Hugh Pickens writes "Tricia Romano writes in the NY Times that over the last 10 years, purchasing a hearing aid had become even more difficult and confusing than buying a new car — and almost as expensive. 'I visited Hearx, the national chain where I had bought my previous aids. There, a fastidious young man spread out a brochure for my preferred brand, Siemens, and showed me three models. The cheapest, a Siemens Motion 300, started at $1,600. The top-of-the-line model was more than $2,000 — for one ear. I gasped.' A hearing aid is basically just a microphone and amplifier in your ear so it isn't clear why it costs thousands of dollars while other electronic equipment like cellphones, computers and televisions have gotten cheaper. Russ Apfel, an engineer who designed a technology now found in all hearing aids, says there is no good reason for the high prices. 'The hearing aid industry uses every new thing, like digital or a new algorithm, to raise prices,' says Apfel. 'The semiconductor industry traditionally reduces the cost of products by 10 to 15 percent a year,' he said, but 'hearing aids go up 8 percent a year annually' and have for the last 20 years."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The Green Grid, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making IT infrastructures and data centers more energy-efficient, is making the case that data center operators are operating their facilities in too conservative a fashion. Rather than rely on mechanical chillers, it argues in a new white paper (PDF), data centers can reduce power consumption via a higher inlet temperature of 20 degrees C. Green Grid originally recommended that data center operators build to the ASHRAE A2 specifications: 10 to 35 degrees C (dry-bulb temperature) and between 20 to 80 percent humidity. But the paper also presented data that a range of between 20 and 35 degrees C was acceptable. Data centers have traditionally included chillers, mechanical cooling devices designed to lower the inlet temperature. Cooling the air, according to what the paper originally called anecdotal evidence, lowered the number of server failures that a data center experienced each year. But chilling the air also added additional costs, and PUE numbers would go up as a result."
New submitter seawall writes "Paul Allen just opened the Living Computer Museum in Seattle. The 'Living' means many of the computers are actually running. There's a Xerox Sigma 9, which was introduced in 1971 and is quite similar to the computer that sent the first signal over Arpanet. There's also Tops-10 on original DEC hardware, an operating TOAD-1 system, and a DEC PDP-7 that's one of only four in the world."
Tator Tot writes with this quote from Chemical & Engineering News: "Using today's technologies and knowledge, a scale-up of fledgling algal biofuel production sufficient to meet even 5% of U.S. transportation fuel demand is unsustainable, says a report released last week by the National Research Council. The report examines the efficiency of producing biofuels from microalgae and cyanobacteria with respect to energy, water, and nutrient requirements and finds that the process falls short. The energy from algal biofuel, the report finds, is less than the energy needed to make it. In terms of water, at least 32.5 billion gal would be needed to produce 10 billion gal of algae-based biofuels, the report states. The study also finds that making enough algal biofuels to replace just 5% of U.S. annual transportation fuel needs would require 44–107% of the total nitrogen and 20–51% of the total phosphorus consumed annually in the U.S."
We recently discussed news of a UK court ruling in which the judge decided Apple must publicly acknowledge that Samsung's Galaxy Tab did not infringe upon the iPad's design, both on the Apple website and in several publications. The acknowledgement has now been posted, and it's anything but apologetic. It states the court's ruling, helpfully referring to "Apple's registered design No. 000018607-0001," and quotes the judges words as an advertisement. The judge wrote, "The informed user's overall impression of each of the Samsung Galaxy Tablets is the following. From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool." They go on to mention German and U.S. cases which found in Apple's favor. Apple's statement concludes, "So while the U.K. court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung willfully copied Apple's far more popular iPad."
theodp writes "Conceding that he hadn't actually played with one, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Wall Street that Microsoft's Surface tablet is 'a fairly compromised, confusing product' in the company's 4Q earnings call. Cook joked, 'I supposed you could design a car that flies and floats, but it wouldn't do those things very well.' In Apple's 2Q earnings call, Cook also mocked the idea of touch on a laptop or desktop, quipping, 'You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going be pleasing to the user.' Cook added, 'We've done tons of user testing on this, and it turns out it doesn't work. Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical.' So, is Cook just pulling a page from Steve Jobs' people-don't-read-anymore playbook, or is he unaware that children happily used vertical touch screens forty years ago on UIUC's PLATO System (more PLATO History)?"
