Travis Goodspeed has authored a blog post detailing his method of tracking low-earth-orbit satellites. Starting with an old Felcom 82B dish made for use on maritime vessels, he added motors to move it around and a webcam-based homemade calibration system. "For handling the radio input and controlling the motors, I have a BeagleBone wired into a USB hub. These are all mounted on the trunk of the assembly inside of the radome, sending data back to a server indoors. ... In order to operate the dish, I wanted both a flashy GUI and concise scripting, but scripting was the higher priority. Toward that end, I constructed the software as a series of daemons that communicate through a PostgreSQL database on a server inside the house. For example, I can run SELECT * FROM sats WHERE el>0 to select the names and positions of all currently tracked satellites that are above the horizon. To begin tracking the International Space Station if it is in view, I run UPDATE target SET name='ISS';. For predicting satellite locations, I wrote a quick daemon using PyEphem that fetches satellite catalog data from CelesTrak. These positions are held in a database, with duplicates filtered out and positions constantly updated. PyEphem is sophisticated enough to predict in any number of formats, so it's easy to track many of the brighter stars as well as planets and deep-space probes, such as Voyagers 1 and 2."
New submitter rogue_archivist writes "I'm an archivist at a mid-sized university archives, trying to develop a policy for archiving computer files ('born-digital records' in archival parlance). Currently old floppy disks, CDs, and the occasional hard drive are added to our network storage. Then the physical media is separated from archival paper documents and placed into storage. My question for all you slashdotters out there is: should these disks be imaged and then the physical copies discarded? Is there any benefit for keeping around physical copies of storage media long since rendered obsolete?"
hypnosec writes "Adapteva has started shipping its $99 Parallella parallel processing single-board supercomputer to initial Kickstarter backers. Parallella is powered by Adapteva's 16-core and 64-core Epiphany multicore processors that are meant for parallel computing unlike other commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices like Raspberry Pi that don't support parallel computing natively. The first model to be shipped has the following specifications: a Zynq-7020 dual-core ARM A9 CPU complemented with Epiphany Multicore Accelerator (16 or 64 cores), 1GB RAM, MicroSD Card, two USB 2.0 ports, optional four expansion connectors, Ethernet, and an HDMI port." They are also releasing documentation, examples, and an SDK (brief overview, it's Free Software too). And the device runs GNU/Linux for the non-parallel parts (Ubuntu is the suggested distribution).
Nerval's Lobster writes "Last week, Microsoft announced that it would take a $900 million write-off on its Surface RT tablets. Although launched with high hopes in the fall of 2012, the sleek devices—which run Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 designed for hardware powered by the mobile-friendly ARM architecture—have suffered from middling sales and fading buzz. But if Microsoft decides to continue with Surface, there's one surefire way to restart its (metaphorical) heart: make it the ultimate bargain. The company's already halfway there, having knocked $150 off the sticker price, but that's not enough. Imagine Microsoft pricing the Surface at a mere pittance, say $50 or $75 — even in this era of cheaper tablets, the devices would fly off the shelves so fast, the sales rate would make the iPad look like the Zune. There's a historical precedent for such a maneuver. In 2011, Hewlett-Packard decided to terminate its TouchPad tablet after a few weeks of poor sales. In a bid to clear its inventory, the company dropped the TouchPad's starting price to $99, which sent people rushing into stores in a way they hadn't when the device was priced at $499. Demand for the suddenly ultra-cheap tablet reached the point that HP needed weeks to fulfill backorders. (Despite that sales spike, HP decided to kill the TouchPad; the margins on $99 obviously didn't work out to everyone's satisfaction.) In the wake of Microsoft announcing that it would take that $900 million write-down on Surface RT, reports surfaced that the company could have as many as six million units sitting around, gathering dust. Whether that figure is accurate—it seems more based on back-of-napkin calculations than anything else—it's almost certainly the case that Microsoft has a lot of unsold Surface RTs in a bunch of warehouses all around the world. Why not clear them out by knocking a couple hundred dollars off the price? It's not as if they're going anywhere, anyway."
jfruh writes "Stratasys, one of the world's biggest 3D printer manufacturers, routinely uses 3D-printed objects as displays for its booths at trade shows. The problem: It's been using objects designed by popular designer Asher Nahmias, whose creations are licensed under a noncommercial Creative Commons license — and he says Stratasys's use violates the licensing terms. This is just one example of how the nascent 3D printing industry is having to grapple with the IP implications of creating physical objects out of downloadable designs. Another important problem: IP law distinguishes between purely decorative and useful objects, but how should the digital files that provide a design for those objects be treated?" The models are copyrighted and licensed NC, but what about the resulting object? Precedent seems to imply that the resulting object cannot be controlled (e.g. the output of a GPLed program is not GPLed, so why should executing a program on a 3D printer be any different?).
