Saturday, 26 November 2016

Toyota works to develop advanced electric-car battery

Toyota Motor Corp said it aims to develop a more advanced electric-car battery "in a few years" that will allow the Japanese automaker to build vehicles with up to 15 per cent greater range and battery life than they have currently.
“Lithium-ion battery is a key technology for electrifying cars, and there is a clear need, going forward, for improving this technology and its performance even more,” Hisao Yamashige, a battery technology researcher at Toyota, told a media briefing in Tokyo on Thursday.
Improving the performance of lithium-ion battery technology is a pressing issue for traditional automakers such as Toyota and new entrants such as Tesla Motors Inc because of its limiting characteristics.
Producers of all-electric battery cars, plug-in electric hybrids, as well as conventional gas-electric hybrids are all striving to source or develop more advanced battery technologies to improve range, battery life and safety.
Toyota, Japan’s biggest automaker by volume, has pioneered gasoline-electric hybrid technology and is gearing up to launch a new, near-all-electric plug-in hybrid called the Prius Prime. It is also aiming to come up with an all-electric battery car by about 2020.
Using techniques developed in collaboration with a Japanese publicly-financed laboratory and four universities in Japan, Toyota engineers were able to better see in "real time" how lithium ions moved inside electrodes, Yamashige said.
This should lead to new designs that prevent lithium ions from moving unevenly and bunching up in the electrodes, something that currently limits battery life and vehicle range and can be a factor in causing overheating, he said.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Labneh: The secret to breakfast like a boss

Not to sound like a dinosaur, but I miss the good old days when Ramazan would roll around in the cool, crisp winter and we’d wake in the middle of the night shivering, the tips of our noses frozen numb. Those were simpler times of racing my brother and sister to the lounge, hoping to claim the toastiest spot in front of the enormous gas heater.
Those were the magical years of sitting down, still sleepy-eyed, on a colorfuldastarkhwan laid out with a sehri-time feast.
Of course, now, thanks to record-breaking heat, I have no such notions. I mean, is it just me or is consuming anything more than a dry piece of toast and gallons of water at a pre-dawn meal actually a very real struggle? Plus, with the holy month coming to a close soon and temperatures still soaring, I’m guessing the prospect of breakfast isn’t going to inspire much enthusiasm either.
Thank God, my grandmother taught me well and I’ve finally got a fix for all those early morning woes.
See, on those chilly nights, while we all sat cross-legged on the floor, crowding around bal-wala parathas, and spicy desi-style scrambled eggs studded with soft tomatoes, sweet onions, cumin, and plenty of green chilis, and leftover saalan and daal, and sticky-sweet french toast, Nano’s pre-Roza ritual defied all the norms of stuffing oneself silly.
She would quietly spend a few minutes pretending to nibble on the stodgy fare and then, sure as the rising sun, she’d abandon ship for her standard bowl of fresh unsweetened yogurt.
I found her minimalist choice earth-shatteringly boring!
Why would you eat a bowl of bland white goo when ghee-shakkar andmakhni roti were up for grabs? Really, why?
Well, now that I’m older and smarter and have serious acid reflux issues, I’ll tell you why.
Yogurt is cool, healthy, refreshing, and it’s packed with good-for- you bacteria that helps soothe that gross bubbly feeling you get in your gut when you’ve gone empty-stomached for too long. And in the sweltering summer, it’s a wonderfully light, low-calorie, belly-soothing sehri option that will keep you full and your tummy in check through an endless day of fasting.
I’m still against the bowl of blah, though.
My solution? Labneh!

