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Hardware Hacking

Toward An FSF-Endorsable Embedded Processor 258

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the building-rms-a-new-computer dept.
lkcl writes about his effort to go further than others have, and actually have a processor designed for Free Software manufactured: "A new processor is being put together — one that is FSF Endorseable, contains no proprietary hardware engines, yet an 800MHz 8-core version would, at 38 GFLOPS, be powerful enough on raw GFLOPS performance figures to take on the 3ghz AMD Phenom II x4 940, the 3GHz Intel i7 920 and other respectable mid-range 100 Watt CPUs. The difference is: power consumption in 40nm for an 8-core version would be under 3 watts. The core design has been proven in 65nm, and is based on a hybrid approach, with its general-purpose instruction set being designed from the ground up to help accelerate 3D Graphics and Video Encode and Decode, an 8-core 800mhz version would be capable of 1080p30 H.264 decode, and have peak 3D rates of 320 million triangles/sec and a peak fill rate of 1600 million pixels/sec. The unusual step in the processor world is being taken to solicit input from the Free Software Community at large before going ahead with putting the chip together. So have at it: if given carte blanche, what interfaces and what features would you like an FSF-Endorseable mass-volume processor to have? (Please don't say 'DRM' or 'built-in spyware')." There's some discussion on arm-netbook. This is the guy behind the first EOMA-68 card (currently nearing production). As a heads ups, we'll be interviewing him in a live style similarly to Woz (although intentionally this time) next Tuesday.
Open Source

Wiki Weapon Project Test-Fires a (Partly) 3D-Printed Rifle 289

Posted by timothy
from the pilgrims'-progress dept.
MrSeb writes "In its continuing mission to build a 'Wiki Weapon,' Defense Distributed has 3D printed the lower receiver of an AR-15 and tested it to failure. The printed part only survives the firing of six shots, but for a first attempt that's quite impressive. And hey, it's a plastic gun. Slashdot first covered 3D-printed guns back in July. The Defense Distributed group sprung up soon after, with the purpose of creating an open-source gun — a Wiki Weapon — that can be downloaded from the internet and printed out. The Defense Distributed manifesto mainly quotes a bunch of historical figures who supported the right to bear arms. DefDist (its nickname) is seeking a gun manufacturing license from the ATF, but so far the feds haven't responded. Unperturbed, DefDist started down the road by renting an advanced 3D printing machine from Stratasys — but when the company found out what its machine was being used for, it was repossessed. DefDist has now obtained a 3D printer from Objet, which seemingly has a more libertarian mindset. The group then downloaded HaveBlue's original AR-15 lower receiver from Thingiverse, printed it out on the Objet printer using ABS-like Digital Material, screwed it into an AR-57 upper receiver, loaded up some FN 5.7x28mm ammo, and headed to the range. The DefDist team will now make various modifications to HaveBlue's design, such as making it more rugged and improving the trigger guard, and then upload the new design to Thingiverse." Sensible ammo choice; 5.7x28mm produces less recoil than the AR-15's conventional 5.56mm. I wonder how many of the upper's components, too, can one day be readily replaced with home-printable parts — for AR-15 style rifles, the upper assembly is where the gun's barrel lives, while the lower assembly (the part printed and tested here) is the legally controlled part of the firearm.
Graphics

But Can It Run Crysis 3? 182

Posted by timothy
from the why-I-can't-get-into-video-games dept.
MojoKid writes with Hot Hardware's summary of what it takes to run the newest Crysis: "We've been tracking Crysis 3 for a while, from the trailer a few months ago to the recent alpha multiplayer preview. The game is available for preorder and it will launch in February. Crytek has now listed the minimum system requirements for Crysis 3 and they're as follows: Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8, DirectX 11 graphics card with 1GB Video RAM, Dual core CPU, 2GB Memory (3GB on Vista). Those aren't particularly stringent parameters by any means, but as we all know, 'minimum requirements' rarely are. Crytek suggests upgrading to a quad-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, with examples of CPU/GPU combinations that include Intel Core i5-750/NVIDIA GTX 560 and AMD Phenom II X4 805/AMD Radeon HD5870."
Patents

