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An anonymous reader writes Michael Peck, who for five years was Diablo Canyon's lead on-site inspector, says in a 42-page, confidential report that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not applying the safety rules it set out for the plant's operation. The document, which was obtained and verified by The Associated Press, does not say the plant itself is unsafe. Instead, according to Peck's analysis, no one knows whether the facility's key equipment can withstand strong shaking from those faults — the potential for which was realized decades after the facility was built. Continuing to run the reactors, Peck writes, "challenges the presumption of nuclear safety."
An anonymous reader writes The Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress (CSPC) launched a project to bring together representatives from the Executive Branch, Congress, and the private sector to discuss how to better secure the U.S. electric grid from the threats of cyberattack, physical attack, electromagnetic pulse, and inclement weather. In this interview with Help Net Security, Dan Mahaffee, the Director of Policy at CSPC, discusses critical security challenges.
malachiorion writes Researchers are force-feeding the internet into a system called Robo Brain. The system has absorbed a billion images and 120,000 YouTube videos so far, and aims to digest 10 times that within a year, in order to create machine-readable commands for robots—how to pour coffee, for example. From the article: "The goal is as direct as the project’s name—to create a centralized, always-online brain for robots to tap into. The more Robo Brain learns from the internet, the more direct lessons it can share with connected machines. How do you turn on a toaster? Robo Brain knows, and can share 3D images of the appliance and the relevant components. It can tell a robot what a coffee mug looks like, and how to carry it by the handle without dumping the contents. It can recognize when a human is watching a television by gauging relative positions, and advise against wandering between the two. Robo Brain looks at a chair or a stool, and knows that these are things that people sit on. It’s a system that understands context, and turns complex associations into direct commands for physical robots."
mdsolar writes with good news for the National Spherical Torus Experiment. Tucked away from major roadways and nestled amid more than 80 acres of forest sits a massive warehouse-like building where inside, a device that can produce temperatures hotter than the sun has sat cold and quiet for more than two years. But the wait is almost over for the nuclear fusion reactor to get back up and running at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. "We're very excited and we're all anxious to turn that machine back on," said Adam Cohen, deputy director for operations at PPPL. The National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) has been shut down since 2012 as it underwent a $94 million upgrade that will make it what officials say will be the most powerful fusion facility of its kind in the world. It is expected to be ready for operations in late winter or early spring, Cohen said.
An anonymous reader writes: Google and Amazon are both aggressively pursuing the cloud storage market, constantly increasing available storage space and constantly dropping prices. On its face, this looks great for the consumer — competition is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, many smaller companies like Box, Dropbox, and Hightail simply aren't able to run their services at a loss like the giants can. Dropbox's Aaron Levie said, "These guys will drive prices to zero. You do not want to wait for Google or Amazon to keep cutting prices on you. 'Free' is not a business model."
The result is that the smaller companies are pivoting to win market share, relying on specific submarkets or stronger feature sets rather than available space or price. "Box is trying to cater to special data storage needs, like digital versions of X-rays for health care companies and other tasks specific to different kinds of customers. Hightail is trying to do something similar for customers like law firms. And Dropbox? It is trying to make sure that its consumer-minded service stays easier to use than what the big guys provide." It's going to be tough for them to hold out, and even tougher for new storage startups to break in. But that might be the only thing keeping us from choosing between the Wal-Mart-A and Wal-Mart-B of online storage.
The premise behind Coin is attractive: consolidate credit cards onto a single card-sized gadget. However, on Friday the company announced a delay in the release of its final version from this summer to spring of 2015, and in a way that angered many of the project's crowd-funding backers. The announcement of a delay was not only sudden, and quite close to the previously announced shipping date, but upset those who'd pre-ordered by outlining a confusing beta program that would involve an interim product release — recipients of the beta version (limited to 10,000) would have had to then pay $30 to upgrade to the final product. As CNET reports, the delay until 2015 remains, but with regard to that beta program, Coin has now reversed its stance. The beta program will be free -- meaning preorder customers who opt-in will no longer forfeit the $55 they paid and will still receive the finished Coin product next year. The program will also expand from 10,000 customers to 15,000. Regardless of whether your smartphone is running Apple's iOS or Google's Android operating system, preorder customers can opt-in to Coin's beta program through its app and will be eligible for a device if they fall within the 15,000-person threshold. The order is determined by when you bought your Coin. Coin customers, some who placed orders as far back as November 2013 when the startup first opened its website for preorders, were displeased not so much with the product delay as with the way Coin handled the situation. The company had, as recently as August 14, sent out an update explaining that a long-awaited shipping announcement would arrive at month's end --yet without an indication that it may miss its shipping target.
