.

When it comes to the storage on the phones, the Xperia XZ1 offers twice as much as the XZ1 Compact, coming in at 64GB compared to the Compact’s 32GB. Because of that, we’ve awarded this one to the Xperia XZ1.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ1

Display, design, durability

Sony Xperia XZ1

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The display on these two phones will be one of the main points of difference. While the Xperia XZ1 Compact has a 1,280 x 720-pixel, 4.6-inch display, the standard Xperia XZ1 has a full HD, 1,920 x 1,080-pixel 5.2-inch display. Both of the displays are LCD, but while the XZ1’s display is larger, the resolution bump is enough to make it much sharper as well.

The design of the two phones is more or less the same, apart from the size. Sony has never gotten a lot of love for the design of its phones, but these new ones don’t look terrible. One interesting thing to note about the XZ1 Compact is that it’s quite a bit thicker than the standard XZ1, which might be a problem for some. Both phones feature a camera sensor on the top-left of the back of the phone. The design is relatively angular and minimalist, with big bezels framing the screen. There is a fingerprint sensor on the side of both devices, but sadly it won’t be functional in the U.S. variants.

Last but not least is durability, and the phones are the same here, too — both offer an IP68 rating, which allows them to last as long as 30 minutes in up to 1.5 meters of water. In other words, while you probably won’t want to take the phone swimming, if you drop it in the bath, it should be fine.

Both phones are almost the same here — but the better display on the Xperia XZ1 puts it ahead.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ1

Battery life and charging

Sony Xperia XZ1

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

With one larger device and one smaller one, you might expect a pretty substantial difference in battery capacity — but in reality, it turns out that the batteries are exactly the same size. That’s not great news for the standard-sized Xperia XZ1 — not only does it have a larger display, but it also has more pixel-dense display, meaning it’ll be much more battery-intensive.

The batteries on both phones come in at 2,700mAh, which isn’t a ton, but they also both support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0, which should be helpful.

We don’t have official battery life figures from Sony, but given the fact that the XZ1 Compact will almost certainly last longer because of the smaller display, it’s the winner here.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact

Camera

Sony Xperia XZ1

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Sony camera sensors can be found in smartphones all over the world — and not just in Sony phones. But does that translate into a great camera on the XZ1? We’ll need some time with it to find out.

The rear-facing camera on the phones is the same. It’s 19 megapixels with electronic image stabilization and predictive phase detection autofocus. Video, however, is where this camera really shines. It offers 4K recording at 30 frames per second, 1,080p recording at up to 60 frames per second, and 720p recording at up to a massive 960 frames per second. With that, you’ll be able to capture super slow-motion recordings, which will be great in certain situations.

The front-facing camera here is a little different — the standard XZ1 offers a 13-megapixel front-facing camera, while the XZ1 Compact is at 8-megapixels. That makes the XZ1 the winner here.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ1

Software

Sony Xperia XZ1

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The two phones are going to offer an identical software experience, so we’re not going to award a winner here. They both run Android, and they happen to be among the first to ship with Android 8.0 Oreo — which is good news for those who want the latest and greatest versions of Android. Currently, the Android experience on Sony phones seems to be pretty close to stock Android, which is good news for those who hate bloatware.

When it comes to software updates, Sony is generally decent at updating within a few months, but it’ll still take some time for your phone to get new versions of Android as they come out.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact costs $600, and will be available online and in stores starting October 4. The standard Xperia XZ1 went on sale September 19, with prices starting at $700.

Because of the price difference, this one is going to the Xperia XZ1 Compact.

Winner: Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact

Overall winner: Sony Xperia XZ1

This one was probably obvious from the get-go — the Sony Xperia XZ1 is simply a better phone. It has a better screen, more storage, and a superior selfie camera. But the advantages of getting it may not really matter to you if you’re specifically seeking a smaller phone. The phones are equally powerful — and though the larger XZ1 offers more storage, they do both have a MicroSD card slot.