An anonymous reader writes "LG held a big launch party today for its highly anticipated 84-inch Ultra HD TV. The launch was held at Video & Audio Center in the L.A. area, which sold six sets within two hours. The MSRP had been set at $19,999 but we now know the street price: $16,999. 'My wife would rather I waited,' said one of the buyers." The article claims a couple of times that "Ultra HD 4K" has ~4000 vertical lines of resolution, but that's not true: the (unimplemented?) 8K spec is the one with 4320 lines of resolution confusingly enough. In any case, that's a lot of pixels. Maybe this means we'll finally see computer monitors break through the "HDTVs are the dominant consumers of LCD panels" barrier of 1920x1080.
smackay writes "Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory is building a humanoid robot designed for dangerous rescue missions as part of the new DARPA Robotics Challenge. Lab founder/director Dennis Hong calls it the 'greatest challenge of my career.' The robot's name: THOR" From the article: "The task is massive: The adult-sized robot must be designed to enter a vehicle, drive it, and then exit the vehicle, walk over rubble, clear objects blocking a door, open the door, and enter a building. The robot then must visually and audibly locate and shut off a leaking valve, connect a hose or connector, climb an industrial ladder and traverse an industrial walkway. The final and possibly most difficult task: Use a power tool and break through a concrete wall. All these tasks must be accomplished under a set time limit."
sfcrazy writes "Andrew Wafaa, an ARM developer who is responsible for porting openSUSE to ARM, just got his hands on the Chromebook, and he managed to run openSUSE on it." Hopefully that means other distros can be soon ported to the Chromebook as well.
Says a story at Slash Datacenter: "Dell announced Oct. 24 that it had taken the next step into the low-power server market through the development of a second ARM-based server platform, which it will donate to the Apache Software Foundation for software development and app porting. The 'Zinc' concept runs the Calxeda EnergyCore chip, an ARM-based processor that the company hopes will eventually be featured in data centers running specialized workloads. It follows Dell’s earlier effort, dubbed 'Copper,' which it released in May. Neither server is commercially available, with Dell saying only that it would bring the hardware to market at an 'appropriate time.' Dell has said that it believes that the ARM-based server market is approaching an inflection point, and that it believes now is the right time to help foster development and testing of operating systems and applications for ARM servers. It’s a big step for the company, which has historically been an all-Intel shop, only occasionally buying processors from AMD." The ASF has access to the server (humming in a data center in Austin), and it's been busy: developers have "performed more than a dozen builds within the first 24 hours of the servers’ deployment, and on-going builds are being performed by the Apache Derby, River, Tapestry, and Thrift projects."
concealment writes "State-owned Baotou Steel Rare Earth (Group) Hi-tech Co. said in a statement released through the Shanghai Stock Exchange that it suspended production Tuesday to promote 'healthy development' of rare earths prices. It gave no indication when production would resume and phone calls to the company on Thursday were not answered. Beijing is tightening control over rare earths mining and exports to capture more of the profits that flow to Western makers of lightweight batteries and other products made of rare earths. China has about 30 percent of rare earths deposits but accounts for more than 90 percent of production. Beijing alarmed global manufacturers by imposing export quotas in 2009. It also is trying to force Chinese rare earths miners and processors to consolidate into a handful of government-controlled groups."
1sockchuck writes "Facebook has now adapted its Open Compute servers to work in leased data center space a step that could make the highly-efficient 'open hardware' designs accessible to a broader range of users. The Open Compute Project was launched last year to bring standards and repeatable designs to IT infrastructure, and has been gaining traction as more hardware vendors join the effort. Facebook's move to open its designs has been a welcome departure from the historic secrecy surrounding data center design and operations. But energy-saving customizations that work in Facebook's data centers present challenges in multi-tenant facilities. To make it work, Facebook hacked a rack and gave up some energy savings by using standard 208V power."
Microsoft has made hardware for quite a while, but not much of it as visible as the Surface; now, it looks like there's more where that came from. Dupple writes: "Steve Ballmer told the BBC: 'Is it fair to say we're going to do more hardware? Obviously we are... Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah we'll dive in.' The chief executive's comments came ahead of a Windows 8 launch event in New York, following which Microsoft's Surface tablet will go on sale. News other devices are likely to follow may worry some of the firm's partners. Mr Ballmer caused a stir when he revealed in June that his company was making its own family of tablet computers — one offering extended battery-life powered by an Arm-based chip, the other using Intel's technology to offer a deeper Windows experience."
An anonymous reader writes "An EXT4 file-system data corruption issue has reached the stable Linux kernel. The latest Linux 3.4, 3.5, 3.6 stable kernels have an EXT4 file-system bug described as an apparent serious progressive ext4 data corruption bug. Kernel developers have found and bisected the kernel issue but are still working on a proper fix for the stable Linux kernel. The EXT4 file-system can experience data loss if the file-system is remounted (or the system rebooted) too often."
