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Cellphones

iPhone 6S New Feature: Force Touch 190 190

New submitter WarJolt writes: Apple is adding Force Touch to their iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. I'm not sure if Force Touch enough to convince an Android user like myself to switch, but there are definitely some interesting possibilities for app developers. A challenge for App developers will be to make apps compatible with both Force Touch iPhones and non-force touch iPhones. (Here's the Bloomberg report Forbes draws from.)
AMD

AMD's Project Quantum Gaming PC Contains Intel CPU 136 136

nateman1352 links to an article at Tom's Hardware which makes the interesting point that chip-maker AMD will offer Intel -- rather than AMD -- CPUs in their upcoming high-end gaming PC. (High-end for being based on integrated components, at least.) From the article: Recently, AMD showed off its plans for its Fiji based graphics products, among which was Project Quantum – a small form factor PC that packs not one, but two Fiji graphics processors. Since the announcement, KitGuru picked up on something, noticing that the system packs an Intel Core i7-4790K "Devil's Canyon" CPU. We hardly need to point out that it is rather intriguing to see AMD use its largest competitor's CPU in its own product, when AMD is a CPU maker itself.
Apple

AppleCare+ Now Covers Batteries That Drop To 80% 149 149

Mark Wilson writes with news that Apple's AppleCare+ plan has been updated to address one of the biggest worries that people have about products with non-removeable batteries, and that become very expensive paperweights when the juice runs out. From BetaNews: "Previously, the extended warranty only covered batteries that would hold 50 percent charge or less. Now this has been updated so that you can request a free replacement within the coverage period if your device's battery is only able to hold 80 percent of full charge. The new terms to no apply to everyone — it all depends on when you bought your Apple device. If you bought your iPhone, iPad, iPod or Apple Watch before April 10, 2015, you're stuck with the old terms. I wish this change applied to my MacBook Air, with which I'm lucky to get 90 minutes of battery power.
Google

Why Is Google Opening a New Data Center In a Former Coal-Fired Power Plant? 40 40

HughPickens.com writes: Quentin Hardy reports at the NY Times that Google has announced it is opening its 14th data center inside a former coal-fired power plant in Stevenson, Alabama. While there is considerable irony in taking over a coal-burning plant and promoting alternative power, there are pragmatic reasons Google would want to put a $600 million data center in such a facility. These power facilities are typically large and solid structures with good power lines. The Alabama plant is next to a reservoir on the Tennessee River with access to lots of water, which Google uses for cooling its computers. There are also rail lines into the facility, which makes it likely Google can access buried conduits along the tracks to run fiber-optic cable. In Finland, Google rehabilitated a paper mill, and uses seawater for cooling. Salt water is corrosive for standard metal pipes, of course, so Google created a singular cooling system using plastic pipes.
China

Foxconn CEO Backpedals On Planned Robot Takeover 45 45

itwbennett writes: For years now, Foxconn has been talking up plans to replace pesky humans with robot workers in its factories. Back in February, CEO Terry Gou said he expected the automation to account for 70 percent of his company's assembly line work in three years. But in the company's shareholder meeting Thursday, Gou said he had been misquoted and that "it should be that in five years, the robots will take over 30 percent of the manpower."
Robotics

Making a Birdhouse is Like 'Hello World' for a Versatile Factory Robot (2 Videos) 24 24

Many millions of American students have been called on to construct a wooden birdhouse as part of a middle- or high-school shop class. To make a birdhouse from wood and nails may not requite advanced carpentry, but it does take eye-hand coordination, object recognition, the ability to lift constituent pieces, and to grasp and wield tools -- and each of those can be broken down further into smaller tasks and skills of the kind that we as humans don't generally have to think about. ("Rotate wrist slightly to account for board angle.") For robots, it's another story: like the computers that run them, robots generally only do what they're told. Industrial robots can do some complex tasks, but they're expensive and complex to program.

Benjamin Cohen is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Pennsylvania working under adviser Maxim Likhachev with a real-world, cheap way to make robots to accomplish a multi-step project with minimal human intervention, which he calls "autonomous robotic assembly." Project Birdhouse -- part of his Ph.D. work, along with teammates Mike Phillips and Ellis Ranter -- is Cohen's effort to create a sort of "Hello, World" for robots. With a combination of a research-platform robot base, off-the-shelf parts, like a nail gun (read: "One not built for robot use"), and software to squeeze greater accuracy out of the system as a whole, he and his colleagues have come up with a robot that can grab a selection of parts, align them properly, and assemble them with nails into a functional birdhouse. QR codes let the robot give the robot a sort of recipe to follow, and the system is smart enough to squawk if it doesn't have the right parts to complete the task. (Check out more video with the robot in action, and a great many photos, sketches, and diagrams illustrating the project's evolution.)

