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Google's New Camera App Simulates Shallow Depth of Field

timothy posted 5 hours ago | from the give-your-mom-an-easter-bokeh dept.

80

New submitter katiewilliam (3621675) writes with a story at Hardware Zone about a new feature that Google's working on for Android phones' built-in cameras: the illusion of shallow depth of field in phone snapshots, which typically err on the side of too much in focus, rather than too little. Excerpting: "The Google Research Blog [note: here's a direct link] revealed that there's quite a fair bit of algorithms running to achieve this effect; to put it in a nutshell, computer vision algorithms create a 3D model of the world based on the shots you have taken, and estimate the depth to every point in the scene."

For $20, Build a VR Headset For Your Smartphone

timothy posted 12 hours ago | from the watch-movies-on-the-plane dept.

39

An anonymous reader writes "Not everyone can drop a few hundred dollars on a VR headset, but that doesn't mean they can't experience VR! For those with the time and a bit of handiwork skill, this DIY guide from guest writer Ohaple will show you how to make a smartphone-based VR headset for as little as $20. Along the way, you'll learn the hardware and software basics of a VR headset." This project screams for a ready-made commercial version; does anyone know of existing purpose-built headgear? As one of the comments on the linked tutorial says, Poppy seems close, but lacks an LED for tracking.

Microsoft Plans $1 Billion Server Farm In Iowa

timothy posted yesterday | from the plenty-of-ethanol-to-go-around dept.

79

1sockchuck (826398) writes "Microsoft will invest $1.1 billion to build a massive new server farm in Iowa, not far from an existing data center in West Des Moines. The 1.2 million square foot campus will be one of the biggest in the history of the data center industry. It further enhances Iowa's status as the data center capital of the Midwest, with Google and Facebook also operating huge server farms in the state."

MIT Designs Tsunami Proof Floating Nuclear Reactor

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the riding-the-waves dept.

213

First time accepted submitter Amtrak (2430376) writes "MIT has created designs for a nuclear plant that would avoid the downfall of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The new design calls for the nuclear plant to be placed on a floating platform modeled after the platforms used for offshore oil drilling. A floating platform several miles offshore, moored in about 100 meters of water, would be unaffected by the motions of a tsunami; earthquakes would have no direct effect at all. Meanwhile, the biggest issue that faces most nuclear plants under emergency conditions — overheating and potential meltdown, as happened at Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island — would be virtually impossible at sea."

Ask Slashdot: Which Router Firmware For Bandwidth Management?

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the but-the-neighbors-will-object dept.

97

First time accepted submitter DeathByLlama (2813725) writes "Years ago I made the switch from DD-WRT to Tomato firmware for my Linksys router. I lost a couple features, but gained one of the best QoS and bandwidth management systems I have seen on a router to date. Admins can see graphs of current and historical bandwidth usage by IP, set minimum and maximum bandwidth limits by IP range, setup QoS rules, and see and filter graphs and lists of current connections by usage, class or source/destination — all from an elegantly designed GUI. This has allowed me to easily and intelligently allocate and adjust my network's bandwidth; when there is a problem, I can see where it's coming from and create rules around it. I'm currently using the Toastman's VPN Tomato firmware, which has about everything that I would want, except for one key thing: support for ARM-based routers (only Broadcom is supported). I have seen other firmware projects being actively developed in the last few years, so in picking a new 802.11ac router, I need to decide whether Tomato support is a deal-breaker. With solid bandwidth management as a priority, what firmware would you recommend? Stock Asuswrt? Asuswrt-Merlin? OpenWRT? DD-WRT? Tomato? _____?"

SSD-HDD Price Gap Won't Go Away Anytime Soon

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the prices-are-offers dept.

253

storagedude (1517243) writes "Flash storage costs have been dropping rapidly for years, but those gains are about to slow, and a number of issues will keep flash from closing the cost gap with HDDs for some time, writes Henry Newman at Enterprise Storage Forum. As SSD density increases, reliability and performance decrease, creating a dilemma for manufacturers who must balance density, cost, reliability and performance. '[F]lash technology and SSDs cannot yet replace HDDs as primary storage for enterprise and HPC applications due to continued high prices for capacity, bandwidth and power, as well as issues with reliability that can only be addressed by increasing overall costs. At least for the foreseeable future, the cost of flash compared to hard drive storage is not going to change.'"

The Squishy Future of Robotics

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the bend-it-shape-it dept.

36

An anonymous reader writes "The field of soft robotics is fast growing and may be the key to allowing robots and humans to work side-by-side. 'Roboticists are prejudiced toward rigid structures, for which algorithms can be inherited from the well-established factory robot industry. Soft robots solve two huge problems with current robots, however. They don't have to calculate their movements as precisely as hard robots, which rely on springs and joints, making them better for navigating uncontrolled environments like a house, disaster area, or hospital room. They're naturally "cage free," meaning they can work shoulder-to-shoulder with humans. If a soft robot tips over or malfunctions, the danger is on par with being attacked by a pillow. The robot is also less prone to hurt itself.'"