I am interested in a telescope for the use of some elementary and middle school aged relatives. Older and younger siblings, and parents, would no doubt get some scope time, too. Telescopes certainly come in a range of prices, from cheap to out of this world, and I am purely a duffer myself. But I enjoy looking at the moon and stars with magnification, and think they would, too. What I'm trying to find might be phrased like this: "the lowest priced scope that's reasonably robust, reasonably accurate, and reasonably usable for kids" -- meaning absolute precision is less important than a focus that is easy to set and doesn't drift. Simplicity in design beats tiny, ill-labeled parts or an incomprehensible manual, even if the complicated one might be slightly better when perfectly tuned. I'd be pleased if some of these kids decide to take up astronomy as a hobby, but don't have any strong expectation that will happen -- besides, if they really get into it, the research for a better one would be another fun project. That said, while I'm price sensitive, I'm not looking *only* at the price tag so much as seeking insight about the cluster of perceived sweet spots when it come to price / performance / personality. By "personality" I mean whether it's friendly, well documented, whether it comes intelligently packaged, whether it's a crapshoot as to whether a scope with the same model name will arrive in good shape, etc -- looking at online reviews, it seems many low-end scopes have a huge variance in reviews. What scopes would you would consider giving to an intelligent 3rd or 4th grader? As a starting point, Google has helped me find some interesting guides that list some scopes that sound reasonable, including a few under or near $100. (Here's one such set of suggestions.) What would you advise buying, from that list or otherwise? (There are some ideas that sound pretty good in this similar question from 2000, but I figure the state of the art has moved on.) I'm more interested in avoiding awful junk than I am expecting treasure: getting reasonable views of the moon is a good start, and getting at least some blurry rings around Saturn would be nice, too. Simply because they are so cheap, I'd like to know if anyone has impressions (worth it? pure junk?) of the Celestron FirstScope models, which are awfully tempting for under $50.
s122604 links to CNN's explanation of what may be the future of cold (or at least lukewarm) storage at Facebook, which is experimenting with massive arrays of Blu-Ray discs for seldom-accessed user files. Says the report: The discs are held in groups of 12 in locked cartridges and are extracted by a robotic arm whenever they're needed. One rack contains 10,000 discs, and is capable of storing a petabyte of data, or one million gigabytes. Blu-ray discs offer a number of advantages versus hard drives. For one thing, the discs are more resilient: they're water- and dust-resistant, and better able to withstand temperature swings. Their data can be restored more quickly, and they're easier to transport. Most important, though, is cost. Because the Blu-ray system doesn't need to be powered when the discs aren't in use, it uses 80% less power than the hard-drive arrangement, cutting overall costs in half.
An anonymous reader writes "The PlayStation 4 has well and truly arrived, but Sony's still selling its last-gen console by the pallet-load, eight years after first going on sale. Of course, as a new article points out, that's nothing compared to the PS2's astonishing 13 year manufacturing run. To help achieve that, the author outlines some tech fixes the PS3 could still do with, even after all this time, from tighter PS Vita integration, to yes, cross game chat. Can it make it past a decade, too?"
rtoz writes Google has just announced a new processor for Project Ara. The mobile Rockchip SoC will function as an applications processor, without requiring a bridge chip. A prototype of the phone with the Rockchip CPU, will be available early next year. Via Google+ post, Project Ara team Head Paul Eremenko says "We view this Rockchip processor as a trailblazer for our vision of a modular architecture where the processor is a node on a network with a single, universal interface -- free from also serving as the network hub for all of the mobile device's peripherals." (Project Ara is Google's effort to create an extensible, modular cellphone; last month we mentioned a custom version of Linux being developed for the project, too.)
AmiMoJo writes "New EU rules are limiting vacuum cleaner motors to 1600W from 2014/09/01. The EU summary of the new rules explains that consumers currently equate watts with cleaning power, which is not the case. Manufacturers will be required to put ratings on packaging, including energy efficiency, cleaning efficiency on hard and carpeted floors, and dust emissions from the exhaust. In the EU vacuum cleaners use more energy than the whole of Denmark, and produce more emissions than dishwashers and washing machines."
DeviceGuru writes Eltechs announced a virtual machine that runs 32-bit x86 Linux applications on ARMv7 hardware. The ExaGear VM implements a virtual x86 Linux container on ARMv7 computers and is claimed to be 4.5 times faster than QEMU, according to Eltechs. The VM is based on binary translation technology and requires ARMv7, which means it should run on mini-PCs and SBCs based on Cortex-A8, A7, A9, and A15 processors — but sadly, it won't run on the ARM11 (ARMv6) SoC found on the Raspberry Pi. It also does not support applications that require kernel modules. It currently requires Ubuntu (v12.04 or higher), but will soon support another, unnamed Linux distro, according to Eltechs, which is now accepting half price pre-orders without payment obligation.
