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  • For Some Would-Be Google Glass Buyers and Devs, Delays May Mean Giving Up

    ErnieKey writes with a Reuters story that says Google's Glass, not yet out for general purchase, has been wearing on the patience of both developers and would-be customers: "After an initial burst of enthusiasm, signs that consumers are giving up on Glass have been building.' Is it true that Google Goggles are simply not attractive to wear? Or perhaps it's the invasion of privacy that is deterring people from wearing them. Regardless, Google needs to change something quickly before they lose all their potential customers. From the article: Of 16 Glass app makers contacted, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects. Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official website include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter. "If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There's no market at this point," said Tom Frencel, the chief executive of Little Guy Games, which put development of a Glass game on hold this year and is looking at other platforms, including the Facebook-owned virtual-reality goggles Oculus Rift. Several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.

    154 comments | about a week ago

  • Low Cost Ground Robot Chassis That Can Traverse Challenging Obstacles

    Hallie Siegel writes In order for a robot to be useful in our world, it must be able to traverse unpredictable obstacles, including stairs. But currently available robot chassis tend to be either too small or extremely expensive, and most platform kits cannot leave a controlled environment – a huge problem for makers who want to get outside the lab or workshop. This has been an extremely hard problem for roboticists to solve, but the Ground Drone Project wants to change all that with its low-cost ground robot chassis. Check out this innovative design. (Currently, the project is raising money through Kickstarter; if it succeeds, "the instructions and bill of materials will be available for all.")

    38 comments | about a week ago

  • US DOE Sets Sights On 300 Petaflop Supercomputer

    dcblogs writes U.S. officials Friday announced plans to spend $325 million on two new supercomputers, one of which may eventually be built to support speeds of up to 300 petaflops. The U.S. Department of Energy, the major funder of supercomputers used for scientific research, wants to have the two systems – each with a base speed of 150 petaflops – possibly running by 2017. Going beyond the base speed to reach 300 petaflops will take additional government approvals. If the world stands still, the U.S. may conceivably regain the lead in supercomputing speed from China with these new systems. How adequate this planned investment will look three years from now is a question. Lawmakers weren't reading from the same script as U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz when it came to assessing the U.S.'s place in the supercomputing world. Moniz said the awards "will ensure the United States retains global leadership in supercomputing." But Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) put U.S. leadership in the past tense. "Supercomputing is one of those things that we can step up and lead the world again," he said.

    127 comments | about a week ago

  • Real Steampunk Computer Brought Back To Life

    New submitter engineerguy writes We discovered a 100 year old 19th century computer that does Fourier analysis with just gears spring and levers. It was locked in a glass case at the University of Illinois Department of Mathematics. We rebuilt a small part of the machine and then for two years thoroughly photographed and filmed every part part of the machine and its operation. The results of this labor of love are in the video series (short documentary), which is 22 minutes long and contains stunning footage of the machine in action — including detailed descriptions of how it operates. The photos are collected in a free book (PDF). The computer was designed by Albert Michelson, who was famous for the Michelson-Morley experiment; he was also the first American to win a Nobel Prize in physics.

    81 comments | about a week ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Is Non-USB Flash Direct From China Safe?

    Dishwasha (125561) writes I recently purchased a couple 128GB MicroSDXC card from a Chinese supplier via Alibaba at 1/5th the price of what is available in the US. I will be putting one in my phone and another in my laptop. A few days after purchased, it occurred to me there may be a potential risk with non-USB flash devices similar to USB firmware issues. Does anybody know if there are any known firmware issues with SD or other non-USB flash cards that could effectively allow a foreign seller/distributor to place malicious software on my Android phone or laptop simply on insertion of the device with autoplay turned off?

    178 comments | about two weeks ago

  • An Applied Investigation Into Graphics Card Coil Whine

    jones_supa writes We all are aware of various chirping and whining sounds that electronics can produce. Modern graphics cards often suffer from these kind of problems in form of coil whine. But how widespread is it really? Hardware Canucks put 50 new graphics cards side-by-side to compare them solely from the perspective of subjective acoustic disturbance. NVIDIA's reference platforms tended to be quite well behaved, just like their board partners' custom designs. The same can't be said about AMD since their reference R9 290X and R9 290 should be avoided if you're at all concerned about squealing or any other odd noise a GPU can make. However the custom Radeon-branded SKUs should usually be a safe choice. While the amount and intensity of coil whine largely seems to boil down to luck of the draw, at least most board partners are quite friendly regarding their return policies concerning it.

