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  • Google Offers a Million Bucks For a Better Inverter

    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.

    158 comments | 8 hours ago

  • Researchers Create Origami Wheels That Can Change Size

    rtoz writes Researchers from Seoul National University have designed a robotic wheel based on the origami "magic ball pattern," which is a traditional technique used to create folded paper spheres. This robotic wheel can change its radius to create larger wheels to climb over things, and shrink back to a smaller size to squeeze under obstacles. The diameter of the wheels changes automatically to enable the robot to either be strong or speedy. The scientists think their innovation could one day be used for interplanetary rovers as the wheel can be folded up and "inflate" itself.

    51 comments | 2 days ago

  • Linux Needs Resource Management For Complex Workloads

    storagedude writes: Resource management and allocation for complex workloads has been a need for some time in open systems, but no one has ever followed through on making open systems look and behave like an IBM mainframe, writes Henry Newman at Enterprise Storage Forum. Throwing more hardware at the problem is a costly solution that won't work forever, he notes.

    Newman writes: "With next-generation technology like non-volatile memories and PCIe SSDs, there are going to be more resources in addition to the CPU that need to be scheduled to make sure everything fits in memory and does not overflow. I think the time has come for Linux – and likely other operating systems – to develop a more robust framework that can address the needs of future hardware and meet the requirements for scheduling resources. This framework is not going to be easy to develop, but it is needed by everything from databases and MapReduce to simple web queries."

    159 comments | 2 days ago

  • EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

    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."

    223 comments | 3 days ago

  • Wearable Robot Adds Two Fingers To Your Hand

    rtoz writes: Researchers at MIT have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand. This wrist-wearable robot adds two extra fingers that respond to movements in the wearer's hand. The robotic fingers are on either side of the hand — one outside the thumb, and the other outside the little finger. A control algorithm enables it to move in sync with the wearer's fingers to grasp objects of various shapes and sizes. With the assistance of these extra fingers, the user can grasp objects that are usually too difficult to pick up and manipulate with a single hand.

    77 comments | 4 days ago

  • Lenovo Halts Sales of Small-Screen Windows 8.1 Tablets Due To "Lack of Interest"

    DroidJason1 writes Microsoft has attempted to compete in the small-screen tablet market with Windows 8.1 and Windows RT, but it looks like the growing adoption of small-screen Android tablets are just too much for Lenovo to handle. Lenovo has slammed the brakes on sales of small screen Windows tablets in the United States, citing a lack of interest from consumers. In fact, Lenovo has stopped selling the 8-inch ThinkPad 8 and the 8-inch Miix 2. Fortunately, these small-screen Windows tablets have seen some success in Brazil, China, and Japan, so Lenovo will focus on efforts there. Microsoft also recently scrapped plans for the rumored Surface Mini.

    125 comments | 4 days ago

  • Nearly 25 Years Ago, IBM Helped Save Macintosh

    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.

    235 comments | 5 days ago

  • SRI/Cambridge Opens CHERI Secure Processor Design

    An anonymous reader writes with some exciting news from the world of processor design: Robert Watson at Cambridge (author of Capsicum) has written a blog post on SRI/Cambridge's recent open sourcing of the hardware and software for the DARPA-sponsored CHERI processor — including laser cutting directions for an FPGA-based tablet! Described in their paper The CHERI Capability Model: Reducing Risk in an age of RISC, CHERI is a 64-bit RISC processor able to boot and run FreeBSD and open-source applications, but has a Clang/LLVM-managed fine-grained, capability-based memory protection model within each UNIX process. Drawing on ideas from Capsicum, they also support fine-grained in-process sandboxing using capabilities. The conference talk was presented on a CHERI tablet running CheriBSD, with a video of the talk by student Jonathan Woodruff (slides).

    Although based on the 64-bit MIPS ISA, the authors suggest that it would also be usable with other RISC ISAs such as RISC-V and ARMv8. The paper compares the approach with several other research approaches and Intel's forthcoming Memory Protection eXtensions (MPX) with favorable performance and stronger protection properties.
    The processor "source code" (written in Bluespec Verilog) is available under a variant of the Apache license (modified for application to hardware). Update: 07/16 20:53 GMT by U L : If you have any questions about the project, regular Slashdot contributor TheRaven64 is one of the authors of the paper, and is answering questions.

    59 comments | about a week ago

  • Harvesting Energy From Humidity

    rtoz writes: Last year, MIT researchers discovered that when water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. Now, the same team has demonstrated that this process can generate small amounts of electricity that might be used to power electronic devices. This approach could lead to devices that can charge cellphones or other electronics using just the humidity in the air. As a side benefit, the system could also produce clean water. The device itself could be simple, consisting of a series of interleaved flat metal plates. A cube measuring about 50 centimeters on a side — about the size of a typical camping cooler — could be sufficient to fully charge a cellphone in about 12 hours. While that may seem slow, people in remote areas may have few alternatives.

