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FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.

Soulskill posted 6 hours ago | from the playing-dirty dept.

Hardware 444

janoc writes It seems that chipmaker FTDI has started an outright war on cloners of their popular USB bridge chips. At first the clones stopped working with the official drivers, and now they are being intentionally bricked, rendering the device useless. The problem? These chips are incredibly popular and used in many consumer products. Are you sure yours doesn't contain a counterfeit one before you plug it in? Hackaday says, "It’s very hard to tell the difference between the real and fake versions by looking at the package, but a look at the silicon reveals vast differences. The new driver for the FT232 exploits these differences, reprogramming it so it won’t work with existing drivers. It’s a bold strategy to cut down on silicon counterfeiters on the part of FTDI. A reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip."

Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

timothy posted 4 days ago | from the they-have-the-technology dept.

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theodp writes "Good artists copy, great artists steal," Steve Jobs used to say. Having launched a perfectly-timed attack against Samsung and phablets with its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Leonid Bershidsky suggests that the next big thing from Apple will be a tablet-laptop a la Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. "Before yesterday's Apple [iPad] event," writes Bershidsky, "rumors were strong of an upcoming giant iPad, to be called iPad Pro or iPad Plus. There were even leaked pictures of a device with a 12.9-inch screen, bigger than the Surface Pro's 12-inch one. It didn't come this time, but it will. I've been expecting a touch-screen Apple laptop for a few years now, and keep being wrong.

Fusion and Fission/LFTR: Let's Do Both, Smartly

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the until-we-find-some-dilithium dept.

Power 217

TheRealHocusLocus writes: Disaster preppers have a saying, "two is one and one is none," which might also apply to 24x7 base load energy sources that could sustain us beyond the age of fossil fuel. I too was happy to see Skunkworks' Feb 2013 announcement and the recent "we're still making progress" reminder. I was moved by the reaction on Slashdot: a groundswell of "Finally!" and "We're saved!" However, fusion doesn't need to be the only solution, and it's not entirely without drawbacks.

All nuclear reactors will generate waste via activation as the materials of which they are constructed erode and become unstable under high neutron flux. I'm not pointing this out because I think it's a big deal — a few fusion advocates disingenuously tend to sell the process as if it were "100% clean." A low volume of non-recyclable waste from fusion reactors that is walk-away safe in ~100 years is doable. Let's do it. And likewise, the best comparable waste profile for fission is a two-fluid LFTR, a low volume of waste that is walk-away safe in ~300 years. Let's do it.

Why pursue both, with at least the same level of urgency? Because both could carry us indefinitely. LFTR is less complicated in theory and practice. It is closer to market. There is plenty of cross-over: LFTR's materials challenges and heat engine interface — and the necessity for waste management — are the same as they will be for commercial-scale fusion reactors. To get up to speed please see the 2006 fusion lecture by Dr. Robert Bussard on the Wiffle ball 6 plasma containment, likely the precursor to the Skunkworks approach. And see Thorium Remix 2011 which presents the case for LFTR.

Lockheed Claims Breakthrough On Fusion Energy Project

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the you-don't-have-long-to-invent-Mr.-Fusion dept.

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Lockheed Martin claims it has made a significant breakthrough in the creation of nuclear fusion reactors. The company says it has proved the feasibility of building a 100MW reactor measuring only 7 feet by 10 feet. They say the design can be built and tested within a year, and they expect an operational reactor within a decade. The project is coming out of stealth mode now to seek partners within academia, government, and industry. "Lockheed sees the project as part of a comprehensive approach to solving global energy and climate change problems. Compact nuclear fusion would also produce far less waste than coal-powered plants, and future reactors could eliminate radioactive waste completely, the company said."

Battery Breakthrough: Researchers Claim 70% Charge In 2 Minutes, 20-Year Life

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the but-only-works-for-left-handed-people dept.