First time accepted submitter e-sas writes "Researchers from the University of Bristol have built a new type of display which allows both a shared view and a personalised view to users at the same time. Through the two view-zones, PiVOT provides multiple personalized views where each personalized view is only visible to the user it belongs to while presenting an unaffected and unobstructed shared view to all users. They conceive PiVOT as a tabletop system aimed at supporting mixed-focus collaborative tasks where there is a main task requiring the focus of all individuals of the group but also concurrent smaller personal tasks needing access to information that is not usually shared e.g. a war-room setup. Imagine you and your friends playing multiplayer Starcraft on one big screen instead of individual computer screens!"
As tablets and computer-phones flood the market, the headlines read: "The Personal Computer is Dying." But they are only half true: an artifact of the PC is dying, but the essence of the PC revolution is closer to realization than ever before, while also being closer to loss than ever before.
Raspberry Pi project relies heavily on Open Source and Free Software — heck, it's targeted by more than one Linux distro. But some of the hardware stack that makes up the Pi itself needs closed-source code to run; the code that runs all kinds of low-level hardware is often closed source and closed off. I got wind from project instigator and lead Eben Upton that the system-on-a-chip at the Raspberry Pi's heart is about to get a lot more open. Says Upton: "We're about to open source all of the remaining closed source ARM code for the Pi. This will make BCM2835 the first ARM multimedia SoC with a fully-open-source ARM user and kernel implementation." I spoke for a few minutes with Alex Bradbury, who runs the Linux software work for the project, about licensing and what the new code means not only for Raspberry Pi but for users and other OS projects." (Note: the sound quality on this translantic Skype call is poor. We suggest reading the transcript.) Get the code while it's hot.
MrSeb writes "A team of researchers from MIT, Caltech, Harvard, and other universities in Europe, have devised a way of boosting the performance of wireless networks by up to 10 times — without increasing transmission power, adding more base stations, or using more wireless spectrum. The researchers' creation, coded TCP, is a novel way of transmitting data so that lost packets don't result in higher latency or re-sent data. With coded TCP, blocks of packets are clumped together and then transformed into algebraic equations (PDF) that describe the packets. If part of the message is lost, the receiver can solve the equation to derive the missing data. The process of solving the equations is simple and linear, meaning it doesn't require much processing on behalf of the router/smartphone/laptop. In testing, the coded TCP resulted in some dramatic improvements. MIT found that campus WiFi (2% packet loss) jumped from 1Mbps to 16Mbps. On a fast-moving train (5% packet loss), the connection speed jumped from 0.5Mbps to 13.5Mbps. Moving forward, coded TCP is expected to have huge repercussions on the performance of LTE and WiFi networks — and the technology has already been commercially licensed to several hardware makers."
An anonymous reader writes "AMD just officially took the wraps off Vishera, its next generation of FX processors. Vishera is Piledriver-based like the recently-released Trinity APUs, and the successor to last year's Bulldozer CPU architecture. The octo-core flagship FX-8350 runs at 4.0 GHz and is listed for just $195. The 8350 is followed by the 3.5 GHz FX-8320 at $169. Hexa-core and quad-core parts are also launching, at $132 and $122, respectively. So how does Vishera stack up to Intel's lineup? The answer to that isn't so simple. The FX-8350 can't even beat Intel's previous-generation Core i5-2550K in single-threaded applications, yet it comes very close to matching the much more expensive ($330), current-gen Core i7-3770K in multi-threaded workloads. Vishera's weak point, however, is in power efficiency. On average, the FX-8350 uses about 50 W more than the i7-3770K. Intel aside, the Piledriver-based FX-8350 is a whole lot better than last year's Bulldozer-based FX-8150 which debuted at $235. While some of this has to do with performance improvements, that fact that AMD is asking $40 less this time around certainly doesn't hurt either. At under $200, AMD finally gives the enthusiast builder something to think about, albeit on the low-end." Reviews are available at plenty of other hardware sites, too. Pick your favorite: PC Perspective, Tech Report, Extreme Tech, Hot Hardware, AnandTech, and [H]ard|OCP.
An anonymous reader writes "Technology Review has an update on Microsoft's effort to push Kinect gesture control technology beyond the Xbox console and make it a standard Windows computer accessory. Microsoft has sold Kinect for Windows hardware to developers since February and now products based on it are appearing, such as GestSure's system for surgeons in the operating room. Microsoft won't say when it will begin selling Kinect for Windows hardware directly to consumers, but seems poised to do so once enough developers have readied applications."