An anonymous reader writes "Peru is looking to provide free electricity to over 2 million of its poorest citizens by harvesting energy from the sun. Energy and Mining Minister Jorge Merino said that the National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program will provide electricity to poor households through the installation of photovoltaic panels."
Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.
sciencehabit writes "The newest source of battery power for your cell phone is both cheap and abundant. Scientists report that microbial fuel cells using human urine can directly power a cell phone battery. However, the devices are not quite portable enough to come in handy during a marathon pub crawl. One consists of six, 4-inch-long ceramic cylinders; the other is a network of 25 smaller fuel cells borrowed from the team's waste-fueled EcoBot. And urine-powered conversations would have to be short and sweet. After 24 hours of charging, a Samsung phone stayed alive for 25 minutes—enough to send several texts and make a 6-minute, 20-second call."
Nerval's Lobster writes "BitTorrent Sync has reached its Beta milestone. The tool, which allows for secure file-syncing between devices, has been under development for quite some time: BitTorrent released a limited pre-Alpha program in January, planning to use any feedback to refine the software before release. Key features include the use of peer-to-peer technology for direct synchronization, rather than storing files in the cloud—a key differentiator from similar storage services on the market. 'It fits into our overall goal of making a better Internet using P2P,' BitTorrent Inc. told TorrentFreak when that pre-Alpha rolled out. In the intervening months, of course, former federal contractor Edward Snowden leaked a variety of top-secret documents about NSA surveillance to The Guardian, kicking off several weeks' worth of discussions and handwringing over government snooping. Several of those documents suggested that an NSA program codenamed PRISM siphoned user data from nine major technology companies, including Google and Microsoft; the named companies have stridently denied any involvement. Those revelations about the NSA—even if totally unsurprising to the paranoid—could kick off renewed interest in software tools capable of securing data against prying eyes. In other words, this could be just the moment for something like BitTorrent Sync to hit the market. 'Sync is a response to what we see as real, fundamental challenges to personal data movement: the limitations on speed, size, space, privacy, and security that come with cloud dependency,' read a July 17 note on the BitTorrent Blog."
DeviceGuru writes "Linaro has just published videos and slides from keynotes, technical presentations, and panel discussions at last week's Linaro Connect Europe 2013 event held in Dublin, Ireland. Linaro is a nonprofit organization focused on consolidating and optimizing open source software for the ARM architecture, including the GCC toolchain, the Linux kernel, ARM power management, graphics and multimedia interfaces. The conference's sessions spanned a wide range of topics, including Android, Builds and Baselines, Enterprise, Graphics and Multimedia, Linux Kernel, Network, Project Management Tools, Training, and more." The list of videos, hosted on Youtube and many with slides available.
super_rancid writes "In a 7,000 word interview with Raspberry Pi's founder posted on TuxRadar.com, Eben Upton talks about the challenges of managing such a successful project, what may be in the Raspberry Pi mark 2, and why he wishes he'd backed the Parallela Kickstarter." On interesting answer: "We were thinking of booting into Python or booting into Scratch. For younger kids, boot into Scratch. Have an environment where it’s Linux underneath, boots into Scratch and hold down a key at a particular point during boot and it doesn’t boot into Scratch it just drops into the prompt. So you can play with Scratch for six months, once you’re happy with Scratch you turn over the page and 'Hold down F1 during boot,' and it’s like 'Oh look - it’s a PC!' So I think that’s something we’d really like to do."
An anonymous reader writes "Despite backing from the Clinton Climate Initiative, and a $111 million investment from Subway Restaurant mogul Fred DeLuca, a planned city for Central Florida called 'Destiny' was doomed from the start, according to memos retrieved from Florida's Department of Community Affairs. According to state officials, despite a great deal of hype about Destiny, Florida, becoming the first fully sustainable city in the U.S., plans to build the city were rejected almost immediately due to concerns over 'possible urban sprawl, energy inefficient land use patterns, the endangerment of natural resources, and the undermining of agriculture.'"
dryriver sends this quote from Phys.org: "Harvesting waste heat from power stations and even vehicle exhaust pipes could soon provide a valuable supply of electricity. A small team of Monash University researchers ... has developed an ionic liquid-based thermocell (abstract). Thermocell technology is based on harnessing the thermal energy from the difference in temperature between two surfaces and converting that energy into electricity. The new thermocell could be used to generate electricity from low grade steam in coal fired power stations at temperatures around 130C. This would be implemented by having the steam pass over the outer surface of the hot electrode to keep it hot while the other electrode is air or water cooled."
