crookedvulture writes "Slashdot has already covered the four main flavors of Cherry MX mechanical key switches: red, black, blue, and brown. Now, there's a green MX variant that emulates the feel of the buckling spring switches in old-school IBM Model M keyboards. The green switches combine tactile feedback, an audible click, and a stiff spring that requires 80g of actuation force. They're a stiffer version of the MX blues that more closely matches the characteristics of IBM's buckling spring design. Previously reserved for use with space bars, the green switches have now taken over an entire Cooler Master keyboard. And, unlike the old Model M and contemporary copycats, the new CM Storm Trigger has modern conveniences like an integrated USB hub, LED backlighting, and programmable macros." I've had my hopes raised and then dashed by some other keyboards whose makers promised Model M feel, so I'll believe it when I feel and hear it.
Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.
mikejuk writes "Microsoft Research is currently having a Techfest at Redmond where it is showing off a lot of new work. The latest work on the Kinect uses the same sort of machine-learning approach to distinguish between an open hand and a clenched fist. Although there are no details, its general method was to use a large number of images of people's hands and supervised training to distinguish between open and closed hands. The learning algorithm is based on a forest of decision trees, which is the same general method used to implement the skeleton tracking. Being able to detect an open or closed hand might not seem to be much of an advance, and certainly not as good as a multi-gesture touch screen interface, but it is enough to allow the user interface to distinguish a "pick up" or "grip" gesture. So you can move the hands within an image, close both hands to grip the image points and move apart to zoom. You can't get the software at the moment, but it has been promised for the next version of the Kinect SDK for Windows along with the long awaited 3D scanner Kinect Fusion."
An anonymous reader writes "In as little as a few days, the British-made Surrey Training, Research, and Nanosatellite Demonstrator (STRaND-1) satellite will begin transitioning its key systems over to a completely stock Android Nexus One smartphone that's been bolted to the bottom of it. The mission is designed to test the endurance of off-the-shelf consumer hardware, and to validate Android as a viable platform for controlling low-cost spacecraft. STRaND-1 managed to beat NASA's own 'PhoneSat' mission to the punch, which will see a Nexus One and Nexus S launched into space aboard the April test flight of the Orbital Sciences Antares commercial launch vehicle, the prime competitor to SpaceX's Falcon 9."
Qedward writes "Virgin Atlantic is preparing for a significant increase in data as it embraces the Internet of Things, with a new fleet of highly connected planes each expected to create over half a terabyte of data per flight. IT director David Bulman said: 'The latest planes we are getting, the Boeing 787s, are incredibly connected. Literally every piece of that plane has an internet connection, from the engines, to the flaps, to the landing gear. If there is a problem with one of the engines we will know before it lands to make sure that we have the parts there. It is getting to the point where each different part of the plane is telling us what it is doing as the flight is going on. We can get upwards of half a terabyte of data from a single flight from all of the different devices which are internet connected.'"
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that at about 11:45 am today, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul took the floor of the Senate to launch one of the chamber's rarest spectacles: a genuine filibuster. Paul says he is 'alarmed' at the lack of definition over who can be targeted by drone strikes. He called Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to rule out drone strikes to kill an American on U.S. soil 'more than frightening,' adding, 'When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It's an easy question. It should have been a resounding, an unequivocal, "No." The president's response? He hasn't killed anyone yet. We're supposed to be comforted by that.' Any senator can opt to hold the floor to speak on any matter, but the practice of speaking for hours on end is rare, especially in the modern-day Senate, where the chamber's rules are used more often to block legislation or to hold show votes on trivial matters. Paul has since been joined in his symbolic effort by Republicans Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). He has also gotten some bipartisan support from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.). Paul suggested that many college campuses in the 1960s were full of people who might have been considered enemies of the state. 'Are you going to drop a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?'"
crookedvulture writes "Seagate's has revealed its next-generation hybrid drives, and for the first time, there's a 3.5" desktop model in the mix. The new family of so-called SSHDs includes standard and slim notebook variants with 500GB and 1TB capacities, plus 1TB and 2TB desktop versions. All of them combine mechanical platters with 8GB of NAND in a dual-mode SLC/MLC configuration. The SLC component is largely reserved to cache host writes, while the MLC portion is filled with frequently accessed data to speed read performance. Despite MLC NAND's lower write endurance, Seagate claims the SSHDs have more than enough headroom to last at least five years with typical client workloads. More impressively, the mobile SSHDs are supposed to be faster than the old Momentus XT hybrid even though they have slower 5,400-RPM spindle speeds. The mobile models are slated to start selling shortly at $79 for 500GB and $99 for 1TB, while the 1TB and 2TB desktop flavors are due in late April for $99 and $149, respectively. Unlike other NAND caching solutions, Seagate's tech requires no software or drivers, making it compatible with any OS."