    89 comments | about a week ago

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

    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.

    706 comments | about a week ago

  • Coming Soon(ish) From LG: Transparent, Rollup Display

    jfruh (300774) writes Korean electronics manufacturer LG has shown off experimental, see-through, roll-up displays, paper thin and flexible and capable of letting through about 30% of the light that strikes it. The company is eager to sell the concept and promises it'll be arriving soon, though they've shown of similar (though less capable) technology over the past few years and have yet to bring any products to market.

    64 comments | about a week ago

  • Phase-Changing Material Created For Robots

    rtoz writes In the movie Terminator 2, the shape-shifting T-1000 robot morphs into a liquid state to squeeze through tight spaces or to repair itself when harmed. Now a phase-changing material built from wax and foam, and capable of switching between hard and soft states, could allow even low-cost robots to perform the same feat. The material developed by MIT researchers could be used to build deformable surgical robots. The robots could move through the body to reach a particular point without damaging any of the organs or vessels along the way. The Robots built from this material could also be used in search-and-rescue operations to squeeze through rubble looking for survivors.

    35 comments | about a week ago

  • New Raspberry Pi Model B+

    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.

    202 comments | about a week ago

  • Nano-Pixels Hold Potential For Screens Far Denser Than Today's Best

    Zothecula (1870348) writes "The Retina displays featured on Apple's iPhone 4 and 5 models pack a pixel density of 326 ppi, with individual pixels measuring 78 micrometers. That might seem plenty good enough given the average human eye is unable to differentiate between the individual pixels, but scientists in the UK have now developed technology that could lead to extremely high-resolution displays that put such pixel densities to shame."

    129 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Slashdot Asks: Do You Want a Smart Watch?

    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?

    381 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Take a Picture Just By Thinking About It, Using Google Glass With MindRDR App

    rtoz (2530056) writes A London based company, This Place, is launching a new app "MindRDR" for providing one more way for controlling Google Glass. It will allow the users to control the Google Glass with their thoughts. This MindRDR application bridges the Neurosky EEG biosensor and Google Glass. It allows users to take photos and share them on Twitter and Facebook by simply using brainwaves alone. This Place has put the code of this app on GitHub for others to use it and expand on it.

    41 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Sand-Based Anode Triples Lithium-Ion Battery Performance

    Zothecula (1870348) writes "Conventional lithium-ion batteries rely on anodes made of graphite, but it is widely believed that the performance of this material has reached its zenith, prompting researchers to look at possible replacements. Much of the focus has been on nanoscale silicon, but it remains difficult to produce in large quantities and usually degrades quickly. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have overcome these problems by developing a lithium-ion battery anode using sand."

    60 comments | about two weeks ago

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

    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."

    499 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Apple Gets Its First Batch of iPhone Chips From TSMC

    redletterdave (2493036) notes that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) has shipped its first batch of microprocessors to Apple as the iPhone maker looks to diversify its overseas suppliers. Apple will continue to rely on Samsung for its microprocessors, but as the rivalry between Apple and Samsung heats up in the mobile and soon wearable arenas, the deal with TSMC allows Apple to be less reliant on Samsung and therefore have more leverage with respect to price negotiations for future chips, as TSMC has supplanted Samsung Electronics as Apple's chief chipmaker for iPhones and iPads. Since 2011, Apple has been striking deals with other display and chip makers around Asia to reduce its dependence on Samsung. As a result of this slowdown in sales, Samsung on Monday announced operating income for its fiscal second quarter had sunk to a two-year low, blaming 'weak' sales of low- and medium-end smartphones, strong competition and subpar demand.
    It may not be a household name like Intel or AMD, but TSMC is the world's biggest chip maker by revenue.

    45 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Hacking a Tesla Model S Could Net $10,000 Prize

    cartechboy (2660665) writes "It seems there's a new hack challenge set every week, but this time, it seems different. A challenge has been thrown down to hack a Tesla Model S with a $10,000 prize. The organizers of a computer security conference have set the challenge and it's open to anyone that registers for the Syscan conference. Taking place in Beijing from July 16-17, the rules for the hack competition haven't been revealed yet but a Model S will be on display for hackers to try their luck on. It's important to note that Tesla itself isn't involved in the competition in any official capacity, nor does it support the competition. If successful, this wouldn't be the first time a Tesla Model S has been hacked. In that instance Tesla was quick to warn people that making changes in the Model S' software would immediately void the car's warranty. Given the car's high-tech nature, it's no shock Tesla's taking security seriously. With $10,000 on the line, it'll be interesting to see if anyone manages to crack the code."

    77 comments | about two weeks ago

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