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Input Devices

Modular Touchpad Aims To Replace Most Input Devices 76

An anonymous reader writes: Wired reports on the 'Sensel Morph' input device, which launched on Kickstarter yesterday and blew past its funding goal almost immediately. It's a tablet-sized touchpad, but the key feature is the ability to place custom overlays on it. For example, you can snap on a flexible keyboard and the device starts behaving like a normal keyboard. Other overlays can imitate a game controller or a musical instrument. It's sensitive enough to detect paintbrushes, or you can put a simple overlay on it and use pencil or pen. The magnetic connectors in these overlays tell the device how to process the input, and they're making an open source API so developers can create their own. The touchpad has 20,000 individual sensors, with pressure sensitivity ranging from 5g to 5kg.
Data Storage

Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive 275

An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing.

Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."
Hardware Hacking

'Gynepunks' DIY Gynecology For Underserved Women 59

New submitter Alien7 sends an article about a group of bio-hackers who are out to bring DIY gynecological medicine to women who don't have easy access to it. Under the name GynePunks, they're assembling an arsenal of open-source tools for DIY diagnosis and first-aid care—centrifuges made from old hard drive motors; microscopes from deconstructed webcams; homemade incubators; and 3D printable speculums. ... So far the work is largely focused on diagnosis, and members of the collective are quick to note that what they’re creating is far from a comprehensive solution. It’s limited by some obvious factors—access to materials, a place to put them together, and the time to do it. But where the infrastructure does exist, and people are motivated to do so, it is very possible to establish some useful alternatives for self-care. As an example, Klau pointed to a pilot vinegar test program that’s lowered cervical cancer deaths by some 31 percent among poor women in Mumbai’s slums.
Power

Fusion Progress: Superheated Gas Kept Stable For 5 Milliseconds 96

An anonymous reader writes: A company called Tri Alpha has successfully kept a ball of superheated gas stable for a record time, 5 milliseconds, putting them closer to producing fusion power. "'They've succeeded finally in achieving a lifetime limited only by the power available to the system,' says particle physicist Burton Richter of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who sits on a board of advisers to Tri Alpha. If the company's scientists can scale the technique up to longer times and higher temperatures, they will reach a stage at which atomic nuclei in the gas collide forcefully enough to fuse together, releasing energy.

Importantly, the Tri Alpha machine may be able to operate with a different fuel than most other fusion reactors. This fuel-a mix of hydrogen and boron-is harder to react, but Tri Alpha researchers say it avoids many of the problems likely to confront conventional fusion power plants." The article does not say how much this success cost the privately-funded Tri Alpha, but it certainly wasn't in the billions of dollars.
Printer

MIT Develops Inkjet-Style 3D Printer That Uses 10 Different Materials At Once 24

Lucas123 writes: Researchers at MIT have been able to build a printer with uses 10 different photosensitive polymers to create a myriad of objects, and they were able to build it using off-the-shelf commodity parts for around $7,000. The MultiFab 3D printer works by mixing together microscopic droplets of photopolymers that are then extruded through inkjet printheads similar to those in office printers. A UV light then hardens the polymers layer by layer. Perhaps even more remarkable than the list of materials it can use is the MultiFab 3D printer's ability to self-calibrate and self-correct during a print job (PDF). The printer has an integrated machine vision system that automatically readjusts the printer head if errors occur, rectifying the build before a problem ruins the object; that means print jobs that run into errors don't need to be cancelled and materials wasted. The researchers said they can foresee an array of applications for the MultiFab 3D in consumer electronics, microsensing, medical imaging and telecommunications, among other things.
Microsoft

Microsoft Researchers Generate 3D Models From Ordinary Smartphones 48

New submitter subh_arya writes: Engineers from Microsoft Research have unveiled the first technology to perform 3D surface reconstruction from ordinary smartphone cameras. Their computational framework creates a connected 3D surface model by continuously registering RGB input to an incrementally built 3D model. Although the reconstruction results look promising, Microsoft does not plan to release an app anytime soon.
Bug