New submitter FoolishBluntman sends this quote from CNN: "An unmanned drone came within 200 feet of a commercial jet over New York, triggering an FBI appeal to the public for any information about the unusual and potentially dangerous incident. The crew of Alitalia Flight 608 approaching John F. Kennedy airport on Monday reported the sighting. 'We saw a drone, a drone aircraft,' the pilot can be heard telling air traffic controllers on radio calls captured by the website LiveATC.net. ... The unmanned aircraft, described by the FBI as black and no more than three feet wide with four propellers, came within 200 feet of the Boeing jetliner. The FBI said it was looking to identify and locate the aircraft and its operator. A source with knowledge of the incident says investigators interviewed the pilot and others on the Alitalia plane."
Kittenman writes "The BBC magazine has an article on human trust of robots. 'As manufacturers get ready to market robots for the home it has become essential for them to overcome the public's suspicion of them. But designing a robot that is fun to be with — as well as useful and safe — is quite difficult.' The article cites a poll done on Facebook over the 'best face' design for a robot that would be trusted. But we still distrust them in general. 'Eighty-eight per cent of respondents [to a different survey] agreed with the statement that robots are "necessary as they can do jobs that are too hard or dangerous for people," such as space exploration, warfare and manufacturing. But 60% thought that robots had no place in the care of children, elderly people and those with disabilities.' We distrust the robots because of the uncanny valley — or, as the article puts it, that they look unwell (or like corpses) and do not behave as expected. So, at what point will you trust robots for more personal tasks? How about one with the 'trusting face'?" It seems much more likely that a company will figure out sneaky ways to make us trust robots than make robots that much more trustworthy.
New submitter Dputiger writes "Nvidia's latest GTX Titan puts a renewed focus on multi-monitor gaming, but how does it compare against other cards at half the price? 'The games we tested fall into two general camps. Arkham City, DiRT 3, and Serious Sam: BFE are all absolutely playable on the GTX 680 or 7970 in a single-card configuration, even with detail settings turned all the way up. Shogun 2, Metro 2033, and Crysis 3 aren’t. In Shogun 2 and Metro 2033, however, the Titan maintains a playable frame rate at High Detail when the other two cards are stumbling and stuttering. Crysis 3 was the one exception — in that game, all three cards remained playable at High Detail, and dropped below that mark once we increased to Very High Detail and added 4x SMAA.' Field of view adjustments, the impact of bezels, and single-card performance at multiple detail levels are all covered, as is the price of multi-screen setups."
jfruh writes "As tablets and cell phones become more and more important to the computing landscape, Intel is increasingly having a hard time keeping its chips on the forefront of the industry, with x86 architecture failing to find much success in mobile. The question that arises: Why is Intel so wedded to x86 chips? Well, over the past thirty years, Intel has tried and failed to move away from the x86 architecture on multiple occasions, with each attempt undone by technical, organizational, and short-term market factors."
An anonymous reader writes "Canon announced today that it successfully developed a super high-sensitivity full-frame CMOS sensor developed exclusively for video recording. The new Full HD sensor can capture light no other comparable sensor can see and it uses pixels 7.5 larger than the best commercial professional cameras in existence today." There doesn't seem to be a gallery of images, but the video demo (direct link to an mpeg4) makes it seem pretty sensitive.
New submitter misanthropic.mofo writes with a look at the the emerging field of robtic warfare. Adding, "Leaping from drones, to recon 'turtlebots', humanity is making its way toward robo-combat. I for one think it would make it interesting to pit legions of robot warriors against each other and let people purchase time on them. Of course there are people that are for and against such technology. Development of ethical robotic systems seems like it would take some of the fun out of things, there's also the question of who gets to decide on the ethics."
