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Data Storage

When Will Your Hard Drive Fail? 297 297

jfruh writes: Tech writer Andy Patrizio suffered his most catastrophic hard drive failure in 25 years of computing recently, which prompted him to delve into the questions of which hard drives fail and when. One intriguing theory behind some failure rates involve a crisis in the industry that arose from the massive 2011 floods in Thailand, home to the global hard drive industry.
Hardware

New Freescale I.MX7 Processor Line Takes Aim At IoT 34 34

DeviceGuru writes: Freescale has unveiled a new i.MX7 embedded processor family. The family launches with two parts having one or two Cortex-A7 cores, along with Cortex-M4 microcontroller cores, and boasts much lower power consumption than the company's popular i.MX6 embedded processors, making it ideal for power constrained Internet of Things applications. The i.MX7 is Freescale's second i.MX family to use Coretex-A7 cores, and its first to move backward in performance, although significantly upward in power efficiency — a testament to how IoT is impacting the semiconductor business. Like the recently introduced i.MX6 UltraLite, the initial i.MX7 parts are limited to 2D image processing in hardware. An ARMv8 Cortex-A53 based i.MX8 line is also under development, and is expected to be announced next year with 2016 or 2017 availability.
Sony

Sony Releasing New 1TB PlayStation 4 In July 98 98

Mark Wilson writes: Known as the 1TB PS4 Ultimate Player Edition (or PlayStation 4 Ultimate Player 1TB Edition depending on who you're talking to), Sony is launching a new PlayStation 4 next month. With the ever-growing market for downloadable content, it's difficult to have too much disk space. Recognizing this, Sony is doubling the size of the largest capacity PS4. The 1TB console will launch next month in the US, Asia and Europe, and the announcement comes just weeks after Microsoft announced a 1TB version of its Xbox One. Gamers in Japan will be able to get their hands on the console by the end of June, but the rest of the world will have to wait until July 15. There's no word on pricing, but Sony has detailed a few other changes that have been made to this version of the console.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Best Setups For Navigating a Programming-Focused MOOC? 39 39

theodp writes: As one works his or her way through EdX's free The Analytics Edge, one finds oneself going back-and-forth between videos and R to complete the programming exercises associated with the lectures. While this can certainly be done on a cheap-o 13" laptop with a 6mbps connection by jumping around from the web-based videos to the client-based programming environment and to the web for help (god bless Stack Overflow), have you found (or do you dream of) a better setup for the MOOC programming courses offered by the likes of EdX, Udacity, and Coursera? Are you using multiple screens, split screens, touch screens, laptops/desktops/tablets, speakers, headphones, higher-speed connections? Anything else? Do you rely solely on the class materials and web-based resources, or do you purchase complementary books? Any thoughts on how to make the experience work best for those learning at home, in a classroom setting, on the road for business/travel, or during lengthy train commutes? Do you playback videos at faster speeds (e.g., 1.5x)? Any other tips?
Data Storage

1 In 3 Data Center Servers Is a Zombie 107 107

dcblogs writes with these snippets from a ComputerWorld story about a study that says nearly a third of all data-center servers are are comatose ("using energy but delivering no useful information"). What's remarkable is this percentage hasn't changed since 2008, when a separate study showed the same thing. ... A server is considered comatose if it hasn't done anything for at least six months. The high number of such servers "is a massive indictment of how data centers are managed and operated," said Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University, who has done data center energy research for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "It's not a technical issue as much as a management issue."
Robotics

Robot Swarm Behavior Suggests Forgetting May Be Important To Cultural Evolution 37 37

Hallie Siegel writes: Can we learn about human cultural evolution by studying how group behaviour in robots evolves? Researchers in the Artificial Culture Project are trying to do just that. Prof. Alan Winfield from the Bristol Robotics Lab discusses his latest research on modelling the process by which cultural memes develop in robots when they pass learned behaviours to other robots in their group. Some interesting findings suggest imitation noise (ie. when the behaviour isn't learned perfectly) and forgetfulness (i.e. when the robot has only limited memory of the behaviours it is trying to imitate) lead to stronger cultural memes in the robot behaviour.
Graphics

AMD Reveals Radeon R9 Fury X Specs and Preliminary Benchmark Performance Results 87 87

MojoKid writes: AMD announced new Radeon R9 and R7 300 series of graphics cards earlier this week, and while they are interesting, they're not nearly as impressive as AMD's upcoming flagship of AMD GPU, code named Fiji. Fiji will find its way into three products this summer: the Radeon R9 Nano, Radeon R9 Fury, and the range-topping (and water-cooled) Radeon R9 Fury X. Other upcoming variants like, AMD's dual-Fiji board, were teased at E3 but are still under wraps. However, while full reviews are still under embargo, the official specification of the Radeon R9 Fury X have been revealed, along with an array of benchmark scores comparing the GPU to NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 980 Ti. Should the numbers AMD has released jibe with independent testing, the Radeon R9 Fury X looks strong and possibly faster than Nvidia's GeForce GTX 980 Ti.
Robotics