Backwards S-Pen Can Permanently Damage Note 5 157

tlhIngan writes: Samsung recently released a new version of its popular Galaxy Note series phablet, the Note 5. However, it turns out that there is a huge design flaw in the design of its pen holder (which Samsung calls the S-pen). If you insert it backwards (pointy end out instead of in), it's possible for it get stuck damaging the S-pen detection features. While it may be possible to fix it (Ars Technica was able to, Android Police was not), there's also a chance that your pen is also stuck the wrong way in permanently as the mechanism that holds the pen in grabs the wrong end and doesn't let go.
Cloud

Who Makes the Decision To Go Cloud and Who Should? 154

Esther Schindler writes: It's a predictable argument in any IT shop: Should the techies — with their hands on their keyboards — be the people who decide which technology or deployment is right for the company? Or should CIOs and senior management — with their strategic perspective — be the ones to make the call? Ellis Luk got input from plenty of people about management vs. techies making cloud/on-premise decisions... with, of course, a lot of varying in opinion.
Power

South Africans Revolutionize Concentrated Solar Power With Mini Heliostats 106

Taffykay writes: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) offers significant benefits, but it's often prohibitively expensive. Paul Gauché from Stellenbosch University in South Africa hopes to change that with Helio 100, a series of 'plonkable' miniature heliostats that require no installation or concrete, and offer solar energy that's cheaper than diesel. The Guardian reports: "Helio100 is a pilot project with over 100 heliostats of 2.2 sq meters each, generating 150 Kilowatts (kW) of power in total – enough to power about 10 households. According to Gauché, the array is already cheaper than using diesel, the go-to fuel for most companies and businesses during regular power outages in the country.
Robotics

Robots Are Coming For Our Jobs, Just Not All of Them 319

szczys writes: There was a video published on YouTube about a year ago called Humans Need Not Apply which compared human labor now to horse labor just before industrialization. It's a great thought-exercise, but there are a ton of tasks where it's still science-fiction to think robots are taking over anytime soon. Kristina Panos makes a great argument for which jobs we all want to see taken by robots, others that would be very difficult to make happen, and some that would just creep everyone out.
Hardware

Video The IoT, the MinnowBoard, and How They Fit Into the Universe (Video) 25

The IoT is becoming more pervasive partly because processor costs are dropping. So are bandwidth costs, even if your ISP isn't sharing those savings with you. Today's interviewee, Mark Skarpness, is "the Director of Embedded Software in the Open Source Technology Center at Intel Corporation," which is an amazing mouthful of a title. What it means is that he works to extend Intel's reach into Open Source communities, and is also aware of how hardware and software price drops -- and bandwidth price drops at the "wholesale" level -- mean that if you add a dash of IPV6, even lowly flip-flops might have their own IPs one day.

This video interview is a little less than six minutes long, while the text transcript covers a 17 minute conversation between Mark Skarpness and Slashdot's Timothy Lord. The video can be considered a "meet Mark" thing, and watching it will surely give you the idea that yes, this guy knows his stuff, but for more info about the spread of the IoT and how the Open Hardware MinnowBoard fits into the panoply of developer tools for IoT work, you'll have to read the transcript.
Input Devices

Skylake Has a Voice DSP and Listens To Your Commands 99

itwbennett writes: Intel's new Skylake processor (like the Core M processor released last year) comes with a built-in digital signal processor (DSP) that will allow you to turn on and control your PC with your voice. Although the feature is not new, what is new is the availability of a voice controlled app to use it: Enter Windows 10 and Cortana. If this sounds familiar, it should, writes Andy Patrizio: 'A few years back when the Xbox One was still in development, word came that Kinect, its motion and audio sensor controller, would be required to use the console and Kinect would always be listening for voice commands to start the console. This caused something of a freak-out among gamers, who feared Microsoft would be listening.'
Data Storage