New submitter Anita Hunt (lissnup) writes "This snooping hack-in-a-backpack could become a hot Summer accessory, since Reuters reported that 'researchers at iSec hacked into a Verizon network extender, which anyone can buy online, and turned it into a cell phone tower (video interview) small enough to fit inside a backpack capable of capturing and intercepting all calls, text messages and data sent by mobile devices within range.'"
Lasrick writes "John Mecklin explores the context that was missed when the LA Times and the San Diego Union Tribune reported on the closing of the remaining two San Onofre nuclear reactors: 'U-T San Diego published a similar flurry of well-reported stories that covered the basics of the reasons for the closure, as well as the impact on consumers, workers, and the electricity supply. At both papers, coverage included infographics that effectively explained the problem that forced the plant to close—vibration that caused wear in tubes for the plant's steam generators. (The Times's tick-tock takeout on the history of the steam generator snafu, published in July, is especially comprehensive.) The specifics of the San Onofre closing were covered well and thoroughly. The context within which those basics reside, however, was far less well-examined, and the two major newspapers closest to the San Onofre plant both therefore missed a real opportunity to inform readers about the major energy choices California and the country will need to make in the coming decade.' Excellent work at the Columbia Journalism Review."
tlhIngan writes "In an interesting move since Apple decided to partner with TSMC a few weeks ago, the Korea Economic Daily is reporting that Apple has re-signed a contract with Samsung to produce the A-series chips Apple uses to power its iPads, iPhones and iPods. TSMC is still to produce chips for Apple, though Samsung is poised to take over from 2015."
New submitter jarold writes to note that Samsung has launched two extra-large cellphones: a 6.3 inch LTE ready version, and a 5.8 inch version. "Branded as Galaxy Mega, one would struggle to fit [either in a] pocket or use it with just one hand. The good thing, it is only 8mm thin and weighs under 200 grams. More portable than a tablet, it comes with a durable polycarbonate body. Unlike most of Samsung's latest smartphones, it does not have a super AMOLED panel. Instead, it has an HD super clear LCD display, which is bright enough to please most users. It features split screen and multitasking between video and other apps." For a phone that big, users might need to brush up on their side-talking skills.
McGruber writes "Thursday, The Verge broke the news that Microsoft was slashing the price of its tablets — the price of the 32-gig Surface RT plummeted by 42%! Staples, TigerDirect and many other retailers are already selling the tablets at the lowered prices. I wonder what Microsoft will do for customers who purchased a tablet right before the price drop?"
MojoKid writes with word that "A tech demo posted to YouTube shows off Motorola's upcoming Moto X smartphone, a seemingly high-end device that is sure to win over a few fans with its wealth of new tricks and features. The Moto X handset, which is launching exclusive to Rogers in Canada (no mention of U.S. market carriers) this August, will be available in black and white, but a key selling point of the device comes from its voice activated features. The tech demo heavily emphasizes Google Now, which Moto X users can engage without touching the device. In the demo, a woman is shown asking Google Now what the weather will be like in Toronto while she types away on a computer, never having to reach down to tap the handset. It was also previously leaked that the Moto X will ship with a 4.4-inch display (1280x720), 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 8960 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, 10MP rear-facing camera, 2MP front-facing camera, and of course Android 4.2 Jelly Bean." With a marketing budget said to include up to half a billion (!) dollars from Google, it's hard to imagine that any leaks are actually unintentional.
DeviceGuru writes with an excerpt that may be of interest especially for mobile users with cheap, always available wireless data: "An OpenWRT Linux-based hardware adapter called Plug designed for unifying USB-connected storage met its $69,000 Kickstarter pledge goal in 12 hours. The tiny Plug device eschews cloud storage for a localized approach whereby an app or driver installed on each participating computer or mobile device intercepts filesystem accesses, and redirects data reads and writes to storage drives attached to the user's Plug device. The Plug enjoyed one of the fastest fulfillments in Kickstarter history, meeting its goal in 12 hours, and has already soared to over $223,000 in funding."