    111 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Facebook Testing Lithium-Ion Batteries For Backup Power

    itwbennett writes Facebook has just started testing lithium-ion batteries as the backup power source for its server racks and plans to roll them out widely next year. Lithium-ion has been too expensive until now, says Matt Corddry, Facebook's director of hardware engineering, but its use in electric cars has changed the economics. It's now more cost effective than the bulky, lead-acid batteries widely used in data centers today.

    41 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Window Washing a Skyscraper Is Beyond a Robot's Reach

    HughPickens.com writes "Patrick McGeehan writes in the NYT that the image of a pair of window washers clinging to a scaffold dangling outside the 68th floor of 1 World Trade Center have left many wondering why robots can't rub soapy water on glass and wipe it off with a squeegee relieving humans of the risk of injury, or death, from a plunge to the sidewalk? The simple answer, several experts say, is that washing windows is something that machines still cannot do as well as people can. "Building are starting to look like huge sculptures in the sky," says Craig Caulkins. "A robot can't maneuver to get around those curves to get into the facets of the building." According to Caulkins robotic cleaning systems tend to leave dirt in the corners of the glass walls that are designed to provide panoramic views from high floors. "If you are a fastidious owner wanting clean, clean windows so you can take advantage of that very expensive view that you bought, the last thing you want to see is that gray area around the rim of the window."

    Another reason for the sparse use of robots is that buildings require a lot more maintenance than just window cleaning. Equipment is needed to lower people to repair facades and broken windows, like the one that rescue workers had to cut through with diamond cutters to rescue the window washers. For many years, being a window cleaner in Manhattan was regarded as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world: by 1932, an average of one in every two hundred window cleaners in New York was killed each year. Now all new union window cleaners now take two hundred and sixteen hours of classroom instruction, three thousand hours of accredited time with an employer and their union makes sure workers follow rigorous safety protocols. In all, there are about 700 scaffolds for window washing on buildings in New York City, says union representative Gerard McEneaney. His members are willing to do the work because it pays well: as much $26.89 an hour plus benefits. Many of the window cleaners are immigrants from South America. "They're fearless guys, fearless workers."

    203 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Comet Probe Philae To Deploy Drill As Battery Life Wanes

    An anonymous reader writes With less than a day of battery life left, The European Space Agency's Philae probe will begin to drill for samples even though the drilling may dislodge it. From the article: "Philae is sitting in the shadow of a cliff, and will not get enough sunlight to work beyond Saturday. Friday night's radio contact with the orbiting Rosetta satellite will be the last that engineers have a reasonable confidence will work. The team is still not sure where on the surface the probe came to rest after bouncing upon landing on Wednesday. Scientists have been examining radio transmissions between the orbiter and the lander to see if they can triangulate a position. This work has now produced a 'circle of uncertainty' within which Philae almost certainly lies."

    223 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Nvidia Shield Tablet Gets Android Lollipop Update, Half Life 2 EP1 and GRID

    MojoKid writes Nvidia's Shield Tablet is only a few months old, but Nvidia is already updating the device with a freshly minted OS, a refreshed Shield Hub and access to the company's newly upgraded GRID Game Streaming service. A number of new Tegra K1 optimized games are arriving as well, as well as a new game bundle which includes Half Life 2 Episode 1. The SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop update will feature Android's new "material design" interface and improved app performance, according to Nvidia. The update will also come preloaded with a new version of Nvidia's own Dabbler drawing and painting app (Dabbler 2.0). In addition to a new interface inspired by Lollipop's design language, Dabbler 2.0 will offer full support for layers and it'll allow users to share their sessions over Twitch. Previously, accessing the Nvidia's GRID beta meant streaming games from a GRID server cluster on the west coast, but Nvidia is expanding the service with server clusters located in Virginia, Europe and Asia. For the best possible user experience, streaming games from the cloud must incur minimal latency, and adding more servers in strategic locations not only affords Nvidia greater capacity, but minimizes latency as well. Nvidia says the GRID service will be available in North America this month, Western Europe in December and Asia sometime next year. The company's GRID service gives gamers access to 20 top titles currently, including Batman Arkham City, Borderlands 2 and Psychonauts, among others, and Nvidia is planning to add new games every week.

