Take advantage of Black Friday with 15% off sitewide with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" on Slashdot Deals (some exclusions apply)". ×

NASA Selects Universities To Develop Humanoid Robot Astronauts (examiner.com) 21

MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced that it is sending copies of its R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot to two universities for software upgrades and other research and development. The effort is part of a continuing project to develop cybernetic astronauts that will assist human astronauts in exploring other worlds. The idea is that robot astronauts would initially scout potentially hazardous environments, say on Mars, and then actively collaborate with their human counterparts in exploration. NASA is paying each university chosen $250,000 per year for two years to perform the R&D. The university researchers will have access to NASA expertise and facilities to perform the upgrades. Spoiler alert: the robots are both going to Greater Boston, to teams at MIT and Northeastern University respectively.

AMD Launches Radeon R9 380X, Fastest GPU Under $250 (hothardware.com) 110

MojoKid writes: Although AMD's mid-range GPU line-up has been relatively strong for a while now, the company is launching the new Radeon R9 380X today with the goal of taking down competing graphics cards like NVIDIA's popular GeForce GTX 960. The Radeon R9 380X has a fully-functional AMD Tonga GPU with all 32 compute units / 2048 shader processors enabled. AMD's reference specifications call for 970MHz+ engine clock with 4GB of 1425MHz GDDR5 memory (5.7 Gbps effective). Typical board power is 190W and cards require a pair of supplemental 6-pin power feeds. The vast majority of the Radeon R9 380X cards that will hit the market, however, will likely be custom models that are factory overlcocked and look nothing like AMD's reference design. The Radeon R9 380X, or more specifically the factory overclocked Sapphire Nitro R9 380X tested, performed significantly better than AMD's Radeon R9 285 or NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 960 across the board. The 380X, however, could not catch more powerful and more expensive cards like the GeForce GTX 970. Regardless, the Radeon R9 380X is easily the fastest graphics card on the market right now, under $250.

MIT Helping NASA Build Valkyrie Robots For Space Missions (roboticstrends.com) 35

An anonymous reader writes: NASA announced that MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is one of just two institutions that will receive "R5," a six-foot, 290-pound humanoid robot also known as "Valkyrie" that will serve on future space missions to Mars and beyond. A group led by CSAIL principal investigator Russ Tedrake will develop algorithms for the robot as part of NASA's upcoming Space Robotics Challenge, which aims to create more dexterous autonomous robots that can help or even take the place of humans "extreme space" missions. While R5 was initially designed to complete disaster-relief maneuvers, its main goal is now to prove itself worthy of even trickier terrain — deep space exploration.

How Cisco Is Trying To Prove It Can Keep NSA Spies Out of Its Gear (csoonline.com) 130

itwbennett writes: A now infamous photo [leaked by Edward Snowden] showed NSA employees around a box labeled Cisco during a so-called 'interdiction' operation, one of the spy agency's most productive programs,' writes Jeremy Kirk. 'Once that genie is out of the bottle, it's a hell of job to put it back in,' said Steve Durbin, managing director of the Information Security Forum in London. Yet that's just what Cisco is trying to do, and early next year, the company plans to open a facility in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina where customers can test and inspect source code in a secure environment. But, considering that a Cisco router might have 30 million lines of code, proving a product hasn't been tampered with by spy agencies is like trying 'to prove the non-existence of god,' says Joe Skorupa, a networking and communications analyst with Gartner.
United Kingdom

UK's Coal Plants To Be Phased Out Within 10 Years (bbc.co.uk) 109

AmiMoJo writes: The UK's remaining coal-fired power stations will be shut by 2025, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has announced. They will mostly be replaced with gas. Currently, coal provides 28% of the UK's electricity. Japanese/European nuclear plants built in the UK are also expected to contribute. The big question is how to ensure gas plants are built to replace it. Only one large plant is under construction today. Another, which secured a subsidy last year, is struggling to find investors. The government cut renewable energy subsidies earlier this year, which led to questions about the government's commitment to tackle climate change.
Hardware Hacking

Adding Eye Control To Wheelchairs for Quadriplegics (hackaday.com) 15

szczys writes: The inventor of the Eyedriveomatic has ALS. This prevents him from controlling his electric wheelchair, but it didn't prevent him from teaming up with two other people (one also a quadriplegic) to design a way around the limitation. Eyegaze hardware is what lets people speak through a computer using only their eyes. Eyedrivomatic is an open source project that uses common materials to connect the Eyegaze to the joystick of the wheelchair without altering the chair (which is rented equipment in most cases). A 3D-printed gimbal is strapped over the existing joystick, but does not prevent it from still being used normally by caregivers. The gimbal's servo motors actuate the joystick with commands from the Eyegaze.

