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Hallie Siegel writes: Hypotheses about the evolution of traits in ancient species are difficult to test, as the animals have often been extinct for thousands or millions of years. In this article, researchers at Vassar College describe how a population of physical, free-swimming robots modeled after ancient fish evolved vertebrae under selection pressures for predator avoidance and foraging ability, showing how evolutionary robotics can be used to help biologists test hypotheses about extinct animals.
29 comments | about a week ago
DeviceGuru writes: Hardkernel has again set its sights on the Raspberry Pi with a new $35 Odroid-C1 hacker board that matches the RPI's board size and offers a mostly similar 40-pin expansion connector. Unlike the previous $30 Odroid-W that used the same Broadcom BCM2835 SoC as the Pi and was soon cancelled due to lack of BCM2835 SoC availability, the Odroid-C1 is based on a quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A5 based Amlogic S805 SoC, which integrates the Mali-400 GPU found on Allwinner's popular SoCs. Touted advantages over the similarly priced Raspberry Pi Model B+ include a substantially more powerful processor, double the RAM, an extra USB2.0 port that adds Device/OTG, and GbE rather than 10/100 Ethernet.
139 comments | about a week ago
Lucas123 writes: Over the next 10 years, adoption of distributed power in the form of renewables such as solar power has the potential to reduce revenues to grid utilities by as much as $48 billion in the U.S. and by $75 billion in Europe, according to a new study. The study, by Accenture, revealed that utility executives are more nervous (PDF) about the impact of distributed — or locally generated renewable power — than ever before. 61% of those surveyed this year indicated they expect significant or moderate revenue reductions compared to only 43% last year. The cost of rooftop solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices for common coal or oil-powered generation in two years, and the technology to produce it will only get cheaper, according to a recent report from Deutsche Bank. New technologies, such as more efficient solar cells, are also threatening to increase efficiencies and drive adoption.
280 comments | about two weeks ago
MojoKid writes Samsung just took the wraps off a new family of mainstream solid state drives, targeting the market segment previously occupied by its popular SSD 840 EVO series. The new Samsung SSD 850 EVO series is the follow-up to the company's current flagship SSD 850 PRO, but the new EVO is Samsung's first to pack 32layer 3D VNAND 3-bit MLC flash memory. The move to 32layer 3D VNAND 3-bit MLC flash brings pricing down to the .50 to .60 per GiB range, but doesn't adversely affect endurance because the cell structure doesn't suffer from the same inherent limitations of planar NAND, since the cells are stacked vertically with the 3D VNAND. The new 850 EVO drive performs well with large sequential transfers and also offered very low access times. The compressibility of the data being transferred across the Samsung SSD 850 EVO had no impact on performance and small file transfers at high queue depth were fast. Small file transfers with low queues depths, which is what you'd expect to see with most client workloads, were also very good. The Samsung SSD 850 EVO drives also put up excellent numbers in trace-based tests like PCMark 7.
127 comments | about two weeks ago
mrspoonsi sends news of an IBM study (PDF) which found that discarded laptop batteries could be used to power lights in areas where there's little or no electrical grid. Of the sample IBM tested, 70% of the used batteries were able to power an LED light for more than four hours every day throughout an entire year. The concept was trialed in the Indian city of Bangalore this year. The adapted power packs are expected to prove popular with street vendors, who are not on the electric grid, as well as poor families living in slums. The IBM team created what they called an UrJar — a device that uses lithium-ion cells from the old batteries to power low-energy DC devices, such as a light. The researchers are aiming to help the approximately 400 million people in India who are off grid.
143 comments | about two weeks ago
itwbennett writes The allure of mobile devices has led Intel to take some uncharacteristic moves, partnering with Chinese companies to build some smartphone and tablet chips, and relying on third parties to manufacture those chips. Intel is betting the partnerships will accelerate its business in China, where smartphone shipments are booming. But the company wants to regain complete control over manufacturing, and on Thursday said it was investing $1.6 billion over 15 years in a China plant for mobile chip development and manufacturing.
33 comments | about two weeks ago
JoeyRox writes: The publicized goal of Tesla's "gigafactory" is to make electric cars more affordable. However, that benefit may soon be eclipsed by the gigafactory's impact on roof-top solar power storage costs, putting the business model of utilities in peril. "The mortal threat that ever cheaper on-site renewables pose" comes from systems that include storage, said physicist Amory Lovins. "That is an unregulated product you can buy at Home Depot that leaves the old business model with no place to hide."