An anonymous reader writes: I have an old phone with a battery that barely works anymore. My current phone's battery is mediocre — I can put up with it, but I've been thinking about getting a new one. My four-year-old ThinkPad holds less of a charge than I'd like, and less than it did when I bought it. In all these cases, the only thing holding me back from buying a new battery is that I'm not sure where to find a good one. Searching for my phone's battery on Amazon (or any major online retailer) yields a dozen results, all fairly cheap. But which are reliable? They all seem to have varying reviews, ranging from "Perfect official factory replacement!" to "Garbage knock-off, worse than the battery I replaced." Part numbers don't seem to help, as the knock-offs replicate those pretty well. I ask you, Slashdot: where can I find a good replacement battery?
the_newsbeagle writes: To make a brain-machine interface, you need a way to capture neurons' electric signals. The most precise and most invasive way uses implants that are stuck in the gray matter. The least precise and least invasive way uses EEG sensors stuck to the scalp. But researchers at Johns Hopkins University say there's a third way that gets the best of both worlds, which is not too invasive and fairly precise. They use ECoG systems, in which a mesh of electrodes is placed under the skull, draped over the surface of the cortex.
They're testing their systems on epilepsy patients, who have these ECoG systems inserted anyway while they're waiting for surgery (the electrodes record the source of their seizures). The researchers are capturing these patients' movement commands from their brains, and using them to control robotic limbs. Someday such a system could be used by amputees to control their prosthetic limbs.
gthuang88 writes: As the marketing hype around "big data" subsides, a recent wave of startups is solving a new class of data-related problems and showing where the field is headed. Niche analytics companies like RStudio, Vast, and FarmLink are trying to provide insights for specific industries such as finance, real estate, and agriculture. Data-wrangling software from startups like Tamr and Trifacta is targeting enterprises looking to find and prep corporate data. And heavily funded startups such as Actifio and DataGravity are trying to make data-storage systems smarter. Together, these efforts highlight where emerging data technologies might actually be used in the business world.
cartechboy writes Tesla's Superchargers are the talk of the electric car community. These charging stations can take a Model S battery pack from nearly empty to about 150 miles of range in around 30 minutes. That's crazy fast, and it's nothing short of impressive. But what does it take to actually build a Tesla Supercharger site? Apparently a lot of digging. A massive trench is created to run high-capacity electric cables before the charging stations themselves are even installed. A diagram and photos of the Electric Conduit Construction build out have surfaced on the Internet. The conduits connect the charging stations to a power distribution center, which in turn is connected to a transformer that provides the power for charging cars. It took 11 days to install the six charging stalls in Goodland, Kansas. If you thought it was a quick process to build a Supercharger station, you were clearly wrong.
ashshy writes Argonne National Lab is leading the charge on next-generation battery research. In an interview with The Motley Fool, Argonne spokesman Jeff Chamberlain explains how new lithium ion chemistries will drive down the cost of electric cars over the next few years. "The advent of lithium ion has truly enabled transportation uses," Chamberlain said. "Because if you remember your freshman chemistry, you think of the periodic table -- lithium is in the upper left-hand corner of the periodic table. Only hydrogen and helium are lighter on an atomic basis."
New submitter Randy-tanner (3791853) writes A well known New York architect & contractor has begun construction on what is possibly the largest 3D printing related project ever undertaken. He is 3D printing an entire estate, which includes an in-ground swimming pool, a pool house, and a huge 2400 square foot home. The project is expected to take two years to complete, and if all goes as planned the printer will automatically insert rebar into the concrete.
Elledan writes: Federal investigators in California have requested that BrightSource — owner of thermal solar plants — halt the construction of more (and bigger) plants until their impact on wildlife has been further investigated. "Unlike many other solar plants, the Ivanpah plant does not generate energy using photovoltaic solar panels. Instead, it has more than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door. Together, they cover 1,416 hectares. Each mirror collects and reflects solar rays, focusing and concentrating solar energy from their entire surfaces upward onto three boiler towers, each looming up to 40 stories high. The solar energy heats the water inside the towers to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes." The concentrated solar energy chars and incinerates the feathers of passing birds. BrightSource estimates about a thousand bird die this way every year, but an environmental group claims the real number is much higher.