An incredibly versatile middle-eastern cheese, labneh is made by straining yogurt to remove the whey or liquid. What’s left behind is a tangy, creamy ball of soft, spreadable goodness that’s so delicious and simple to make, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing this all your life.
It’s become my favorite sehri super-food and I definitely plan to make it a breakfast table staple too.
There’s no such thing as too much cheese, right?
Bonus for the health-conscious: labneh contains less fat and clocks in at almost half the calories of regular cream cheese! Awwwyyyiiiisss!
On its own, the cheese is soft, smooth, and has a salty, palate-pleasing tang, but if you’re looking for something with a little more pizzaz, try throwing in some fresh or dried herbs, garlic, or whatever else strikes your fancy. I prefer to leaving it plain, serving condiments, herbs, sliced veggies, fresh fruit and berries, jams, honey, olive oil, and some nice, crusty bread on the side. That way everyone can customize to their hearts content.
Labneh smeared thick on lightly toasted multi-grain bread, topped with fresh greens, flaky sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch or two of sumac, and a drizzle of olive oil. Now that’s my idea of a super-powered sehri!
Serving Tip: If you ride the french-toast- train and can’t live without a sugar-hit at sehri, try topping your cheese with honey or your favorite jam or compote. Or go the extra mile with fresh sliced fruit. Berries and stone fruits such as peaches, plums, and nectarines work beautifully.


Labneh: Strained Yogurt Cheese (makes about 1.5 cups)
4 cups unsweetened yogurt (I highly recommend Anhaar brand yogurt)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1) Line a large sieve with two layers of muslin and place over a large bowl. Make sure the base of the sieve does not touch the bottom of the bowl or the yogurt will not strain properly. To avoid this kind of water contact, I place my muslin-lined sieve over a large saucepan instead of a bowl simply because the depth of the pan allows the whey to drain completely.
2) Stir the salt into the yogurt. I highly recommend Anhaar Unsweetened Yogurt for this particular recipe. I’ve tried several other commercial brands for comparison and this one consistently produces light, creamy, flavorful cheese with just the right hint of the yogurt’s signature sour note, but feel free to substitute with your favorite brand.
3) Pour the salted yogurt into the muslin. Gather the ends of the muslin and tie the top to create a pouch for the yogurt. Gently squeeze out as much of the whey as possible.
4) Place the yogurt in the refrigerator to drain for 12-48 hours. The longer the yogurt is strained, the firmer the resulting labneh will be. I find 24 hours makes the perfect cheese.
Storage Tip: To maximize the life of your labneh, roll into 3/4 inch balls, place in a jar (or any other spill-proof container), pour in enough olive to cover the cheese, cap on the lid and refrigerate. Stored like this, your labneh should last for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