Power 395

New submitter chaosdivine69 writes: According to Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU), they have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes and have a 20-year lifespan (10,000 charges). The impact of this is potentially a game changer for a lot of industries reliant on lithium ion batteries. In the car industry, for example, consumers would save on costs for battery replacement and manufacturers would save on material construction (the researchers are using a nanotube structure of Titanium dioxide, which is an abundant, cheap, and safe material found in soil). Titanium dioxide is commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays. It is believed that charging an electric car can be done in as little as 5 minutes, making it comparable to filling up a tank of gasoline.

Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the nobody-needs-wyoming-for-anything-important dept.

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1sockchuck writes: A massive solar array in central New Jersey provides the daytime power for a server farm delivering online financial services for McGraw Hill. The 50-acre field of photovoltaic solar panels symbolizes a new phase in the use of renewable energy in data centers. Massive arrays can now provide tens of megawatts of solar power for companies (including Apple) that can afford the land and the expense. But some data center thought leaders argue that these huge fields are more about marketing than genuinely finding the best approach to a greener cloud.

Wind Power Is Cheaper Than Coal, Leaked Report Shows

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the tilting-at-coalmills dept.

Power 610

merbs writes: A leaked report shows wind is the cheapest energy source in Europe, beating the presumably dirt-cheap coal and gas by a mile. Conventional wisdom holds that clean energy is more expensive than its fossil-fueled counterparts. Yet cost comparisons show that renewable energy sources are often cheaper than their carbon-heavy competition. The report (PDF) demonstrates that if you were to take into account mining, pollution, and adverse health impacts of coal and gas, wind power would be the cheapest source of energy.

ChromeOS Will No Longer Support Ext2/3/4 On External Drives/SD Cards

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the hope-this-is-reverted dept.

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An anonymous reader writes Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel and designed by Google to work with web applications and installed applications. Chromebook is one of the best selling laptops on Amazon. However, devs decided to drop support for ext2/3/4 on external drivers and SD card. It seems that ChromiumOS developers can't implement a script or feature to relabel EXT volumes in the left nav that is insertable and has RW privileges using Files.app. Given that this is the main filesystem in Linux, and is thereby automatically well supported by anything that leverages Linux, this choice makes absolutely no sense. Google may want to drop support for external storage and push the cloud storage on everyone. Overall Linux users and community members are not happy at all.

Where Intel Processors Fail At Math (Again)

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the 1+1=3-for-sufficiently-large-values-of-1 dept.

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rastos1 writes: In a recent blog, software developer Bruce Dawson pointed out some issues with the way the FSIN instruction is described in the "Intel® 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer's Manual," noting that the result of FSIN can be very inaccurate in some cases, if compared to the exact mathematical value of the sine function.

Dawson says, "I was shocked when I discovered this. Both the fsin instruction and Intel's documentation are hugely inaccurate, and the inaccurate documentation has led to poor decisions being made. ... Intel has known for years that these instructions are not as accurate as promised. They are now making updates to their documentation. Updating the instruction is not a realistic option."

Intel processors have had a problem with math in the past, too.

Ubisoft Claims CPU Specs a Limiting Factor In Assassin's Creed Unity On Consoles

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the bottlenecks-shift dept.

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MojoKid (1002251) writes A new interview with Assassin's Creed Unity senior producer Vincent Pontbriand has some gamers seeing red and others crying "told you so," after the developer revealed that the game's 900p framerate and 30 fps target on consoles is a result of weak CPU performance rather than GPU compute. "Technically we're CPU-bound," Pontbriand said. "The GPUs are really powerful, obviously the graphics look pretty good, but it's the CPU that has to process the AI, the number of NPCs we have on screen, all these systems running in parallel. We were quickly bottlenecked by that and it was a bit frustrating, because we thought that this was going to be a tenfold improvement over everything AI-wise..." This has been read by many as a rather damning referendum on the capabilities of AMD's APU that's under the hood of Sony's and Microsoft's new consoles. To some extent, that's justified; the Jaguar CPU inside both the Sony PS4 and Xbox One is a modest chip with a relatively low clock speed. Both consoles may offer eight CPU threads on paper, but games can't access all that headroom. One thread is reserved for the OS and a few more cores will be used for processing the 3D pipeline. Between the two, Ubisoft may have only had 4-5 cores for AI and other calculations — scarcely more than last gen, and the Xbox 360 and PS3 CPUs were clocked much faster than the 1.6 / 1.73GHz frequencies of their replacements.