The Death of Aibo, the Birth of Softbank's Child-Robot 152 152

New submitter pubwvj writes: Sony is killing off their robot Aibo, stranding the 150,000 or so owners with no support, repairs or parts other than cannibalism. Now we have another Japanese company, SoftBank, releasing a robotic 'child.' Eventually, they too will discontinue the production of parts and support, beginning the process of killing off all those 'children' that are spawned. As robotics become (far) more advanced at what point will it be murder for a company to discontinue a product line?
Censorship

IMAX Tries To Censor Ars Technica Over SteamVR Comparison 190 190

Cutting_Crew writes: An article published last week at Ars Technica looked at the SteamVR virtual reality headset created by Valve. Contained in the article is a quote from game designer Alex Schwartz, who said in reference to the device, "The jump between a regular game and playing a room scale VR experience is X times 100. It’s like saying, 'I have an IMAX theater in my house.' It’s so much better that we can get away with a cumbersome setup." Now, for that single quoted reference, IMAX has sent a trademark complaint to Ars and demanded that they take the story down. "The company said our story required a retraction because it included a brief reference to IMAX—included without IMAX's permission. 'Any unauthorized use of our trademark is expressly forbidden.'"

If you look at the letter from IMAX (PDF), you'll see they think the reference to IMAX is "misleading to readers." They further request that "all future articles regarding this "room-scale" virtual reality system make no reference to our registered trademark." Apparently, IMAX has never heard of the Streisand Effect.
Update: 06/19 19:26 GMT by S : IMAX has apologized.
Cellphones

Planned Sequel To Fairphone Promises an Ethical, Repairable Phone 83 83

New submitter sackvillian writes: An article in Wired reports on the ongoing development of the Fairphone 2, planned for European release in September. The phone is the follow-up to the Indiegogo-funded original that inevitably had room for improvement. The manufacturers promise a modular phone with an emphasis on repairability and expandability, with otherwise respectable specs (Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 2GB RAM, Dual SIM, 8MP camera). It runs on a customized Android 5.1. So, the inevitable question arises — would you be willing to sacrifice some performance (and pay a significant premium) for a phone that's repairable, moddable, and ethical?
Classic Games (Games)

The Rebirth of Arcade Racers -- On Kickstarter 79 79

An anonymous reader writes: While big budget racers like The Crew and Forza chase realism, in recent years we've also seen a return to the racers of old with checkpoints, a ticking countdown, little in the way of AI and banging chiptune soundtracks. As a new article points out though, they're not in the arcades any more though — they're on Kickstarter. The author tracks down the creators of three indie games that look to Daytona rather than Gran Turismo for inspiration, and find out why we're seeing a resurgence in power sliding.
Businesses

More Warehouse Robots Coming To Market As Softbank Invests $20M In Fetch 38 38

Hallie Siegel writes: Japanese Softbank just injected $20M in funding to Fetch Robotics, a Silicon Valley company that is developing robotic solutions for warehouse and logistics. This is one of the first warehouse systems that is coming to market since Kiva. Softbank is also invested in Aldebaran Robotics, producing the Pepper robot — a social humanoid robot that is scheduled to make its debut in Nestle stores later this year as a sales and marketing assistant.
Graphics

AMD Announces Fiji-based Radeon R9 Fury X, 'Project Quantum', Radeon 300 Series 76 76

MojoKid writes: Today AMD announced new graphics solutions ranging from the bottom to the top ($99 on up to $649). First up is the new range of R7 300 Series cards that is aimed squarely at gamers AMD says are typically running at 1080p. For gamers that want a little bit more power, there's the new R9 300 Series (think of them as R9 280s with higher clocks and 8GB of memory). Finally, AMD unveiled its Fiji graphics cards that feature onboard High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), offering 3x the performance-per-watt of GDDR5. Fiji has 1.5x the performance-per-watt of the R9 290X, and was built with a focus on 4K gaming. The chip itself features 4096 stream processors and is comprised of 8.9 billion transistors. It has a graphics core clock of 1050MHz and is rated at 8.6 TFLOPs. AMD says there will also be plenty of overhead for overclocking. Finally, AMD also took the opportunity to showcase its "Project Quantum," which is a small form-factor PC that manages to cram two Fiji GPUs inside. The processor, GPUs, and all other hardware are incorporated into the bottom of the chassis, while the cooling solution is built into the top of the case.
Data Storage

TRIM and Linux: Tread Cautiously, and Keep Backups Handy 182 182

An anonymous reader writes: Algolia is a buzzword-compliant ("Hosted Search API that delivers instant and relevant results") start-up that uses a lot of open-source software (including various strains of Linux) and a lot of solid-state disk, and as such sometimes runs into problems with each of these. Their blog this week features a fascinating look at troubles that they faced with ext4 filesystems mysteriously flipping to read-only mode: not such a good thing for machines processing a search index, not just dishing it out. "The NGINX daemon serving all the HTTP(S) communication of our API was up and ready to serve the search queries but the indexing process crashed. Since the indexing process is guarded by supervise, crashing in a loop would have been understandable but a complete crash was not. As it turned out the filesystem was in a read-only mode. All right, let's assume it was a cosmic ray :) The filesystem got fixed, files were restored from another healthy server and everything looked fine again. The next day another server ended with filesystem in read-only, two hours after another one and then next hour another one. Something was going on. After restoring the filesystem and the files, it was time for serious analysis since this was not a one time thing.