First time accepted submitter osho741 writes "I was wondering if anyone has enterprise level networking devices set up at home? I seem to go through at least 1 wireless consumer grade router a year or so. I can never seem to find one that last very long under just normal use. I thought maybe I would have better luck throwing together a network using used enterprise equipment. Has anyone done this? What would you recommend for a network that maxes out at 30mbps downstream from the ISP and an internal network that should be able to stream 1080p movies to 3 or 4 devices from a media server? Any thoughts and or suggestions are welcome."
MojoKid writes "Recently, industry analysts came forward with the dubious claim that Intel's Clover Trail+ low power processor for mobile devices had somehow seized a massive lead over ARM's products, though there were suspicious discrepancies in the popular AnTuTu benchmark that was utilized to showcase performance. It turns out that the situation is far shadier than initially thought. The version used in testing with the benchmark isn't just tilted to favor Intel — it seems to flat-out cheat to accomplish it. The new 3.3 version of AnTuTu was compiled using Intel's C++ Compiler, while GCC was used for the ARM variants. The Intel code was auto-vectorized, the ARM code wasn't — there are no NEON instructions in the ARM version of the application. Granted, GCC isn't currently very good at auto-vectorization, but NEON is now standard on every Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 SoC — and these are the parts people will be benchmarking. But compiler optimizations are just the beginning. Apparently the Intel code deliberately breaks the benchmark's function. At a certain point, it runs a loop that's meant to be performed 32x just once, then reports to the benchmark that the task completed successfully. Now, the optimization in question is part of ICC (the Intel C++ compiler), but was only added recently. It's not the kind of procedure you'd call by accident. AnTuTu has released an updated "new" version of the benchmark in which Intel performance drops back down 20-50%. Systems based on high-end ARM devices again win the benchmark overall, as they did previously."
An anonymous reader writes "I've a cheap but low latency mouse (A4Tech) and I noticed my trusty old wired Logitech PS/2 keyboard seems at least 50ms slower (if not more) than the mouse when I test with those reaction time sites. I even increased finger travel distance over my mouse button to make it fairer and the difference still remains. So either the tests are slower with keyboards or my keyboard is high latency. Assuming the latter any suggestions for a good reasonably priced gaming keyboard? Extra function keys might be nice but since my hands aren't big what would be better is being able to output a custom key/combo if you hold down (special?) keys while pressing another key. For example I could configure it so if I hold down "Special Key 1" with pinkie or thumb and press 4 it actually outputs 9, and if I hold down shift as well it outputs shift+9 (and not just 9). Being able to replace the capslock key function and have it behave as another key (or a special modifier) would be a bonus — I've never needed capslock and have probably used it more by mistake than for its normal function, or to test how badly a PC has hung."
puddingebola writes "A number of different websites are commenting on NPD's consumer research numbers that claim Chromebooks are getting 20-25% of the sub-$300 PC market. From the article: 'The NPD says that Google's Chromebook has now gained 20 to 25 percent of the sub-$300 laptop market in the U.S. That's a huge gain for a computer that's only been on the market for two years. It's even more impressive when you consider that Chromebooks were seen as nothing but a self-serving experiment on the part of Google for the first year of their existence.' Stephen Vaughan-Nichols is also blogging about this over at ZDnet. While the PC market shrank again in the second quarter of 2013, Chromebooks seem to have grown."
ananyo writes "Natural-gas extraction, geothermal-energy production and other activities that inject fluid underground have caused numerous earthquakes in the United States, scientists have reported in a trio of papers in Science (abstracts here, here and here). Most of these quakes have been small, but some have exceeded magnitude 5.0. They include a magnitude-5.6 event that hit Oklahoma on 6 November 2011, damaging 14 homes and injuring two people."
MojoKid writes "A few weeks ago, the analyst company ABI Research published a report claiming that Intel's new CloverTrail+ platform (dual-core Medfield) for smartphones was significantly faster and more power efficient than anything ARM's various partners were shipping. If you follow the smartphone market, that was a very surprising claim. Medfield was a decent midrange platform when it launched in 2012, but Intel made it clear that its goal for Medfield was to compete with other platforms in its division — not seize the performance crown outright. Further investigation by other analysts has blown serious holes in the ABI Research report. Not only does it focus on a single, highly questionable benchmark (AnTuTu), the x86 version of that benchmark is running different code than the ARM flavors. Furthermore, the recently released Version 3.3 of the test is much faster on Intel hardware than on any of the other platforms. But even with those caveats in place, the ABI Research report is bad science. Single-source performance comparisons almost inevitably are."