pigrabbitbear writes "Areva, the French nuclear fuel company, helps supply Japan with a lot of its juice. And Areva's chief executive says that Japan is going to restart up to six reactors by the end of the year. Eventually, it's going to power up at least two thirds of them. Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe has been a little cagey, but he recently told the press that yes, despite the upcoming March 11th anniversary of the Fukushima crisis, the nuke plants are coming back online." Supposedly, they are overhauling their nuclear regulatory agencies to fix the massive failure and regulatory capture that led to Fukushima being run unsafely. They are also not going to restart reactors that are on active fault lines; this includes the largest reactor complex in the world. Vaguely related, the Vogtle plant expansion in the U.S. is running a bit over budget, with folks like the Sierra Club seizing the chance to call for an end to construction (unlikely, since Georgia Power says it'd cost customers more, even pretending natural gas is infinite and will always be cheap, to halt construction in favor of any other kind of power plant), and legislators aiming to 'protect' customers from cost overruns. However, it looks like unless action is taken the nuclear renaissance is already dead due to the inherent short-sightedness of the "free market."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Apple's long-rumored "iWatch" could earn the company $6 billion a year, if an analyst quoted by Bloomberg proves correct. Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen estimated the global watch industry's annual revenue at $60 billion a year, with gross margins of roughly 60 percent. "This can be a $6 billion opportunity for Apple, with plenty of opportunity for upside if they create something totally new like they did with the iPod," he told the newswire, "something consumers didn't even know they needed." Meanwhile, The Verge reports that Apple has " chosen to rework the full iOS to run on the watch instead of building up the iPod nano's proprietary touch operating system," which has led to battery issues: while Apple would like the device to last "at least 4-5 days" between charges, the current prototypes give somewhat less. While an "Apple TV" long dominated the rumor mill as Apple's next big product, the frequency and detail of "iWatch" rumors over the past few weeks suggests that a timepiece could be the company's next big project."
An anonymous reader writes "During the 2010 Christmas shopping season, Steve Jobs famously dissed the 7-inch tablets being rolled out by competitors, including Samsung's Galaxy, as being 'tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the [9.7-inch diagonal] iPad,' adding that 'the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival.' A year later Jobs was dead, and the iPad Mini, with a 7.9-inch diagonal screen, was rolled out under his successor Tim Cook in October, 2012. Looking at industry-wide tablet sales numbers for January 2013, which show that the iPad Mini surprisingly outsold its larger sibling by a substantial margin (as did 7-inch Android tablets from competitors), Motley Fool's Evan Niu thinks that the 7.9-inch form factor was the correct size all along, contrary to Jobs' pronouncements (which, of course, was partly marketing bluster — but he chose the larger size in the first place). Of course the Mini is cheaper, but not by much — $329 vs. $399 for the larger iPad, for the baseline model with WiFi only and 16GB storage. Had Apple introduced the iPad with the smaller size to begin with, Niu argues, competitors would have faced a much more difficult task grabbing market share. While the Mini is currently available only with 'Super VGA' resolution (1024x768), rumors are afloat that Minis with the Retina display (2048x1536) are close to production."
jones_supa writes "'We are going stop building our notebook 7200rpm hard disk drives at the end of 2013,' said David Burks, director of marketing and product management at Seagate Technology, during a conversation with X-bit labs. The mainstream market demand is expected shift to different products, such as hybrid drives. Users who need maximum performance and care about battery life have been choosing notebooks with SSDs for years now, whereas those who required capacity and moderate price do not really care about actual performance. With the introduction of third-generation solid-state hybrid drives later this year, Seagate will position them for performance- and capacity-demanding end-users. The company will also continue to offer 5400rpm HDDs for value notebooks."
New submitter joelville writes "After noticing artifacts and a 1600 × 900 image in the output from Apple's new Lightning Digital AV Adapter, the Panic Blog sawed it open and found an ARM chip inside. They suspect that video bypasses the cable entirely and instead uses Airplay to stream three inches to make up for the Lightning connector's shortcomings."
hypnosec writes "The Raspberry Pi turned one yesterday. Raspberry Pi was first launched on 29 February 2012 in the UK and it was received with a huge amount of enthusiasm by students and researchers alike. The Pi has had quite an eventful year, with researchers building a Raspberry Pi cluster; release of an official turbo mode patch; a 512 MB RAM upgrade; the launch of a Pi Store; sales of over a million units; and release of the Minecraft Pocket Edition."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In 2005, the first business to offer colocated Mac Minis inside a data center made its debut, provoking criticism on Slashdot of everything from how the Mini was cooled to the underlying business model. But nowadays, more than half a dozen facilities are either hosting their own Mac Minis for rent, or offering colocation services for individual consumers and businesses. While some vendors declined to give out reliability information, those who did claimed a surprisingly small number of failures. 'If Dell makes a small little machine, you don't know that they'll be making that, in that form factor, six months down the road, or what they're going to do, or how they're going to refresh it,' Jon Schwenn, a network engineer for CyberLynk Networks (which owns Macminivault) said in an interview. 'We've had three model years of Minis that have stayed externally, physically identical.' Customers are using Minis for all sorts of things: providing Mail, iCal, and the Websites for small businesses; databases, like Filemaker or Daylite; as a VPN server for those who want an IP address in the United States; build servers for Xcode; and general personal servers for Plex media streaming and other fun projects. Some are even using it for Windows."
