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Robotics

A Thousand Kilobots Self-Assemble Into Complex Shapes 56

Posted by timothy
from the aaaaaand-improvise! dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Harvard's Self-Organizing Systems Research Group—describe their thousand-robot swarm in a paper published today in Science (they actually built 1024 robots). In the past, researchers have only been able to program at most a couple hundred robots to work together. Now, these researchers have programmed the biggest robot swarm yet. Alone, the simple little robot can't do much, but working with 1,000 or more like-minded fellow bots, it becomes part of a swarm that can self-assemble into any two-dimensional shape. These are some of the first steps toward creating huge herds of tiny robots that form larger structures—including bigger robots."
Communications

Ryan Lackey, Marc Rogers Reveal Inexpensive Tor Router Project At Def Con 38

Posted by timothy
from the widespread-and-easy-are-tightly-linked dept.
An anonymous reader writes Ryan Lackey of CloudFlare and Marc Rogers of Lookout revealed a new OPSEC device at Def Con called PORTAL (Personal Onion Router to Assure Liberty). It "provides always-on Tor routing, as well as 'pluggable' transport for Tor that can hide the service's traffic signature from some deep packet inspection systems." In essence, PORTAL is a travel router that the user simply plugs into their existing device for more than basic Tor protection (counterpoint to PogoPlug Safeplug and Onion Pi). On the down side, you have to download PORTAL from Github and flash it "onto a TP-Link compatible packet router." The guys behind the device acknowledge that not many people may want to (or even know how to) do that, so they're asking everyone to standby because a solution is pending. The project's GitHub page has a README file that lists compatible models, with some caveats: "It is highly recommended to use a modified router. The modified MR11U and WR703N provide a better experience than the stock routers due to the additional RAM. The severe space constraints of the stock router make them very challenging to work with. Due to the lack of usable space, it is necessary to use an external disk to store the Tor packages. The stock router has only a single USB port, and the best option is to use a microSD in a 3G modem." (Note: Lackey is no stranger to helping people secure internet privacy.)
Android

Android Motorcycle Helmet/HUD Gains Funding 126

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the 80s-future-realized dept.
DeviceGuru (1136715) writes Skully Systems has achieved Indiegogo funding for a high-tech Android 4.4 based motorcycle helmet with a head-up display (HUD), GPS navigation, and a 180-degree rearview camera. The Skully AR-1 helmet launched on Indiegogo on Aug. 10 and quickly blasted past its $250,000 flexible funding goal and has already surpassed $900,000 in funding. The helmet runs a heavily modified version of Android 4.4, with both screen size and safety in mind, according to Skully's Tow. 'You should not think of it as being Android as seen in a phone; it doesn't run the same skin,' wrote Tow on the Skully forum page. 'You instead should think of it as a variant of Linux, not Android per se. What counts is the device drivers, graphics rendering for our turn by turn directions and vehicle telemetry, etc. More nerdy things like communication over the I2C bus to the image processing module.' Helmets are available starting at $1,399, with shipments due in May 2015.
Data Storage

Solid State Drives Break the 50 Cents Per GiB Barrier, OCZ ARC 100 Launched 183

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the ssds-for-everyone dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes Though solid state drives have a long way to go before they break price parity with hard drives (and may never make it, at least with the current technology), the gap continues to close. More recently, SSD manufacturers have been approaching 50 cents per GiB of storage. OCZ Storage Solutions, with the help of their parent company Toshiba's 19nm MLC NAND, just launched their ARC 100 family of drives that are priced at exactly .5 per GiB at launch and it's possible street prices will drift lower down the road. The ARC 100 features the very same OCZ Barefoot 3 M10 controller as the higher-end OCZ Vertex 460, but these new drives feature more affordable Toshiba A19nm (Advanced 19 nanometer) NAND flash memory. The ARC 100 also ships without any sort of accessory bundle, to keep costs down. Performance-wise, OCZ's new ARC 100 240GB solid state drive didn't lead the pack in any particular category, but the drive did offer consistently competitive performance throughout testing. Large sequential transfers, small file transfers at high queue depths, and low access times were the ARC 100's strong suits, as well as its low cost. These new drives are rated at 20GB/day write endurance and carry a 3-year warranty.
Government

