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Phablet Reviews: Before and After the iPhone 6

timothy posted 4 hours ago | from the but-that-was-different dept.

Handhelds 205

Velcroman1 writes Bigger is better. No, wait, bigger is worse. Well, which is it? Apple's newly supersized 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the jumbo, 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus are a marked departure for the company, which has clung to the same, small screen size for years. It has gone so far as to publicly deride larger phones from competitors, notably Samsung, even as their sales grew to record highs. Tech reviewers over the years have tended to side with Apple, in general saddling reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Note – a 5.3-inch device that kicked off the phablet push in 2012 – with asides about how big the darn thing was. Are tech reviewers being fair when they review the iPhone 6 Plus? Here's what some of them said today, compared with how they reviewed earlier phablets and big phones from the competition.

New Long-Range RFID Technology Helps Robots Find Household Objects

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the follow-the-signal dept.

Robotics 37

HizookRobotics writes Georgia Tech researchers announced a new way robots can "sense" their surroundings through the use of small ultra-high frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID) tags. Inexpensive self-adhesive tags can be stuck on objects, allowing an RFID-equipped robot to search a room for the correct tag's signal, even when the object is hidden out of sight. Once the tag is detected, the robot knows the object it's trying to find isn't far away. The researchers' methods, summarized over at IEEE: "The robot goes to the spot where it got the hottest signal from the tag it was looking for, zeroing in on it based on the signal strength that its shoulder antennas are picking up: if the right antenna is getting a stronger signal, the robot yaws right, and vice versa."

Nvidia Sinks Moon Landing Hoax Using Virtual Light

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the this-proves-nothing dept.

Moon 258

schwit1 writes Using its new top-shelf graphics processing unit, Nvidia tackles one of the most persistent conspiracy theories in American history: the veracity of the 1969 to 1972 Apollo moon landings. From the article: "'Global illumination is the hardest task to solve as a game company,' Scott Herkelman, Nvidia's GeForce general manager, said in an interview. 'Virtual point lights don't do a bad job when the environment stays the same, but a game developer has to fake shadows, fake reflections...it's a labor-intensive process.' So when a Nvidia research engineer used the company's new dynamic lighting techniques to show off a side-by-side comparison between an Apollo 11 photo and a GeForce-powered re-creation, the company knew it had a novel demo on its hands. 'We're going to debunk one of the biggest conspiracies in the world,' Herkelman said."

Vrvana's Totem HMD Puts a Camera Over Each Eye

timothy posted yesterday | from the translucency-=-50-for-walking dept.

Displays 25

The Verge reports that Montreal startup Vrvana has produced a prototype of its promised (and crowd-funded) VR Totem headset. One interesting aspect of the Totem is the inclusion of front-facing cameras, one over each eye, the output of which can be fed to the displays. Reviewer Mike Futter has worn a prototype, and seems to be generally impressed, writing at Game Informer: Vrvana’s device offers 1080p resolution and features 90-degree field of view (the same as the Project Morpheus, but less than the Oculus Rift's 100-degree FOV), an OLED display, and adjustable lenses that can compensate for lens prescription. The HMD is usable by glasses wearers, but the tuning provides an option for those that don't want to wear corrective lenses while in VR. The system connects via HDMI to any source, and can model 3D (side-by-side) from game consoles as virtual reality right now. The Totem is currently compatible with all Oculus developer kit 1 applications, and Vrvana is working on getting DK2 experiences working. The prototype I wore was a good proof of concept, but didn't yet feature the OLED screen. This led to increased persistence due to the LCD. The head tracking also wasn't perfect, requiring some software tuning to prevent drift (something easily surmountable down the road). The clarity was impressive, rivaling some of the best experiences I've had with a Rift or Morpheus.

New "Crescent Bay" VR Headset Revealed and Demo'd At Oculus Connect

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the as-the-ndas-fall dept.