James Gosling is probably best known for creating the Java programming language while working at Sun Microsystems. Currently, he is the chief software architect at Liquid Robotics. Among other projects, Liquid Robotics makes the Wave Glider, an autonomous, environmentally powered marine robot. James has agreed to take a little time from the oceangoing robots and answer any questions you have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
dryriver writes "Global personal computer (PC) sales have fallen for the fifth quarter in a row, making it the 'longest duration of decline' in history. Worldwide PC shipments totalled 76 million units in the second quarter, a 10.9% drop from a year earlier, according to research firm Gartner. PC sales have been hurt in recent years by the growing popularity of tablets. Gartner said the introduction of low-cost tablets had further hurt PC sales, especially in emerging economies. 'In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC,' said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Just in case you haven't been keeping up with the latest in five-dimensional digital data storage using femtocell-laser inscription, here's an update: it works. A team of researchers at the University of Southampton have demonstrated a way to record and retrieve as much as 360 terabytes of digital data onto a single disk of quartz glass in a way that can withstand temperatures of up to 1000 C and should keep the data stable and readable for up to a million years. 'It is thrilling to think that we have created the first document which will likely survive the human race,' said Peter Kazansky, professor of physical optoelectronics at the Univ. of Southampton's Optical Research Centre. 'This technology can secure the last evidence of civilization: all we've learnt will not be forgotten.' Leaving aside the question of how many Twitter posts and Facebook updates really need to be preserved longer than the human species, the technology appears to have tremendous potential for low-cost, long-term, high-volume archiving of enormous databanks. The quartz-glass technique relies on lasers pulsing one quadrillion times per second though a modulator that splits each pulse into 256 beams, generating a holographic image that is recorded on self-assembled nanostructures within a disk of fused-quartz glass. The data are stored in a five-dimensional matrix—the size and directional orientation of each nanostructured dot becomes dimensions four and five, in addition to the usual X, Y and Z axes that describe physical location. Files are written in three layers of dots, separated by five micrometers within a disk of quartz glass nicknamed 'Superman memory crystal' by researchers. (Hitachi has also been researching something similar.)"
Barence writes "Dropbox has kicked off its first developer conference with the stated goal of replacing the hard disk. 'We are replacing the hard drive,' said Dropbox CEO Drew Houston. 'I don't mean that you're going to unscrew your MacBook and find a Dropbox inside, but the spiritual successor to the hard drive is what we're launching.' The new Dropbox Platform includes tools for developers that will allow them to use Dropbox to sync app data between devices. The company's new APIs will also make it easier for app developers to include plugins that save to Dropbox, or choose files stored in the service for use within apps."
Doofus writes "Masao Yoshida, director of the Daichii Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, has passed away. Colleagues and politicos in Japan praised his disobedience during the post-tsunami meltdown and credited him with preventing much more widespread and intense damage. From the article: 'On March 12, a day after the tsunami, Mr. Yoshida ignored an order from Tepco headquarters to stop pumping seawater into a reactor to try and cool it because of concerns that ocean water would corrode the equipment. Tepco initially said it would penalize Mr. Yoshida even though Sakae Muto, then a vice president at the utility, said it was a technically appropriate decision. Mr. Yoshida received no more than a verbal reprimand after then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan defended the plant chief, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. "I bow in respect for his leadership and decision-making," Kan said Tuesday in a message posted on his Twitter account.'"
ph4cr writes with news that a few researchers have discovered an alloy that allows them to print 3D structures from liquid metal at room temperature. From the article: "'It's difficult to create structures out of liquids, because liquids want to bead up. But we’ve found that a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium reacts to the oxygen in the air at room temperature to form a "skin" that allows the liquid metal structures to retain their shapes,' says Dr. Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work. ... One technique involves stacking droplets of liquid metal on top of each other, much like a stack of oranges at the supermarket. The droplets adhere to one another, but retain their shape – they do not merge into a single, larger droplet. ... Another technique injects liquid metal into a polymer template, so that the metal takes on a specific shape. The template is then dissolved, leaving the bare, liquid metal in the desired shape. The researchers also developed techniques for creating liquid metal wires, which retain their shape even when held perpendicular to the substrate." The paper is available online. There's also a video of the process in action, below the fold.