After 15 years, British Council Library to reopen next month

KARACHI: The British Council Library back in the 1990s was a catalyst that invariably shaped the minds of thousands of creative voices and instincts, providing them a haven for self-expression.
Its closing down around 15 years ago was a blow the city never recovered from and unfortunately, no other organisation or institution, private or state-owned, took up the mantle to fill this gaping hole.
The British Council on Tuesday, in an attempt to right these wrongs, announced the reopening of its library in August.
The guided tour of the library, with Rabeea Arif, manager of libraries, at the helm, was an effort to emphasise using, reusing, and adapting spaces for a range of cultural activities and bringing about a semblance of normality to an otherwise disrupted narrative.
“There have been a lot of changes in Pakistan in the last 15 years. We now see the need for convening spaces in the city but they are hardly any," said Arif.
The theme of the new British Council Library is simple: take the fundamentals of a conventional library, merge it with technology, with a mix of culture, incorporating a creative symphony of entertainment and food, and you have yourself a winner. Electronic checkouts for borrowed books; around 10,000 volumes from varied genres to choose from; access to digital books as well as online academic sources and articles; subscriptions to newspapers and magazines from around the world; the British Council Library is a one-stop portal.
On entering the premises there appears to be a lack of theme to the physical elements of the library, but as you continue browsing, the flexibility afforded to the space seems to be a deliberate attempt to push the boundaries of what a library can offer.
The space is built so that it can be repurposed to provide a safe space for dialogue; an auditorium is also built with modern technological facilities and is aptly named after the visionary Ismat Chughtai. The courtyard outside can host events of a different variety, and a fully stocked organic cafe adjoins it.
Graphic novels catch one’s attention while walking into the library. Self-help books catered for teenagers and adolescents are available at the other end; lifestyle and fashion given its due, while travelogues and travel guides are placed strategically to provide vagabonds and wanderers guidelines to the world outside. Autobiographies are aplenty, alongside a wide range of non-fiction titles. The novels at hand incorporate classics as well as contemporary and modern fiction. There is much being offered and also much to build up on; the library is still a work in progress.
The book collection would benefit greatly if alternative genres are also incorporated and titles lesser known, not available at bookstores around the country, are made part of the offering. According to Ms Arif, books in Urdu and other regional languages will be part of the fold soon enough.
Maarya Rehman, director of libraries at the British Council, spoke about how security concerns had resulted in the shutting down of the library. This is, however, changing as “Pakistan’s security concerns have diminished. The council has a very proud history of opening libraries in places such as Burma, and Eastern Europe during the Cold War, which became beacons of information and freedom of exchange of ideas. So why not have one in Pakistan where there is a constriction of availability of safe cultural spaces?” she said.
However, a glaring impediment to the success of the library is its current location. Constructed on the premises of the British High Commission, the library can be accessed only after stringent security checks which can pose to be a deterrent for book enthusiasts. For Ms Arif, this is a matter which was discussed at length and various improvements made to the systemic induction of members with the aim to reduce the problems faced by book lovers wanting to frequent the library. Online databases will be maintained with personal contact information, and members thoroughly vetted before being given admittance.
Of course, there exists the debate of the library being located in an area which is not frequented by people from all walks of life. Would this, one wonders, affect the overall impact of the library, especially considering that the original set-up was in a place with much greater accessibility? Only time will tell.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air: Why this bet could actually pay off

Xiaomi has finally ventured beyond smartphones and smart devices with its latest Mi Notebook Air. As the name implies, it’s going after Apple’s extremely successful Macbook Air. Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air is everything one would expect from a 2016 laptop – lightweight design, aluminium unibody construction, great hardware specifications… a Macbook Air clone in true spirit.
Xiaomi’s Mi Notebook Air didn’t just stop by Cupertino but it also took some inspiration from Redmond’s Surface range. Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air is technically a design marriage between Microsoft Surface Book and Apple Macbook Air. At a bargain price of 3,699 Yuan (approximately Rs 37,250), there is just nothing to complain about this one. But what’s interesting about the device is its timing. Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air comes at a time when PC shipments have been declining quarter after quarter.
According to Gartner, PC shipments declined for the seventh straight quarter with 5.2 per cent decline in Q2 2016, but the decline was less worse than the 9.6 per cent decline in Q1 2016. The arrest of the decline last quarter gives enough reason for Xiaomi to explore the market. If the PC industry has to rebound, Xiaomi could well be the surprise initiator and obviously it isn’t going after numbers here. With Mi Notebook Air, Xiaomi enters a niche territory dominated by industry stalwarts like Lenovo, Apple, HP and Dell. Another surprise element about Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air is the fact that it’s being made by a partner company named Tian Mi.
Xiaomi, which has been called budget smartphone maker, seems to be losing ground in China’s smartphone market and it is apt for the company to turn to PC industry for next wave of growth. With smartphone market already cluttered with several manufacturers, the PC industry gives Xiaomi enough scope to get recognised and most importantly expand to the US continent. While Xiaomi plans to sell the Mi Notebook Air only in China for now, the device very well gives it an option to enter the US market. According to Gartner’s latest shipment numbers, North America was the only region where PC shipments grew and it is exactly the market Xiaomi needs for its smartphones to sell as well.
Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air propels on two pillars — premium design and cheap price. Xiaomi Mi Notebook is one of the most striking laptop designs in recent years, at least if you go by the press renders. Xiaomi has built an actual notebook and not a convertible or a 2-in-1, which clearly suggests the company is not betting on ideas , rather getting into what has been working well for years now.
For Xiaomi, it won’t be an easy task to get existing PC users or new buyers onboard. Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air runs Windows 10 and the critical thing for most buyers would be the quality of trackpad/keyboard, and secondly the memory management. Windows 10 users, for the past one year, have criticised the OS for its poor memory management. Windows 10 users have faced Blue Screens quite often due to memory issues. With Xiaomi adding its own Mi Cloud platform, we will need to test the device to understand how it works in reality.
Xiaomi’s Mi Notebook Air might be inspired by Apple’s Macbook Air, but does it offer a trackpad that is responsive or a keyboard with decent travel? These questions will certainly loom over the quality of the device.
Having tested some of the top Windows 10 PCs this year like HP Elitebook Folio, HP Envy 13 and budget iBall Compbook Excelance, I can’t wait to lay my hands on the Mi Notebook Air. Here is hoping it lives up to the hype.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Momal Sheikh dishes on her Bollywood debut and working with her superstar dad