An anonymous reader writes "Google today announced it is bringing its Cloud Print project to Windows. The company has launched both a driver and a service, both of which are available for download now from Google Tools. For those who don't know, Google Cloud Print connects Cloud Print-aware applications (across the Web, desktop, and mobile) to any printer. It integrates with the mobile versions of Gmail and Google Docs, and is also listed as a printer option in the Print Preview page of Chrome." One of the things that annoys me about Android: having to print through the Cloud (tm) when I have an Internet Printing Protocol CUPS server on the same network as my phone connected to a printer ten feet from me. It wouldn't be so bad if the Google Cloud Print libraries weren't proprietary and did something like IPP proxying instead of using a similarly proprietary API.
MojoKid writes "Convertible laptops and ultrabooks had a big presence this year with the release of Windows 8. At CES, Lenovo revealed its ThinkPad Helix which it marketed as having a 'groundbreaking "rip and flip" design' that enables this 11.6-inch ultrabook to transform into a powerful Windows 8 tablet with Intel vPro technology for the enterprise. The ThinkPad Helix lets you work in four different modes: laptop, tablet, stand, and tablet+. When attached to the Enhanced Keyboard Dock in laptop mode, you'll get additional battery life and additional ports as well as Lenovo's ThinkPad Precision keyboard, a five button trackpad that supports Windows 8 features, and a traditional ThinkPad TrackPoint. ... The ThinkPad Helix features an 11.6-inch Full HD 1080p IPS (In-Plane Switching) 10-point multi-touchscreen with pen touch input and Gorilla Glass for protection. Lenovo claims the ThinkPad Helix will run for up to 8 hours on a single charge. Performance-wise, the new ThinkPad tablet convertible doesn't have a ton of horsepower, but the machine will get by well enough handling light multimedia and office app use with relative ease." The "stand" mode is just the tablet part mounted away from the keyboard, tablet+ similarly just the tablet part folded over the dock giving it a longer battery life and more ports. It comes at a price though: ~$1800.
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have designed a super-thin flexible skin that lights up when touched. 'Thinner than a sheet of paper, the skin is made from layers of plastic and a pressure-sensitive rubber. A conductive silver ink, organic LEDs, and thin-film transistors made from semiconductor-enriched carbon nanotubes are sandwiched between the layers. Applying pressure sends a signal through the rubber that ultimately turns on the LEDs, which light up in red, green, yellow or blue. Instead of using the material to create bodysuits for Burning Man or other illuminated party tricks, scientists suggest that it might be used for smart wallpapers, health-monitoring devices, or in robotics. The type of interactive pressure sensor developed by the Berkeley scientists could also be useful in artificial skin for prosthetic limbs'"
cylonlover writes "Researchers at ETH Zurich have demonstrated an amazing capability for small robots to self-assemble and take to the air as a multi-rotor helicopter. Maximilian Kriegleder and Raymond Oung worked with Professor Raffaello D'Andrea at his research lab to develop the small hexagonal pods that assemble into flying rafts. The true accomplishment of this research is that there is not one robot in control – each unit in itself decides what actions to take to keep the group in the air in what's known as Distributed Flight Array."
