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Google Offers a Million Bucks For a Better Inverter

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the go-small-or-go-home dept.

Power 254

An anonymous reader writes: With the Little Box Challenge, Google (and IEEE, and a few other sponsors like Cree and Rohm) is offering a $1 million prize to the team which can "design and build a kW-scale power inverter with the highest power density (at least 50 Watts per cubic inch)." Going from cooler-sized to tablet sized, they say, would make whole lot of things better, and the prize is reserved for the best performing entrant. "Our testing philosophy is to not look inside the box. You provide us with a box that has 5 wires coming out of it: two DC inputs, two AC outputs and grounding connection and we only monitor what goes into and comes out of those wires, along with the temperature of the outside of your box, over the course of 100 hours of testing. The inverter will be operating in an islanded more—that is, not tied or synced to an external grid. The loads will be dynamically changing throughout the course of the testing, similar to what you may expect to see in a residential setting." The application must be filled out in English, but any serious applicants can sign up "regardless of approach suggested or team background." Registration runs through September.

EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the one-new-member-of-the-x-men-per-100,000-normals dept.

Power 230

mdsolar sends this news from Forbes: Both proponents and opponents of nuclear power expect the Environmental Protection Agency in coming months to relax its rules restricting radiation emissions from reactors and other nuclear facilities. EPA officials say they have no such intention, but they are willing to reconsider the method they use to limit public exposure—and the public's level of risk.

At issue is a 1977 rule that limits the total whole-body radiation dose to any member of the public from the normal operation of the uranium fuel cycle—fuel processing, reactors, storage, reprocessing or disposal—to 0.25 millisieverts per year. (This rule, known as 40 CFR part 190, is different from other EPA regulations that restrict radionuclides in drinking water and that limit public exposure during emergencies. Those are also due for revision.) "We have not made any decisions or determined any specifics on how to move forward with any of these issues. We do, however, believe the regulation uses outdated science, and we are thinking about how to bring the regulation more in line with current thinking," said Brian Littleton, a chemical engineer with EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air."

Nearly 25 Years Ago, IBM Helped Save Macintosh

samzenpus posted about a week ago | from the back-in-the-day dept.

Businesses 236

dcblogs (1096431) writes "Apple and IBM, which just announced partnership to bring iOS and cloud services to enterprises, have helped each other before. IBM played a key role in turning the Macintosh into a successful hardware platform at a point when it — and the company itself — were struggling. Nearly 25 years ago, IBM was a part of an alliance that gave Apple access to PowerPC chips for Macintosh systems that were competitive, if not better performing in some benchmarks, than the processors Intel was producing at the time for Windows PCs. In 1991, Apple was looking for a RISC-based processor to replace the Motorola 68K it had been using in its Macintosh line. "The PCs of the era were definitely outperforming the Macintoshes that were based on the 68K," he said. "Apple was definitely behind the power, performance curve," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. The PowerPC processor that emerged from that earlier pairing changed that. PowerPC processors were used in Macintoshes for more than a decade, until 2006, when Apple switched to Intel chips.

People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

Unknown Lamer posted about two weeks ago | from the just-build-a-few-nuclear-reactors dept.

Power 708

schwit1 (797399) writes with news that a UK study has found that folks concerned about climate change don't do much to conserve power at home. From the article: Those who say they are concerned about the prospect of climate change consume more energy than those who say it is "too far into the future to worry about," the study commissioned by the Department for Energy and climate change found. That is in part due to age, as people over 65 are more frugal with electricity but much less concerned about global warming. However, even when pensioners are discounted, there is only a "weak trend" to show that people who profess to care about climate change do much to cut their energy use. The findings were based on the Household Electricity Survey, which closely monitored the electricity use and views of 250 families over a year. The report (PDF), by experts from Loughborough University and Cambridge Architectural Research, was commissioned and published by DECC. High power use doesn't have to be dirty: Replace coal, methane, and petroleum with nuclear, wind, solar, etc.

New Raspberry Pi Model B+

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the latest-and-greatest dept.

Upgrades 202

mikejuk writes The Raspberry Pi foundation has just announced the Raspberry Pi B+. The basic specs haven't changed much — same BC2835 and 512MB of RAM and the $35 price tag. There are now four USB ports, which means you don't need a hub to work with a mouse, keyboard and WiFi dongle. The GPIO has been expanded to 40 pins, but don't worry: you can plug your old boards and cables into the lefthand part of the connector, and it's backward compatible. As well as some additional general purpose lines, there are two designated for use with I2C EEPROM. When the Pi boots it will look for custom EEPROMs on these lines and optionally use them to load Linux drivers or setup expansion boards. Expansion boards can now include identity chips that when the board is connected configures the Pi to make use of them — no more manual customization. The change to a micro SD socket is nice, unless you happen to have lots of spare full size SD cards around. It is also claimed that the power requirements have dropped by half, to one watt, which brings the model B into the same power consumption area as the model A. Comp video is now available on the audio jack, and the audio quality has been improved. One big step for Raspberry Pi is that it now has four holes for mounting in standard enclosures.

Slashdot Asks: Do You Want a Smart Watch?

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

Hardware 381

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

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

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the won't-fit-in-my-phone dept.

Music 502

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

Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the pump-all-of-our-smog-into-the-sun dept.

Earth 389

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

Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

Unknown Lamer posted about two weeks ago | from the human-workers-sent-to-protein-bank dept.

Robotics 530

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

TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes

samzenpus posted about three weeks ago | from the keeping-something-safe dept.

Transportation 702

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

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

Unknown Lamer posted about three weeks ago | from the we're-doomed dept.

Earth 385

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

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

Unknown Lamer posted about three weeks ago | from the kill-all-humans dept.

Robotics 564

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

Site of 1976 "Atomic Man" Accident To Be Cleaned

samzenpus posted about three weeks ago | from the power-up dept.

Power 299

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

Disappointed Woz Sells His "Worthless" Galaxy Gear Watch

timothy posted about three weeks ago | from the get-that-man-a-tricorder dept.

Handhelds 242

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

Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

timothy posted about three weeks ago | from the answer-is-blowin'-in dept.

Power 441

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

New Chemical Process Could Make Ammonia a Practical Car Fuel

Unknown Lamer posted about a month ago | from the plant-engine-hybrid dept.

Transportation 380

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

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

Soulskill posted about a month ago | from the does-it-fly dept.

Transportation 216

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

Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly

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

Power 461

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

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

samzenpus posted about a month ago | from the try-ours-instead dept.

Microsoft 365

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

Russia Wants To Replace US Computer Chips With Local Processors

timothy posted about a month ago | from the domestic-production dept.

AMD 340

An anonymous reader writes with this news from Tass: Russia's Industry and Trade Ministry plans to replace U.S. microchips (Intel and AMD), used in government's computers, with domestically-produced micro Baikal processors in a project worth dozens of millions of dollars, business daily Kommersant reported Thursday. The article is fairly thin, but does add a bit more detail: "The Baikal micro processor will be designed by a unit of T-Platforms, a producer of supercomputers, next year, with support from state defense conglomerate Rostec and co-financing by state-run technological giant Rosnano. The first products will be Baikal M and M/S chips, designed on the basis of 64-bit nucleus Cortex A-57 made by UK company ARM, with frequency of 2 gigahertz for personal computers and micro servers."

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