Lasrick writes: Yale's Jason Parisi makes a compelling case for fusion power, and explains why fusion is cleaner, safer, and doesn't provide opportunities for nuclear smuggling and proliferation. The only downside will be the transition period, when there are both fission and fusion plants available and the small amount of "booster" elements (tritium and deuterium) found in fusion power could provide would-be proliferators what they need to boost the yield of fission bombs: "The period during which both fission and fusion plants coexist could be dangerous, however. Just a few grams of deuterium and tritium are needed to increase the yield of a fission bomb, in a process known as 'boosting.'" Details about current research into fusion power and an exploration of relative costs make fusion power seem like the answer to a civilization trying to get away from fossil fuels.
New submitter ErnieKey writes: Farming has been stuck in a bit of a rut, when compared to other industries. Businesses across the globe have been innovating for decades, while farming has been using techniques that have been handed down from centuries ago. The FarmBot Foundation is creating a machine, similar to that of a CNC mill and/or 3D printer, which is capable of being run by sophisticated software and equipped with any tools you can imagine, including seed injectors, plows, burners, robotic arms (for harvesting), cutters, shredders, tillers, discers, watering nozzles, sensors and more. The goal? To increase food production by automating as much of it as possible.
New submitter nrjperera (2669521) submits news of a new laptop from HP that's in Chromebook (or, a few years ago, "netbook") territory, price-wise, but loaded with Windows 8.1 instead. Microsoft has teamed up with HP to make an affordable Windows laptop to beat Google Chromebooks at their own game. German website Mobile Geeks have found some leaked information about this upcoming HP laptop dubbed Stream 14, including its specifications. According to the leaked data sheet the HP Stream 14 laptop will share similar specs to HP's cheap Chromebook. It will be shipped with an AMD A4 Micro processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of flash storage and a display with 1,366 x 768 screen resolution. Microsoft will likely offer 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage with the device to balance the limited storage option.
MojoKid (1002251) writes AMD is launching a new family of products today, but unless you follow the rumor mill closely, it's probably not something you'd expect. It's not a new CPU, APU, or GPU. Today, AMD is launching its first line of solid state drives (SSDs), targeted squarely at AMD enthusiasts. AMD is calling the new family of drives, the Radeon R7 Series SSD, similar to its popular mid-range line of graphics cards. The new Radeon R7 Series SSDs feature OCZ and Toshiba technology, but with a proprietary firmware geared towards write performance and high endurance. Open up one of AMD's new SSDs and you'll see OCZ's Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 controller on board—the same controller used in the OCZ Vector 150, though it is clocked higher in these drives. That controller is paired to A19nm Toshiba MLC (Multi-Level Cell) NAND flash memory and a DDR3-1333MHz DRAM cache. The 120GB and 240GB drives sport 512MB of cache memory, while the 480GB model will be outfitted with 1GB. Interestingly enough, AMD Radeon R7 Series SSDs are some of the all-around, highest-performing SATA SSDs tested to date. IOPS performance is among the best seen in a consumer-class SSD, write throughput and access times are highly-competitive across the board, and the drive offered consistent performance regardless of the data type being transferred. Read performance is also strong, though not quite as stand-out as write performance.
1sockchuck writes In a unique approach to data center design, the new high-performance computing center in Oregon is housed in a geodesic dome. The new facility at the Oregon Health and Science University requires no mechanical air conditioning, using outside air to racks of servers reaching densities of 25kW per cabinet. The design uses an aisle containment system to separate hot and cold air, and can recirculate server exhaust heat to adjust cold aisle temperatures in the winter. It's a very cool integration of many recent advances in data center design, combining elements of the Yahoo Chicken Coop and server silo in Quebec. The school has posted a virtual tour that provides a deep technical dive.
mdsolar writes with this story about the rising costs of keeping Europe's nuclear power plants safe and operational. Europe's aging nuclear fleet will undergo more prolonged outages over the next few years, reducing the reliability of power supply and costing plant operators many millions of dollars. Nuclear power provides about a third of the European Union's electricity generation, but the 28-nation bloc's 131 reactors are well past their prime, with an average age of 30 years. And the energy companies, already feeling the pinch from falling energy prices and weak demand, want to extend the life of their plants into the 2020s, to put off the drain of funding new builds. Closing the older nuclear plants is not an option for many EU countries, which are facing an energy capacity crunch as other types of plant are being closed or mothballed because they can't cover their operating costs, or to meet stricter environmental regulation.
mdsolar writes Physicist and energy expert Amory Lovins, chief scientist at The Rocky Mountain Institute, recently released a video in which he claims that renewable energy can meet all of our energy needs without the need for a fossil fuel or nuclear baseload generation. There's nothing unusual about that — many people have made that claim — but he also suggests that this can be done without a lot of grid-level storage. Instead, Lovins describes a "choreography" between supply and demand, using predictive computer models models to anticipate production and consumption, and intelligent routing to deliver power where it's needed. This "energy dance," combined with advances in energy efficiency, will allow us to meet all of our energy needs without sacrificing reliability.