MojoKid writes "big.LITTLE is ARM's solution to a particularly nasty problem: smaller and smaller process nodes no longer deliver the kind of overall power consumption improvements they did years ago. Before 90nm technology, semiconductor firms could count on new chips being smaller, faster, and drawing less power at a given frequency. Eventually, that stopped being true. Tighter process geometries still pack more transistors per square millimeter, but the improvements to power consumption and maximum frequency have been falling with each smaller node. Rising defect densities have created a situation where — for the first time ever — 20nm wafers won't be cheaper than the 28nm processors they're supposed to replace. This is a critical problem for the mobile market, where low power consumption is absolutely vital. big.LITTLE is ARM's answer to this problem. The strategy requires manufacturers to implement two sets of cores — the Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 are the current match-up. The idea is for the little cores to handle the bulk of the device's work, with the big cores used for occasional heavy lifting. ARM's argument is that this approach is superior to dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS) because it's impossible for a single CPU architecture to retain a linear performance/power curve across its entire frequency range. This is the same argument Nvidia made when it built the Companion Core in Tegra 3."
DeviceGuru writes with a snippet from LinuxGizmos: "A Linux-based digital pen from German startup Lernstift will go live on Kickstarter on July 10 for about 115 Euros, or $148. The Lernstift pen incorporates an ARM Cortex processor, a WiFi module, and a motion sensor, and is designed to correct penmanship, spelling, and grammar errors as you write. A set of 3D motion sensors, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer help the smartpen's embedded Linux computer calculate the pen's 3D movements and generate 2D vectors. Kickstarter supporters pledging 99 Pounds (about 115 Euros, or $148 U.S.) will receive the first shipment of pens later this year, and standard pricing is expected to start at 130-150 Euros when production devices ship in early 2014."
FuzzNugget writes "After the Economic Development Administration (EDA) was alerted by the DHS to a possible malware infection, they took extraordinary measures. Fearing a targeted attack by a nation-state, they shut down their entire IT operations, isolating their network from the outside world, disabling their email services and leaving their regional offices high and dry, unable to access the centrally-stored databases. A security contractor ultimately declared the systems largely clean, finding only six computers infected with untargeted, garden-variety malware and easily repaired by reimaging. But that wasn't enough for the EDA: taking gross incompetence to a whole new level, they proceeded to physically destroy $170,500 worth of equipment (PDF), including uninfected systems, printers, cameras, keyboards and mice. After the destruction was halted — only because they ran out of money to continue smashing up perfectly good hardware — they had racked up a total of $2.3 million in service costs, temporary infrastructure acquisitions and equipment destruction."
DavidGilbert99 writes "Jeri Ellsworth has opened up about her time at games developer Valve and has hit out strongly at the so-called flatpack management structure. She says that despite Valve's claims of a democratic structure, there is a layer of powerful management in place and when she was fired she felt like she had been stabbed in the back. 'If I sound bitter, it's because I am. I am really, really bitter. They promised me the world and then stabbed me in the back.'" Develop Online has a good transcript. In the end, Gabe Newell at least let her team keep the rights to their augmented reality hardware. She also notes that she still loves Valve, but the management and bonus structure resulted in communication breakdowns at Valve's size. It does seem that a flat structure can work: Andy Wingo has been weblogging about working at Igalia and seems pretty positive about the experience.
cylonlover writes "Li-ion batteries may be ok for your smartphone, but when it comes to large-scale energy storage, the priorities suddenly shift from compactness and cycling performance (at which Li-ion batteries excel) to low cost and environmental feasibility (in which Li-ion batteries still have much room for improvement). A new 'wood battery' could allow the emerging sodium-ion battery technology to fit the bill as a long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly battery for large-scale energy storage."
An anonymous reader writes "Last October, we discussed Andrew 'bunnie' Huang's effort to build a complete open hardware laptop, called the Novena. bunnie has now posted a progress report on the laptop's design and construction, showing the latest revision of the board, the display, and a hack to use it as a secure router. bunnie says, 'At the end of the day, we're having fun building the laptop we always wanted — it's now somewhere between a python-scriptable oscilloscope, logic analyzer, and a laptop. I think it will be an indispensable tool for hacking, particularly for doing signal analysis which requires coordination across multiple protocol layers, complex trigger conditions and/or feedback stimulus loops. As for the inevitable question about if these will be sold, and for how muchonce we're done building the system (and, "done" is a moving target — really, the whole idea is this is continuously under development and improving) I'll make it available to qualified buyers. Because it's open-source and a bit quirky, I'm shy on the idea of just selling it to anyone who comes along wanting a laptop. I'm worried about buyers who don't understand that "open" also means a bit of DIY hacking to get things working, and that things are continuously under development."
