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Slashdot Asks: Do You Want a Smart Watch?

timothy posted about a month ago | from the does-it-shoot-deadly-darts? dept.

Hardware 381

Watches that do more than tell the time have been around for a long time. (And in fiction, James Bond, Dick Tracey, and Michael Knight all had notably high-tech watches.) The new smart watches from Samsung and LG, without a phone connected via Bluetooth as backhaul, can still serve to show the time and to serve as alarms (and Samsung's can measure your pulse, too), but all the magic features (like searching by voice via the watch) do require a connection. They can't play MP3s or take pictures on their own, and they don't have built-in GPS. Even so, compared to the polarizing Google Glass, the new breed of smart watches are wearables that probably are an easier sell, even if this far the trend has been to replace watches with smart phones. (Android Wear has gotten a lot of attention, but Microsoft has their own upcoming, and Apple almost certainly does, too.) Are you interested in a smart watch, and if so, what uses do you want it for? If they have no appeal to you now, are there functions that would make you change your mind on that front?

Take a Picture Just By Thinking About It, Using Google Glass With MindRDR App

timothy posted about a month ago | from the what's-on-your-mind-and-your-ears dept.

Input Devices 41

rtoz (2530056) writes A London based company, This Place, is launching a new app "MindRDR" for providing one more way for controlling Google Glass. It will allow the users to control the Google Glass with their thoughts. This MindRDR application bridges the Neurosky EEG biosensor and Google Glass. It allows users to take photos and share them on Twitter and Facebook by simply using brainwaves alone. This Place has put the code of this app on GitHub for others to use it and expand on it.

Sand-Based Anode Triples Lithium-Ion Battery Performance

timothy posted about a month ago | from the but-where-will-it-comes-from? dept.

Power 60

Zothecula (1870348) writes "Conventional lithium-ion batteries rely on anodes made of graphite, but it is widely believed that the performance of this material has reached its zenith, prompting researchers to look at possible replacements. Much of the focus has been on nanoscale silicon, but it remains difficult to produce in large quantities and usually degrades quickly. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have overcome these problems by developing a lithium-ion battery anode using sand."

Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment?

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the won't-fit-in-my-phone dept.

Music 502

MojoKid (1002251) writes "Back in the day (which is a scientific measurement for anyone who used to walk to school during snowstorms, uphill, both ways), integrated audio solutions had trouble earning respect. Many enthusiasts considered a sound card an essential piece to the PC building puzzle. It's been 25 years since the first Sound Blaster card was introduced, a pretty remarkable feat considering the diminished reliance on discrete audio in PCs, in general. These days, the Sound Blaster ZxR is Creative's flagship audio solution for PC power users. It boasts a signal-to-noise (SNR) of 124dB that Creative claims is 89.1 times better than your motherboard's integrated audio solution. It also features a built-in headphone amplifier, beamforming microphone, a multi-core Sound Core3D audio processor, and various proprietary audio technologies. While gaming there is no significant performance impact or benefit when going from onboard audio to the Sound Blaster ZxR. However, the Sound Blaster ZxR produced higher-quality in-game sound effects and it also produces noticeably superior audio in music and movies, provided your speakers can keep up."

Apple Gets Its First Batch of iPhone Chips From TSMC

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the pronounced-just-like-it-looks dept.

Businesses 45

redletterdave (2493036) notes that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) has shipped its first batch of microprocessors to Apple as the iPhone maker looks to diversify its overseas suppliers. Apple will continue to rely on Samsung for its microprocessors, but as the rivalry between Apple and Samsung heats up in the mobile and soon wearable arenas, the deal with TSMC allows Apple to be less reliant on Samsung and therefore have more leverage with respect to price negotiations for future chips, as TSMC has supplanted Samsung Electronics as Apple's chief chipmaker for iPhones and iPads. Since 2011, Apple has been striking deals with other display and chip makers around Asia to reduce its dependence on Samsung. As a result of this slowdown in sales, Samsung on Monday announced operating income for its fiscal second quarter had sunk to a two-year low, blaming 'weak' sales of low- and medium-end smartphones, strong competition and subpar demand.
It may not be a household name like Intel or AMD, but TSMC is the world's biggest chip maker by revenue.

Hacking a Tesla Model S Could Net $10,000 Prize

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the usb-port-under-the-gas-cap dept.

Transportation 77

cartechboy (2660665) writes "It seems there's a new hack challenge set every week, but this time, it seems different. A challenge has been thrown down to hack a Tesla Model S with a $10,000 prize. The organizers of a computer security conference have set the challenge and it's open to anyone that registers for the Syscan conference. Taking place in Beijing from July 16-17, the rules for the hack competition haven't been revealed yet but a Model S will be on display for hackers to try their luck on. It's important to note that Tesla itself isn't involved in the competition in any official capacity, nor does it support the competition. If successful, this wouldn't be the first time a Tesla Model S has been hacked. In that instance Tesla was quick to warn people that making changes in the Model S' software would immediately void the car's warranty. Given the car's high-tech nature, it's no shock Tesla's taking security seriously. With $10,000 on the line, it'll be interesting to see if anyone manages to crack the code."

IBM To Invest $3 Billion For Semiconductor Research

samzenpus posted about a month and a half ago | from the big-bucks dept.