    58 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Comet Probe Philae Unanchored But Stable — And Sending Back Images

    An anonymous reader writes with an update to the successful landing of the ESA's comet probe Philae, which (as mentioned yesterday) had problems attaching to the surface of the comet's Rosetta: "BBC now reports that Philae is stable on the surface. Although no source claims so, we can all imagine a faint humming of 'Still Alive' coming from the probe." Not just stable, but sending pictures while it can. From the article: The probe left Rosetta with 60-plus hours of battery life, and will need at some point to charge up with its solar panels. But early reports indicate that in its present position, the robot is receiving only one-and-a-half hours of sunlight during every 12-hour rotation of the comet. This will not be enough to sustain operations. As a consequence, controllers here are discussing using one of Philae's deployable instruments to try to launch the probe upwards and away to a better location. But this would be a last-resort option. New submitter Thanshin notes that the persistent Philae bounced a few times, and actually performed 3 landings, at 15:33, 17:26 & 17:33 UTC.Thanshin adds links to a handful of relevant Twitter feeds, if you want to follow in something close to real time: Philae2014; esa_rosetta; and Philae_MUPUS (MUlti PUrpose Sensor One).

    132 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Intel Claims Chip Suppliers Will Flock To Its Mobile Tech

    MojoKid writes It has been over six years since Intel first unveiled its Atom CPUs and detailed its plans for new, ultra-mobile devices. The company's efforts to break into smartphone and tablet sales, while turning a profit, have largely come to naught. Nonetheless, company CEO Brian Krzanich remains optimistic. Speaking to reporters recently, Krzanich opined that the company's new manufacturing partners like Rockchip and Spreadtrum would convert entirely to Intel architectures within the next few years. Krzanich has argued that with Qualcomm and MediaTek dominating the market, it's going to be tougher and tougher for little guys like Rockchip and Spreadtrum to compete in the same spaces. There's truth to that argument, to be sure, but Intel's ability to offer a competitive alternative is unproven. According to a report from JP Morgan, Intel's cost-per-wafer is currently estimated as equivalent to TSMC's average selling price per wafer — meaning TSMC is making money well below Intel's break-even. Today, Intel is unquestionably capable of building tablet processors that offer a good overall experience but the question of what defines a "good" experience is measured in its similarity to ARM. It's hard to imagine that Intel wants to build market share as an invisible partner, but in order to fundamentally change the way people think about Intel hardware in tablets and smartphones, it needs to go beyond simply being "as good" and break into territory that leaves people asking: "Is the ARM core just as good as the Intel chip?"

    91 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Data Center Study Reveals Top 5 SMART Stats That Correlate To Drive Failures

    Lucas123 writes Backblaze, which has taken to publishing data on hard drive failure rates in its data center, has just released data from a new study of nearly 40,000 spindles revealing what it said are the top 5 SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) values that correlate most closely with impending drive failures. The study also revealed that many SMART values that one would innately consider related to drive failures, actually don't relate it it at all. Gleb Budman, CEO of Backblaze, said the problem is that the industry has created vendor specific values, so that a stat related to one drive and manufacturer may not relate to another. "SMART 1 might seem correlated to drive failure rates, but actually it's more of an indication that different drive vendors are using it themselves for different things," Budman said. "Seagate wants to track something, but only they know what that is. Western Digital uses SMART for something else — neither will tell you what it is."

    142 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Amazon Goes After Oracle (Again) With New Aurora Database

    Sez Zero writes with news about the latest from Amazon Web Services. "Once again Amazon Web Services is taking on Oracle, the kingpin of relational databases, with Aurora, a relational database that is as capable as 'proprietary database engines at 1/10 the cost,' according to AWS SVP Andy Jassy. Amazon is right that customers, even big Oracle customers who hesitate to dump tried-and-true database technology are sick of Oracle’s cost structure and refusal to budge from older licensing models. Still there are very few applications that are more “sticky” than databases, which after typically contains the keys to the kingdom. Financial institutions see their use of Oracle databases as almost a pre-requisite for compliance, although that perception may be changing."