An anonymous reader writes "South African Quentin Harley has picked up the $20,000 Gada Uplift prize for making the open source RepRap 3D printer design easier to build, cheaper to construct, and — most importantly — capable of printing more of its own parts. Lots of background on Harley and his RepRap Morgan are available on his website." A further goal of the RepRap Morgan project is to replace the Prusa Mendel as the default RepRap model. And they are on track to hit less than $100 in parts, excluding the printing bed. You can grab the hardware design and the controller firmware over at Github.
RockDoctor writes "After spending several years on supporting the uptake of 3-D TV, the BBC has accepted that people don't want it, and are turning off their 3-D channels following an uptake of under 5% of households with 3-D equipment. I can just feel the joy at not having wasted my money on this technology."
beaverdownunder writes "Melbourne restauranteur Paul Mathis has developed a one-character replacement for the word 'The' – effectively an upper-case 'T' and a lower-case 'h' bunched together so they share the upright stem – and an app that puts it in everyone's hand by allowing users to download an entirely new keyboard complete not just with his 'Th' symbol, but also a row of keys containing the 10 or 15 (depending on the version) most frequently typed words in English. Mathis has already copped criticism from people who claim he is attempting to trademark a symbol that is part of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet (pronounced 'tshe,' the letter represents the 'ch' sound found in the word 'chew')."
MojoKid writes "The semiconductor market for mobile and hand-held devices has changed dramatically in the past six years and ARM has had to evolve along side it. ARM's IP focus allows it to dedicate all its resources to building a great design rather than committing to any single manufacturing process node, customer, or foundry. Architectural design and implementation is done very much in partnership with both foundries (TSMC, GlobalFoundries) and licensees like Samsung or Qualcomm. The difference between the way Intel goes to market and ARM's model is more nuanced than the simple ownership of manufacturing facilities. Owning its own fab means that Intel can tweak process technology to match the particulars of a given architecture (and vice-versa). It also gives the company far more flexibility when planning future nodes. If Intel feels that integrating Peanut Butter Silicon on Insulator (PB-SOI) is the best way to hit its performance and power consumption targets at 14nm, for example, it can make that happen internally. ARM, in contrast, is limited by the decisions of the foundry manufacturers it partners with."
Wayne2 writes "While there have been many attempts to preserve human knowledge in electronic format, it occurred to me that these attempts all assume that human civilization remains more or less intact. Given humanity's history of growth and collapse with knowledge repeatedly gained then lost, has anyone considered a more permanent solution? I realize that this could be very difficult and/or expensive depending on how long we want to preserve the information and what assumptions we make regarding posterity's ability to access it. Alternatively, are we, as a species, willing to start over if we experience a catastrophe, pandemic, etc. of significant magnitude on a global scale that derails our progress and sends us back to the dark ages or worse?"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Major IT vendors have been including custom-built wind- and solar-power farms in their datacenter construction plans. But while wind and solar power may be clean, they're often unreliable, especially by the standards of datacenters that need a way to keep operating through any unexpected surges or drops in power. How about saving the wind that generates the power? That might work, according to researchers at the federal Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), and U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. A study published in February (PDF) outlined the potential benefit of pumping pressurized air into caverns deep underground as a way to store wind energy, then letting it out whenever demand spikes, or the wind drops, and the above-ground facilities need help spinning enough turbines to keep power levels steady. The technique, called Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) isn't new: existing CAES plants in Alabama and Huntorf, Germany (built in 1991 and 1978, respectively) store compressed air in underground salt caverns hollowed out by solution mining (pumping salt-saturated water out of concentrations of salt buried far underground and replacing it with fresh water). But implementing such a technique for datacenters might take a little work. The BPA and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have already identified, and are evaluating, sites in the Pacific Northwest that would be suitable for CAES underground reservoirs; the first, which could be located in Washington's Columbia Hills could—via existing CAES technology—store enough compressed air to generate a steady 207MW for 40 days of continuous usage, ultimately delivering 400 additional hours without adding any compressed air."