IBM 68

Taco Cowboy points out that many news outlets are reporting that IBM plans to spend $3 billion on semiconductor research and development in the next five years. The first goal is to build chips whose electronic components, called transistors, have features measuring just 7 nanometers, the company announced Wednesday. For comparison, that distance is about a thousandth the width of a human hair, a tenth the width of a virus particle, or the width of 16 potassium atoms side by side. The second goal is to choose among a range of more radical departures from today's silicon chip technology -- a monumental engineering challenge necessary to sustain progress in the computing industry. Among the options are carbon nanotubes and graphene; silicon photonics; quantum computing; brainlike architectures; and silicon substitutes that could run faster even if components aren't smaller. "In the next 10 years, we believe there will be fundamentally new systems that are much more efficient at solving problems or solving problems that are unsolvable today," T.C. Chen, IBM Research's vice president of science and technology, told CNET

Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

samzenpus posted about a month and a half ago | from the what-should-I-get? dept.

Programming 183

An anonymous reader writes "I'm a Solaris user which is not well supported by the OSS toolchains. I'd like to have a dedicated Linux based dev system which has good support for ARM, MSP430 and other MCU lines and draws very little (5-10 watts max) power. The Beaglebone Black has been suggested. Is there a better choice? This would only be used for software development and testing for embedded systems."

Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the pump-all-of-our-smog-into-the-sun dept.

Earth 389

mdsolar sends this story from the NY Times: Here's what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change. Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. ... Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal's footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply. This course, created by a team of energy experts, was unveiled on Tuesday in a report for the United Nations (PDF) that explores the technological paths available for the world's 15 main economies to both maintain reasonable rates of growth and cut their carbon emissions enough by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc. It offers a sobering conclusion: We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change.

How Japan Lost Track of 640kg of Plutonium

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the left-it-in-my-other-pants dept.

Japan 104

Lasrick sends this quote from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Most people would agree that keeping track of dangerous material is generally a good idea. So it may come as a surprise to some that the arrangements that are supposed to account for weapon-grade fissile materials—plutonium and highly enriched uranium—are sketchy at best. The most recent example involves several hundreds kilograms of plutonium that appear to have fallen through the cracks in various reporting arrangements. ... [A Japanese researcher discovered] that the public record of Japan’s plutonium holdings failed to account for about 640 kilograms of the material. The error made its way to the annual plutonium management report that Japan voluntarily submits to the International Atomic Energy Agency ... This episode may have been a simple clerical error, but it was yet another reminder of the troubling fact that we know very little about the amounts of fissile material that are circulating around the globe. The only reason the discrepancy was discovered in this case was the fact that Japan has been unusually transparent about its plutonium stocks. ... No other country does this.

BlackBerry's Innovation: Square-Screened Smartphones

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the bet-you-didn't-know-you-needed-that dept.

Blackberry 139

EthanV2 sends word that BlackBerry, having finally caught up to a world dominated by smartphones, is now trying to push the envelope by developing a smartphone with a square screen. The BlackBerry Passport has a 4.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1440x1440. The phone has a physical keyboard as well. In a blog post about the new phone, they show a picture with it side-by-side with an iPhone and a Galaxy S5 — the Passport is slightly taller than the iPhone, and significantly wider, as you'd expect. The Passport is a play for BlackBerry's "traditional" work-oriented user base, where the earlier BlackBerry Z10 and Z30 were efforts to break into the post-iPhone consumer smartphone space. Though the Passport may well be preferable for spreadsheets and word processing, that square screen will be much less useful for widescreen movies, and its wide, blocky design will entirely prohibit one-handed use. The Passport is expected to appear later this year, and it will launch with BlackBerry 10.3 (at least, according to early hands-on previews).

All Web Developers Should Have Access to a Device Lab (Video)

Roblimo posted about a month and a half ago | from the still-working-on-making-website-standards-after-all-these-years dept.

Displays 60

This interview with Googler Pete LePage took place at Google I/O 2014, where Pete and coworker Matt Gaunt set up a Device Lab with 46 different devices on their display wall. The point wasn't to show off Google's coolness as much as it was to let developers see how their websites displayed on as wide a range of mobile devices as possible. This is reminiscent of the last century's Any Browser campaign, which was set up to encourage developers to make sites that worked right in any browser instead of having a WWW full of sites "best viewed in Exploroscape" that displayed poorly in other browsers.

Today, the trick is to make a site that is fully functional across a wide range of devices with different size screens that a user might decide to view in landscape mode one day and portrait mode the next. Google is happy to share their MiniMobileDeviceLab with you to help set up multi-unit displays. Pete also suggests checking out PageSpeed Insights and Web Fundamentals even if you're a skilled and experienced Web designer, because those two Google sites are chock full of information on how to make sure your site works right on most devices and in most popular browsers. (Alternate Video Link)

Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the human-workers-sent-to-protein-bank dept.

Robotics 530

redletterdave (2493036) writes The largest private employer in all of China and one of the biggest supply chain manufacturers in the world, Foxconn announced it will soon start using robots to help assemble devices at its several sprawling factories across China. Apple, one of Foxconn's biggest partners to help assemble its iPhones, iPads, will be the first company to use the new service. Foxconn said its new "Foxbots" will cost roughly $20,000 to $25,000 to make, but individually be able to build an average of 30,000 devices. According to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, the company will deploy 10,000 robots to its factories before expanding the rollout any further. He said the robots are currently in their "final testing phase."