An anonymous reader writes: Object-based audio is supposed to be the future of surround sound. The ability to pan sound around the room in 3D space as opposed to fixed channel assignments of yesterday's decoders. While this makes a lot of sense at the cinema, it's less likely consumers rush to mount speakers on their ceilings or put little speaker modules on top of their existing ones to bounce sound around the room. Leading experts think this will be just a fad like 3DTV was. What do you think?
mdsolar sends this news from the Associated Press:
Expensive delays are piling up for the companies building new nuclear power plants, raising fresh questions about whether they can control the construction costs that crippled the industry years ago. The latest announcement came this week from executives at SCANA Corp., which has been warned by its builders the startup of the first of two new reactors in South Carolina could be delayed two years or more. ... That announcement may well foreshadow more delays for a sister project in eastern Georgia, and they have caught the attention of regulators and Wall Street. 'Delays generally cause cost increases, and the question becomes who's going to bear the costs?' said C. Dukes Scott, executive director of the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, a watchdog agency that monitors SCANA Corp.'s spending.
None of this is helpful for the nuclear power industry, which had hoped its newest generation of plants in Georgia and South Carolina would prove it could build without the delays and cost overruns so endemic years ago. When construction slows down, it costs more money to employ the thousands of workers needed to build a nuclear plant. Meanwhile, interest charges add up on the money borrowed to finance construction. A single day of delay in Georgia could cost $2 million, according to an analysis by utility regulators.
An anonymous reader sends this report from Eurekalert: Scientists began gathering biological information only a few months after the disastrous 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Results of these studies are now beginning to reveal serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds. A series of articles summarizing these studies has been published in the Journal of Heredity describing impacts ranging from population declines to genetic damage (abstract 1, abstract 2, abstract 3, abstract 4). Most importantly, these studies supply a baseline for future research on the effects of ionizing radiation exposure to the environment. Common to all of the published studies is the hypothesis that chronic (low-dose) exposure to ionizing radiation results in genetic damage and increased mutation rates in reproductive and non-reproductive cells. Meanwhile, efforts to restart Japan's nuclear power program are dead in the water.
An anonymous reader writes: As our CPU cores have packed more and more transistors into increasingly tiny spaces, we've run into problems with power, heat, and diminishing returns. Chip manufacturers have been working around these problems, but at some point, we're going to run into hard physical limits that we can't sidestep. Igor Markov from the University of Michigan has published a paper in Nature (abstract) laying out the limits we'll soon have to face. "Markov focuses on two issues he sees as the largest limits: energy and communication. The power consumption issue comes from the fact that the amount of energy used by existing circuit technology does not shrink in a way that's proportional to their shrinking physical dimensions. The primary result of this issue has been that lots of effort has been put into making sure that parts of the chip get shut down when they're not in use. But at the rate this is happening, the majority of a chip will have to be kept inactive at any given time, creating what Markov terms 'dark silicon.' Power use is proportional to the chip's operating voltage, and transistors simply cannot operate below a 200 milli-Volt level. ... The energy use issue is related to communication, in that most of the physical volume of a chip, and most of its energy consumption, is spent getting different areas to communicate with each other or with the rest of the computer. Here, we really are pushing physical limits. Even if signals in the chip were moving at the speed of light, a chip running above 5GHz wouldn't be able to transmit information from one side of the chip to the other."
IBM sold its personal computer line (including the iconic ThinkPad line) to Lenovo back in 2005. Now, Lenovo is poised to acquire IBM's line of X86-based servers, and has garnered the approval of a regulatory body which could have scotched the deal. (The article describes the server line at issue as "low end," but that's in the eye of the beholder.) From the article: The conclusion of the review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, is “good news for both IBM and Lenovo, and for our customers and employees,” Armonk, New York-based IBM said yesterday in a statement. While Cfius placed some conditions on the deal, they don’t significantly affect the business, and terms of the transaction didn’t change as result, a person with knowledge of the matter said, without specifying the conditions. The sale drew scrutiny because of disputes between China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies, over cyberintrusions. By completing the deal, IBM can jettison a less profitable business to focus on growing areas, such as cloud computing and data analytics, while giving Lenovo a bigger piece of the global computing-hardware market. ... Spokesmen for IBM and Lenovo declined to comment on whether the Cfius clearance included any requirements or concessions. Holly Shulman, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, which leads Cfius, declined to comment.