'Thermoelectrics' Could One Day Power Cars

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the hot-wheels dept.

173

sciencehabit writes: "Fossil fuels power modern society by generating heat, but much of that heat is wasted. Researchers have tried to reclaim some of it with semiconductor devices called thermoelectrics, which convert the heat into power. But they remain too inefficient and expensive to be useful beyond a handful of niche applications. Now, scientists in Illinois report that they have used a cheap, well-known material to create the most heat-hungry thermoelectric so far (abstract). In the process, the researchers say, they learned valuable lessons that could push the materials to the efficiencies needed for widespread applications. If that happens, thermoelectrics could one day power cars and scavenge energy from myriad engines, boilers, and electrical plants."

Bill Gates Patents Detecting, Responding To "Glassholes"

Unknown Lamer posted 3 days ago | from the fighting-back-against-the-thousand-eyes dept.

140

theodp (442580) writes "As Google Glass goes on sale [ed: or rather, went on sale] to the general public, GeekWire reports that Bill Gates has already snagged one patent for 'detecting and responding to an intruding camera' and has another in the works. The invention proposes to equip computer and device displays with technology for detecting and responding to any cameras in the vicinity by editing or blurring the content on the screen, or alerting the user to the presence of the camera. Gates and Nathan Myhrvold are among the 16 co-inventors of the so-called Unauthorized Viewer Detection System and Method, which the patent application notes is useful 'while a user is taking public transportation, where intruding cameras are likely to be present.' So, is Bill's patent muse none other than NYC subway rider Sergey Brin?" A more cynical interpretation: closing the analog hole. Vaguely related, mpicpp pointed out that Google filed a patent for cameras embedded in contact lenses.

Lack of US Cybersecurity Across the Electric Grid

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the asking-for-trouble dept.

95

Lasrick writes: "Meghan McGuinness of the Bipartisan Policy Center writes about the Electric Grid Cybersecurity Initiative, a collaborative effort between the center's Energy and Homeland Security Projects. She points out that over half the attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure sectors last year were on the energy sector. Cyber attacks could come from a variety of sources, and 'a large-scale cyber attack or combined cyber and physical attack could lead to enormous costs, potentially triggering sustained power outages over large portions of the electric grid and prolonged disruptions in communications, food and water supplies, and health care delivery.' ECGI is recommending the creation of a new, industry-supported model that would create incentives for the continual improvement and adaptation needed to respond effectively to rapidly evolving cyber threats. The vulnerability of the grid has been much discussed this last week; McGuinness's recommendations are a good place to start."

How Amazon Keeps Cutting AWS Prices: Cheapskate Culture

timothy posted 4 days ago | from the mining-the-couch-for-change dept.

145

An anonymous reader writes "Amazon Web Services has cut its prices on 40-plus consecutive occasions, at times leading the charge, at other times countering similar moves by Microsoft and Google. This article at CRN includes some interesting behind-the-scenes trivia about how Amazon keeps costs down, including some interesting speculation — for example, that perhaps the reason Amazon's Glacier storage is so cheap is that maybe it might be based at least partly on tape, not disk (Amazon would not comment). The article also explains that the company will only pay for its employees to fly Economy, and that includes its senior executives. If they feel the need to upgrade to Business or First Class, they must do so from their own pocket. And instead of buying hardware from an OEM vendor, AWS sources its own components – everything from processors to disk drives to memory and network cards — and uses contract manufacturing to put together its machines."

Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots In Japan

timothy posted 4 days ago | from the totally-unfair dept.

80

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Bloomberg reports that humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. "We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them," says Mitsuru Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota's plants. "When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods (Kami-sama in Japanese), and they could make anything."

According to Kawai, learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn't get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota's factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes. In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota's Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line and Kawai also credits manual labor for helping workers improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts. "We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again," says Kawai. "To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.""

Commenters To Dropbox CEO: Houston, We Have a Problem

timothy posted about a week ago | from the don't-worry-we'll-only-look-at-the-secrets dept.

447

theodp (442580) writes "On Friday, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston sought to quell the uproar over the appointment of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the company's board of directors, promising in a blog post that Rice's appointment won't change its stance on privacy. More interesting than Houston's brief blog post on the method-behind-its-Condi-madness (which Dave Winer perhaps better explained a day earlier) is the firestorm in the ever-growing hundreds of comments that follow. So will Dropbox be swayed by the anti-Condi crowd ("If you do not eliminate Rice from your board you lose my business") or stand its ground, heartened by pro-Condi comments ("Good on ya, DB. You have my continued business and even greater admiration")? One imagines that Bush White House experience has left Condi pretty thick-skinned, and IPO riches are presumably on the horizon, but is falling on her "resignation sword" — a la Brendan Eich — out of the question for Condi?"