New submitter fluxgate writes "Steve Mann (whom you might know for his having pioneered wearable computing as a grad student at MIT back in the 1990s) writes in IEEE Spectrum magazine about his decades of experience with computerized eyeware. His article warns that Google Glass hasn't been properly engineered to avoid creating disorientating effects and significant eyestrain. While it's hard to imagine that Google has missed something fundamental here, Mann convincingly describes why Google Glass users might experience serious problems. Quoting: 'The very first wearable computer system I put together showed me real-time video on a helmet-mounted display. The camera was situated close to one eye, but it didn’t have quite the same viewpoint. The slight misalignment seemed unimportant at the time, but it produced some strange and unpleasant results. And those troubling effects persisted long after I took the gear off. That’s because my brain had adjusted to an unnatural view, so it took a while to readjust to normal vision. ... Google Glass and several similarly configured systems now in development suffer from another problem I learned about 30 years ago that arises from the basic asymmetry of their designs, in which the wearer views the display through only one eye. These systems all contain lenses that make the display appear to hover in space, farther away than it really is. That’s because the human eye can’t focus on something that’s only a couple of centimeters away, so an optical correction is needed. But what Google and other companies are doing—using fixed-focus lenses to make the display appear farther away—is not good.'"
ios and web coder writes "An article at Ars notes, 'Unmanned aircraft crash. In fact, they crash a lot—though there's no recent specific data, the Congressional Research Service reported last year that despite improvements, "the accident rate for unmanned aircraft is still far above that of manned aircraft.' And while many of those accidents can be attributed to being exposed to hostile fire or operating in conditions when aircraft normally wouldn't, a significant percentage of drone crashes is caused by human error. A December 2004 FAA study of Defense Department drone crashes found human factors to be a causal factor in about a third of the cases they examined (PDF).' Drones are un-cheap. As yesterday's Super Hornet story noted, they are cheaper than manned planes... but not that much cheaper. Expect them to get more expensive. Also, as they get armed, the price paid for a bad UX decision could become quite tragic."
An anonymous reader writes "Flash SSDs are non-volatile, right? So how could power failures screw with your data? Several ways, according to a ZDNet post that summarizes a paper (PDF) presented at last month's FAST 13 conference. Researchers from Ohio State and HP Labs researchers tested 15 SSDs using an automated power fault injection testbed and found that 13 lost data. 'Bit corruption hit 3 devices; 3 had shorn writes; 8 had serializability errors; one device lost 1/3 of its data; and 1 SSD bricked. The low-end hard drive had some unserializable writes, while the high-end drive had no power fault failures. The 2 SSDs that had no failures? Both were MLC 2012 model years with a mid-range ($1.17/GB) price.'"
yenrabbit writes "A friend has just told me he has 80 CRT TVs, a stack of DVD players and hundreds of VCR machines, all broken and all mine free of charge. I can already think of a few awesome components I can extract (flyback transformers for high voltage contraptions and so on) and have a few ideas, such as DVD lasers, that I can build. But what else can be made from such a treasure-trove of components, and how would one go about processing such a large volume of stuff with the least amount of effort? Also, I don't have access to online shopping so I'd also like a pain free way of salvaging many simpler parts such as resistors as well." Another reader sent in a similar question: "The other day I went down to my University's property disposition center for the first time. In addition to mundane things like chairs and desks, it also had a wealth of technological devices, from old PCs and monitors to obscure medical and chemistry equipment. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed. I just don't know what I'd do with a old gene sequencing machine or a broken oscilloscope. Any ideas for fun projects? Or better yet, suggestions on how I can figure out which machines (or their components) are worth playing with?"
the_newsbeagle writes "This year, a biotech company called Ion Torrent will introduce a new chip for its genome sequencing machine, which should enable researchers and doctors to scan a complete human genome for $1000 and in just a couple of hours. Compare that to the effort required to complete the first human genome: $3 billion and 13 years. Ion Torrent has nearly reached the $1000-genome milestone by virtue of a process called 'semiconductor sequencing,' and the company's founder says his chip-based sequencing machine benefits from all the efficiencies of the computer industry. At a price point of $1000, genome scans could become a routine part of medicine. And the price could keep dropping. To test out the technology, and to investigate just how useful genome scans are these days for your typical, reasonably healthy person, the IEEE Spectrum reporter got her own genome scanned and analyzed."