Intelligent Thimble Could Replace the Mouse In 3D Virtual Reality Worlds

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the ring-of-wizardy dept.

Input Devices 65

New submitter anguyen8 (3736553) writes with news of an interesting experimental spatial input device. From the article: "The mouse is a hugely useful device but it is also a two-dimensional one. But what of the three-dimensional world and the long-standing, but growing, promise of virtual reality. What kind of device will take the place of the mouse when we begin to interact in three-dimensions? Anh Nguyen and Amy Banic ... have created an intelligent thimble that can sense its position accurately in three-dimensions and respond to a set of pre-programmed gestures that allow the user to interact with objects in a virtual three-dimensional world. ... The result is the 3DTouch, a thimble-like device that sits on the end of a finger, equipped with a 3D accelerometer, a 3D magnetometer, and 3D gyroscope. That allows the data from each sensor to be compared and combined to produce a far more precise estimate of orientation than a single measurement alone. In addition, the 3DTouch has an optical flow sensor that measures the movement of the device against a two-dimensional surface, exactly like that inside an ordinary mouse." The prototype is wired up to an Arduino Uno, with a program on the host machine polling the device and converting the data into input events. A video of it in action is below the fold, a pre-print of the research paper is on arxiv, and a series of weblog entries explain some of the development.

TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes

samzenpus posted about a month and a half ago | from the keeping-something-safe dept.

Transportation 702

Trachman writes The US Transport Security Administration revealed on Sunday that enhanced security procedures on flights coming to the US now include not allowing uncharged cell phones and other devices onto planes. “During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted on board the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening,” TSA said in a statement.

Study: Global Warming Solvable If Fossil Fuel Subsidies Given To Clean Energy

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the we're-doomed dept.

Earth 385

An anonymous reader writes A research team at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, says it has studied how much it would cost for governments to stick to their worldwide global warming goal. They've concluded that for "a 70 per cent chance of keeping below 2 degrees Celsius, the investment will have to rise to $1.2 trillion a year." Where to get that money? The researchers say that "global investment in energy is already $1 trillion a year and rising" with more than half going to fossil fuel energy. If those subsidies were spent on renewable energy instead, the researchers hypothesize that "global warming would be close to being solved."

Are Tethers the Answer To the Safety Issues of Follow-Me Drone Technology?

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the drone-kept-trying-to-escape dept.

Robotics 88

Hallie Siegel (2973169) writes Camera-equipped follow-me drone technology is hitting the scene in spades, promising extreme sports enthusiasts and others amazing aerial shots. Imagine, your own dynamic tripod that follows you on command. But what about the safety issue of having follow-me drones crowding the ski slopes? The tethered Fotokite addresses these concerns while sidestepping FAA regulations.

New Single Board Computer Lets You Swap Out the CPU and Memory

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the until-the-pinout-changes dept.

Hardware Hacking 122

ganjadude (952775) writes "I stumbled upon this little scoop and thought the Slashdot crowd would be interested in. The new kid on the block, known as the HummingBoard can handle faster processors, more RAM and will fit the same cases for the Pi. Also, you can expand the memory and the CPU is replaceable! The low end model starts at $45 and the high end costs $100. So tell me guys, what are you going to do with yours?" $45 model is a single core iMX6 (an ARMv7) with 512M of RAM, the $100 model has a dual core i.MX6 with 1G of RAM. Full specs.

By 2045 'The Top Species Will No Longer Be Humans,' and That Could Be a Problem

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the kill-all-humans dept.

Robotics 564

schwit1 (797399) writes Louis Del Monte estimates that machine intelligence will exceed the world's combined human intelligence by 2045. ... "By the end of this century most of the human race will have become cyborgs. The allure will be immortality. Machines will make breakthroughs in medical technology, most of the human race will have more leisure time, and we'll think we've never had it better. The concern I'm raising is that the machines will view us as an unpredictable and dangerous species." Machines will become self-conscious and have the capabilities to protect themselves. They "might view us the same way we view harmful insects." Humans are a species that "is unstable, creates wars, has weapons to wipe out the world twice over, and makes computer viruses." Hardly an appealing roommate."

3D Printed PiGRRL - Raspberry Pi Gameboy

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the need-bigger-pockets dept.

Hardware Hacking 49

coop0030 (263345) writes "Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the classic gaming device, Game Boy, by building your own with 3d printing and DIY electronics. This project uses a Raspberry Pi and TFT touch screen to make an epic DIY Game Girl. The 3d printed enclosure houses all of the components and can be printed in your favorite color. It's controlled with SNES gaming controller components, reusing the printed circuit board, buttons and elastomers. The 3D files can be found on Thingiverse, and a video of the finished product is provided as well."

In Düsseldorf, A Robot Valet Will Park Your Car

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the stephen-king-is-taking-notes dept.