Scientists Who Smuggle Radioactive Materials 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the probably-more-ethical-than-most-ways-they-can-get-funding dept.
Lasrick writes: Although the complicity of scientists in the smuggling of radioactive materials has been a long-standing concern, smuggling-prevention efforts have so far failed to recognize a key aspect to the problem: scientists are often sought out to test the quality and level of the material well before it is taken to the black market. Egle Murauskaite of the U.S. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) describes why concentrating on this aspect of the smuggling process, long considered less egregious than the actual selling of the material, could really make a difference in keeping radioactive materials off the black market in the first place.
Cellphones

Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-never-the-facing-the-right-way-on-the-first-try dept.
orasio writes: One of the most frustrating first-world problems ever (trying to connect an upside-down Micro-USB connector) could disappear soon. The Type-C connector for USB has been declared ready for production by the USB Promoter Group (PDF). "With the Type-C spec finalized, it now comes down to the USB-IF to actually implement the sockets, plugs, cables, adapters, and devices. The problem is that there are billions of existing USB devices and cables that will need adapters and new cables to work with new Type-C devices. It’s a lot like when Apple released the Lightning connector, but on an even grander scale. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that China, the EU, and the GSMA have all agreed that new mobile devices use Micro-USB for charging — though it might be as simple as including a Micro-USB-to-Type-C adapter with every new smartphone."
Input Devices

Type 225 Words per Minute with a Stenographic Keyboard (Video) 109

Posted by Roblimo
from the you-can-type-faster-if-you-use-more-than-one-finger-at-a-time dept.
Joshua Lifton says you can learn to type at 225 words per minute with his Stenosaurus, an open source stenography keyboard that has a not-there-yet website with nothing but the words, "Stenography is about to evolve," on it as of this writing. If you've heard of Joshua it's probably because he's part of the team behind Crowd Supply, which claims, "Our projects raise an average of $43,600, over twice as much as Kickstarter." A brave boast, but there's plenty of brainpower behind the company. Joshua, himself. has a PhD from MIT, which according to his company bio means, "he's devoted a significant amount of his time learning how to make things that blink." But the steno machine is his own project, independent of Crowd Supply.

Stenotype machines are usually most visible when court reporters are using them. They've been around since the 1800s, when their output was holes in paper tape. Today's versions are essentially chorded keyboards that act as computer input devices. (Douglas Engelbart famously showed off a chorded keyboard during his 1968 Mother of All Demos.) Today you have The Open Steno Project, and Stenosaurus is a member. And while Joshua's project may not have an actual website quite yet, it has an active blog. And the 225 WPM claim? Totally possible. The world record for English language stenography is 360 WPM. And you thought the Dvorak Keyboard was fast. Hah! (Alternate Video Link)
Intel

Errata Prompts Intel To Disable TSX In Haswell, Early Broadwell CPUs 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the somebody-is-getting-fired dept.
Dr. Damage writes: The TSX instructions built into Intel's Haswell CPU cores haven't become widely used by everyday software just yet, but they promise to make certain types of multithreaded applications run much faster than they can today. Some of the savviest software developers are likely building TSX-enabled software right about now. Unfortunately, that work may have to come to a halt, thanks to a bug—or "errata," as Intel prefers to call them—in Haswell's TSX implementation that can cause critical software failures. To work around the problem, Intel will disable TSX via microcode in its current CPUs — and in early Broadwell processors, as well.
Hardware Hacking

