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The Quest For the Ultimate Vacuum Tube ( 88

An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on progress in the development of vacuum tube technology, which remains surprisingly relevant in 2015. "In the six decades since vacuum tubes lost out to solid-state devices in computers, receivers, and power supplies, vacuum technology has continued to evolve and branch out into new terrain, sustaining a small but skilled corps of engineers and scientists around the world, as well as a multibillion-dollar industry. That's because the traveling-wave tube and other vacuum devices continue to serve one purpose extremely well: as powerful sources of microwave, millimeter-wave, and submillimeter-wave radiation. And now, ongoing research into a new and potentially revolutionary kind of traveling-wave tube—the ultracompact and ultraefficient cold-cathode TWT—looks poised to deliver the first practical device by the end of this decade."

What Is the Future of the Television? ( 192

An anonymous reader writes: Benedict Evans has an interesting post about where television hardware is headed. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the tech industry made a huge push to invade the living room, trying to make the internet mesh with traditional TV broadcasts. As we all know, their efforts failed. Now, we periodically see new waves of devices to attach to the TV, but none have been particularly ambitious. The most successful devices of the recent wave, like the Chromecast and Apple TV, are simply turning the TV into a dumb screen for streamed content. Meanwhile, consumption of all types of video content is growing on smaller screens — tablets, phones, etc. Even game consoles are starting to see their market eroded by boxes like the Steam Link, which acts as a pipe for a game being played elsewhere on a PC. It raises an intriguing question: where is the television headed? What uses and functions does one giant screen serve that can't be cleverly redistributed to smaller screens? Evans concludes, "The web's open, permissionless innovation beat the closed, top-down visions of interactive TV and the information superhighway."

The Tamagochi Singularity Made Real: Infinite Tamagochi Living On the Internet ( 80

szczys writes: Everyone loves Tamagochi, the little electronic keychains spawned in the '90s that let you raise digital pets. Some time ago, XKCD made a quip about an internet-based matrix of thousands of these digital entities. That quip is now a reality thanks to elite hardware hacker Jeroen Domburg (aka Sprite_TM). In his recent talk called "The Tamagochi Singularity" at the Hackaday SuperConference he revealed that he had built an infinite network of virtual Tamagochi by implementing the original hardware as a virtual machine. This included developing AI to keep them happy, and developing a protocol to emulate their IR interactions. But he went even further, hacking an original keychain to use wirelessly as a console which can look in on any of the virtual Tamagochi living on his underground network. This full-stack process is unparalleled in just about every facet: complexity, speed of implementation, awesome factor, and will surely spark legions of other Tamagochi Matrices.

On iFixit and the Right To Repair ( 225

Jason Koebler writes: Motherboard sent a reporter to the Electronics Reuse Convention in New Orleans to investigate the important but threatened world of smartphone and electronics repair. As manufacturers start using proprietary screws, offer phone lease programs and use copyright law to threaten repair professionals, the right-to-repair is under more threat than ever. "That Apple and other electronics manufacturers don't sell repair parts to consumers or write service manuals for them isn't just annoying, it's an environmental disaster, [iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens] says. Recent shifts to proprietary screws, the ever-present threat of legal action under a trainwreck of a copyright law, and an antagonistic relationship with third-party repair shops shows that the anti-repair culture at major manufacturers isn't based on negligence or naiveté, it's malicious."

Understanding the Antikythera Mechanism ( 74

szczys writes: We attribute great thinking to ancient Greece. This is exemplified by the Antikythera Mechanism. Fragments of the mechanism were found in a shipwreck first discovered in 1900 and visited by researchers several times over the next century. It is believed to be a method of tracking the calendar and is the first known example of what are now common-yet-complicated engineering mechanisms like the differential gear. A few working reproductions have been produced and make it clear that whomever designed this had an advanced understanding of complex gear ratios and their ability to track the passage of time and celestial bodies. Last year research by two scientists suggested that the device might be much older than previously thought.