Mr_Blank writes "Organizations like the EFF and ACLU have been raising the alarm over increased government surveillance of U.S. citizens. Legislators haven't been quick to respond to concerns of government spying on citizens. But Texas legislators are apparently quite concerned that private citizens operating hobby drones might spot environmental violations by businesses. Representative Lance Gooden has introduced HB912 which proposes: 'A person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image. ('Image' is defined as including any type of recorded telemetry from sensors that measure sound waves, thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves, odor, or other conditions.)' Can you foresee any unintended consequences if this proposal becomes law?" Another reader notes that New Hampshire has introduced a similar bill: "Neal Kurk, a Republican member of New Hampshire's House of Representatives knows that those drones present a growing privacy concern, and in response has introduced a bill that would ban all aerial photography in the state. That is, unless you're working for the government. The bill, HB 619-FN (PDF), is blessedly short, and I suggest reading the whole thing for yourself." Here's part of the bill: "A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if such person knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state where such image is created by or with the assistance of a satellite, drone, or any device that is not supported by the ground."
cylonlover writes "Boston Dynamics' BigDog may have already been replaced by the beefier LS3, but that doesn't mean it's totally obsolete. Today the company unveiled a version of the quadruped equipped with an arm where a head (or tail) would go. As can be seen in a slightly disquieting video, it's powerful enough to lift and toss a heavy cinder block. Key to this work, funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, is that BigDog uses the dynamic forces of its whole body to help it throw the cinder block. It begins by taking several steps to the side before quickly accelerating as it swings its arm, temporarily launching itself into the air in the process. This approach is similar to the way an athlete winds up before throwing a discus, for example, and greatly enhances the robot's throwing power. Since few robots are as capable as BigDog when it comes to balance, it's an excellent platform to test these sorts of strenuous actions."
iONiUM writes "From the article: 'Many are only just getting their heads around the idea of 3D printing but scientists at MIT are already working on an upgrade: 4D printing. At the TED conference in Los Angeles, architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits showed how the process allows objects to self-assemble.' There could be many applications for this. Definitely a cool step forward." Pictures and video of the process.
Deathspawner writes "Using a mobile device to control an application on a PC, media player or video game console, isn't too uncommon, but it is when the content being controlled is a game. Just how possible would it be to play a fairly fast-paced game on your PC via your mobile device? Google wanted to find out, so it crafted a game called Super Sync Sports, where you control an athlete on your desktop or notebook via controls on your phone or tablet. To make a game like this possible, Google turned to WebSockets for real-time collaboration between two devices, HTML5 for the audio, Canvas for the graphics, and CSS3 for the styling and transitions." It appears that it routes your controls through the Internet rather than locally. Something like this over bluetooth or wifi with a shared touch screen might be cool for electronic board games.
Dystopian Rebel writes "A Stanford comp-sci student has found a serious bug in Chromium, Safari, Opera, and MSIE. Feross Aboukhadijeh has demonstrated that these browsers allow unbounded local storage. 'The HTML5 Web Storage standard was developed to allow sites to store larger amounts of data (like 5-10 MB) than was previously allowed by cookies (like 4KB). ... The current limits are: 2.5 MB per origin in Google Chrome, 5 MB per origin in Mozilla Firefox and Opera, 10 MB per origin in Internet Explorer. However, what if we get clever and make lots of subdomains like 1.filldisk.com, 2.filldisk.com, 3.filldisk.com, and so on? Should each subdomain get 5MB of space? The standard says no. ... However, Chrome, Safari, and IE currently do not implement any such "affiliated site" storage limit.' Aboukhadijeh has logged the bug with Chromium and Apple, but couldn't do so for MSIE because 'the page is broken" (see http://connect.microsoft.com/IE). Oops. Firefox's implementation of HTML5 local storage is not vulnerable to this exploit."
MojoKid writes "Aside from the terrible nickname (it sounds like a term for the spoiled offspring of fabulous people), phablets are somewhat controversial because they seem to be the epitome of inflated phone sizes. A lot of people wanted bigger, and this is 'bigger' to the extreme. A larger screen on a smartphone is attractive for obvious reasons, but surely there's a limit. So how big is too big? If you're not into parsing out the particulars of form factors and use cases, here's a really easy way to figure out if your phone or phablet is too big: Can you hold the device in one hand and 1) unlock the phone, 2) type out a text message with your thumb, and 3) adjust the volume with the rocker without using your other hand? If not, you might need a smaller phone."