Robotics 120

stephendavion (2872091) writes In Germany, high tech has come to airport parking. Last week, Düsseldorf airport (DUS) introduced robot valets to take the hassle out of parking for travelers. Travelers can leave their cars at the arrival level of the ParkingPLUS structure. As they leave, they confirm on a touch-screen that no one is in the car. The robot valet, nicknamed "Ray," takes it from there. The robot measures the vehicle, picks it up with a forklift-like system, and takes it to the back area, where it will position it in one of the 249 parking spots reserved for automated valets. The machine is capable of carrying standard cars weighing up to 3.31 tons.

Hacking Internet Connected Light Bulbs

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the not-a-bright-idea dept.

Security 63

An anonymous reader writes We've been calling it for years — connect everything in your house to the internet, and people will find a way to attack it. This post provides a technical walkthrough of how internet-connected lighting systems are vulnerable to outside attacks. Quoting: "With the Contiki installed Raven network interface we were in a position to monitor and inject network traffic into the LIFX mesh network. The protocol observed appeared to be, in the most part, unencrypted. This allowed us to easily dissect the protocol, craft messages to control the light bulbs and replay arbitrary packet payloads. ... Monitoring packets captured from the mesh network whilst adding new bulbs, we were able to identify the specific packets in which the WiFi network credentials were shared among the bulbs. The on-boarding process consists of the master bulb broadcasting for new bulbs on the network. A new bulb responds to the master and then requests the WiFi details to be transferred. The master bulb then broadcasts the WiFi details, encrypted, across the mesh network. The new bulb is then added to the list of available bulbs in the LIFX smart phone application."

Researchers Create Walking, Muscle-Powered Biobots

samzenpus posted about a month and a half ago | from the franken-bot dept.

Biotech 33

Zothecula writes If you're going to deploy robots in biological settings – for example, inside the body – it makes a lot of sense to build those robots out of actual biological body parts. Muscle, for example, is a very effective, biodegradable replacement for an electric actuator that can run in a nutrient-rich fluid without the need for any other power source. Bio-robotics experts in Illinois have demonstrated a bio-bot built from 3-D printed hydrogel and spinal muscle tissue that can "walk" in response to an electrical signal. Their next step will be trying to incorporate neurons that can get the bot walking in different directions when faced with different stimuli.

Site of 1976 "Atomic Man" Accident To Be Cleaned

samzenpus posted about a month and a half ago | from the power-up dept.

Power 299

mdsolar writes with news about the cleanup of the site that exposed Harold McCluskey to the highest dose of radiation from americium ever recorded. Workers are finally preparing to enter one of the most dangerous rooms in the world — the site of a 1976 blast in the United States that exposed a technician to a massive dose of radiation and led to his nickname: the "Atomic Man." Harold McCluskey, then 64, was working in the room at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation when a chemical reaction caused a glass glove box to explode. He was exposed to the highest dose of radiation from the chemical element americium ever recorded — 500 times the occupational standard. Hanford, located in central Washington state, made plutonium for nuclear weapons for decades. The room was used to recover radioactive americium, a byproduct of plutonium. Covered with blood, McCluskey was dragged from the room and put into an ambulance headed for the decontamination center. Because he was too hot to handle, he was removed by remote control and transported to a steel-and-concrete isolation tank. During the next five months, doctors laboriously extracted tiny bits of glass and razor-sharp pieces of metal embedded in his skin. Nurses scrubbed him down three times a day and shaved every inch of his body every day. The radioactive bathwater and thousands of towels became nuclear waste.

ARM Launches Juno Reference Platform For 64-bit Android Developers

samzenpus posted about a month and a half ago | from the check-it-out dept.

Android 69

MojoKid writes One of the trickiest aspects to launching a new platform update is the chicken and egg problem. Without any hardware to test on, developers are leery of committing to supporting new hardware features. Without software that takes advantage of new hardware capabilities, customers aren't willing to pay for new equipment. This is the crux of the issue with respect to the ARMv8 architecture and enabling development for 64-bit Android platforms. As such ARM is readying their Juno development platform that combines several of ARM's most advanced technologies on a single board. The product supports big.Little in an asymmetric configuration; each board ships with two Cortex-A57s, four Cortex-A53s, and a modest Mali T-624 core. All this hardware needs an OS to run on — which is why ARM is announcing a 64-bit port of Android as part of this new development board. By including AOSP support as well as additional hooks and features from Linaro, ARM wants Juno to be a sort-of one-stop shopping product for anyone who needs to test, prototype, or design a 64-bit product for the ARM ecosystem. The Android flavor that's coming over is based on Linaro Stable Kernel 3.10. At launch, Juno will support OpenGL-ES 3.0, on-chip thermal and power management, up to 8GB of RAM (12.8GB/s of bandwidth), an optional FPGA, and USB 2.0. OpenCL 1.1 will be added in a future product update. The project is positioned as a joint ARM / Linaro launch with ARM handling the hardware and Linaro taking responsibility for the software stack.

Renewable Energy Saves Fortune 100 Companies $1.1B Annually

Soulskill posted about 1 month ago | from the powered-by-hamsters dept.

Power 116

Lucas123 writes: A new report authored by several environmental groups say data shows more than half of Fortune 100 companies collectively saved more than $1.1B annually by reducing carbon emissions and rolling out renewable energy projects. According to the report, 43% of Fortune 500 companies, or 215 in all, have also set targets in one of three categories: greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency and renewable energy. When narrowed to just the Fortune 100, 60% of the companies have set the same clean energy goals. Some of the companies leading the industry in annual clean energy savings include UPS ($200M), Cisco ($151M), PepsiCo ($121M) and United Continental ($104M).