Fusion Reactor Concept Could Be Cheaper Than Coal

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the some-day-soon dept.

Power 315

vinces99 writes Fusion energy almost sounds too good to be true – zero greenhouse gas emissions, no long-lived radioactive waste, a nearly unlimited fuel supply. Perhaps the biggest roadblock to adopting fusion energy is that the economics haven't penciled out. Fusion power designs aren't cheap enough to outperform systems that use fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. University of Washington engineers hope to change that. They have designed a concept for a fusion reactor that, when scaled up to the size of a large electrical power plant, would rival costs for a new coal-fired plant with similar electrical output. The team published its reactor design and cost-analysis findings last spring and will present results Oct. 17 at the International Atomic Energy Agency's Fusion Energy Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the how-to-irritate-coworkers dept.

Input Devices 304

HughPickens.com writes Adi Robertson argues that IBM's Model M keyboard, soon to turn 30 is still the only keyboard worth using for many people. Introduced in 1985 as part of the IBM 3161 terminal, the Model M was initially called the "IBM Enhanced Keyboard." A PC-compatible version appeared the following spring, and it officially became standard with the IBM Personal System / 2 in 1987. The layout of the Model M has been around so long that today it's simply taken for granted, but the keyboard's descendants have jettisoned one of the Model M's most iconic features — "buckling springs," designed to provide auditory and tactile feedback to the keyboard operator. "Model M owners sometimes ruefully post stories of spouses and coworkers who can't stand the incessant chatter. But fans say the springs' resistance and their audible "click" make it clear when a keypress is registered, reducing errors," writes Robertson. "Maybe more importantly, typing on the Model M is a special, tangible experience. Much like on a typewriter, the sharp click gives every letter a physical presence."

According to Robertson, the Model M is an artifact from a time when high-end computing was still the province of industry, not pleasure. But while today's manufacturers have long since abandoned the concept of durability and longevity, refurbished Model Ms are still available from aficionados like Brandon Ermita, a Princeton University IT manager who recovers them from supply depots and recycling centers and sells them through his site, ClickyKeyboards. "For the very few that still appreciate the tactile feel of a typewriter-based computer keyboard and can still appreciate the simplicity of black letters on white keys, one can still seek out and own an original IBM model M keyboard — a little piece of early computing history," says Ermita. As one Reddit user recently commented, "Those bastards are the ORIGINAL gaming keyboards. No matter how much you abuse it, you'll die before it does.""

One In Three Jobs Will Be Taken By Software Or Robots By 2025, Says Gartner

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the they-took-our-jobs! dept.

AI 405

dcblogs writes: "Gartner predicts one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025," said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's research director at its big Orlando conference. "New digital businesses require less labor; machines will make sense of data faster than humans can," he said. Smart machines are an emerging "super class" of technologies that perform a wide variety of work, both the physical and the intellectual kind. Machines, for instance, have been grading multiple choice test for years, but now they are grading essays and unstructured text. This cognitive capability in software will extend to other areas, including financial analysis, medical diagnostics and data analytic jobs of all sorts, says Gartner. "Knowledge work will be automated."

Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the cutting-down dept.