Sabotage Blacks Out Millions In Crimea 144 writes: In a preview of what the U.S. may one day face with cyberattacks on the U.S. power grid, Ivan Nechepurenko reports at the NY Times that power lines in southern Ukraine that supply Crimea have been knocked down by saboteurs, leaving millions without electricity. Four local power plants, including two nuclear ones, scaled back production because they had no means to distribute electricity. More than 1.6 million people still lacked power on Monday morning, Russia's Energy Ministry said in a statement. Local power plants in Crimea, as well as backup generators, were being used to provide power to hospitals, schools and other vital facilities. The Crimean authorities declared Monday a day off for non-government workers and declared a state of emergency, which can last as long as one month.

It was not immediately clear who destroyed the main electric pylons on Friday and Sunday, but the blasted-away stump of at least one tower near the demonstrators was wrapped in the distinctive blue Crimean Tatar flag with a yellow trident in the upper left-hand corner. Tatar activists blockaded the site, saying they would prevent repairs until Russia released political prisoners and allowed international organizations to monitor human rights in Crimea. The activists claim that the 300,000-member minority has faced systematic repression since Russia annexed the peninsula in March 2014. In the meantime Russia is building an "energy bridge" to Crimea that officials hope will supply most of the peninsula's need and its first phase will begin operating by the end of this year.

Defending the power grid in the United States is challenging from an organizational point of view. There are about 3,200 utilities, all of which operate a portion of the electricity grid, but most of these individual networks are interconnected. The latest version of The Department of Defense's Cyber Strategy has as its third strategic goal, "Be prepared to defend the U.S. homeland and U.S. vital interests from disruptive or destructive cyberattacks of significant consequence."

Australian State Bans Possession of Blueprints For 3D Printing Firearms ( 308

angry tapir writes: Possessing files that can be used to 3D print firearms will soon be illegal in the Australian state of New South Wales after new legislation, passed last week by state parliament, comes into effect. Possessing files for 3D printing guns will be punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The provisions "are targeted at criminals who think they can steal or modify firearms or manufacture firearms from 3D blueprints," NSW's justice minister, Troy Grant, said when introducing the bill in the state's lower house on 27 October. "Those who think they can skirt the law will find themselves facing some of the toughest penalties for firearms offences in this country," Grant said.

Intel Broadwell-E, Apollo Lake, and Kaby Lake Details Emerge In Leaked Roadmap 114

bigwophh writes: In Q4 2016, Intel will release a follow up to its Skylake processors named Kaby Lake, which will mark yet another 14nm release that's a bit odd, for a couple of reasons. The big one is the fact that this chip mayn not have appeared had Intel's schedule kept on track. Originally, Cannonlake was set to succeed Skylake, but Cannonlake will instead launch in 2017. That makes Kaby Lake neither a tick nor tock in Intel's release cadence. When released, Kaby Lake will add native USB 3.1 and HDCP 2.2 support. It's uncertain whether these chips will fit into current Z170-based motherboards, but considering the fact that there's also a brand-new chipset on the way, we're not too confident of it. However, the so-called Intel 200 series chipsets will be backwards-compatible with Skylake. It also appears that Intel will be releasing Apollo Lake as early as the late spring, which will replace Braswell, the lowest-powered chips Intel's lineup destined for smartphones.
XBox (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Xbox One Or PlayStation 4? 373

An anonymous reader writes: I'm looking at getting the kids a new gaming console for Christmas this year. I'm stuck trying to decide between getting an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4. I'm really wary on the PlayStation because of the 5 PS2s with broken optical drives sitting in my garage; none lasted more than two years. On the other hand, I'm also wary of buying a Microsoft product; I'm a Linux user for life after getting tired of their crappy operating system. I've also considered getting a gaming PC, whether Linux or Windows, but it's more expensive and game reviews show most are not as good as a dedicated game console. The kids want Fallout 4, and I want Star Wars Battlefront and any version of Gran Turismo. We currently have a Nintendo Wii and a crappy gaming PC with some Steam games. So, which gaming console should I get that will last a long time?