    102 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy

    HughPickens.com writes Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that Denmark is pursuing the world's most ambitious policy against climate change, aiming to end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050 — not just in electricity production, as some other countries hope to do, but in transportation as well. The trouble is that while renewable power sources like wind and solar cost nothing to run, once installed, as more of these types of power sources push their way onto the electric grid, they cause power prices to crash at what used to be the most profitable times of day. Conventional power plants, operating on gas or coal or uranium, are becoming uneconomical to run. Yet those plants are needed to supply backup power for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. With their prime assets throwing off less cash, electricity suppliers in Germany and Denmark have applied to shut down a slew of newly unprofitable power plants, but nervous governments are resisting, afraid of being caught short on some cold winter's night with little wind. "We are really worried about this situation," says Anders Stouge, the deputy director general of the Danish Energy Association. "If we don't do something, we will in the future face higher and higher risks of blackouts."

    Environmental groups, for their part, have tended to sneer at the problems the utilities are having, contending that it is their own fault for not getting on the renewables bandwagon years ago. But according to Gillis, the political risks of the situation also ought to be obvious to the greens. The minute any European country — or an ambitious American state, like California — has a blackout attributable to the push for renewables, public support for the transition could weaken drastically. Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, says he is tempted by a market approach: real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.

    485 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Fukushima Radiation Nears California Coast, Judged Harmless

    sciencehabit writes After a two-and-a-half year ocean journey, radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has drifted to within 160 kilometers of the California coast, according to a new study. But the radiation levels are minuscule and do not pose a threat, researchers say. The team found a high of just 8 becquerels of radiation per cubic meter in ocean samples off the coast. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for drinking water allow up to 7400 becquerels per cubic meter.

    113 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Germans Can Get Free Heating From the Cloud

    judgecorp writes The idea of re-using waste server heat is not new, but German firm Cloud&Heat seems to have developed it further than most. For a flat installation fee, the company will install a rack of servers in your office, with its own power and Internet connection. Cloud&Heat then pays the bills and you get the heat. As well as Heat customers, the firm wants Cloud customers, who can buy a standard OpenStack-based cloud compute and storage service on the web. The company guarantees that data is encrypted and held within Germany — at any one of its Heat customers' premises. In principle, it's a way to build a data center with no real estate, by turning its waste heat into an asset. A similar deal is promised by French firm Qarnot.

    148 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Worrying Aspects of Linux Gaming

    jones_supa writes: Former Valve engineer Rich Geldreich has written up a blog post about the state of Linux Gaming. It's an interesting read, that's for sure. When talking about recent bigger game ports, his take is that the developers doing these ports just aren't doing their best to optimize these releases for Linux and/or OpenGL. He points out how it took significant resources from Valve to properly optimize Source engine for Linux, but that other game studios are not walking the last mile. About drivers, he asks "Valve is still paying LunarG to find and fix silly perf bugs in Intel's slow open source driver. Surely this can't be a sustainable way of developing a working driver?" He ends his post by agreeing with a Slashdot comment where someone is basically saying that SteamOS is done, and that we will never get our hands on the Steam Controller.

    265 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Eben Upton Explains the Raspberry Pi Model A+'s Redesign

    M-Saunders writes It's cheaper, it's smaller, and it's curvier: the new Raspberry Pi Model A+ is quite a change from its predecessor. But with Model Bs selling more in a month than Model As have done in the lifetime of the Pi, what's the point in releasing a new model? Eben Upton, a founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, explains all. "It gives people a really low-cost way to come and play with Linux and it gives people a low-cost way to get a Raspberry Pi. We still think most people are still going to buy B+s, but it gives people a way to come and join in for the cost of 4 Starbucks coffees."

    107 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Raspberry Pi A+ Details Leaked

    mikejuk writes Despite trying to keep it secret, a major Raspberry Pi retailer has published some details of the upcoming model A+ Raspberry Pi thanks to a product page that went live early. The board layout looks different and is much smaller than the model A or B+. Judging from the photograph, the A+ board encompasses the four standard mounting holes, which makes it approximately 56x65mm — the model B+ is 56x85mm.

    The key improvement is the new 40-pin GPIO socket, which makes the model A+ fully compatible with the HAT expansion standard. This means that any new HAT expansion cards should now work with the A+. It also has what's likely a connector for the yet-unreleased Raspberry Pi touchscreen. Another welcome change is the micro SD slot. One downside of the A+ is that it still has only a single USB 2 connector.

    141 comments | about two weeks ago

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