Microsoft Research Brings Kinect-Style Depth Perception to Ordinary Cameras 31

Posted by timothy
from the how-far-away-you-are dept.
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes "Microsoft has been working on ways to make any regular 2D camera capture depth, meaning it could do some of the same things a Kinect does. As you can see in the video below the team managed to pull this off and we might see this tech all around in the near future. What's really impressive is that this works with many types of cameras. The research team used a smartphone as well as a regular webcam and both managed to achieve some impressive results, the cameras have to be slightly modified but that's only to permit more IR light to hit the sensor." The video is impressive, but note that so are several of the other projects that Microsoft has created for this year's SIGGRAPH, in particular one that makes first-person sports-cam footage more watchable.
Transmeta

NVIDIAs 64-bit Tegra K1: The Ghost of Transmeta Rides Again, Out of Order 125

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the order-out-of dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes Ever since Nvidia unveiled its 64-bit Project Denver CPU at CES last year, there's been discussion over what the core might be and what kind of performance it would offer. Visibly, the chip is huge, more than 2x the size of the Cortex-A15 that powers the 32-bit version of Tegra K1. Now we know a bit more about the core, and it's like nothing you'd expect. It is, however, somewhat similar to the designs we've seen in the past from the vanished CPU manufacturer Transmeta. When it designed Project Denver, Nvidia chose to step away from the out-of-order execution engine that typifies virtually all high-end ARM and x86 processors. In an OoOE design, the CPU itself is responsible for deciding which code should be executed at any given cycle. OoOE chips tend to be much faster than their in-order counterparts, but the additional silicon burns power and takes up die area. What Nvidia has developed is an in-order architecture that relies on a dynamic optimization program (running on one of the two CPUs) to calculate and optimize the most efficient way to execute code. This data is then stored inside a special 128MB buffer of main memory. The advantage of decoding and storing the most optimized execution method is that the chip doesn't have to decode the data again; it can simply grab that information from memory. Furthermore, this kind of approach may pay dividends on tablets, where users tend to use a small subset of applications. Once Denver sees you run Facebook or Candy Crush a few times, it's got the code optimized and waiting. There's no need to keep decoding it for execution over and over.
United Kingdom

Gas Cooled Reactors Shut Down In UK 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the closing-the-doors dept.
mdsolar writes EDF Energy, the British subsidiary of the French state-controlled utility, said on Monday that it was shutting down three nuclear reactors and that a reactor with a fault that has been shut down since June would remain so. The facilities, which are being investigated as a precaution, generate nearly a quarter of nuclear capacity in Britain. The British Office for Nuclear Regulation said that there had been no release of radioactive material and no injuries. Industry experts did not anticipate much effect on electricity supplies or prices in the short term. EDF said that over the next few days it would idle a second reactor at the facility, Heysham 1, in northwest England. The company said it would also shut down two other reactors of similar design at Hartlepool in northeast England to investigate whether they had the same flaws.
Intel

Intel's 14-nm Broadwell CPU Primed For Slim Tablets 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
crookedvulture writes Intel's next-gen Broadwell processor has entered production, and we now know a lot more about what it entails. The chip is built using 14-nm process technology, enabling it to squeeze into half the power envelope and half the physical footprint of last year's Haswell processors. Even the thickness of the CPU package has been reduced to better fit inside slim tablets. There are new power-saving measures, too, including a duty cycle control mechanism that shuts down sections of the chip during some clock cycles. The onboard GPU has also been upgraded with more functional units and hardware-assisted H.265 decoding for 4K video. Intel expects the initial Broadwell variant, otherwise known as the Core M, to slip into tablets as thin as the iPad Air. We can expect to see the first systems on shelves in time for the holidays.
Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Drowning? 337