The rest of the story explains how they isolated the problem and worked around it; it turns out that the culprit was TRIM, or rather TRIM's interaction with certain SSDs: "The system was issuing a TRIM to erase empty blocks, the command got misinterpreted by the drive and the controller erased blocks it was not supposed to. Therefore our files ended-up with 512 bytes of zeroes, files smaller than 512 bytes were completely zeroed. When we were lucky enough, the misbehaving TRIM hit the super-block of the filesystem and caused a corruption."

Since SSDs are becoming the norm outside the data center as well as within, some of the problems that their analysis exposed for one company probably would be good to test for elsewhere. One upshot: "As a result, we informed our server provider about the affected SSDs and they informed the manufacturer. Our new deployments were switched to different SSD drives and we don't recommend anyone to use any SSD that is anyhow mentioned in a bad way by the Linux kernel."
Power

Energy Harnessed From Humidity Can Power Small Devices 41 41

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have built small devices that generate electricity by harnessing changes in the ambient humidity. This is done through the use of dormant bacterial spores which expand when they absorb moisture from the air. To prove the concept, researchers attached the spores to one side of a curved polymer sheet, and when the spores absorbed humidity from the air, the sheet straightened out. Coupling this movement with an electromagnetic generator allowed them to harvest enough energy to power small devices like an LED and a 100-gram toy car.
XBox (Games)

Microsoft Announces Customizable Xbox Elite Wireless Controller 99 99

MojoKid writes: Today, Microsoft announced that later this year, it will be releasing what could be the "ultimate" Xbox and Windows game controller. Called Xbox Elite Wireless, this gamepad has a dramatically overhauled D-pad and four paddles underneath. Other features that make this gamepad special: there are trigger locks, the ability to customize thumbstick sensitivity, along with the level of travel for the top triggers. In addition, it also sports swappable components, like the paddles, etc. Pricing has been announced at $149 and given just how advanced this gamepad is over the original, it's understandable but still pretty steep.
Facebook

How Facebook Is Eating the $140 Billion Hardware Market 89 89

mattydread23 writes: It started out as a controversial idea inside Facebook. In four short years, the Open Compute Project has turned the $141 billion data-center computer-hardware industry on its head. This is the comprehensive history of the project, including interviews with founder Jonathan Heiliger and members of the financial services industry who are already on board, plus a dismissal from Google's own data center guru Urs Holzle.
Handhelds

UW Researchers Prototype Sonar-Based Contactless Sleep Monitoring 40 40

n01 writes: Researchers of the University of Washington are testing the prototype of their ApneaApp to diagnose sleep apnea, a health problem that can become life-threatening. To monitor a person's sleep, the app transforms the user's smartphone into an active sonar system that tracks tiny changes in a person's movements. The phone's speaker sends out inaudible sound waves, which bounce off a sleeping person's body and are picked back up by the phone's microphone. "It's similar to the way bats navigate," said Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, lead author and a doctoral candidate in the UW's department of computer science and engineering. "They send out sound signals that hit a target, and when those signals bounce back they know something is there." In technical terms, the app continuously analyzes changes in the acoustic room-transfer-function (sampled at ultrasonic frequencies) to detect motion. This is very similar to what the iPhone app Sleep Cycle Sonalarm Clock does, except that the UW researchers have improved the sensitivity of the method so it can precisely track the person's breathing movements which allows it to not only detect different sleep phases but also sleep apnea events. The advantage in both use cases is that the sleep monitoring is contact-less (there's nothing in the user's bed that could disturb their sleep) and doesn't require any additional hardware besides the user's smart phone.
Displays

210 Degree VR Headset With 5K Display Revealed By 'Payday' Developer Starbreeze 79 79

An anonymous reader writes: Starbreeze Studios has taken wraps off of StarVR, a new VR headset with dual displays comprising a 210 degree horizontal field of view with a total resolution of 5120x1440. The headset's origins come from InfinitEye, a company working on a super-wide dual-display headset back in 2013, which went into stealth mode for quite some time before being reborn as StarVR in partnership with Starbreeze Studios. The studio is the developer behind the Payday franchise, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and now Overkill's The Walking Dead, which will have a VR component utilizing the new headset.
AI

Toshiba Introduces a Cortana Keyboard Button For Windows 10 127 127

Ammalgam writes: In what seems like a really pivotal moment for computing, Toshiba have indicated that they will be introducing a new button to their line of keyboards. This key would be dedicated to summoning Microsoft's virtual assistant in Windows 10 — Cortana. A dedicated Cortana key would be one of the more significant changes to the keyboard since the Windows key was added at about the time Windows 95 was introduced, in 1995.