Displays 64

Oculus Rift revealed today its new 'Crescent Bay' prototype wearable display, at its inaugural Oculus Connect conference. (You can find more in the company's blog too.) From Gamasutra's coverage: The new headset has 360 degree tracking and integrated audio, as well as improved performance that allows better presence, says Iribe. It has higher resolution and a better refresh rate than even its recent DK2 headset. It's also much lighter than earlier prototypes. The company has also licensed technology from RealSpace 3-D for improved 3D audio on Oculus moving forward. Audio is becoming a priority for the company, [CEO Brendan] ]Iribe said. Road to VR has a gushing hands-on review: One of the stand-out demos put me in front of an alien on some sort of Moon-like world. The alien was looking at me and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue. When I moved my head, its gaze followed me. Its big and detailed eyes, combined with reaction to me as I moved, imbued it with a sense of living that was really cool. Spaceships flew over head and drew my gaze behind me, leading me to look at some incredibly detailed scenery.

Ask Slashdot: Alternate Software For Use On Smartboards?

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the if-they're-smart-they-can-write-it-themselves dept.

Education 93

SmarterThanMe (1679358) writes Teacher here, you can call me Mr. SmarterThanMe. I have a fancy smartboard installed in my room. Smartboards allow me to show students a whole range of other stuff other than just whatever I'm writing. I can prepare instructions and activities before the lesson and just move through the boards. I can pull up some students' work and display it through the projector. I can bring up some stimulus for use in a writing task. So much better than blackboards. Except the software that comes bundled with this particular brand of smartboard is ridiculously clunky. Without naming this particular piece of software, and highlighting its shortfalls, has anyone got any suggestions on alternatives (open source or otherwise)? The main features that I'd like are:

  • Handwriting recognition
  • The ability to make and use templates
  • Grids or guides or *something* to be able to teach measurement

I have gold star stickers for any good suggestions.

Video Released, Crowdfunding Underway For Axiom Open Source Cinema Camera

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the for-just-a-few-euros-more dept.

Input Devices 50

New submitter atagunov writes "Video clips have been released as crowdfunding starts for the world first open source cinematic videocam. "I am a filmmaker myself ... I would like to have powerful tools that I know to have full control over and that I can tune and tweak," says Sebastian Pichelhofer of Apertus. He is working on the Axiom Beta, the 2nd generation Apertus videocam, fully open sourced under GPL and OHL. It's not cheap compared to consumer-grade cameras, but being not-cheap hasn't stopped people from snapping up Joel Rubenstein's Digital Bolex.

Why You Can't Manufacture Like Apple

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the you-just-haven't-earned-it-yet-baby dept.

Apple 392

HughPickens.com writes Medium reports that although many startups want to design something that mimics the fit and finish of an Apple product, it's a good way to go out of business. "What happened when Apple wanted to CNC machine a million MacBook bodies a year? They bought 10k CNC machines to do it. How about when they wanted to laser drill holes in MacBook Pros for the sleep light but only one company made a machine that could drill those 20 m holes in aluminum? It bought the company that made the machines and took all the inventory. And that time when they needed batteries to fit into a tiny machined housing but no manufacturer was willing to make batteries so thin? Apple made their own battery cells. From scratch." Other things that Apple often does that can cause problems for a startup include white plastic (which is the most difficult color to mold), CNC machining at scale (too expensive), Laser drilled holes (far more difficult than it may seem), molded plastic packaging (recycled cardboard is your friend), and 4-color, double-walled, matte boxes + HD foam inserts (It's not unusual for them to cost upwards of $12/unit at scale. And then they get thrown away.). "If you see a feature on an Apple device you want to copy, try to find it on another company's product. If you do, it's probably okay to design into your product. Otherwise, lower your expectations. I assure you it'll be better for your startup."

NVIDIA Launches Maxwell-Based GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 GPUs

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the upgrade-treadmill dept.