Tim Lord met Jay Kim at the RSA Conference in an Francisco. Kim's background is in manufacturing, but he's got an interest in security that has manifested itself in hardware with an emphasis on ease of use. His company, DataLocker, has come up with a fully cross-platform, driver independent portable system that mates a touch-pad input device with an AES-encrypted drive. It doesn't look much different from typical external USB drives, except for being a little beefier and bulkier than the current average, to account for both a touchpad and the additional electronics for performing encryption and decryption in hardware. Because authentication is done on the face of the drive itself, it can be used with any USB-equipped computer available to the user, and works fine as a bootable device, so you can -- for instance -- run a complete Linux system from it. (For that, though, you might want one of the smaller-capacity, solid-state versions of this drive, for speed.) Kim talked about the drive, and painted a rosy picture of what it's like to be a high-tech entrepreneur in Kansas.
Nerval's Lobster writes "The Apache Hadoop open-source framework specializes in running data applications on large hardware clusters, making it a particular favorite among firms such as Facebook and IBM with a lot of backend infrastructure (and a whole ton of data) to manage. So it'd be hard to blame Intel for jumping into this particular arena. The chipmaker has produced its own distribution for Apache Hadoop, apparently built 'from the silicon up' to efficiently access and crunch massive datasets. The distribution takes advantage of Intel's work in hardware, backed by the Intel Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) Instructions (Intel AES-NI) in the Intel Xeon processor. Intel also claims that a specialized Hadoop distribution riding on its hardware can analyze data at superior speeds—namely, one terabyte of data can be processed in seven minutes, versus hours for some other systems. The company faces a lot of competition in an arena crowded with other Hadoop players, but that won't stop it from trying to throw its muscle around."
AstroPhilosopher writes "In a move not far removed from the model T-101, U.S. researchers have succeeded in re-animating a dead sparrow. Duke scientists were studying male behavior aggression among sparrows. They cleverly decided to insert miniaturized robotics into an empty sparrow carcass and operate it like a puppet (abstract). It worked; they noticed wing movements were a primary sign of aggression. Fortunately the living won out this time. The experiment stopped after the real sparrows tore off the robosparrow's head. But there's always a newer model on the assembly-line. Good luck sparrows." Bad Horse has not yet made a decision on the researchers' application.
Dr. Tom writes "The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones, up from fewer than 200 in 2002. They carry out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank GlobalSecurity.org. Pike suspects that the F-35 Lightning II, now under development by Lockheed Martin, might be 'the last fighter with an ejector seat, and might get converted into a drone itself.' The weakest link is the pilot. A jet could pull 15 Gs, out-turning any conventional aircraft, except it would kill the pilot. Is it time to stop spending billions on obsolete aircraft?"
First time accepted submitter AchilleTalon writes "Research by Harvard professor David Keith suggests that the global capacity for energy generation from wind power has been overestimated, and that geophysical / climate effects of turbines will reduce the benefits of large-scale power installations. 'People have often thought there's no upper bound for wind power—that it's one of the most scalable power sources," he says. After all, gusts and breezes don't seem likely to 'run out' on a global scale in the way oil wells might run dry. Yet the latest research suggests that the generating capacity has been overestimated."
adeelarshad82 writes "Needless to say, the march of processor speeds always continues. However, Nvidia Tegra 4's benchmark results are off the charts. Comparing the results against several other phones, it was evident that Tegra 4 will make for the fastest mobile phones yet. For instance when benchmarked against iPhone 5, results showed 1640 on Geekbench and 27 fps on GLBenchmark's Egypt HD offscreen benchmark. Whereas the Tegra 4 scores 4148 on Geekbench and 57 fps on the Egypt HD. Of course, the competition isn't standing still, either. Qualcomm is countering the Tegra 4 with its Snapdragon 800, which the company claims is even faster than the Tegra 4. And at the same time Samsung is readying the Exynos 5 Octa."
New submitter KublaCant writes "'At this very moment, researchers around the world – including in the United States – are working to develop fully autonomous war machines: killer robots. This is not science fiction. It is a real and powerful threat to humanity.' These are the first words of a Human Rights Watch Petition to President Obama to keep robots from the battlefield. The argument is that robots possess neither common sense, 'real' reason, any sense of mercy nor — most important — the option to not obey illegal commands. With the fast-spreading use of drones et al., we are allegedly a long way off from Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics being implanted in autonomous fighting machines, or into any ( semi- ) autonomous robot. A 'Stop the Killer Robots' campaign will also be launched in April at the British House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons. The Guardian has more about this, including quotes from well-known robotics researcher Noel Sharkey from Sheffield University."
theodp writes "You know the old adage, 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?' Still, even if you got bit by the HP TouchPad debacle, HP's newly-announced $169 Slate7 tablet could prove hard to resist. Specs-wise, the Slate7 sports an ARM Dual Core Cortex-A9 1.6 GHz processor, 7-inch 1024x600 HFFS screen, Android 4.1 (Jellybean), three-megapixel camera on the back, front-facing VGA camera, 8GB of on-board storage, HP ePrint, Beats Audio, and a micro SD expandable card slot. It measures 197mm x 116mm x 10.7mm thick, and weighs in at 13 ounces. It will be available in the U.S. in April. Engadget has some pics and their initial hands-on take."