An anonymous reader writes The much lauded Oculus Rift DK2 is in high demand. Shipping began at the end of July and Oculus says they've already shipped more than 20,000 of their 60,000 orders. The company recently updated their order page to indicate that new units are expected to ship starting in October. The Oculus Rift DK2 is the company's second development kit which offers a number of major improvements over the original kit, called the DK1, which was the result of a successful Kickstarter back in August, 2012. Although the DK2 is intended for developers, the company openly offers the VR headset up for sale to anyone interested for $350. The Oculus Rift DK2s most notable enhancements are a higher resolution display and positional tracking capability as well as a number of other under-the-hood enhancements make the DK2 a huge improvement over its predecessor.
Paul Fernhout writes: This explanatory compilation video by CGP Grey called "Humans Need Not Apply" on structural unemployment caused by robotics and AI (and other automation) is like the imagery playing in my mind when I think about the topic based on previous videos and charts I've seen. I saw it first on the econfuture site by Martin Ford, author of The Lights in the Tunnel. It is being discussed on Reddit, and people there have started mentioning a "basic income" as one possible response. While I like the basic income idea, I also collect other approaches in an essay called Beyond A Jobless Recovery: A heterodox perspective on 21st century economics. Beyond a basic income for the exchange economy, those possible approaches include gift economy, subsistence production, planned economy, and more — including many unpleasant alternatives like expanding prisons or fighting wars as we are currently doing.
Marshall Brain's writings like Robotic Nation and Manna have inspired my own work. I made my own video version of the concept around 2010, as a parable called "The Richest Man in the World: A parable about structural unemployment and a basic income." (I also pulled together a lot of links to robot videos in 2009.) It's great to see more informative videos on this topic. CGP Grey's video is awesome in the way he puts it all together.
jfruh writes: In September of 2012, SmartThings took to Kickstarter with the promise of delivering an "Internet of things" package to backers, including a hub device that would control various home gadgets via the user's smartphone. They aimed to raise $250,000. They got $1.2 million. And now they've been bought by Samsung for a reported $200 million, as the South Korean electronics market tries to get a foothold into this emerging market.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Harvard's Self-Organizing Systems Research Group—describe their thousand-robot swarm in a paper published today in Science (they actually built 1024 robots). In the past, researchers have only been able to program at most a couple hundred robots to work together. Now, these researchers have programmed the biggest robot swarm yet. Alone, the simple little robot can't do much, but working with 1,000 or more like-minded fellow bots, it becomes part of a swarm that can self-assemble into any two-dimensional shape. These are some of the first steps toward creating huge herds of tiny robots that form larger structures—including bigger robots."
An anonymous reader writes Ryan Lackey of CloudFlare and Marc Rogers of Lookout revealed a new OPSEC device at Def Con called PORTAL (Personal Onion Router to Assure Liberty). It "provides always-on Tor routing, as well as 'pluggable' transport for Tor that can hide the service's traffic signature from some deep packet inspection systems." In essence, PORTAL is a travel router that the user simply plugs into their existing device for more than basic Tor protection (counterpoint to PogoPlug Safeplug and Onion Pi). On the down side, you have to download PORTAL from Github and flash it "onto a TP-Link compatible packet router." The guys behind the device acknowledge that not many people may want to (or even know how to) do that, so they're asking everyone to standby because a solution is pending. The project's GitHub page has a README file that lists compatible models, with some caveats: "It is highly recommended to use a modified router. The modified MR11U and WR703N provide a better experience than the stock routers due to the additional RAM. The severe space constraints of the stock router make them very challenging to work with. Due to the lack of usable space, it is necessary to use an external disk to store the Tor packages. The stock router has only a single USB port, and the best option is to use a microSD in a 3G modem." (Note: Lackey is no stranger to helping people secure internet privacy.)
DeviceGuru (1136715) writes Skully Systems has achieved Indiegogo funding for a high-tech Android 4.4 based motorcycle helmet with a head-up display (HUD), GPS navigation, and a 180-degree rearview camera. The Skully AR-1 helmet launched on Indiegogo on Aug. 10 and quickly blasted past its $250,000 flexible funding goal and has already surpassed $900,000 in funding. The helmet runs a heavily modified version of Android 4.4, with both screen size and safety in mind, according to Skully's Tow. 'You should not think of it as being Android as seen in a phone; it doesn't run the same skin,' wrote Tow on the Skully forum page. 'You instead should think of it as a variant of Linux, not Android per se. What counts is the device drivers, graphics rendering for our turn by turn directions and vehicle telemetry, etc. More nerdy things like communication over the I2C bus to the image processing module.' Helmets are available starting at $1,399, with shipments due in May 2015.