An anonymous reader writes "A new study by researchers in the Built Environment Research Group at the Illinois Institute of Technology shows that commercially available desktop 3D printers can have substantial emissions of potentially harmful nanosized particles in indoor air. Many desktop 3D printers rely on a process where a thermoplastic feedstock is heated, extruded through a small nozzle, and deposited onto a surface to build 3D objects. Similar processes have been shown to have significant aerosol emissions in other studies using a range of plastic feedstocks, but mostly in industrial environments. In this study, researchers measured ultrafine particle concentrations resulting from a popular commercially available desktop 3D printer using two different plastic feedstocks inside an office. Ultrafine particles (or UFPs) are small, nanosized particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter. Inhalation of UFPs may be important from a health perspective because they deposit efficiently in the lung and can even translocate to the brain. Estimates of emission rates of total UFPs in this study were high, ranging from about 20 billion particles per minute for a 3D printer utilizing a lower temperature polylactic acid (PLA) feedstock to about 200 billion particles per minute for the same type of 3D printer utilizing a higher temperature acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) feedstock. The emission rates were similar to those measured in previous studies of several other devices and indoor activities, including cooking on a gas or electric stove, burning scented candles, operating laser printers, or even burning a cigarette."
mdsolar writes "Around 2,000 people who have worked at Japan's wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant face a heightened risk of thyroid cancer, its operator said Friday. Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said 1,973 people — around 10 percent of those employed in emergency crews involved in the clean-up since the meltdowns — were believed to have been exposed to enough radiation to cause potential problems. The figure is a 10-fold increase on TEPCO's previous estimate of the number of possible thyroid cancer victims and comes after the utility was told its figures were too conservative. Each worker in this group was exposed to at least 100 millisieverts of radiation, projections show."
Vigile writes "While 4K displays have been popping up all over the place recently with noticeably lower prices, one thing that kind of limits them all is a 30 Hz refresh rate panel. Sony is selling 4K consumer HDTVs for $5000 and new-comer SEIKI has a 50-in model going for under $1000 but they all share that trait — HDMI 1.4 supporting 3840x2160 at 30 Hz. The new ASUS PQ321Q monitor is a 31.5-in 4K display built on the same platform as the Sharp PN-K321 and utilizes a DisplayPort 1.2 connection capable of MST (multi-stream transport). This allows the screen to include two display heads internally, showing up as two independent monitors to some PCs that can then be merged into a single panel via AMD Eyefinity or NVIDIA Surround. Thus, with dual 1920x2160 60 Hz signals, the PQ321Q can offer 3840x2160 at 60 Hz for a much better viewing experience. PC Perspective got one of the monitors in for testing and review and found that the while there were some hurdles during initial setup (especially with NVIDIA hardware), the advantage of a higher refresh rate made the 4K resolution that much better."
An anonymous reader writes "This article is an eye opening perspective on another side effect of power generation — water usage: 'More than 40 percent of fresh water used in the United States is withdrawn to cool power plants. Renewable energy generally uses far less water, but there are glaring exceptions, such as geothermal and concentrating solar.' The article also mentions that power plants have to shut down if the incoming water is too warm to cool the plant. 'Also, even though some newer plants might use far less water, they could find that there’s far less water available as water temperatures go up and water flows go down. Another study found that nearly half of 423 U.S. plants were at risk of lower power output during droughts because their intake pipes for water were less than 3 meters below the surface.'"
RoccamOccam sends this news from the Associated Press: "A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site. After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water."
DavidGilbert99 writes "Microsoft took everyone by surprise last year with the Surface tablet. It was something completely new from the company everyone knew as a software company. However nine months later and the sheen has worn off the Surface tablet and Microsoft's financial results on Thursday revealed it has taken a $900 million write down on the Surface RT tablets, leading David Gilbert in IBTimes to estimate it is sitting on a stockpile of six million unsold tablets."
DeviceGuru writes with this excerpt from LinuxGizmos: "GlassUp, an Italian startup, has started taking pre-orders on Indiegogo for an Android eyewear display system billed as a simpler, lower-cost alternative to Google Glass. The GlassUp device is a receive-only Bluetooth accessory to a nearby mobile device, providing a monochrome, 320 x 240-pixel augmented reality display of incoming messages and notifications. GlassUp was unveiled at CeBit in March, and is now up for crowdfunding on Indiegogo, where pre-sales opened today ranging from $199 to $399, depending on whether it's a pre-release, pre-production, or full-production version. This is less than a quarter the price of the $1,500 Google Glass Developer Edition. Already almost two years in development, GlassUp is expected to ship to presales customers in Feb. 2014, around the same time Google Glass is expected to ship in commercial production form." And for Google Glass itself, there's at least one project to bring Google's own hardware an alternative operating system.
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."
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.