Barence writes "Are faster grades of SD memory card worth the extra cash? PC Pro has conducted in-depth speed tests on different grades of SD card to find out if they're worth the premium. In camera tests, two top-end SD cards outshone the rest by far, while class 4 cards dawdled for more than a second between shots. However, with the buffer on modern DSLRs able to handle 20 full-res shots or more, it's unlikely an expensive card will make any difference to anyone other than professionals shooting bursts of fast-action shots. What about for expanding tablet or laptop memory? A regular class 4 or 6 card that's capable of recording HD video will also be fast enough to play it back on a tablet. The only advantage of a faster card for media is that syncing with your PC will be quicker. However, a faster card is recommended if you're using it to supplement the memory of an Ultrabook or MacBook Air."
New submitter capsfan100 writes "At Christmas I got an $89 Android tablet by MID. The 7" tablet has sufficient RAM, etc. The battery, however, was rather pathetic out of the box. It's already fading, so we know where this is headed — decent tablet, but it constantly needs the plug. How would you take this 'old' tablet and turn it into a rockin' stereo component? Is there a ROM build out there titled Pimp My Tablet Into An MP3 Player? The current music app can look up lyrics on-line. I'd like to keep that feature. Any ideas on a good app for syncing music videos with my *ahem* random music collection? Any fun, off-beat party apps this middle-aged suburban dad hasn't heard of? Since the Android security nightmare is so well documented, I'd rather not use services that require passwords. I also need top-notch security and monitoring software so I can see what my kids and their friends are doing with it next year when I'm not home while keeping them anonymous and safe on-line. As for my living room stereo system, how best to mount a sleek MP3 tablet? I was thinking velcro, but it would ruin the feel. Maybe a wall-mount arm like my HDTV has? We want to be able to unplug it and move around the room, so I'll need to upgrade the speakers to wireless. Any thoughts there? I'm not afraid of the command line — indeed, I insist on one — but no Gentoo-type projects, thank you. Just a good sleek and secure ROM for optimal tunage with all the top apps the kids are using today."
Press2ToContinue writes with this excerpt from ExtremeTech: "With products like Google's Glass, the Oculus Rift, and even certain features found on the Nintendo 3DS, augmented, mixed, and virtual reality are starting to make some headway in the consumer space. Canon, best known for its cameras, is looking to break into the mixed reality scene with its new head-mounted display. ... The core of the setup is the Canon HMD (head-mounted display) which works in conjunction with various sensors — optical and magnetic, as well as visual markers — to help create the mixed reality environment. The HMD employs two cameras located in front of each eye that captures video and shoots it off to an off-board, tethered computer. The computer then combines the real-world visuals with computer-generated visuals, and beams that back to two monitors placed in front of the eyes within the HMD. The unit combines with a development platform, dubbed the MR Platform, which allows companies to create mixed reality images to display on the HMD."
rtfa-troll writes "There has been a worldwide (all locations) total outage of storage in Microsoft's Azure cloud. Apparently, 'Microsoft unwittingly let an online security certificate expire Friday, triggering a worldwide outage in an online service that stores data for a wide range of business customers,' according to the San Francisco Chronicle (also Yahoo and the Register). Perhaps too much time has been spent sucking up to storage vendors and not enough looking after the customers? This comes directly after a week-long outage of one of Microsoft's SQL server components in Azure. This is not the first time that we have discussed major outages on Azure and probably won't be the last. It's certainly also not the first time we have discussed Microsoft cloud systems making users' data unavailable."
At last year's RSA security conference, we ran into the Pwnie Plug. The company has just come out with a new take on the same basic idea of pen-testing devices based on commodity hardware. Reader puddingebola writes with an excerpt from Wired: "The folks at security tools company Pwnie Express have built a tablet that can bash the heck out of corporate networks. Called the Pwn Pad, it's a full-fledged hacking toolkit built atop Google's Android operating system. Some important hacking tools have already been ported to Android, but Pwnie Express says that they've added some new ones. Most importantly, this is the first time that they've been able to get popular wireless hacking tools like Aircrack-ng and Kismet to work on an Android device." Pwnie Express will be back at RSA and so will Slashdot, so there's a good chance we'll get a close-up look at the new device, which runs about $800.