Upgrades 124

MojoKid (1002251) writes NVIDIA has launched two new high-end graphics cards based on their latest Maxwell architecture. The GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 are based on Maxwell and replace NVIDIA's current high-end offerings, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti, GTX 780, and GTX 770. NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 are somewhat similar as the cards share the same 4GB frame buffer and GM204 GPU, but the GTX 970's GPU is clocked a bit lower and features fewer active Streaming Multiprocessors and CUDA cores. The GeForce GTX 980's GM204 GPU has all of its functional blocks enabled. The fully-loaded GeForce GTX 980 GM204 GPU has a base clock of 1126MHz and a Boost clock of 1216MHz. The GTX 970 clocks in with a base clock of 1050MHz and Boost clock of 1178MHz. The 4GB of video memory on both cards is clocked at a blisteringly-fast 7GHz (effective GDDR5 data rate). NVIDIA was able to optimize the GM204's power efficiency, however, by tweaking virtually every part of the GPU. NVIDIA claims that Maxwell SMs (Streaming Multiprocessors) offer double the performance of GK104 and double the perf per watt as well. NVIDIA has also added support for new features, namely Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA), and Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI). Performance-wise, the GeForce GTX 980 is the fastest single-GPU powered graphics card ever tested. The GeForce GTX 970 isn't as dominant overall, but its performance was impressive nonetheless. The GeForce GTX 970 typically performed about on par with a GeForce GTX Titan and traded blows with the Radeon R9 290X.

Data Archiving Standards Need To Be Future-Proofed

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the nothing-is-totally-future-proof dept.

Data Storage 113

storagedude writes Imagine in the not-too-distant future, your entire genome is on archival storage and accessed by your doctors for critical medical decisions. You'd want that data to be safe from hackers and data corruption, wouldn't you? Oh, and it would need to be error-free and accessible for about a hundred years too. The problem is, we currently don't have the data integrity, security and format migration standards to ensure that, according to Henry Newman at Enterprise Storage Forum. Newman calls for standards groups to add new features like collision-proof hash to archive interfaces and software.

'It will not be long until your genome is tracked from birth to death. I am sure we do not want to have genome objects hacked or changed via silent corruption, yet this data will need to be kept maybe a hundred or more years through a huge number of technology changes. The big problem with archiving data today is not really the media, though that too is a problem. The big problem is the software that is needed and the standards that do not yet exist to manage and control long-term data,' writes Newman.

SteadyServ Helps Keep the Draft Beer Flowing (Video)

Roblimo posted 3 days ago | from the software-and-beer-are-a-natural-partnership dept.

Beer 48

"With iKeg's Technology We Guarantee You Will Never Run Out of Beer," boasts the SteadyServ website. As you listen to interviewee Mike Flockenhaus, though, you'll realize almost immediately that SteadyServ isn't making equipment for home use, but for bars and taverns that serve draft beer. Here's another good line from their site: "With the new iKeg® system, we aim to ensure that you get your beer, in the right place, at the right time. We also want to simplify the lives of all the hard-working people in the beer industry. After all, wanting and having your beer are not the same thing." Even better, it looks like they're hiring. Wouldn't it be wonderful to help keep America from running out of draft beer? (Alternate Video Link)

Use of Forced Labor "Systemic" In Malaysian IT Manufacturing

samzenpus posted 5 days ago | from the passing-on-the-savings-and-the-misery dept.

Businesses 183

itwbennett (1594911) writes "The use of forced labor is so prevalent in the Malaysian electronics manufacturing industry that there is hardly a major brand name that isn't touched by the illegal practice, according to a report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and undertaken by Verité, a nonprofit organization focused on labor issues. The two-year study surveyed more than 500 migrant workers at around 200 companies in Malaysia's IT manufacturing sector and found one in three were working under conditions of forced labor."

Wave Power Fails To Live Up To Promise

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the water-under-the-bridge dept.

Power 195

the_newsbeagle writes: One of the leading companies developing wave power devices, Ocean Power Technologies, has dramatically scaled down its ambitions. The company had planned to install the world's first commercial-scale wave farms off the coast of Australia and Oregon, but has now announced that it's ending those projects. Instead it will focus on developing next-gen devices. Apparently the economics of wave power just don't make sense yet.