The Xperia XZ1 Compact is a better deal financially, and it’s also one of the few small phones on the market with a decent set of specs. The XZ1 offers most of the features that a flagship phone should (unless you’re in the U.S.), and it’s the first phone to ship with the latest flavor of Android on board.

Innovation Requires Market Enablement

In this age of tech industry consolidation, one has to wonder what will happen with the pace of innovation as a few large companies begin to dominate.

In personal computers, the WinTel (Microsoft Windows and Intel) marriage continues to control the technology, while Dell, HP and Lenovo control the devices. Similarly, in smartphones, Apple and Samsung, which both design their own chips and devices, dominate the market, especially in North America.

It is natural for market leaders to emerge as technologies and markets mature. However, that maturity often is accompanied by a change in the strategy of key players.

There’s a shift from market enablement — that is, seeking to share technologies and enable competition — to market control. Key players continue to innovate, but they seek to limit access to their technology as a means of controlling the market or the pace of innovation.

Intel and Microsoft once sought to not only innovate, but also to enable any original equipment manufacturer to build PCs and compete with Big Blue (IBM). That changed as the two companies rose to dominance, often squeezing out competitors and leaving startups with one hope: being acquired by a market leader. So, what happens to innovation and market enablement as smartphones and other segments also mature?

Enabling an Ecosystem

While the acquisition strategy of startups is nothing new, I do not believe this should be the strategic goal of innovators. It is still possible to outmaneuver the industry powerhouses, as long as a strategy includes both innovating and enabling the market.

Despite the PC example, I am encouraged by many of the current startups and other industry leaders not only to innovate through huge investments in research and development, but also to enable the market.

For example, at Huawei’s recent Connect conference in Shanghai, the company indicated that it was targeting just 1 percent of the cloud ecosystem that it hoped to enable through its partners, and it was pleased with that figure.

Similarly, by some estimates the average smartphone leverages more than 200,000 active patents from more than 30,000 patent holders, the largest being a handful of companies like Qualcomm, Ericsson, and Nokia, all of which have been willing to license their patents to all smartphone OEMs.

While not all of those patents would be considered essential for the construction of the smartphones, it’s clear that the experience of using a mid-range phone like the Chinese Oppo R11 or even the new Apple iPhone X would not be the same without those patents.

Qualcomm alone spends US$5.15 billion in annual R&D, and it grants access to its entire pool of Qualcomm intellectual property, the largest in the industry.

Additionally, the concept of enabling an ecosystem has allowed a small processor design company, ARM, to rise to the top of the semiconductor’s largest ecosystem, which ships more processors than all the PCs and enterprise servers combined and is still growing.

Market Influencers

We will see new companies emerge through new areas of innovation, such as connected devices (Internet of Things, or IoT), augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), autonomous vehicles and intelligent solutions (machine learning, or ML), deep learning (DL) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Many of these new areas have become the focus of acquisitions and consolidation by industry powerhouses, but the culture of the organization ultimately will determine whether innovation continues to be accompanied by ecosystem enablement.

In PCs, Microsoft once again has been aiming to reinvigorate innovation and ecosystem enablement by building PCs based on ARM-based processors, beginning with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile processor — they’re two of the previously mentioned industry enablers.

Microsoft also has been contributing code to the open source community through GitHub.

Likewise, the industry has been going through a major shift as it approaches 5G, which will entail not only new mobile devices, but also broader connectivity of all electronics. Two of the companies most heavily investing in 5G technology are Huawei and Qualcomm, market enablers.

While it is natural for mature companies to shift from being market enablers to market controllers, in this age of startups vs. powerhouses (or Davids vs. Goliaths), it’s growing clear that those that both innovate and enable are likely not only to influence the market, but also to grow their respective market segments.