TrueCrypt Safer Than Previously Thought ( 42

An anonymous reader writes: Back in September, members of Google's Project Zero team found a pair of flaws in the TrueCrypt disk encryption software that could lead to a system compromise. Their discovery raised concerns that TrueCrypt was unsuitable for use in securing sensitive data. However, the Fraunhofer Institute went ahead with a full audit of TrueCrypt's code, and they found it to be more secure than most people think. They correctly point out that for an attacker to exploit the earlier vulnerabilities (and a couple more vulnerabilities they found themselves), the attacker would already need to have "far-reaching access to the system," with which they could do far worse things than exploit an obscure vulnerability.

The auditors say, "It does not seem apparent to many people that TrueCrypt is inherently not suitable to protect encrypted data against attackers who can repeatedly access the running system. This is because when a TrueCrypt volume is mounted its data is generally accessible through the file system, and with repeated access one can install key loggers etc. to get hold of the key material in many situations. Only when unmounted, and no key is kept in memory, can a TrueCrypt volume really be secure." For other uses, the software "does what it's designed for," despite its code flaws. Their detailed, 77-page report (PDF) goes into further detail.


600,000 Arris Cable Modems Have 'Backdoors In Backdoors,' Researcher Claims ( 76

An anonymous reader writes: A security researcher using Shodan to probe Arris cable modems for vulnerabilities has found that 600,000 of the company's modems not only have a backdoor, but that the backdoor itself has an extra backdoor. Brazilian vulnerability tester Bernardo Rodrigues posted that he found undocumented libraries in three models, initially leading to a backdoor that uses an admin password disclosed back in 2009. Brazilian researcher Bernardo Rodrigues notes that the secondary backdoor has a password derived in part from the final five digits from the modem's serial number. However, the default 'root' password for the affected models remains 'arris.'
Hardware Hacking

Hands-On With the Voltera V-One PCB Printer ( 37

szczys writes: Eric Evenchick was one of the first backers of the Voltera V-One PCB Printer and just received the 6th device shipped so far. He ran it through its paces and published a review that gives it a positive rating. The hardware uses conductive ink to print traces on FR4 substrate. The board is then flipped upside down and the traces baked on the machine to make them robust. Next the printer dispenses solder paste and the same heating method is used to reflow after components are placed by hand.

French ITER Fusion Project To Take At Least 6 Years Longer Than Planned ( 193

sciencehabit writes: The multibillion dollar ITER fusion project under construction in France will take at least an additional 6 years to complete, compared with the current schedule, a meeting of the governing council was told this week. ITER management has also asked the seven international partners which are backing the project for additional funding to finish the job. Under recent estimates, ITER was expected to cost some $13 billion and not begin operations until 2019. The new start date would be 2025.
Input Devices

Silent Ear and Tongue-Tracking Tech Can Control Wearables ( 10

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists at Georgia Tech are developing silent speech systems that can enable fast and hands-free communication with wearable devices, controlled by the user's tongue and ears. As seen with open source project Eyedrivomatic, the researchers want to apply the technology to provide a device control solution for people who are disabled. They suggest it could also be used by those working in a loud environment in need of a quiet way to communicate with their wearable devices. The prototype involves a combination of tongue control with earphone-like pieces each installed with proximity sensors to map the changing shape of the ear canal. Every word manipulates the canal in a different way, allowing for accurate recognition.

NASA Selects Universities To Develop Humanoid Robot Astronauts ( 21

MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced that it is sending copies of its R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot to two universities for software upgrades and other research and development. The effort is part of a continuing project to develop cybernetic astronauts that will assist human astronauts in exploring other worlds. The idea is that robot astronauts would initially scout potentially hazardous environments, say on Mars, and then actively collaborate with their human counterparts in exploration. NASA is paying each university chosen $250,000 per year for two years to perform the R&D. The university researchers will have access to NASA expertise and facilities to perform the upgrades. Spoiler alert: the robots are both going to Greater Boston, to teams at MIT and Northeastern University respectively.