Apple Patents Wireless Charging 253

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the puts-the-cancer-right-in-your-ear dept.
GabriellaKat writes "Via El Reg: 'Apple is trying to patent wireless charging, claiming its magnetic resonance tech is new and that it can do it better than anyone else. This would be cool if its assertions were true. Apple's application, numbered 20120303980, makes much of its ability to charge a device over the air at a distance of up to a meter, rather than requiring close proximity. The Alliance For Wireless Power, which also touts long-range juicing, will no doubt be comparing Apple's designs to its own blueprints.'"
Power

Researchers Create New Cheap, Shatterproof, Plastic Light Bulbs 296

Posted by samzenpus
from the light-up-your-life dept.
hattig writes "US researchers say they have developed a new type of lighting that could replace fluorescent bulbs. The new light source is called field-induced polymer electroluminescent (Fipel) technology. It is made from three layers of white-emitting polymer that contain a small volume of nanomaterials that glow when electric current is passed through them. The developer is promising cheap, hard-to-break, mercury-free, highly efficient bulbs from 2013."
Books

The Foldable Readius Ereader Is Dead 42

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the cool-gadgets-you'll-never-own dept.
Nate the greatest writes "One of the stranger ereader/smartphone hybrid devices ever to grace the pages of a tech blog is now officially never dead. Polymer Vision, creator of the Readius ereader, has been shut down by its parent company. This company launched in 2004 with the goal of bring an ereader with a foldable 5" E-ink screen to market. They shipped an initial production run of about 100 thousand units before going bankrupt in 2009. Wistron bought the company out of receivership and has been paying to develop the screen tech. PV has made a number of prototypes over the past few years, but they never made it out of the lab. The closest we came to ever seeing one was a render of a smartphone design which could expand to the size of a tablet."
Hardware

"Self-Healing" NAND Flash Memory That Can Survive Over 100 Million Cycles 76

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the forged-in-the-fires-of-mount-nand dept.
another random user writes with an interesting use of 800C heating elements to keep flash working longer. It's long been known that heating NAND to temperatures around 250C can restore life, but doing so was practically impossible. From the article: "Engineers at Macronix have a solution that moves flash memory over to a new life. ... They redesigned a flash memory chip to include onboard heaters to anneal small groups of memory cells. Applying a brief jolt of heat to a very restricted area within the chip (800 degrees C) returns the cell to a 'good' state. ... According to project member HangTing Lue, the annealing can be done infrequently and on one sector at a time while the device is inactive but still connected to the power source. It would not drain a cellphone battery, he added." It's still a long way from commercialization, but if it works on a small scale...
Music

Slashdot Asks: SATA DVD Drives That Don't Suck for CD Ripping? 330

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the god-save-the-cd dept.
I recently retired my ancient AthlonMP rig for something a bit more modern, and in the upgrade got a new DVD±RW drive. Since I have the new rig and a lot more disk space, the time has come to re-rip my ~450 disc CD collection into FLAC (I trust active storage more than optical discs that may or may not last another twenty years). The optical drive I had in my old rig was one recommended by Hydrogen Audio or somewhere similar for ripping CDs, and can grab an hour long album in about five minutes. My new drive, unfortunately, takes about fifteen to do the same. With the number of discs I have to churn through and the near-instaneous encoding, it's somewhat annoying. After searching the Internet high and low for advice I came up empty handed, and so I ask Slashdot: are there any SATA DVD burners that don't suck at ripping CDs? Read on for more details if you wish.
Android

PengPod Hits Funding Goal, Plans to Ship Linux Tablet In January 69

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tablet-for-the-gnu-slash-rest-of-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Quoting liliputing: 'PengPod plans to start shipping 7 and 10 inch tablets with support for Linux as well as Google Android in January. The company, founded by Neal Peacock, has been raising money to help support software development for the tablets — and Peacock just wrote in to let us know the project has surpassed its initial $49,000 fundraising goal. In other words, the campaign will be fully funded and backers that pledged $120 or more should get their tablets starting in January if all goes according to plan.'" And, unlike many ARM SoCs, the kernel for the Allwinner A10 powering it is developed openly.
Displays