Jim McGregor has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2017. He is the founder and principal analyst at Tirias Research with more than 30 years of high-tech industry experience. His expertise spans a broad range of product development and corporate strategy functions, such as semiconductor manufacturing, systems engineering, product marketing, marketing communications, brand management, strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, and sales. McGregor worked for Intel, Motorola, ON Semiconductor, STMicroelectronics and General Dynamics Space Systems prior to becoming an industry analyst and In-Stat’s chief technology strategist. Email Jim.

Dyson really wants to clean everything, so it’s developing an electric vehicle

Dyson vacuums already almost look like futuristic cars.
Dyson vacuums already almost look like futuristic cars.

Image: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Dyson, the company known for high-tech vacuum cleaners and those hand dryers that blast air, is on the road to adding cars to its list of products.

The company announced Tuesday morning that British founder James Dyson told employees about the company’s plans to launch a battery electric vehicle by 2020.

An email went out explaining the company’s history with air pollution and vehicles, which goes back to 1988 when Dyson worked on filtering vehicle exhaust. Drawings were included of early designs and concepts.

After 1993, the project stalled out, but Dyson said he was still determined to build something. “It has remained my ambition to find a solution to the global problem of air pollution,” he wrote. 

Having advanced the hair dryer and cord-free vacuum, Dyson acknowledged it’s time to work on a major polluter: cars.

“Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source,” he said, announcing a team of 400 (and growing, with Dyson engineers and auto industry leaders) and his commitment to a $2 billion Euro (more than $2.3 billion) investment.

Few additional details about the vehicle project have been released, but a company spokesperson said Dyson has had a “longstanding interest in the problem of vehicle pollution.”

Looks like Dyson isn’t just blowing hot air.

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SQL Server 2017 Embraces Linux, Docker

Microsoft on Monday announced the general availability of SQL Server 2017, now with support for Linux, at its Ignite conference in Orlando. The company first announced its plans for the newest iteration of its database software a year and a half ago.

This is the first version of SQL Server to run on Windows Server, Linux and Docker, noted Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, cloud and enterprise, at Microsoft.

[embedded content]

“SQL Server 2017 enables in-database advanced machine learning with support for scalable Python and R-based analytics,” he pointed out, which means “you can train advanced models easily with data inside SQL Server without having to move data.”

SQL Server offers “mission-critical performance and security,” Guthrie said. It now has everything built in, including artificial intelligence, “on the platform of your choice.”

Adding Linux support to SQL Server is a manifestation of the “new” Microsoft, noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“They’ve become operating system-agnostic when it comes to their applications and some of their platforms,” he told LinuxInsider.

Oracle in Crosshairs

Adding Linux support to SQL Server should boost its share of the enterprise database market, suggested Matthew Kimball, senior analyst for servers and storage with Moor Insights & Strategy.

With a Windows-only platform, Microsoft is a strong second to Oracle in the market.

“This expands Microsoft’s market considerably,” Kimball told LinuxInsider.

“Oracle is Microsoft’s chief competition in the space,” he continued, “and SQL Server is a fraction of the cost of Oracle with the same functionality.”

Microsoft has been able to garner 20 percent of the enterprise database market with its Windows-only offering, noted Donald Feinberg, a data, analytics and information management analyst at Gartner.

Oracle’s share is about 40 percent, he said.

Microsoft managed “to get to half the size of Oracle in a (US)$35 billion market without having Linux,” Feinberg told LinuxInsider. “You have to ask yourself, if they can now compete in the Linux market, how much further can they go? They answer is, it gives them a lot of runway.”

Bashing Portability Barrier

For years, Microsoft’s competitors’ database products have supported multiple platforms, which put Microsoft, with its Windows-only approach, at a disadvantage. By adding Linux support, SQL Server becomes as portable as the products of those competitors.

“Portability is an important feature. Customers don’t go switching around all that much, but they want to know they can,” Feinberg said.

“We’ve talked to a lot of people,” he continued, “and when I mention SQL Server to them, the answer I get is, ‘We can’t use that because it will lock us in to Windows Server.’ That perception disappears now.”