MIT's New File System Won't Lose Data During Crashes 168

jan_jes sends news that MIT researchers will soon present a file system they say is mathematically guaranteed not to lose data during a crash. While building it, they wrote and rewrote the file system over and over, finding that the majority of their development time was spent defining the system components and the relationships between them. "With all these logics and proofs, there are so many ways to write them down, and each one of them has subtle implications down the line that we didn’t really understand." The file system is slow compared to other modern examples, but the researchers say their formal verification can also work with faster designs. Associate professor Nickolai Zeldovich said, "Making sure that the file system can recover from a crash at any point is tricky because there are so many different places that you could crash. You literally have to consider every instruction or every disk operation and think, ‘Well, what if I crash now? What now? What now?’ And so empirically, people have found lots of bugs in file systems that have to do with crash recovery, and they keep finding them, even in very well tested file systems, because it’s just so hard to do.”
Android

Samsung May Release an 18" Tablet 177

A report at PC Magazine says that Samsung may soon field a tablet to satisfy people not content with the 7", 9", 12", or even slightly larger tablets that are today's normal stock in trade. Instead, the company is reported to be working on an 18.4" tablet aimed at "living rooms, offices, and schools." There's a lot of couching going on, but it sounds like an interesting idea: It's said to run Android 5.1 Lollipop and be powered by an octa-core 64-bit 1.6GHz Exynos 7580 processor. Other rumored specs include 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot with support for cards up to 128GB, and a large 5,700 mAh battery. The device also has an 8-megapixel main camera (and you thought people looked silly taking photos with their iPads) and 2.1-megapixel "secondary camera."
Transportation

Tesla Partners With Airbnb, Subsidizes Chargers 59

Fortune reports that Tesla and Airbnb have teamed up; certain Airbnb properties will get Tesla chargers as a perk. There are 12 locations already equippped with chargers, but expect to see more soon, because Tesla is willing to pay for some of them, at least in California. To get on the list from which Tesla is drawing takes more than an air mattress in a spare room: An existing Airbnb host who lists an entire home, has had more than more than five bookings, and has an average overall star rating of 4+ is eligible to receive a free Tesla charger, which cost $750. The host must pay for the installation, which costs between $200 and $900 depending on the layout of the home.
Advertising

Why Google Wants To Sell You a Wi-Fi Router 198

lpress writes: Last quarter, Google made $16 billion on advertising and $1.7 billion on "other sales." I don't know how "other sales" breaks down, but a chunk of that is hardware devices like the Pixel Chromebook, Chromecast, Next thermostat, Nexus phone and, now, WiFi routers. Does the world need another $200 home router? Why would Google bother? I can think of a couple of strategic reasons — they hope it will become a home-automation hub (competing with the Amazon Echo) and it will enable them to dynamically configure and upgrade your home or small office network for improved performance (hence more ads).
Security

Cheap Thermal Imagers Can Steal User PINs 101

Bismillah writes: A British infosec company has discovered that cheap thermal imaging attachments for smartphones can be used to work out which keys users press on -- for instance -- ATM PIN pads. The thermal imprint last for a minute or longer. That's especially worrying if your PIN takes the form of letters, as do many users' phone-unlock patterns.
Iphone

Apple Launches Free iPhone 6 Plus Camera Replacement Program 68

Mark Wilson writes: Complaints about the camera of the iPhone 6 Plus have been plentiful, and Apple has finally acknowledged that there is a problem. It's not something that affects all iPhone 6 Plus owners, but the company says that phones manufactured between September 2014 and January 2015 could include a failed camera component. Apple has set up a replacement program which enables those with problems with the rear camera to obtain a replacement. Before you get too excited, it is just replacement camera components that are on offer, not replacement iPhones. You'll need to check to see if your phone is eligible at the program website. (Also at TechCrunch.)
Input Devices

Ask Slashdot: Do You Press "6" Key With Right Or Left Hand? 240

New submitter ne0phyte73 writes: In some countries and in some touch typing books key "6" is pressed with right hand and in some others with left. It's not a big issue until you have a split keyboard. Guys at UHK are putting it on the left side. Do you agree? What hand do you use to press "6"? Left hand here, but it's not a strong preference; I'll take a keyboard that omits Caps Lock wherever they put the 6.