MojoKid (1002251) writes Though solid state drives have a long way to go before they break price parity with hard drives (and may never make it, at least with the current technology), the gap continues to close. More recently, SSD manufacturers have been approaching 50 cents per GiB of storage. OCZ Storage Solutions, with the help of their parent company Toshiba's 19nm MLC NAND, just launched their ARC 100 family of drives that are priced at exactly .5 per GiB at launch and it's possible street prices will drift lower down the road. The ARC 100 features the very same OCZ Barefoot 3 M10 controller as the higher-end OCZ Vertex 460, but these new drives feature more affordable Toshiba A19nm (Advanced 19 nanometer) NAND flash memory. The ARC 100 also ships without any sort of accessory bundle, to keep costs down. Performance-wise, OCZ's new ARC 100 240GB solid state drive didn't lead the pack in any particular category, but the drive did offer consistently competitive performance throughout testing. Large sequential transfers, small file transfers at high queue depths, and low access times were the ARC 100's strong suits, as well as its low cost. These new drives are rated at 20GB/day write endurance and carry a 3-year warranty.
Lasrick writes: Although the complicity of scientists in the smuggling of radioactive materials has been a long-standing concern, smuggling-prevention efforts have so far failed to recognize a key aspect to the problem: scientists are often sought out to test the quality and level of the material well before it is taken to the black market. Egle Murauskaite of the U.S. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) describes why concentrating on this aspect of the smuggling process, long considered less egregious than the actual selling of the material, could really make a difference in keeping radioactive materials off the black market in the first place.
orasio writes: One of the most frustrating first-world problems ever (trying to connect an upside-down Micro-USB connector) could disappear soon. The Type-C connector for USB has been declared ready for production by the USB Promoter Group (PDF). "With the Type-C spec finalized, it now comes down to the USB-IF to actually implement the sockets, plugs, cables, adapters, and devices. The problem is that there are billions of existing USB devices and cables that will need adapters and new cables to work with new Type-C devices. It’s a lot like when Apple released the Lightning connector, but on an even grander scale. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that China, the EU, and the GSMA have all agreed that new mobile devices use Micro-USB for charging — though it might be as simple as including a Micro-USB-to-Type-C adapter with every new smartphone."
Joshua Lifton says you can learn to type at 225 words per minute with his Stenosaurus, an open source stenography keyboard that has a not-there-yet website with nothing but the words, "Stenography is about to evolve," on it as of this writing. If you've heard of Joshua it's probably because he's part of the team behind Crowd Supply, which claims, "Our projects raise an average of $43,600, over twice as much as Kickstarter." A brave boast, but there's plenty of brainpower behind the company. Joshua, himself. has a PhD from MIT, which according to his company bio means, "he's devoted a significant amount of his time learning how to make things that blink." But the steno machine is his own project, independent of Crowd Supply.
Stenotype machines are usually most visible when court reporters are using them. They've been around since the 1800s, when their output was holes in paper tape. Today's versions are essentially chorded keyboards that act as computer input devices. (Douglas Engelbart famously showed off a chorded keyboard during his 1968 Mother of All Demos.) Today you have The Open Steno Project, and Stenosaurus is a member. And while Joshua's project may not have an actual website quite yet, it has an active blog. And the 225 WPM claim? Totally possible. The world record for English language stenography is 360 WPM. And you thought the Dvorak Keyboard was fast. Hah! (Alternate Video Link)
Dr. Damage writes: The TSX instructions built into Intel's Haswell CPU cores haven't become widely used by everyday software just yet, but they promise to make certain types of multithreaded applications run much faster than they can today. Some of the savviest software developers are likely building TSX-enabled software right about now. Unfortunately, that work may have to come to a halt, thanks to a bug—or "errata," as Intel prefers to call them—in Haswell's TSX implementation that can cause critical software failures. To work around the problem, Intel will disable TSX via microcode in its current CPUs — and in early Broadwell processors, as well.
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes "Microsoft has been working on ways to make any regular 2D camera capture depth, meaning it could do some of the same things a Kinect does. As you can see in the video below the team managed to pull this off and we might see this tech all around in the near future. What's really impressive is that this works with many types of cameras. The research team used a smartphone as well as a regular webcam and both managed to achieve some impressive results, the cameras have to be slightly modified but that's only to permit more IR light to hit the sensor." The video is impressive, but note that so are several of the other projects that Microsoft has created for this year's SIGGRAPH, in particular one that makes first-person sports-cam footage more watchable.