Disappointed Woz Sells His "Worthless" Galaxy Gear Watch

timothy posted about 1 month ago | from the get-that-man-a-tricorder dept.

Handhelds 242

curtwoodward (2147628) writes Apple co-founder and legendary nerd Steve Wozniak is a huge gadget enthusiast, often appearing in lines with mere mortals to purchase new Apple products. So you can bet he's tried out most of the smartwatches on the market today. The worst one? By far, the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which The Woz says he sold on eBay after half a day's use. "It was so worthless and did so little that was convenient," Wozniak said at an appearance in Milwaukee. "You had to hold it up to your ear and stuff." So maybe the watch sucked, but just imagine being the one who bought Woz's used Gear---do you think they know?

Improv Project, Vivaldi Tablet Officially Dead

timothy posted about 1 month ago | from the sad-news dept.

Handhelds 71

sfcrazy (1542989) writes "It's a sad day for free software as one of the most ambitious free software projects, Improv, is officially dead. Along with the board also dies the promising Vivaldi tablet [video intro]. The developers have sent out emails to the backers of the project that they are pulling plugs on these. The end of the Improv project also means a disappointing end to the KDE Tablet project, as Aaron Seigo was funding both projects out of his own pocket (almost exactly $200,000 spent)."

Samsung Release First SSD With 3D NAND

timothy posted about 1 month ago | from the turning-up-the-volume dept.

Data Storage 85

Vigile (99919) writes "As SSD controllers continue to evolve, so does the world of flash memory. With the release of the Samsung 850 Pro SSD announced today, Samsung is the first company to introduce 3D NAND technology to the consumer. By using 30nm process technology that might seem dated in some applications, Samsung has been reliably able to stack lithography and essentially "tunnel holes" in the silicon while coating the inside with the material necessary to hold a charge. The VNAND being used with the Samsung 850 Pro is now 32 layers deep, and though it lowers the total capacity per die, it allows Samsung to lower manufacturer costs with more usable die per wafer. This results in more sustainable and reliable performance as well as a longer life span, allowing Samsung to offer a 10 year warranty on the new drives. PC Perspective has a full review with performance results and usage over time that shows Samsung's innovation is leading the pack."

Boston Trying Out Solar-Powered "Smart Benches" In Parks

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the hot-seat dept.

Power 119

An anonymous reader writes Through a partnership with a MIT Media Lab spinoff, Changing Environments, Boston has announced that it will install solar-powered benches in several of its parks that allow you to charge your cell phone. The bench has a USB outlet, and also collects and shares a wide range of data, including location-based information, as well as air quality and noise-levels. "Your cell phone doesn't just make phone calls, why should our benches just be seats?" said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "We are fortunate to have talented entrepreneurs and makers in Boston thinking creatively about sustainability and the next generation of amenities for our residents."

Ars Takes an Early Look At the Privacy-Centric Blackphone

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the all-voice-calls-should-be-encrypted dept.

Cellphones 67

Ars Technica has spent some time with pre-production (but very nearly final) samples of the Blackphone, from Geeksphone and Silent Circle. They give it generally high marks; the hardware is mostly solid but not cutting edge, but the software it comes with distinguishes it from run-of-the-mill Android phones. Though it's based on Android, the PrivOS system in these phone offers fine grained permissions, and other software included with the phone makes it more secure both if someone has physical access to the phone (by encrypting files, among other things) and if communications between this phone and another are being eavesdropped on. A small taste: At first start up, Blackphone’s configuration wizard walks through getting the phone configured and secured. After picking a language and setting a password or PIN to unlock the phone itself, the wizard presents the option of encrypting the phone’s stored data with another password. If you decline to encrypt the phone’s mini-SD storage during setup, you’ll get the opportunity later (and in the release candidate version of the PrivOS we used, the phone continued to remind me about that opportunity each time I logged into it until I did). PrivOS’ main innovation is its Security Center, an interface that allows the user to explicitly control just what bits of hardware functionality and data each application on the phone has access to. It even provides control over the system-level applications—you can, if you wish for some reason, turn off the Camera app’s access to the camera hardware and turn off the Browser app’s access to networks.

Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the answer-is-blowin'-in dept.

Power 441

mdsolar (1045926) writes "Researchers have carried out an environmental lifecycle assessment of 2-megawatt wind turbines mooted for a large wind farm in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. They conclude that in terms of cumulative energy payback, or the time to produce the amount of energy required of production and installation, a wind turbine with a working life of 20 years will offer a net benefit within five to eight months of being brought online." Watts Up With That? has a more skeptical take on the calculations.

EDSAC Diagrams Rediscovered

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the thought-they-were-wrong-but-were-mistaken dept.