When Microsoft announced SQL Server Linux support last year, it surprised some Microsoft watchers, who believed the company would be unwilling to forgo the potential loss of revenue that could result from the move.

With SQL Server chained to Windows, Microsoft collects licensing revenue from both Windows Server and SQL Server. With the Linux version, it collects revenue only from SQL Server licenses.

Microsoft won’t suffer from those losses, suggested Moor’s Kimball.

“Customers who will move from Windows Server to Linux will be more than offset by the growth Microsoft will see in the Linux space,” he said.

Not Created Equal

The Linux and Windows versions of SQL Server aren’t quite equal, Kimball noted. The business intelligence tools aren’t built into the Linux version as yet, and the company hasn’t provided a firm date as to when they will be available.

The extraction, transformation and load tools for data warehousing can be used in a Linux environment, he said, but they can’t be authored in Linux. They must be created in Windows and ported over to Linux.

“Other business intelligence tools don’t run on Linux at all,” said Kimball.

“Maybe this is Microsoft’s hook for keeping some SQL instances on Windows for some time,” he added.

Nevertheless, all features within the SQL Server relational database engine are available in Linux, including the Always On high availability feature. In addition, performance on the two platforms is comparable.

Raft of Features

In addition to Linux support, SQL Server 2017 supports Python programming. Combined with R Services, that allows machine language models to be created, trained and analyzed in place.

Support also has been added for graph processing. That’s important when working with NoSQL databases often used for big data projects.

Microsoft has added two new batch modes to SQL Server — memory grant feedback and adaptive joins — designed to increase the efficiency and performance of the software.

Operational analytics has become more feasible with SQL Server, thanks to the ability to build and rebuild some Columnstore indexes without taking them offline.

In addition, BLOBS — Binary Large Objects — inside Columnstore indexes can be compressed, which saves disk space, and the indexes can process the compressed information, which can speed backups.

A new resumable index operations feature has been added to SQL Server too, which provides for the resumption of index rebuilds after a database failure or manual abort. Recovering from such disasters previously required a restart from scratch, once the database was back online.


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.

The U.S. wants the social media data of every immigrant

A TSA officer scans a traveler's documents at a checkpoint, at Miami International Airport.
A TSA officer scans a traveler’s documents at a checkpoint, at Miami International Airport.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

If you’re an immigrant in the United States, the government wants to know what you do online. 

Starting on Oct. 18, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to collect social and internet search data on U.S. immigrants, including naturalized citizens and those with a green card. 

A DHS document published on Sept. 18 and recently spotted by Buzzfeed says the government will broaden its collection of online data in a month.

The document says the government will “expand the categories of records” collected “to include … social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” and will “update record source categories to include publicly available information obtained from the internet … and information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements.” 

We reached out to DHS and Customs and Border Protection for clarification on just how the DHS will get “search results,” and what “information sharing agreements” implies. The U.S. often shares intelligence information with with other governments, such as the United Kingdom. 

“It’s becoming very troubling, because where do you draw the line?”

“It’s becoming very troubling, because where do you draw the line?” asked Bradley Shear, a lawyer with expertise in social media data. “At social media handles? Do you draw the line a being able to open up cellphones? Email accounts?”

For months now, the White House has pushed to check the Twitter and Facebook accounts of people applying for a U.S. visa, and this new set of rules goes beyond even that. More social media scrutiny of international travelers began in the last weeks of former President Barack Obama’s administration, when in December of 2016 the government began to ask for the social media handles of anyone applying to the Visa Waiver Program

Lawyers with expertise in social media and immigration have advised international travelers to the U.S. to — if possible — take secondary laptops and phones when they know they’ll have to go through customs. Travelers worried their social data will be searched at the border may want to consider traveling with fewer devices, or deleting data from the devices they carry after they’ve backed up the information somewhere else. 

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