The Case For a Federal Robotics Commission

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the heading-up-the-anti-singularity-committee dept.

Robotics 70

New submitter hmcd31 writes: In a new paper for Brookings' series on the future of civilian robotics, University of Washington Law Professor Ryan Calo argues the need for a Federal Robotics Commission. With advancements such as driverless cars and drones taking to the roads and skies, Calo sees a need for a government agency to monitor these changes. His paper details many benefits a robotics commission could bring, from funding to assisting in law and policy issues. The policies developed by this FRC are argued to be particularly important, as their impact in creating an early infrastructure for robotics could create an environment that lets the technology grow even more.

Micron Releases 16nm-Process SSDs With Dynamic Flash Programming

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the march-of-progress dept.

Data Storage 66

Lucas123 writes: Micron's newest client flash drive line, the M600, uses its first 16nm process technology and dynamic write acceleration firmware that allows the flash to be programmed as SLC or MLC instead of using overprovisioning or reserving a permanent pool of flash cache to accelerate writes. The ability to dynamically program the flash reduces power use and improves write performance as much as 2.8 times over models without the feature, according to Jon Tanguy, Micron's senior technical marketing engineer. The new lithography process technology also allowed Micron to reduce the price of the flash drive to 45 cents a gigabyte.

Developing the First Law of Robotics

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the thou-shalt-not-kill-all-humans dept.

Robotics 165

wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.

MIT's Cheetah Robot Runs Untethered

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the because-skynet-totally-needs-cheetahs-too dept.

Robotics 90

An anonymous reader writes: It's easy to make a robot walk, but hard to keep it from falling over. We've seen a number of crazy robot prototypes, but they're usually tethered and/or stuck on a treadmill. Now, researchers from MIT have developed an algorithm that allows their giant robot cheetah to run around outdoors at up to 10mph. They expect the robot to eventually hit speeds of 30mph. "The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot's legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed: In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward. ... Kim says that by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as bounding across a grassy field." The MIT cheetah-bot also runs on a custom electric motor, which makes it significantly quieter than gas-powered robots. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground."

SparkFun Works to Build the Edison Ecosystem (Video)

Roblimo posted about a week ago | from the more-tiny-electronics-for-makers-and-builders-to-make-and-build-with dept.

Intel 75

Edison is an Intel creation aimed squarely at the maker and prototype markets. It's smaller than an Arduino, has built-in wi-fi, and is designed to be used in embedded applications. SparkFun is "an online retail store that sells the bits and pieces to make your electronics projects possible." They're partnering with Intel to sell the Edison and all kinds of add-ons for it. Open source? Sure. Right down to the schematics. David Stillman, star of today's video, works for SparkFun. He talks about "a gajillion" things you can do with an Edison, up to and including the creation of an image-recognition system for your next homemade drone. (Alternate Video Link)

New Data Center Protects Against Solar Storm and Nuclear EMPs

samzenpus posted about a week ago | from the playing-it-safe dept.

Cloud 59

dcblogs writes "In Boyers, Pa., a recently opened 2,000-sq.-ft. data center has been purpose-built to protect against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), either generated by a solar storm or a nuclear event. The company that built the facility isn't disclosing exactly how the data center was constructed or what materials were used. But broadly, it did say that the structure has an inner skin and an outer skin that use a combination of thicknesses and metals to provide EMP protection. Betting against an EMP event is a gamble. In 1859, the so-called Carrington solar storm lit the night skies and disrupted the only telegraph communications. William Murtagh, program coordinator at U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said there is ongoing concern that the earth may see an solar storm that could impact electronics on the ground. "We're concerned that can happen," A 2012 solar storm, that missed the earth, "was very powerful, and some have suggested it would have been on par with a Carrington-level event." One researcher put the odds of a catastrophic solar storm by 2020 as one in eight.

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