United Kingdom 37

mikejuk (1801200) writes Due to its importance in the history of computing, the UK's Computer Conservation Society embarked on a 4-year project to build a replica of EDSAC. The main challenge facing the team of volunteers who are working on the rebuild is the lack of documentation. There are almost no original design documents remaining so the rebuild volunteers have to scrutinize photographs to puzzle out which bits go where. However, three years into the project, a set of 19 detailed circuit diagrams have come to light and been handed to the EDSAC team by John Loker, a former engineer in the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory. "I started work as an engineer in the Maths Lab in 1959 just after EDSAC had been decommissioned. In a corridor there was a lot of stuff piled up ready to be thrown away, but amongst it I spotted a roll of circuit diagrams for EDSAC. I'm a collector, so I couldn't resist the urge to rescue them. " In the main, the documents confirm that the team has been correct in most of its re-engineering assumptions, but the drawings have thrown up a few surprises. The most significant discrepancy between the original and the reconstruction that the papers reveal is in the "initial orders" (boot ROM in modern terminology). In the absence of fuller information, the reconstruction team had considered and rejected one possibility which was in fact the one that was used by the original engineers. That will now be rectified in the reconstruction, which is due for completion in late 2015.

Overkill? LG Phone Has 2560x1440 Display, Laser Focusing

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the too-much-overkill-is-never-enough dept.

Handhelds 198

MojoKid (1002251) writes LG is probably getting a little tired of scraping for brand recognition versus big names like Samsung, Apple and Google. However, the company is also taking solace in the fact that their smartphone sales figures are heading for an all-time high in 2014, with an estimated 60 million units projected to be sold this year. LG's third iteration of their popular "G" line of flagship smartphones, simply dubbed the LG G3, is the culmination of all of the innovation the company has developed in previous devices to date, including its signature rear button layout, and a cutting-edge 5.5-inch QHD display that drives a resolution of 2560X1440 with a pixel density of 538 PPI. Not satisified with pixel overload, LG decide to equip their new smartphone with 'frickin' laser beams' to assist its 13MP camera in targeting subjects for auto-focus. The G3 performs well in the benchmarks with a Snapdragon 801 on board and no doubt its camera takes some great shots quickly and easily. However, it's questionable how much of that super high res 2560 display you can make use of on a 5.5-inch device.

On the Significance of Google's New Cardboard: An Idea Worth Recycling

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the off-the-shelf dept.

Cellphones 42

Last week at Google I/O, the company introduced Cardboard, its cheap-and-cheerful (it's made of cardboard, after all) approach to nearly instant VR viewing. It's no Oculus Rift — lacking the Rift's connection to a powerful backend PC, it can't do the same heavy lifting. In fact, it looks sort of like a prank, and the announcement at I/O that everyone at the conference would be getting "a piece of cardboard" drew a lot of chuckles. Gigaom argues that it's nonetheless extremely valuable, because it makes immersive viewing easy and cheap for anyone with a fairly capable smartphone — a pretty satisfying experience in itself, and a good taste of what even higher-end viewers can bring. "In addition to the Cardboard app," writes an anonymous reader, "Google has pushed out an updated version of Google Maps which includes a VR mode for Street View." And if you weren't blessed with an I/O pass, and aren't sure about your skills cutting one out of a pizza box, note that you can buy a kit for about $25, including the RF tag that will tell a phone to fire up the Cardboard app. (The linked article says an aluminum version is in the works from at least one company; I'd like to see one in corrugated plastic — strong but light — and with connection points for a headstrap.) If you've made something similar (or would like to), what would you improve in the design or feature set? (Look soon for a video introduction to Cardboard with Google VP Clay Bavor, too.)

How Apple Can Take Its Headphones To the Next Level

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the if-only-earbuds-would-stick-in-my-ears dept.

Music 196

redletterdave (2493036) writes "Apple is one of the biggest headphone makers in the world thanks to those signature white earbuds that have shipped with every iPod, iPhone, and iPad since 2001. But even two years after earbuds became 'EarPods,' the design could still be improved — and competitors are taking notice. Amazon recently unveiled a new pair of in-ear headphones that are magnetic, tangle-free and $5 cheaper than Apple's $30 EarPods, while smaller startups are promoting their own wireless and customizable 3D-printed earbuds. But Apple has an ace up its sleeve, in the form of patents for a set of headphones with 'one or more integrated physiological sensors' designed to help users keep track of their body stats."

Tom's Hardware: Microsoft Smartband Coming In October With 11 Sensors

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the easier-sell-than-new-headgear dept.

Microsoft 70

New submitter TuxHiggs (2691251) writes "Last month, Forbes wrote that Microsoft was preparing a cross-platform smartwatch with the ability to continuously track your heart rate and sync the data to your devices. A trusted source with knowledge of the development has verified some of that information and provided Tom's Hardware with additional details about the device. The source confirmed previous rumors that the device is cross-platform compatible, and added there would be open APIs as well. The source also confirmed that the display is on the inside of the wrist as opposed to the outside. Design-wise, Microsoft has gone with a slim band design that is said to resemble a thinner, flatter version of the Nike Fuelband. While details about the hardware are scant, the source did reveal that there are 11 sensors under the hood and a mix of chips, including some from TI and Atmel. Finally, the release for this device is apparently set for October."

2600 Distributor Withholds Money, Magazine's Future In Limbo

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the wish-I-could-make-this-year's-hope dept.