Steve Jobs Was Wrong About Touchscreen Laptops 526

Posted by timothy
from the too-soon? dept.
theodp writes "Don't believe everything Steve Jobs and Tim Cook tell you, advises The Verge's Sean Hollister. Gunshy of touchscreen laptops after hearing the two Apple CEOs dismiss the technology (Jobs: 'Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical.' Cook: 'You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not gonna be pleasing to the user.'), Hollister was surprised to discover that Windows 8 touchscreen laptops actually don't suck and that the dreaded 'Gorilla Arm Syndrome' did not materialize. 'The more I've used Windows 8, despite its faults, the more I've become convinced that touchscreens are the future — even vertical ones,' writes Hollister. 'We've been looking at this all wrong. A touchscreen isn't a replacement for a keyboard or mouse, it's a complement.' Echoing a prediction from Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood that 'it is only a matter of time before all laptops must be touch laptops,' Hollister wouldn't be surprised at all if Apple eventually embraces-and-extends the tech: 'Microsoft might have validated the idea, but now Apple has another chance to swoop in, perfecting and popularizing the very interface that it strategically ridiculed just two years ago. It wouldn't be the first time. After all, how many iPad minis come with sandpaper for filing fingers down?'"
Displays

Mitsubishi Drops Bulky DLP TVs: End of an Era 95

Posted by timothy
from the like-a-slightly-warm-rock dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Mitsubishi was the last hold-out in the big-screen rear-projection display business after Samsung left the category in 2009. Now Mitsubishi has dropped the dinosaur. Every big-brand CE manufacturer got their start in the big-TV business via rear projection sets from CRT to DLP to LCoS, eventually replacing them with modern-day flat screens. Mitsubishi did develop LCD flat-screens for a time, but dropped out of that market to focus on rear DLPs after Samsung gave it a monopoly. The author, a CE editor, takes a nostalgic and amusing look at her 15 years with three Mitsu rear pros, the only big-screen TV she's known."
Handhelds

Ask Slashdot: Tablets For Papers; Are We There Yet? 180

Posted by timothy
from the getting-closer-at-least dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When I was younger, engineering and science offices didn't have computers yet. It was the tradition: Piled Higher and Deeper desks, and overloaded bookcases. I ended up doing other things, and haven't been in a regular office for a couple of decades. Now I'm older, spending a lot more time with the screen, and finding my aging butt and back aren't as pliable for the long hours of reading papers. And while looking at rather expensive chairs, etc for a solution, what I'm remembering is we used to be able to lean back, feet up, while reading the stapled print-outs — makes a change from hunched-over writing and typing. So I'm what wondering is this: Are We There Yet with tablets? You guys would know — What makes a good tablet for reading, sorting, annotating, and searching PDFs, etc? Hardware and software — what tablets have gotten this really right?"
Math

One Cool Day Job: Building Algorithms For Elevators 203

Posted by timothy
from the getting-it-up-is-only-half-the-battle dept.
McGruber writes "The Wall Street Journal has an article about Theresa Christy, a mathematician who develops algorithms for Otis Elevator Company, the world's largest manufacturer and maintainer of people-moving products including elevators, escalators and moving walkways. As an Otis research fellow, Ms. Christy writes strings of code that allow elevators to do essentially the greatest good for the most people — including the building's owner, who has to allocate considerable space for the concrete shafts that house the cars. Her work often involves watching computer simulation programs that replay elevator decision-making. 'I feel like I get paid to play videogames. I watch the simulation, and I see what happens, and I try to improve the score I am getting,' she says."
Hardware