Momal's Sheikh's upcoming Bollywood debut Happy Bhag Jayegi has everyone on their toes. After the trailer release, fans can hardly wait for what she has in store for them.
In a brief interview with Images, the Pakistani actor spoke about working across the border.

Images: How was your experience of working in Bollywood?

Momal Sheikh: I was very fortunate to sign up with a good team and fine actors. Many concepts were rather new to me since film is very different from television. The platform itself is a very challenging ground and makes you push yourself very hard.
I loved taking up the challenge and I'm excited to have had the opportunity to work with such sophisticated equipment and deliver to a much wider audience.

Images: Did you have any scenes with your dad? Was it daunting to work with him or an exciting opportunity?

Momal: Yes, my father and I shot a couple of scenes together. He is my mentor, my counselor and obviously my critic as well. I knew he would guide me and judge my work honestly. I'm grateful that I had him by my side during my first Bollywood venture.

Images: Can you tell us a little more about your character. We know you're Abhay Deol's wife but what more can you reveal?

Momal: I am playing the role of Abhay's fiance, Zoya. An entrepreneur of a fashion house, Zoya is a strong-willed girl and holds her ground. She is confident and mature as is reflected in the way she eventually handles the odd situation she has to deal with.
I don't want to give away too much but I will tell you this: you will be surprised by a few twists in the story, especially when Zoya plays a vital part in deciding who Happy will eventually settle for.

Images: We like your look in the trailer. Who are you wearing and who styled you?

Momal: Thank you! My stylist was Ankita, who worked with me throughout the movie and I must take this opportunity to thank her for her patience and professionalism.

Did you do any dancing in the film?

Momal: I have no dancing numbers.
Momal's definitely upped our anticipation and we're eager to see what she has to offer when the film hits theatres on August 19th.

Twitter can't believe J.Lo is 47

Jennifer Lopez just celebrated her 47th birthday and we can't get over how stunning she looks!
But it's not just us! Twitter was stunned at how gorgeous our Jenny-from-the-block was looking and could not resist voicing their awe over it!
Many took a good long look at themselves and realized they need to up their game to be as fit as her!
But some had a perfectly good explanation as to why J.Lo looks flawless

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Could this be the new 'dress'? The internet wrestles with another optical illusion

Remember the dress debate that broke the internet?
The one where half the world couldn't decide whether a dress was white and gold or blue and black (FYI it was blue and black). Ever since then there's been a wistful sort of longing to witness another optical illusion of that magnitude.
The latest contender is this image of a carpet, which apparently hides a cell phone somewhere in its design.

Posted by Jeya May Cruz from the Philippines, the photo has been shared some 130,000 times on Facebook and is making the rounds on Twitter too.
Some people managed to spot the cell phone without too much trouble.

Some, not so much.