Businesses 59

First time accepted submitter themusicgod1 (241799) writes According to 2600, their distributor (Previously known as "Source Interlink", now recently renamed to "TEN: The Enthusiast Network") has decided to consolidate its resources and is keeping the money retailers paid for the last two issues of the quarterly magazine. 2600, in the meanwhile, is still busy trying to organize the upcoming HOPE X conference. However, according to the link: "In the worst case scenario, being ripped off at this level would make it almost impossible for us to continue publishing. We would have to make a lot of painful choices and cut back on things for no reason other than some outside company's mismanagement. Our readers have supported both our print and digital publications and we've been doing quite well overall." Note: As it says at the linked explanation, 2600 is not a charity, and they're not seeking donations -- but they would like you to buy the magazine (in print or Kindle form), and to attend the upcoming HOPE X conference. (I wish I could make this year's HOPE but can't; as conferences go, HOPE is a wildly good bargain.)

The Military Is About To Get New Augmented Reality Spy Glasses

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.

The Military 58

schwit1 writes in with this story about some interesting new eyewear purchased by the Defense Department. Getting secret information to specific people, like the location of the nearest nuclear power plant, in a way that doesn't draw attention from outside is a classic spy problem. Another one is giving agents the ability to match names to faces in the real world, at blackjack tables and fancy soirees and other places spies frequent. The Defense Department is buying some new spy specs to give spooks in the field an intelligence edge over everybody else. The glasses, called simply the X6, are from San Francisco-based Osterhout Design Group. They look like the lovechild of Google Glass and the Oculus Rift, providing more information to the wearer than the small window on Google's much-maligned headset but not obstructing vision like the Oculus Rift. (Admittedly, for spy glasses, they lack a certain subtlety.)

New Chemical Process Could Make Ammonia a Practical Car Fuel

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 months ago | from the plant-engine-hybrid dept.

Transportation 380

overThruster (58843) writes A phys.org article says UK researchers have made a breakthrough that could make ammonia a practical source of hydrogen for fueling cars. From the article: "Many catalysts can effectively crack ammonia to release the hydrogen, but the best ones are very expensive precious metals. This new method is different and involves two simultaneous chemical processes rather than using a catalyst, and can achieve the same result at a fraction of the cost. ... Professor Bill David, who led the STFC research team at the ISIS Neutron Source, said 'Our approach is as effective as the best current catalysts but the active material, sodium amide, costs pennies to produce. We can produce hydrogen from ammonia "on demand" effectively and affordably.'" The full paper. The researchers claim that a two-liter reaction chamber could produce enough hydrogen to power a typical sedan.

Ask Slashdot: Is It Feasible To Revive an Old Linux PC Setup?

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 months ago | from the when-real-hackers-used-fvwm dept.

Hardware 176

Qbertino (265505) writes I've been rummaging around on old backups and cleaning out my stuff and have once again run into my expert-like paranoid backups and keepsakes from back in the days (2001). I've got, among other things, a full set of Debian 3 CDs, an original StarOffice 6.0 CD including a huge manual in mint condition, Corel Draw 9 for Linux, the original box & CDs — yes it ran on a custom wine setup, but it ran well, I did professional design and print work with it.

I've got more of other stuff lying around, including the manuals to run it. Loki Softs Tribes 2, Kohan, Rune, and the original Unreal Tournament for Linux have me itching too. :-)

I was wondering if it would be possible to do an old 2001ish setup of a Linux workstation on some modern super cheap, super small PC (Raspberry Pi? Mini USB PC?), install all the stuff and give it a spin. What problems should I expect? VESA and Soundblaster drivers I'd expect to work, but what's with the IDE HDD drivers? How well does vintage Linux software from 2003 play with todays cheap system-on-board MicroPCs? What's with the USB stuff? Wouldn't the install expect the IO devices hooked on legacy ports? Have you tried running 10-15 year old Linux setups on devices like these and what are your experiences? What do you recommend?

Intel Offering 3-D Printed Robot Kits

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the I-don't-think-he-knows-I've-got-a-right-to-exist dept.

Intel 26

jfruh writes Intel is developing a series of robot kits for hobbyists, ranging from "Jimmy", a $1,500 "social robot," to a more robust $16,000 model. The robots are powered by Intel x86 chips, are programmable, and can have exoskeletons parts produced at home by 3-D printers. From the article: "The two-legged Jimmy will be one in a line of robots that Intel hopes do-it-yourself enthusiasts will embrace, developing more functionality for the robots, which will be able to handle tasks such as turning on lights, picking up newspapers and even having conversations, researchers said at the Intel Future Showcase 2014 in New York City Tuesday. Intel and its robotics partners will sell kits with servo motors, batteries, boards, a frame and other internal parts. Using 3D printers, users can create robot designs and place them on the exoskeleton."

Toyota's Fuel Cell Car To Launch In Japan Next March

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the does-it-fly dept.

Transportation 216

puddingebola writes with news that Toyota will be bringing its first fuel-cell car to market in Japan next March. It's expected to cost about $68,700, and Toyota plans to bring it to the U.S. and European markets later that summer. With two of Japan’s three biggest automakers going all in on fuel cells, the country’s long-term future as an automotive powerhouse could now hinge largely on the success of what they hope will be an important technology in the next few decades. ... Japan’s governing party is pushing for ample subsidies and tax breaks for consumers to bring the cost of a fuel-cell car down to about $20,000 by 2025. The government is also aiming to create 100 hydrogen fuel stations by the end of March 2016 in urban areas where the vehicles will be sold initially. ... Hydrogen vehicles can run five times longer than battery-operated electric cars, and their tanks can be filled in just a few minutes, compared with recharging times from 30 minutes up to several hours for electric cars.

Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 months ago | from the now-imagine-if-solar-and-nuclear-worked-together dept.

Power 461

assertation (1255714) writes with this interesting tidbit from Reuters about the state of solar power in Germany: German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour — equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity — through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said. The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

Programming On a Piano Keyboard

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the well-tempered-claiverlang dept.

Input Devices 57

An anonymous reader writes: Here's a fun project: engineer Yuriy Guts built a Visual Studio extension that lets people program using MIDI instruments. You can write code letter by letter on a piano keyboard. Granted, it's not terribly efficient, but it's at least artistic — you can compose music that is also a valid computer program. Somewhat more usefully, it also allows you to turn a simple MIDI input device, like a trigger pad into a set of buttons that will run tests, push/pull code, or other tasks suitable for automation. The extension is open source and open to contributions.

Venture-Backed Bitcoin Miner Startup Can't Deliver On Time, Gets Sued

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the but-you-promised-me-free-money dept.

Bitcoin 120

mpicpp (3454017) points out this story illustrating the problem of betting on the differential between the price of deliverable bitcoin-mining hardware and the price of bitcoin itself: Yet another Bitcoin miner manufacturer, CoinTerra, now faces legal action for not fulfilling an order when it originally promised to. CoinTerra is the third Bitcoin-related startup to face litigation for breach of contract and/or fraud in recent months. The CoinTerra lawsuit was filed in late April 2014 by an Oakland, California-based man seeking to be the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit. Lautaro Cline, the suit alleges, purchased a TerraMiner IV in October 2013 for delivery by January 2014. The company promised, he claims, that this miner would operate at two terahashes per second and would consume 1,200 watts of power. It did neither. However, Cline's suit also claims that CoinTerra did not deliver the miner until February 2014, and it "operated well below the speed advertised and consumed significantly more power than CoinTerra represented, causing Plaintiff to suffer significant lost profits and opportunities."

How Vacuum Tubes, New Technology Might Save Moore's Law

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 months ago | from the tube-computers-sound-better-too dept.

Hardware 183

MojoKid (1002251) writes The transistor is one of the most profound innovations in all of human existence. First discovered in 1947, it has scaled like no advance in human history; we can pack billions of transistors into complicated processors smaller than your thumbnail. After decades of innovation, however, the transistor has faltered. Clock speeds stalled in 2005 and the 20nm process node is set to be more expensive than the 28nm node was for the first time ever. Now, researchers at NASA believe they may have discovered a way to kickstart transistors again — by using technology from the earliest days of computing: The vacuum tube. It turns out that when you shrink a Vacuum transistor to absolutely tiny dimensions, you can recover some of the benefits of a vacuum tube and dodge the negatives that characterized their usage. According to a report, vacuum transistors can draw electrons across the gate without needing a physical connection between them. Make the vacuum area small enough, and reduce the voltage sufficiently, and the field emission effect allows the transistor to fire electrons across the gap without containing enough energy to energize the helium inside the nominal "vacuum" transistor. According to researchers, they've managed to build a successful transistor operating at 460GHz — well into the so-called Terahertz Gap, which sits between microwaves and infrared energy.

World's First Large-Scale Waste-to-Biofuels Facility Opens In Canada

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 months ago | from the powered-by-beer-cans-and-pizza-boxes dept.

Canada 96

Zothecula (1870348) writes Thanks to its extensive composting and recycling facilities, the city of Edmonton, Canada is already diverting approximately 60 percent of its municipal waste from the landfill. That figure is expected to rise to 90 percent, however, once the city's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility starts converting garbage (that can't be composted or recycled) into methanol and ethanol. It's the world's first such plant to operate on an industrial scale, and Gizmag recently got a guided tour of the place.

Microsoft Wants You To Trade Your MacBook Air In For a Surface Pro 3

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the try-ours-instead dept.

Microsoft 365

mpicpp writes with news about a new Microsoft trade-in program to encourage sales of the new Surface Pro 3. Microsoft is offering a limited time Surface Pro 3 promotion via which users can get up to $650 in store credit for trading in certain Apple MacBook Air models. The new promotion, running June 20 to July 31, 2014 -- "or while supplies last" -- requires users to bring MacBook Airs into select Microsoft retail stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. (The trade-in isn't valid online.)...To get the maximum ($650) value, users have to apply the store credit toward the purchase of a Surface Pro 3, the most recent model of the company's Intel-based Surface tablets.

Microsoft's Cloud Storage Service OneDrive Now Offers 15GB For Free

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the bigger-is-better dept.

Microsoft 99

DroidJason1 writes Microsoft revealed today that they will be offering 15GB of free OneDrive storage, up from 7GB. Office 365 users will now get 1TB of storage, up from 20GB. This announcement comes after Amazon revealed unlimited photo storage for those who buy the new Fire phone. Dropbox, a competitor to OneDrive, currently has 2GB for free but offers more space if you refer people to the service. Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage, while Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB.

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