$250K Reward Offered In California Power Grid Attack

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the power-up-the-manhunt dept.

111

An anonymous reader writes "The Associated Press reports that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has put up a $250,000 reward for 'information leading to an arrest and conviction in a startling attack mounted nearly a year ago on telephone lines and the power grid in Silicon Valley.' Besides cutting power lines, the attackers also cut AT&T fiber-optic phone lines, thereby denying some people access to 911, and fired shots into a PB&E substation, knocking out 17 transformers in Silicon Valley and causing $15 million in damage. As of this post, the perpetrators are still unidentified and continue to elude the FBI. Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday was brought before the Senate Energy Committee to explain why the FERC disseminated via insecure media a sensitive document describing where all the nation's power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack. FERC responded with assurances that databases are currently being scrubbed and procedures being implemented to safeguard critical data."

3D Display Uses Misted Water

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the bring-an-umbrella dept.

65

An anonymous reader points out work at the University of Bristol into interactive, 3-D displays created by projecting light on misted water. "These personal screens are both see-through and reach-through. The see-through feature provides direct line of sight of the personal screen and the elements behind it on the tabletop. The reach-through feature allows the user to switch from interacting with the personal screen to reaching through it to interact with the tabletop or the space above it. The personal screen allows a range of customisations and novel interactions such as presenting 2D personal content on the screen, 3D content above the tabletop or supplementing and renewing actual objects differently for each user."

Fire Risk From Panasonic Batteries In Sony Vaio Laptops

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the reclassified-as-variable-BTU-heating-units dept.

36

jones_supa writes: "Sony is warning about a potential fire risk in some of its Vaio Fit 11A portable notebooks (the final model under the Vaio brand, which was sold off in February). The company is asking customers to stop using this laptop model as soon as possible. Sony said it had received three reports of overheating batteries causing partial burns to Vaio computers. The company stopped selling the product at the beginning of this month, with nearly 26,000 units in the wild. The manufacturer and company responsible for the faulty batteries is Panasonic. 'A Panasonic spokeswoman confirmed the company had provided the batteries to Sony under an outsourcing contract. She declined to say which other computer makers had received Panasonic batteries, as such information is confidential. However, she said the batteries are customized according to clients' requirements and differ depending on client.'"

93 Harvard Faculty Members Call On the University To Divest From Fossil Fuels

samzenpus posted about a week ago | from the stop-burning-bro dept.

214

Daniel_Stuckey writes: "One hundred faculty members at one of the nation's most renowned university have signed an open letter calling on Harvard to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. Harvard's is the largest university endowment in the world. For the last few years, a national movement has called on on universities, foundations, and municipalities to divest from fossil fuels. Led by students, as well as organized groups like 350.org, it has seen a number of significant victories — at least nine colleges and over a dozen cities have pulled their investments in companies that extract or burn fossil fuels like coal and oil."

Double Take: Condoleezza Rice As Dropbox's Newest Board Member

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the describe-your-conversation-with-the-inquisition dept.

313

Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State under George W. Bush, and defender of Bush-era (and onward) policies about surveillance by wiretapping and other means, has landed at an interesting place: she's just become a part of the small board at Dropbox. TechDirt calls the appointment "tone deaf," and writes "At a time when people around the globe are increasingly worried about American tech firms having too close a connection to the intelligence community, a move like this seems like a huge public relations disaster. While Rice may be perfectly qualified to hold the role and to help Dropbox with the issues it needs help with, it's hard not to believe that there would be others with less baggage who could handle the job just as well." Some people are doing more than looking for an alternative for themselves, too, as a result.

Interviews: Ask Bre Pettis About Making Things

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the ask-me-anything dept.

69

As co-founder and CEO of MakerBot Industries, Bre Pettis is a driving force in the Maker and 3-D printing world. He's done a number of podcasts for Make, and even worked as an assistant at Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London after college. Makerbot's design community, Thingiverse, boasts over 100,000 3D models, and inspires countless artists and designers by allowing them to share their designs. Bre has agreed to set aside some time from printing in order to type answer to your questions. Normal Slashdot interview rules apply.

Intel and SGI Test Full-Immersion Cooling For Servers

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the cooling-it-down dept.

101

itwbennett (1594911) writes "Intel and SGI have built a proof-of-concept supercomputer that's kept cool using a fluid developed by 3M called Novec that is already used in fire suppression systems. The technology, which could replace fans and eliminate the need to use tons of municipal water to cool data centers, has the potential to slash data-center energy bills by more than 90 percent, said Michael Patterson, senior power and thermal architect at Intel. But there are several challenges, including the need to design new motherboards and servers."

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