The Next Gold Rush Will Be 5,000 Feet Under the Sea, With Robot Drones (vice.com) 129

merbs writes: In Papua New Guinea, one well-financed, first-mover company is about to pioneer deep sea mining. And that will mean dispatching a fleet of giant remote-operated robotic miners 5,000 feet below the surface to harvest the riches scattered across ocean floor. These mammoth underwater vehicles look like they've been hauled off the set of a sci-fi film—think Avatar meets The Abyss. And they'll be dredging up copper, gold, and other valuable minerals, far beneath the gaze of human eyes.
Data Storage

Tape Disintegration Threatens Historical Records, But Chemistry Can Help (nautil.us) 76

An anonymous reader writes: Modern storage methods are designed with longevity in mind. But we haven't always had the scientific knowledge or the foresight to do so. From the late 60s to the late 80s, much of the world's cultural history was recorded on magnetic tapes. Several decades on, those tapes are disintegrating, and we're faced with the permanent loss of that data. "The Cultural Heritage Index estimates that there are 46 million magnetic tapes in museums and archives in the U.S. alone—and about 40 percent of them are of unknown quality. (The remaining 60 percent are known to be either already disintegrated or in good enough condition to be played.)" Fortunately, researchers have worked out a method to determine which copies are recoverable. They "combined a laptop-sized infrared spectrometer with an algorithm that uses multivariate statistics to pick up patterns of all the absorption peaks." Here's the abstract from their research paper. "As the tapes go through the breakdown reaction, the chemical changes give off tiny signals in the form of compounds, which can be seen with infrared light—and when the patterns of reactions are analyzed with the model, it can predict which tapes are playable."

Daimler Builds Massive Industrial Energy Storage Systems From Used EV Batteries (computerworld.com) 73

Lucas123 writes: German carmaker Daimler AG is building large battery storage systems for industrial use from the used lithium-ion batteries of its all-electric and hybrid vehicles. The first of Daimler's "2nd use battery storage units" will consist of 1,000 smart electric drive vehicle batteries and have a 13MWh of capacity. It is expected to be connected to the electrical grid in Lünen, Germany early next year. All of Daimler's battery storage units are currently planned to be greater than a megawatt in capacity, meaning they'll only be for commercial, not residential use, but the company said it does expect those batteries to be cost competitive with the ones Tesla announced earlier this year.

Google's Chromebit Micro-Computer Launches (techcrunch.com) 60

An anonymous reader writes: Back in March, Google announced the Chromebit, a small computer crammed into an HDMI stick that runs Chrome OS. The device, built by Asus, has now launched for $85. It weighs 75 grams, runs on a Rockchip ARM processor, and includes a USB port. It has 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, and connects via 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. According to Tech Crunch, the Chromebit is not particularly fast, but it's usable for basic tasks. "As long as the work only involves web apps (or maybe a remote connection to a more fully-featured machine), the Chromebit is up for the job and can turn any screen into a usable desktop."

Intel Launches 72-Core Knight's Landing Xeon Phi Supercomputer Chip (hothardware.com) 179

MojoKid writes: Intel announced a new version of their Xeon Phi line-up today, otherwise known as Knight's Landing. Whatever you want to call it, the pre-production chip is a 72-core coprocessor solution manufactured on a 14nm process with 3D Tri-Gate transistors. The family of coprocessors is built around Intel's MIC (Many Integrated Core) architecture which itself is part of a larger PCI-E add-in card solution for supercomputing applications. Knight's Landing succeeds the current version of Xeon Phi, codenamed Knight's Corner, which has up to 61 cores. The new Knight's Landing chip ups the ante with double-precision performance exceeding 3 teraflops and over 8 teraflops of single-precision performance. It also has 16GB of on-package MCDRAM memory, which Intel says is five times more power efficient as GDDR5 and three times as dense.

NVIDIA Jetson TX1 Performance Shines For GPU Computing (phoronix.com) 22

An anonymous reader writes: Following last week's announcement of the Jetson TX1 development board, NVIDIA is now allowing independent reports of performance for their $599 USD 64-bit ARM development board. Linux results published by Phoronix show very strong performance for the Jetson TX1 when looking at the Cortex-A57 speed relative to the Tegra K1 and older Tegra SoCs along with other ARM hardware like Calxeda and Raspberry Pi. The Jetson TX1 was generally multiple times faster than ARM hardware a few years old. The graphics performance was twice as fast as the year-old Jetson TK1 thanks to the Maxwell GPU. Compared to x86 hardware, in CPU-bound tasks the performance is comparable to an AMD Sempron/Phenom except when utilizing GPGPU computing where it's then faster than Intel Skylake and Xeon processors. The Jetson TX1 had a peak power consumption of 16 Watts and an average power use of under 10 Watts.