Earth 652

Lasrick writes Dawn Stover looks at unrealistic expectations and the distribution of limited energy resources: 'This is a question that should move from the fringes of the energy debate to its very heart. Economists and energy experts shy away from issues of equity and morality, but climate change and environmental justice are inseparable: It's impossible to talk intelligently about climate without discussing how to distribute limited energy resources. It's highly unlikely that the world can safely produce almost five times as much electricity by 2035 as it does now—which is what it would take to provide everyone with a circa-2010 American standard of living, according to a calculation by University of Colorado environmental studies professor Roger Pielke Jr. The sooner policy makers accept this reality, the sooner they can get to work on a global solution that meets everyone's needs. First, though, they need to understand the difference between needs and wants.' Not something most people even think about.

The $1,200 DIY Gunsmithing Machine

Soulskill posted about three weeks ago | from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.

Government 651

An anonymous reader writes: You may recall Cody Wilson as the man behind the world's first 3D-printed gun. He built a company behind the ideals of DIY gun-making, and now he's come back with another device: the "Ghost Gunner," a CNC mill designed to create the lower receiver of an AR-15 rifle. "That simple chunk of metal has become the epicenter of a gun control firestorm. A lower receiver is the body of the gun that connects its stock, barrel, magazine and other parts. As such, it's also the rifle's most regulated element. Mill your own lower receiver at home, however, and you can order the rest of the parts from online gun shops, creating a semi-automatic weapon with no serial number, obtained with no background check, no waiting period or other regulatory hurdles. Some gun control advocates call it a "ghost gun." Selling that untraceable gun body is illegal, but no law prevents you from making one." Wilson's goal is still to render government gun regulation useless, even as debate rages on banning this kind of manufacturing.

Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Soulskill posted about three weeks ago | from the fortunate-sun dept.

Power 488

An anonymous reader writes: Incremental improvements have been slowly but surely pushing solar power toward mainstream viability for a few decades now. It's getting to the point where the established utilities are worried about the financial hit they're likely to take — and they're working to prevent it. "These solar households are now buying less and less electricity, but the utilities still have to manage the costs of connecting them to the grid. Indeed, a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory argues that this trend could put utilities in dire financial straits. If rooftop solar were to grab 10 percent of the market over the next decade, utility earnings could decline as much as 41 percent." The utilities are throwing their weight behind political groups seeking to end subsidies for solar and make "net metering" policies go away. Studies suggest that if solar adoption continues growing at its current rate, incumbents will be forced to raise their prices, which will only persuade more people to switch to solar (PDF).

Exxon and Russian Operation Discovers Oil Field Larger Than the Gulf of Mexico

samzenpus posted about three weeks ago | from the drill-baby-drill dept.

Earth 201

An anonymous reader writes The state-run OAO Rosneft has discovered a vast pool of crude in the Kara Sea region of the Arctic Ocean, arguably bigger than the Gulf of Mexico. From the article: "The discovery sharpens the dispute between Russia and the U.S. over President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. The well was drilled before the Oct. 10 deadline Exxon was granted by the U.S. government under sanctions barring American companies from working in Russia’s Arctic offshore. Rosneft and Exxon won’t be able to do more drilling, putting the exploration and development of the area on hold despite the find announced today."

IBM Solar Concentrator Can Produce12kW/day, Clean Water, and AC

samzenpus posted about a month ago | from the all-in-one dept.

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Lucas123 writes IBM Research and Switzerland-based Airlight Energy today announced a parabolic dish that increases the sun's radiation by 2,000 times while also producing fresh water and air conditioning. The new Concentrator PhotoVoltaics (CPV) system uses a dense array of water-cooled solar chips that can convert 80% of the sun's radiation into useful energy. The CPV, which looks like a 33-foot-high sunflower, can generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day — enough to power several average homes, according to Bruno Michel, the project's lead scientists at IBM Research in Switzerland.

Phablet Reviews: Before and After the iPhone 6

timothy posted about a month ago | from the but-that-was-different dept.

Handhelds 277

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

Nvidia Sinks Moon Landing Hoax Using Virtual Light

samzenpus posted about 1 month ago | from the this-proves-nothing dept.

Moon 275

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

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