NOTE: We split today's video in half, with both halves running right here, today. This way, if you watch the first video and and want to learn more, you can move on to the second one. And the transcript not only covers both videos, but has "bonus" material that isn't in either one.
Power

New Manufacturing Technique Halves Cost of Lithium-Ion Batteries 214 214

An anonymous reader writes: Experts in materials science at MIT have developed a new process for creating lithium-ion batteries that will drop the associated production costs by half. The researchers say fundamental battery construction techniques have been refined over the past two decades, but not re-thought. "The new battery design is a hybrid between flow batteries and conventional solid ones: In this version, while the electrode material does not flow, it is composed of a similar semisolid, colloidal suspension of particles. Chiang and Carter refer to this as a 'semisolid battery.' This approach greatly simplifies manufacturing, and also makes batteries that are flexible and resistant to damage, says Chiang. ... Instead of the standard method of applying liquid coatings to a roll of backing material, and then having to wait for that material to dry before it can move to the next manufacturing step, the new process keeps the electrode material in a liquid state and requires no drying stage at all. Using fewer, thicker electrodes, the system reduces the conventional battery architecture's number of distinct layers, as well as the amount of nonfunctional material in the structure, by 80 percent."
AMD

AMD Radeon R9 Fury X Launched, Independent Benchmarks, HBM Put To the Test 103 103

MojoKid writes: AMD officially launched the Radeon R9 Fury X based on their next generation Fiji GPU and HBM 3D stacked DRAM memory. Fiji is manufactured using TSMC's 28nm process. At its reference clocks of 1050MHz (GPU) and 500MHz (HBM), Fiji and the Radeon R9 Fury X offer peak compute performance of 8.6 TFLOPs, up to 268.8 GT/s of texture fill-rate, 67.2 GP/s of pixel fill-rate, and a whopping 512GB/s of memory bandwidth, thanks to HBM. Its compute performance, memory bandwidth, and textured fill-rate are huge upgrades over the previous generation AMD Hawaii GPU and even outpace NVIDIA's GM200, which powers the GeForce Titan X and 980 Ti. To keep the entire assembly cool, AMD strapped a close-loop liquid cooler onto the Fury X. There's a reason AMD went that route on this card, and it's not because they had to. There will be air-cooled Fury and Fury Nano cards coming in a few weeks that feature fully-functional Fiji GPUs. What the high-powered liquid-cooler on the Fury X does is allow the use of an ultra-quiet fan, with the side benefit of keeping the GPU very cool under both idle and load conditions(around 60C max under load and 30C at idle), which helps reduce overall power consumption by limiting leakage current. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X performed very well in the benchmarks, and remained competitive with a similarly priced, reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, but it wasn't a clear win. Generally speaking, the Fury X was the faster of the two cards at 2560x1440. With the resolution cranked up to 3840x2160, however, the Fury X and 980 Ti trade victories.
Power

The Presidential Candidate With a Plan To Run the US On 100% Clean Energy 308 308

merbs writes: Thus far, no other candidate has said they're going to make climate change their top priority. Martin O'Malley has not only done that, but he has outlined a plan that would enact emissions reductions in line with what scientists say is necessary to slow global climate change—worldwide emissions reductions of 40-70 percent by 2050. He's the only candidate to do that, too. His plan would phase out fossil-fueled power plants altogether, by midcentury.
Encryption

Ask Slashdot: Keeping Cloud Data Encrypted Without Cross-Platform Pain? 107 107

bromoseltzer writes: I use cloud storage to hold many gigs of personal files that I'd just as soon were not targets for casual data mining. (Google: I'm thinking of you.) I want to access them from Linux, Windows, and Android devices. I have been using encfs, which does the job for Linux fairly well (despite some well-known issues), but Windows and Android don't seem to have working clients. I really want to map a file system of encrypted files and encrypted names to a local unencrypted filesystem — the way encfs works. What solutions do Slashdot readers recommend? Ideal would be a competitive cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive that provides trustworthy encryption with suitable clients. Is there anything like that?
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."