An anonymous reader writes "For a while now, John Carmack has been pushing to bring virtual reality technology back to the gaming world. VR was largely abandoned over a decade ago when it became apparent that the hardware just wasn't ready to support it. In 2013, things are different; cheap displays with a high pixel density and powerful processors designed for small systems are making virtual reality a... reality. One of the last obstacles to be conquered is latency — the delay between moving your head and seeing your perspective change in the virtual world. In a lengthy and highly-technical post at #AltDevBlogADay, Carmack has outlined a number of strategies for mitigating and reducing latency. With information and experience like this being shared with the game development community at large, it shouldn't be long until VR makes a permanent place for itself in our gaming lives."
eldavojohn writes "A new report from China's environment ministry has resulted in long-overdue self-realizations as well as possible explanations for 'cancer villages.' The term refers to villages (anywhere from 247 to 400 known of them) that have increased cancer rates due to pollution from nearby factories and industry. The report revealed that many harmful chemicals that are prohibited and banned in developed nations are still found in China's water and air. Prior research has shown a direct correlation between industrialization/mining and levels of poisonous heavy metals in water. As a result, an air pollution app has grown in popularity and you can see the pollution from space. China has also released a twelve-year plan for environmental protection."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Earlier this month, a very public argument erupted between Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and New York Times reporter John Broder, who claimed in a Feb. 8 column that his electric-powered Model S sedan had ground to a halt on a lonely stretch of Connecticut highway, starved for power. Musk retaliated by publishing the data from Broder's test drive, which suggested the reporter had driven the vehicle at faster speeds than he had claimed in the article (which would have drained the battery at a quicker rate) and failed to fully charge the car at available stations. Musk seems to have let the whole thing drop, but the whole brouhaha raises a point that perhaps deserves further exploration: the rising use of sensors in cars, and whether an automobile company—or any other entity, for that matter—has the right to take data from those sensors and use it for their own ends without the owner's permission. (For his part, Musk has claimed that Tesla only turns on data logging with 'explicit written permission from customers.') What do you think, Slashdot? Do we need the equivalent of a 'Do-Not-Track' option for cars?"
Vigile writes "A big shift in the way graphics cards and gaming performance are tested has been occurring over the last few months, with many review sites now using frame times rather than just average frame rates to compare products. Another unique testing methodology called Frame Rating has been started by PC Perspective that uses video capture equipment capable of recording uncompressed high resolution output direct from the graphics card, a colored bar overlay system and post-processing on that recorded video to evaluate performance as it is seen by the end user. The benefit is that there is literally no software interference between the data points and what the user sees, making it is as close to an 'experience metric' as any developed. Interestingly, multi-GPU solutions like SLI and CrossFire have very different results when viewed in this light, with AMD's offering clearly presenting a poorer, and more stuttery, animation."
derGoldstein writes "We've seen some very impressive aerobatics performed by quadrocopters before, but this is getting ridiculous. Robohub points to the latest advancement from the Flying Machine Arena, which developed algorithms that allow quadrocopters to juggle an inverted pendulum. One of the researchers working on it said, 'We started off with some back-of-the-envelope calculations, wondering whether it would even be physically possible to throw and catch a pendulum. This told us that achieving this maneuver would really push the dynamic capabilities of the system. As it turned out, it is probably the most challenging task we've had our quadrocopters do. With significantly less than one second to measure the pendulum flight and get the catching vehicle in place, it's the combination of mathematical models with real-time trajectory generation, optimal control, and learning from previous iterations that allowed us to implement this.'"
cylonlover writes "If Joseph Zawodny, a senior scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, is correct, the future of energy may lie in a nuclear reactor small enough and safe enough to be installed where the home water heater once sat. Using weak nuclear forces that turn nickel and hydrogen into a new source of atomic energy, the process offers a light, portable means of producing tremendous amounts of energy for the amount of fuel used. It could conceivably power homes, revolutionize transportation and even clean the environment."
rtoz writes "Ohio State students have come up with a scaled-down version of a power plant combustion system with a unique experimental design--one that chemically converts coal to heat while capturing 99 percent of the carbon dioxide produced in the reaction. Typical coal-fired power plants burn coal to heat water to make steam, which turns the turbines that produce electricity. In chemical looping, the coal isn't burned with fire, but instead chemically combusted in a sealed chamber so that it doesn't pollute the air. This new technology, called coal-direct chemical looping, was pioneered by Liang-Shih Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio State's Clean Coal Research Laboratory."