An anonymous reader writes "Sanders Kleinfeld explains how his experiences with a Makerbot device led him to the decision that 3-D printing hasn't quite arrived as a legitimate, consumer-friendly technology. Quoting: 'Waiting five hours for your Yoda feels like an eternity; you can play approximately sixty rounds of Candy Crush Saga in that same timeframe (although arguably, staring blankly at the MakerBot is equally intellectually stimulating). To make matters worse, I’d estimate MakerBot’s failure rate fell in the range of 25%–33%, which meant that there was around a one-in-three chance that two hours in, your Yoda print would fail, or that it would finish but once it was complete, you’d discover it was warped or otherwise defective. ... The first-generation MakerBot Replicator felt too much like a prototype, as opposed to a proven, refined piece of hardware. I look forward to the day when 3D printers are as cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to use as their 2D inkjet printer counterparts.'"
MojoKid writes "Ask any person who owns a dual-monitor setup and they'll likely tell you they couldn't fathom going back to a single display. But what if you could enjoy all the benefits of a dual-monitor configuration from a single monitor? Would you be game to reclaiming some desk space by trading in two panels for a single display? AOC aims to answer that question with its new 29-inch Q2963PM LCD monitor. Armed with an UltraWide IPS panel, this LED-backlit monitor boasts a 2560x1080 resolution with 21:9 aspect ratio, providing users with an extra wide panoramic view. With features like picture-in-picture (PIP) and picture-by-picture (PBP) built-in, workcaholics can multitask the night away from multiple video sources with plenty of horizontal real estate to play with. The funky aspect ratio limits the appeal of the Q2963PM for gamers currently; though if developers were to jump on board, a 21:9 monitor could offer a wider field-of-view of the action."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Apple's Nevada data center has been in the works for quite some time: a 2,200-acre plot outside of Reno will host a 90,000-square-foot datacenter that, in turn, will support the tech giant's cloud services. Apple will reportedly spend $1 billion over the next decade on the facilities, in return for significant tax abatements at the city, county and state levels. It will also fund and build a 137-acre solar farm, managed in conjunction with NV Energy, to power the datacenter (it will generate approximately 43.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity). The Reno datacenter will be the third Apple cloud facility in the U.S. that is powered largely or entirely by solar power. Sixty percent of the power for Apple's North Carolina datacenter comes from an existing solar-power farm near the facility; an Apple datacenter in Oregon uses solar power for part of its power load, but also uses power from wind and hydroelectric sources."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Mozilla and its hardware partners have begun launching the first Firefox OS smartphones, starting with Spain's Telefonica releasing the ZTE Open later this week. A lightweight mobile OS based on HTML5, Firefox OS (once known as 'Boot to Gecko') offers a user interface instantly familiar to anyone who's used Google Android or Apple iOS: in addition to home-screens of individual apps arranged on a grid, features include messaging, email, built-in social-networking, maps, and the Firefox Web browser. There's also Firefox Marketplace, an online storefront of HTML5 apps; early apps include Twitter, Facebook, AccuWeather, and a handful of games. But can Firefox OS make any headway in a mobile-device crowded with options? At this February's Mobile World Congress, Mozilla claimed that some 17 operators around the world have committed to the Firefox OS initiative, including China Unicom, Sprint, MegaFon, and the Telecom Italia Group. But many of those operators released rather ambiguous statements about whether they would launch an actual Firefox OS smartphone. Tony Cripps, principal device analyst at Ovum, wrote in a research note earlier this year that 'the real acid test for Firefox OS and its long-term prospects is the quality of the software itself and the user and developer experiences that it fosters.' In other words, Mozilla and its partners need to produce some quality devices, paired with a variety of spectacular apps. Some early reviews of the ZTE Open weren't good, to put it mildly, with The Verge citing: 'unremarkable hardware' and a 'laggy' OS. But that doesn't mean future phones can't go toe-to-toe against anything else on the market, provided Mozilla and its partners provide solid support and marketing."
After suing each other for the last few years in various courts around the world, you'd think that if Apple and Samsung were human beings they would have walked away from their rocky relationship a while back. The Wall Street Journal explains (beside the larger fact that they're both huge companies with complex links, rather than a squabbling couple) why it's so hard for Apple to take up with another supplier. Things are starting to look different, though: "Apple's deal this month to start buying chips from TSMC is a milestone. Apple long wanted to build its own processors, and it bought a chip company in 2008 to begin designing the chips itself. But it continued to rely on Samsung to make them. ... TSMC plans to start mass-producing the chips early next year using advanced '20-nanometer' technology, which makes the chips potentially smaller and more energy-efficient."