Posted by timothy
from the use-it-or-don't dept.
hcs_$reboot (1536101) writes Again, not much good news for the MS Surface. Computerworld reports a Microsoft's losses on the tablet device at $US1.7 billion so far. But, still, Microsoft is serene: "It's been exciting to see the response to the Surface Pro 3 from individuals and businesses alike. In fact, Surface Pro 3 sales are already outpacing prior versions of Surface Pro. The Surface business generated more than $2B in revenue for the fiscal year 2014 and $409 million in revenue during Q4 FY14 alone, the latter of which included just ten days of Intel Core i5 Surface Pro 3 sales in Canada and the US." Should Microsoft pull the plug on the tablet? Or maybe it's just a matter of users getting used to the Surface? Even if they're losing money on the Pro 3, Microsoft has seemingly little to be ashamed of when it comes to reviews of the hardware.
Linux Business

Point-and-Shoot: TrackingPoint's New Linux-Controlled AR-15s 218

Posted by timothy
from the future-is-now dept.
Ars Technica takes a look at the next generation of TrackingPoint's automatically aimed rifles (not "automatic" in the usual sense), and visited the shooting range where they're tested out. Like the company's previous generation of gun (still in production, and increasingly being sold to government buyers), TrackingPoint's offerings integrate a Linux computer that makes acquiring and tracking a target far easier and more accurate than it would otherwise be. Unlike the older models, though, this year TrackingPoint is concentrating on AR-15s, rather than longer, heavier bolt-action rifles. A slice: The signature "Tag-Track-Xact" system has gained additional functionality on the AR models, too. With the bolt-action guns, there was only one way to put a round onto a target: first, you sighted in on the thing you wanted to hit and depressed the red tagging button just above the trigger. A red pip would appear in the scope’s crosshairs, and you’d place the pip onto the target and release the button. The scope’s rangefinding laser would then illuminate the target to measure its distance, and the image processor would fix on the object; if you moved, or if the target moved, the red pip would remain atop the target. Then, to fire, you squeezed the trigger and lined the crosshairs up with the target’s pip. When the two coincided, the weapon fired. This method works fine for a bolt-action rifle where every round has to be manually chambered, but it’s less than ideal for a carbine, which one might want to fire off-hand (i.e., standing up and aiming) or from the hip. With this in mind, the AR PGFs have a new "free fire mode," in which you can tag a target once and then shoot at it as many times as you want by pulling the trigger directly, with all the shots using the ballistic data from the first shot’s tag. That means, says writer Lee Hutchinson, a rifle "with essentially 100 percent accuracy at 250 yards."
Graphics

NVIDIA Tegra K1: First Mobile Chip With Hardware-Accelerated OpenCL 52

Posted by timothy
from the bragging-rights dept.
New submitter shervinemami writes (starting with a pretty big disclaimer: "I'm an Engineer at NVIDIA.") The latest CompuBench GPU benchmarks show NVIDIA's Tegra K1 running whole OpenCL algorithms around 5x faster than any other mobile device, and individual instructions around 20x faster! This huge jump is because mobile companies have been saying they support OpenCL on mobile devices since early 2013, but what they don't mention is that they only have software API support, not hardware-accelerated OpenCL running faster on their GPUs than CPUs. Now that NVIDIA's Tegra-K1 chip has started shipping in devices and thus is available for full benchmarking, it is clearly the only mobile chip that actually gives you proper hardware-accelerated OpenCL (and CUDA of course!). The K1 is also what's in Google's Project Tango 3-D mapping tablet.
Education