737 'Tailstrike' Caused By Typo On a Tablet (arstechnica.com) 366

An anonymous reader writes: In August of last year, a Boeing 737 operated by Qantas experienced a tailstrike while taking off — the thrust wasn't great enough for the tail to clear the runway, so it clipped the ground. The investigation into the incident (PDF) has finally been completed, and it found the cause of the accident: the co-pilot accidentally entered the wrong plane weight data into the iPad used to make calculations about the takeoff thrust. "First, when working out the plane's takeoff weight on a notepad, the captain forgot to carry the "1," resulting in an erroneous weight of 66,400kg rather than 76,400kg. Second, the co-pilot made a "transposition error" when carrying out the same calculation on the Qantas on-board performance tool (OPT)—an iPad app for calculating takeoff speed, amongst other things. "Transposition error" is an investigatory euphemism for "he accidentally hit 6 on the keyboard rather than 7." This caused the problem: "For a weight of 76,400kg and temperature of 35C, the engine thrust should've been set at 93.1 percent with a takeoff speed of 157 knots; instead, due to the errors, the thrust was set to 88.4 percent and takeoff speed was 146 knots."

China To Spend $47 Billion In Bid To Become 3rd-Largest Global Chip Manufacturer (reuters.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: In an interview with Reuters, the head of China's Tsinghua Unigroup has revealed they will invest 300 billion yuan ($47bn) over the next five years with the ambition of becoming the world's third largest chip-maker. The state-backed company, also the technological investment arm of Tsinghua University, is in talks with an unnamed U.S. company (most likely Micron) though Zhao discounts the possibility of buying a controlling share as politically insensitive.

Louis Friedman Says Humans Will Never Venture Beyond Mars (scientificamerican.com) 378

MarkWhittington writes: Dr. Louis Friedman, one of the co-founders of the Planetary Society, is coming out with a new book, "Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars," an excerpt of which was published in Scientific America. Friedman revives and revises a version of the humans vs. robots controversy that has roiled through aerospace circles for decades. Unlike previous advocates of restricting space travel to robots, such as Robert Park and the late James Van Allen, Friedman admits that humans are going to Mars to settle. But there, human space travel will end. Only robots will ever venture further.

The Intel 4004 Microprocessor Turns 44 60

mcpublic writes: Today is the 44th anniversary of the Intel 4004, the pioneering 4-bit microprocessor that powered the first electronic taxi meters. According to the unaffiliated (and newly renamed) Intel 4004 45th Anniversary Project web site, they have just re-created the complete set of VLSI mask artwork for the 4004 using scalable vector graphics, and updated their Busicom 141-PF calculator replica aimed at collectors and hobbyists. Included is some interesting historical perspective: Back in the early 1970s, there was no electrical CAD software, design-rule checkers were people, and VLSI lithographic masks were hand-crafted on giant light tables by unsung "rubylith cutters."

FCC Clarifies: It's Legal To Hack Your Router (betanews.com) 85

Mark Wilson writes with an update to an earlier report that the wording of new FCC regulations could mean that it would be illegal to modfiy the software running on wireless routers by installing alternative firmwares. Instead, The commission has now acknowledged that there was more than a little confusion from people who believed that manufacturers would be encouraged to prevent router modifications. The FCC wants to make it clear that most router hacking is fine and will remain fine. With a few exceptions, that is. In a blog post entitled Clearing the Air on Wi-Fi Software Updates, Julius Knapp from the FCC tries to clear up any misunderstandings that may exist.

Police Body Cameras Come With Pre-Installed Malware 100

An anonymous reader writes: The old Conficker worm was found on new police body cameras that were taken out of the box by security researchers from iPower Technologies. The worm is detected by almost all security vendors, but it seems that it is still being used because modern day IoT devices can't yet run security products. This allows the worm to spread, and propagate to computers when connected to an unprotected workstation. One police computer is enough to allow attackers to steal government data. The source of the infection is yet unknown. It is highly unlikely that the manufacturer would do this. Middleman involved in the shipping are probably the cause.

Huawei Battery Upgrade Means Dramatically Faster Charging For Mobile Devices 75

Computerworld reports a welcome development for everyone with battery powered portable electronics, which might just have applications further afield, too (like electric cars): Huawei has developed a battery based on conventional lithium-ion chemistry but tweaked with the addition of graphite atoms bonded to the anode. From the article: That change means faster charging but not at the expense of usage life or a sacrifice in the amount of energy that can be stored in each battery, [the company] said. It was developed by Huawei research and development subsidiary Watt Lab and the company showed off two prototypes in videos posted online. One of the two batteries has a capacity of 3,000mAh (milliampere hours) -- about equivalent to the batteries in modern smartphones -- and can be charged to 48 percent of capacity in five minutes. The second has a much smaller capacity of 600mAh but reaches 68 percent of capacity in just two minutes.

BadBarcode Attack Forces Host System To Carry Out Commands (threatpost.com) 79

msm1267 writes: Researchers at this week's PacSec 2015 conference in Tokyo demonstrated how they were able to inject special control characters into a barcode, so that a barcode reader will 'press' host system hotkeys, and activate a particular function. The attacks, called BadBarcode, can be used against any keyboard wedge barcode scanner that supports ASCII control characters--many do. An attacker than then use control commands to open or save files, launch a browser or execute commands. Here are the presentation slides.