460 comments | about two weeks ago
Hallie Siegel writes The second phase of an ambitious project to gather valuable information on ocean processes and marine life using a fleet of innovative marine robots has just reached its conclusion. Co-ordinated by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), the Exploring Ocean Fronts project took place off southwest England and saw the largest deployment of robotic vehicles ever attempted in UK water. The marine robot patrols successfully located tagged fish and tracked the movements of individual fish over several days by re-locating them.
10 comments | about two weeks ago
crookedvulture writes The SSD Endurance Experiment previously covered on Slashdot has reached another big milestone: two freaking petabytes of writes. That's an astounding total for consumer-grade drives rated to survive no more than a few hundred terabytes. Only two of the initial six subjects made it to 2PB. The Kingston HyperX 3K, Intel 335 Series, and Samsung 840 Series expired on the road to 1PB, while the Corsair Neutron GTX faltered at 1.2PB. The Samsung 840 Pro continues despite logging thousands of reallocated sectors. It has remained completely error-free throughout the experiment, unlike a second HyperX, which has suffered a couple of uncorrectable errors. The second HyperX is mostly intact otherwise, though its built-in compression tech has reduced the 2PB of host writes to just 1.4PB of flash writes. Even accounting for compression, the flash in the second HyperX has proven to be far more robust than in the first. That difference highlights the impact normal manufacturing variances can have on flash wear. It also illustrates why the experiment's sample size is too small to draw definitive conclusions about the durability of specific models. However, the fact that all the drives far exceeded their endurance specifications bodes well for the endurance of consumer-grade SSDs in general.
125 comments | about two weeks ago
Jason Hibbets writes Jiri Folta was looking for an easy way to have all of his online storage services, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, integrated with his Linux desktop without using any nasty hacks. He shares this solution in this short tutorial, and shows you how to integrate ownCloud with the Gnome desktop and then add your favorite cloud providers to use all of your cloud accounts in one place just as easily as if they were local drives.
30 comments | about two weeks ago
jones_supa writes In past builds of Windows 10 Technical Preview there has been an interesting feature called Battery Saver, but for the time being it has been just a mockup. In a leaked build 9888, the code is now in place. Battery Saver, as the name implies, will help your mobile device make the most out of your battery. This feature works by limiting the background activity on your device when the mode is activated. You can turn the feature on any time but there is also a setting to have it automatically turn on when the battery capacity goes below a user-defined percentage. Considering that this build was not supposed to make its way out of Redmond and that the company is not releasing any new builds this year, this may be the best look we get until the Consumer Preview arrives.
96 comments | about two weeks ago
Hallie Siegel writes A year ago, Amazon announced its plans for Prime Air — a drone delivery service. Recently Amazon has been posting job ads, saying they are looking for drone pilots. Whatever the regulatory issues, is drone delivery financially feasible? ETH Zurich professor Raffaello D'Andrea thinks it is economically feasible to deliver small packages by drone. D'Andrea is responsible for the Flying Machine Arena ("a space where flying robots live and learn") and is co-founder of Kiva Systems, the company acquired by Amazon for $775 million in cash that innovated the robotic fulfillment system that Amazon is now implementing in many of its warehouse facilities.
92 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes In the U.S., a new solar project is installed every 3.2 minutes and the number of cumulative installations now stands at more than 500,000. For years, homeowners who bought solar panels were advised to mount them on the roof facing south to capture the most solar energy over the course of the day. Now Matthew L. Wald writes in the NYT that panels should be pointed west so that peak power comes in the afternoon when the electricity is more valuable. In late afternoon, homeowners are more likely to watch TV, turn on the lights or run the dishwasher. Electricity prices are also higher at that period of peak demand. "The predominance of south-facing panels may reflect a severe misalignment in energy supply and demand," say the authors of the study, Barry Fischer and Ben Harack. Pointing panels to the west means that in the hour beginning at 5 p.m., they produce 55 percent of their peak output. But point them to the south to maximize total output, and when the electric grid needs it most, they are producing only 15 percent of peak.
327 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: Stephen Hawking and Intel have worked together for the past several years to build a new communication system for those suffering from diseases that severely impair motor function. The system is called ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit), and it will be free and open source. Hawking's previous system had been in use for over 20 years, so the technological upgrade is significant. His typing rate alone has doubled, and common tasks are up to 10 times faster. ACAT uses technology from SwiftKey, a cell phone keyboard enhancement.
"Over three million people around the world are affected by motor neuron disease and quadriplegia and because the system created for Hawking is based on open-source software, it could potentially be adapted to suit many of them. Different functions can be enabled by touch, eye blinks, eyebrow movements or other user inputs for communication. Hawking and Intel hope that because the system is open and free it will be adopted by researchers who will want to use it to develop new solutions for those with disabilities."