An anonymous reader writes with a bit of sports commentary on the just-concluded RoboCup 2013 soccer matches: "Previously achieved results are no guarantee for the future, as was demonstrated once again in the final match of the Middle Size League. Team Tech United Eindhoven had reached the final unbeaten and without a single goal against them, but the Chinese team Water turned out to be the stronger party in the final." It's hard to stop watching video of soccer-playing robots.
It's not just for obscure Japanese islands anymore: reader NobleSavage writes with news that "If you're a tourism board, non-profit, university, research organization or other third party who can gain access and help collect imagery of hard to reach places, you can apply to borrow the Trekker and help map the world." You can also help map the world (albeit without the very neat Trekker backpack cam) without an application process via OpenStreetMap. But if you had access to a panoramic camera like this, what places or spaces would you want to capture? I hope there will be street view imagery of Petra, but I don't see any yet.
cylonlover writes with this Gizmag excerpt: "In April of this year, a BAE Systems Jetstream research aircraft flew from Preston in Lancashire, England, to Inverness, Scotland and back. This 500-mile (805 km) journey wouldn't be worth noting if it weren't for the small detail that its pilot was not on board, but sitting on the ground in Warton, Lancashire and that the plane did most of the flying itself. Even this alteration of a standard commercial prop plane into an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) seems a back page item until you realize that this may herald the biggest revolution in civil aviation since Wilbur Wright won the coin toss at Kitty Hawk in 1903."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Despite the growing list of innovative (and sometimes expensive) adaptations designed to transform datacenters into slightly-less-active power gluttons, the most effective way to make datacenters more efficient is also the most obvious, according to researchers from Stanford, Berkeley and Northwestern. Using power-efficient hardware, turning power down (or off) when the systems aren't running at high loads, and making sure air-cooling systems are pointed at hot IT equipment—rather than in a random direction—can all do far more than fancier methods for cutting datacenter power, according to Jonathan Koomey, a Stanford researcher who has been instrumental in making power use a hot topic in IT. Many of the most-publicized advances in building "green" datacenters during the past five years have focused on efforts to buy datacenter power from sources that also have very low carbon footprints. But "green" energy buying didn't match the impact of two very basic, obvious things: the overall energy efficiency of the individual pieces of hardware installed in a datacenter, and the level of efficiency with which those systems were configured and managed, Koomey explained in a blog published in conjunction with his and his co-authors' paper on the subject in Nature Climate Change . (The full paper is behind a paywall but Koomey offered to distribute copies free to those contacting him via his personal blog.)"
An anonymous reader writes "A team of scientists says it has verified that quantum effects are indeed at work in the D-Wave processor, the first commercial quantum optimization computer processor. The team demonstrated that the D-Wave processor behaves in a manner that indicates that quantum mechanics has a functional role in the way it works. The demonstration involved a small subset of the chip's 128 qubits, but in other words, the device appears to be operating as a quantum processor."
malachiorion writes "The best thing to come out of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, so far, isn't the lineup of nifty rescue bots being developed by teams around the world, or even Boston Dynamics' incredible Atlas humanoid. It's the pumped-up version of Gazebo, the free, open-source robotics simulation software whose expansion and further development is being funded by DARPA. This article has a look at how the software was used in the recent virtual leg of the competition, as well as how it could change the way robotics R&D is conducted (and create more roboticists, with its low-cost, cloud-based architecture)."
snydeq writes "Open centers of grassroots innovation, hackerspaces offer opportunities to source talent, create goodwill, and push technology forward, writes Open Software Integrators' Phil Rhodes. 'I had the good fortune to be able to attend Maker Faire North Carolina this weekend in Raleigh, N.C. ... At this local Maker Faire, I was struck by the number of hackerspaces represented. The energy, buzz, and activity around their booths was captivating,' Rhodes writes. 'Amid all this buzz, it dawned on me that everyone should be excited about hackerspaces and what they represent, both for their local communities and the world. Although the hackerspace movement is growing rapidly, many people are still not familiar with them, where they are located, or what they do. So let's examine the hackerspace world and explore why you should give a crap about it.'"