Raspberry Pi's $25 Model A Hits Production Line 105

Posted by timothy
from the house-automation-brain-perhaps dept.
hypnosec writes "The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced that the cheaper variant of the Raspberry Pi — the Model A — has entered production phase. Model A of the credit-card sized computer has been stripped of its Ethernet port and a USB port, leaving just one USB port. This model comes with 256MB RAM, but as it is less complex compared to its predecessor it will consume less power, thus opening up quite a few new usage scenarios. The Foundation has posted the first image of the $25 Model A on its site and noted 'We're anticipating that those of you who buy the Model A will be using it for different applications from Model B owners.'"
Android

Ouya Consoles Will Start Shipping On December 28th 121

Posted by timothy
from the did-you-bet-correctly? dept.
sfcrazy writes "Ouya has stuck to its deadlines. The team has posted an update on the official blog that the units will start shipping on the scheduled date of December 28th. These units are for those developers who backed the project on Kickstarter. There is some surprise for developers with this console. 'What we didn't tell you was that the advance dev consoles you ordered are pretty special – you'll know what I mean when you open yours. They're rare drops. :P,' says the official post."
Government

DOE Wants 5X Improvement In Batteries In 5 Years 305

Posted by Soulskill
from the charging-scientists-with-this-task dept.
dcblogs writes "The U.S. Dept. of Energy has set a goal to develop battery and energy storage technologies that are five times more powerful and five times cheaper within five years. DOE is creating a new center at Argonne National Laboratory, at a cost of $120 million over five years, that's intended to reproduce development environments that were successfully used by Bell Laboratories and World War II's Manhattan Project. 'When you had to deliver the goods very, very quickly, you needed to put the best scientists next to the best engineers across disciplines to get very focused,' said U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, on Friday. The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research isn't designed to seek incremental improvements in existing technologies. This technology hub, according to DOE's solicitation (PDF), 'should foster new energy storage designs that begin with a "clean sheet of paper" — overcoming current manufacturing limitations through innovation to reduce complexity and cost.' Other research labs, universities and private companies are participating in the effort."
Hardware

3D Printing of Custom Personal Electronics Arrives 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the print-all-the-things dept.
Zothecula writes "Researchers at the University of Warwick have created a cheap plastic composite that can be used even with low-end 3D printers, to produce custom-made electronic devices. The material, nicknamed 'carbomorph,' is both conductive and piezoresistive, meaning that both electronic tracks and touch-sensitive areas can now be easily embedded in 3D-printed objects without the need for complex procedures or expensive materials."
Portables (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: Good Linux Desktop Environment For Hi-Def/Retina Displays? 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-start-thinking-about-this-again dept.
Volanin writes "I have been using Linux for the last 15 years both at home and at work (mostly GNOME and now Unity). Recently, I gave in to temptation and bought myself a Macbook retina 15". As you can read around, Linux still has no good support for this hardware, so I am running it inside a virtual machine. Running in scaled 1440x900 makes the Linux fonts look absolutely terrible, and running in true 2880x1800 makes them beautiful, but every UI element becomes so tiny, it's unworkable. Is there a desktop environment that handles resolution independence better? Linux has had support for SVG for a long time, but GNOME/Unity seems adamant in defining small icon sizes and UI elements without the possibility to resize them."
Cellphones

Flexible Phones 'Out By 2013' 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-if-they-can-only-make-phones-into-snap-bracelets dept.
dryriver sends this quote from a BBC report: "Imagine treating your phone like a piece of paper. Roll it up. Drop it. Squish it in your backpack. Step on it — without any damage. Researchers are working on just such handsets — razor-thin, paper-like and bendable. There have already been prototypes, attracting crowds at gadget shows. But rumors abound that next year will see the launch of the first bendy phone. Numerous companies are working on the technology — LG, Philips, Sharp, Sony and Nokia among them — although reports suggest that South Korean phone manufacturer Samsung will be the first to deliver. Samsung favors smartphones with so-called flexible OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology, and is confident that they will be 'very popular among consumers worldwide.' Their screens will be 'foldable, rollable, wearable and more, [and] will allow for a high degree of durability through their use of a plastic substrate that is thinner, lighter and more flexible than conventional LCD technology,' says a Samsung spokesperson.'"

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