56 comments | about two weeks ago
SmartAboutThings writes In Q3 2014, IDC notes that Google shipped 715,500 Chromebooks to U.S. schools while Apple shipped 702,000 iPads. Thus, Apple's iPad has lost its lead over Google's line of Chromebook laptops in the U.S. education market as Google shipped more devices to schools last quarter. While analysts say [registration required] that this advantage for Google's Chromebooks can be attributed to their low cost, the presence of a physical keyboard has also been seen as an important factor.
193 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader points out this story that Intel could be in charge of creating the chips for the new Google Glass. Intel is expected to supply the chips for a new version of Google's Glass device in 2015, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources. The Intel processor will replace one from Texas Instruments, which is used in the current version of Glass, which is a device that allows people to view the Internet or take pictures while wearing it on their heads. Intel hasn't commented yet. The Wall Street Journal said that Intel plans to promote Glass to hospital networks and manufacturers. Google watched the web-connected eyewear in 2012, but it carried a hefty price and was regarded as something that only nerds would wear.
73 comments | about two weeks ago
Forbes writer Marco Chiappetta revisits Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 half a year after its U.S. debut, and finds the tablet-laptop hybrid has held up pretty well, but suffers some dings worth knowing about before jumping at holiday sale prices, pointing out a number of scenarios where a full-fledged notebook, even if it’s roughly the same size, will be the better choice. I’ve found that the Surface Pro 3 is ideal for users that will likely fire the machine up when sitting at a desk or when in a conference room-type environment that has a table. The Surface Pro 3’s performance is plenty good for everyday computing and office applications, and the screen is top notch. Using the Surface Pro 3 as a notepad with its stylus is also very useful. In fact, over the course of the device’s life, Microsoft has issued a number of firmware, driver, and OS updates that have improved the overall responsiveness and usefulness of the Surface Pro 3. For those who want a laptop, though for actual laptop use, the Surface is an awkward fit. However, a thin, tablet-convertible, touchscreen laptop may appear soon from LG, as well.
101 comments | about three weeks ago
shadeshope writes Having just gotten married, I find that for some inexplicable reason my wife doesn't like my huge, noisy, 'ugly' gaming PC being in the living room. I have tried hiding it in a TV cabinet: still too noisy. I have placed it in another room and run HDMI and USB cables, but the propagation delay caused horrible tearing and lag when playing games. Have any other slashdotters encountered this problem? I don't want to buy a console (Steam sales let me game so cheaply), or mess with water cooling. Ideally I would just hide it in the attic, is there some wireless technology that would be fast enough for gaming use? I have become quite attached to 'behemoth.' I have been upgrading him for years and he is the centre of my digital life. I run plex home theatre, media centre, steam, iTunes and air server. Will I have to do my gaming in the spare room? Once I have sorted this small problem going to try and make a case for the efficacy of a projector to replace the television..... it takes up less space, motorized screen could be hidden when not in use, etc.
720 comments | about three weeks ago
We've mentioned several times over the years the Antikythera Mechanism, the astounding early analog computer recovered from a Greek shipwreck in shape good enough to allow modern recreations. The device has been attributed to different Greek mathemeticians and thinkers, such as Archimedes, Hipparchus, and Posidonius, but as reader puddingebola writes, "Current research suggests its origin may be much earlier, and its working based on Babylonian arithmetical methods rather than Greek Trigonometry, which did not exist at the time. Puddingebola excerpts from the NYT article: Writing this month in the journal Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Dr. Carman and Dr. Evans took a different tack. Starting with the ways the device's eclipse patterns fit Babylonian eclipse records, the two scientists used a process of elimination to reach a conclusion that the "epoch date," or starting point, of the Antikythera Mechanism's calendar was 50 years to a century earlier than had been generally believed.
62 comments | about three weeks ago
Lasrick writes: Chris Neuzil is a senior scientist with the National Research Program of the U.S. Geological Survey. He thinks the qualities of shale make it the perfect rock in which to safely and permanently house high-level nuclear waste. Given the recent discovery that water is much more of an issue than originally thought for the tough rock at Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Utah, the unique qualities of shale, along with its ubiquitous presence in the U.S., could make shale rock a better choice for the 70,000 metric tons of commercial spent fuel currently sitting above ground at nuclear power facilities throughout the country. France, Switzerland, and Belgium are all considering repositories in shale, but it hasn't been studied much in the U.S. "Shale is the only rock type likely to house high-level nuclear waste in other countries that has never been seriously considered by the U.S. high-level waste program. The uncertain future of Yucca Mountain places plans for spent nuclear fuel in the United States at a crossroads. It is an opportunity to include shale in a truly comprehensive examination of disposal options."
138 comments | about three weeks ago