Chicago Mayor Praises Google For Buying Kids Microsoft Surfaces 137

Posted by timothy
from the non-denominational dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Google earned kudos from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week for teaming up with Staples to fund the projects of 367 of the city's 22,519 public school teachers on "begfunding" site DonorsChoose.org. "Everything that you asked for...every project that the teachers put on to help their students learn, exceed and excel here in the city of Chicago, you now have fully funded," Mayor Emanuel said. "Chicago's hardworking public school teachers are doing all that they can-and more-to support their students, but they need more help," said Rob Biederman, head of Chicago Public Affairs at Google. "We jumped at the chance to join with DonorsChoose.org and Staples to make Chicago's local classroom wishes come true." So what kind of dreams did Google make possible? Ironically, a look at Google Chicago's Giving Page shows that the biggest project funded by Google was to outfit a classroom with 32 Microsoft Surface RT tablets for $12,531, or about 6.5% of the $190,091 Google award. Other big ticket projects funded by Google included $5,931 for a personal home biodiesel kit and $5,552 for a marimba (in the middle of the spectrum was $748 for "Mindfulness Education"). In addition to similar "flash-funding" projects in Atlanta (paper towels!) and the Bay Area, Google and DonorsChoose have also teamed up this year to reward teachers with $400,000 for recruiting girls to learn to code (part of Google's $50 million Made With Code initiative) and an unknown amount for AP STEM teachers who passed Google muster (part of Google's $5 million AP STEM Access grant)."
Input Devices

Enthusiast Opts For $2200 Laser Eye Surgery To Enhance Oculus Rift Experience 109

Posted by timothy
from the funny-I-might-want-it-for-regular-goggles dept.
An anonymous reader writes After 30 years of wearing glasses, one man says that the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset has prompted him to get laser eye surgery. With farsightedness and astigmatism, he says, "Never thought much about the laser surgery until the Rift, that's for sure." He has an appointment to get the $2200 surgery on the 13th of this month. "For me it is clear, my eyeglasses are like an obstacle for optimal VR experience," he said. He hopes the surgery will remove his need for glasses, which can be uncomfortable inside of the Rift, if they fit at all, and cause several issues such as scratched lenses and lower field of view. Oculus plans to make the consumer version of the Oculus Rift (aka CV1) more friendly to glasses wearers, "...we have a lot of great ideas for supporting glasses in the consumer version [of the Rift] (especially since a huge portion of the Oculus team wears glasses everyday!)" they noted in their Kickstarter.
Television

Add a TV Tuner To Your Xbox (In Europe) 81

Posted by timothy
from the americans-don't-watch-tv dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "The Xbox one isn't just a game console: it's also a nifty media set-top box, and it interacts very well with your TV service — as long as you have cable. Cord-cutters will soon be able to attach their Xbox to an antenna — but only in Europe." The peripheral that Microsoft will soon release allows you to integrate over-the-air content into the Xbox One system. From the images Microsoft released it looks like the tuner is a small box with a port for an antenna cable on one end, and the USB cable on the other. Unfortunately for my readers in North America, as of now, the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner is only scheduled to release in Europe. Microsoft says it supports DVB-T, DVB-T2 and DVB-C television channels, which I hope means something to my European readers; Wikipedia tells me these are European over-the-air cable standards. The TV Tuner will be available in late October for 24.99 in the UK, and for €29.99 in France, Italy, Germany and Spain.
Power

How Facebook Is Saving Power By 10-15% Through Better Load Balancing 54

Posted by timothy
from the 10-percent-at-web-scale dept.
An anonymous reader writes Facebook today revealed details about Autoscale, a system for power-efficient load balancing that has been rolled out to production clusters in its data centers. The company says it has "demonstrated significant energy savings." For those who don't know, load balancing refers to distributing workloads across multiple computing resources, in this case servers. The goal is to optimize resource use, which can mean different things depending on the task at hand.
Networking

Ask Slashdot: Life Beyond the WRT54G Series? 427

Posted by timothy
from the blue-pill-that-stacks-neatly dept.
First time accepted submitter jarmund (2752233) writes "I first got a WRT54GL in 2007. Now, 7 years later, it's still churning along, despite only having one of its antennae left after an encounter with a toddler. As it is simply not up to date to today's standards (802.11N for example), what is a worthy successor? I enjoyed the freedom to choose the firmware myself (I've run Tomato on it since 2008), in addition to its robustness. A replacement will be considered second-rate unless it catered for the same freedom as its predecessor." Is there a canonical best household router nowadays?

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