MojoKid (1002251) writes Ever since Nvidia unveiled its 64-bit Project Denver CPU at CES last year, there's been discussion over what the core might be and what kind of performance it would offer. Visibly, the chip is huge, more than 2x the size of the Cortex-A15 that powers the 32-bit version of Tegra K1. Now we know a bit more about the core, and it's like nothing you'd expect. It is, however, somewhat similar to the designs we've seen in the past from the vanished CPU manufacturer Transmeta. When it designed Project Denver, Nvidia chose to step away from the out-of-order execution engine that typifies virtually all high-end ARM and x86 processors. In an OoOE design, the CPU itself is responsible for deciding which code should be executed at any given cycle. OoOE chips tend to be much faster than their in-order counterparts, but the additional silicon burns power and takes up die area. What Nvidia has developed is an in-order architecture that relies on a dynamic optimization program (running on one of the two CPUs) to calculate and optimize the most efficient way to execute code. This data is then stored inside a special 128MB buffer of main memory. The advantage of decoding and storing the most optimized execution method is that the chip doesn't have to decode the data again; it can simply grab that information from memory. Furthermore, this kind of approach may pay dividends on tablets, where users tend to use a small subset of applications. Once Denver sees you run Facebook or Candy Crush a few times, it's got the code optimized and waiting. There's no need to keep decoding it for execution over and over.
mdsolar writes EDF Energy, the British subsidiary of the French state-controlled utility, said on Monday that it was shutting down three nuclear reactors and that a reactor with a fault that has been shut down since June would remain so. The facilities, which are being investigated as a precaution, generate nearly a quarter of nuclear capacity in Britain. The British Office for Nuclear Regulation said that there had been no release of radioactive material and no injuries. Industry experts did not anticipate much effect on electricity supplies or prices in the short term. EDF said that over the next few days it would idle a second reactor at the facility, Heysham 1, in northwest England. The company said it would also shut down two other reactors of similar design at Hartlepool in northeast England to investigate whether they had the same flaws.
crookedvulture writes Intel's next-gen Broadwell processor has entered production, and we now know a lot more about what it entails. The chip is built using 14-nm process technology, enabling it to squeeze into half the power envelope and half the physical footprint of last year's Haswell processors. Even the thickness of the CPU package has been reduced to better fit inside slim tablets. There are new power-saving measures, too, including a duty cycle control mechanism that shuts down sections of the chip during some clock cycles. The onboard GPU has also been upgraded with more functional units and hardware-assisted H.265 decoding for 4K video. Intel expects the initial Broadwell variant, otherwise known as the Core M, to slip into tablets as thin as the iPad Air. We can expect to see the first systems on shelves in time for the holidays.
hcs_$reboot (1536101) writes Again, not much good news for the MS Surface. Computerworld reports a Microsoft's losses on the tablet device at $US1.7 billion so far. But, still, Microsoft is serene: "It's been exciting to see the response to the Surface Pro 3 from individuals and businesses alike. In fact, Surface Pro 3 sales are already outpacing prior versions of Surface Pro. The Surface business generated more than $2B in revenue for the fiscal year 2014 and $409 million in revenue during Q4 FY14 alone, the latter of which included just ten days of Intel Core i5 Surface Pro 3 sales in Canada and the US." Should Microsoft pull the plug on the tablet? Or maybe it's just a matter of users getting used to the Surface? Even if they're losing money on the Pro 3, Microsoft has seemingly little to be ashamed of when it comes to reviews of the hardware.
Ars Technica takes a look at the next generation of TrackingPoint's automatically aimed rifles (not "automatic" in the usual sense), and visited the shooting range where they're tested out. Like the company's previous generation of gun (still in production, and increasingly being sold to government buyers), TrackingPoint's offerings integrate a Linux computer that makes acquiring and tracking a target far easier and more accurate than it would otherwise be. Unlike the older models, though, this year TrackingPoint is concentrating on AR-15s, rather than longer, heavier bolt-action rifles. A slice: The signature "Tag-Track-Xact" system has gained additional functionality on the AR models, too. With the bolt-action guns, there was only one way to put a round onto a target: first, you sighted in on the thing you wanted to hit and depressed the red tagging button just above the trigger. A red pip would appear in the scope’s crosshairs, and you’d place the pip onto the target and release the button. The scope’s rangefinding laser would then illuminate the target to measure its distance, and the image processor would fix on the object; if you moved, or if the target moved, the red pip would remain atop the target. Then, to fire, you squeezed the trigger and lined the crosshairs up with the target’s pip. When the two coincided, the weapon fired. This method works fine for a bolt-action rifle where every round has to be manually chambered, but it’s less than ideal for a carbine, which one might want to fire off-hand (i.e., standing up and aiming) or from the hip. With this in mind, the AR PGFs have a new "free fire mode," in which you can tag a target once and then shoot at it as many times as you want by pulling the trigger directly, with all the shots using the ballistic data from the first shot’s tag. That means, says writer Lee Hutchinson, a rifle "with essentially 100 percent accuracy at 250 yards."