An anonymous reader writes "Joachim Kempin, former vice president of Windows Sales, has explained how the original Xbox came to be. It turns out it was Sony's fault, simply because the Japanese company wasn't very friendly towards Microsoft, and Microsoft eventually decided they had to 'stop Sony.' Apparently, long before the Xbox was even an idea, Microsoft was trying to collaborate with Sony in a number of areas they thought there was overlap. That collaboration was sought before even Sony had a games console coming to market, and would have focused on products for the entertainment sector."
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crookedvulture writes "Barebones mini PCs have been around for a while, and the latest one from Zotac is pretty unique. For $270, the Zbox ID42 offers a Sandy Bridge CPU, a discrete GeForce graphics processor, and all the integrated I/O and networking you'd expect from a modern PC. You have to add your own memory, hard drive, and operating system, but the latter shouldn't cost you a dime. The Zbox works well with not only Windows, but also Linux. Ubuntu even recognizes the included remote, which can be used to wake up the system, control XBMC, and navigate Steam's Big Picture interface. Team Fortress 2 for Linux is actually playable, albeit at a relatively low resolution and detail level. The hardware seems better suited to casual games. Zotac also makes a Plus version of the Zbox that comes bundled with RAM and a hard drive, but it costs an extra $130, and you can get much better components if you add them yourself. The user-friendly chassis makes filling out the system a trivial undertaking."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The man who designed the world's most energy-efficient supercomputer in 2011 has taken on a new task: improving how robo-bugs fly. Wu-chun Feng, an associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, previously built Green Destiny, a 240-node supercomputer that consumed 3.2 kilowatts of power—the equivalent of a couple of hair dryers. That was before the Green500, a list that Feng and his team began compiling in 2005, which ranks the world's fastest supercomputers by performance per watt. On Feb. 5, the Air Force's Office of Scientific Research announced it had awarded Feng $3.5 million over three years, plus an option to add $2.5 million funding over an additional two years. The contract's goal: speed up how quickly a supercomputer can simulate the computational fluid dynamics of micro-air vehicles (MAVs), or unmanned aerial vehicles. MAVs can be as small as about five inches, with an aircraft close to insect size expected in the near future. While the robo-bugs can obviously be used for military purposes, they could also serve as scouts in rescue operations."
An anonymous reader writes "Decapping chips and recovering code or data is nothing new, but the old problem of recovering Masked ROM through visual inspection (binary '0' and '1' can be distinguished within the images) is normally done by crowd sourcing a manual typing effort. Now a tool that semi-automates this process and then recovers the data automatically has been released."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Dell is going private again, as the result of a $24.4 billion deal involving private-equity investors and Microsoft. The deal will close before the end of the second quarter of Dell's fiscal 2014, according to Reuters. Dell founder and namesake Michael Dell, who owns roughly 14 percent of the company's common shares, will continue to lead the newly privatized venture as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He will contribute his existing shares to the new company, on top of a 'substantial' additional cash investment. As with other hardware manufacturers in the space, Dell faces the specter of a softening PC market. And while Dell has made significant efforts to penetrate other markets—including the launch of a private cloud architecture based on the open-source OpenStack—that weakness has affected its bottom line: for its fiscal 2013 third quarter, the company reported an 11 percent decrease in revenue from the previous year; while it enjoyed an increase in revenue from its servers and services businesses, revenue from its Consumer division dipped 23 percent. Its Large Enterprise, Small and Medium Business, and Public revenue also declined." Another take at the New York Times.
MTorrice writes "To make light-weight, inexpensive electronics using renewable materials, scientists have turned to a technology that is almost 2,000 years old: paper. Researchers fabricated organic transistors on a transparent, exceptionally smooth type of paper called nanopaper. This material has cellulose fibers that are only 10 nm in diameter. The nanopaper transistors are about 84% transparent, and their performance decreases only slightly when bent."
MatthewVD writes "In 2006, researcher Mark Changizi came up with a novel theory for why humans evolved with color vision: to detect social cues and emotions in others. He built glasses called 02Amps to enhance perception of blood pooling. Some hospitals have tried using the glasses to see bruising that's not visible unaided, or help nurses find veins. But it turns out now that the glasses might be able to fix some forms of colorblindness, too."
Lucas123 writes "Ultrathin notebooks, smart phones and SSDs are all putting pressure on the hard drive market, which is set to take an almost 12% revenue loss this year, according to a new report from IHS iSuppli. Hard drive market revenue is set to drop to about $32.7 billion this year, down 11.8% from $37.1 billion last year. At the same time, In what appears to be a grim scenario, the optical disk drive industry is expected to encounter continued challenges this year, and optical drives could eventually be abandoned by PC makers altogether."
An anonymous reader writes with a link to an intriguing account of the challenge of designing a close-range, hand and finger-based gesture recognition interface using 3D cameras. Things like this look good in science-fiction, but it's hard to create a gesture-based system that makes sense to the user and rejects gestures not meant for the computer.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that Sony, the creators of the MiniDisc audio format, are to deliver their last MiniDisc stereo system in March. Launched over 20 years ago in late 1992 as a would-be successor to the original audio cassette, MiniDisc outlasted Philips' rival Digital Compact Cassette format, but never enjoyed major success outside Japan. Other manufacturers will continue making MiniDisc players, but this is a sign that — over ten years after the first iPod — the MiniDisc now belongs to a bygone era."
FatLittleMonkey writes "Researchers in Germany have developed a device that allows users of portable devices, such as smartphones, experience force-feedback from games using just their own muscles... and a small EMS device. When stimulated by a painless electric pulse, the player's arm moves the device in whichever direction the game commands. The player then fights the movement with their other muscles, creating a strong sensation that the device itself is bucking in their hands. According to the developers, users found the sensation much more realistic than traditional vibrotactile feedback. (Should make PvP more interesting too.)"
ananyo writes "Transistors, the simple switches at the heart of all modern electronics, generally use a tiny voltage to toggle between 'on' and 'off.' The voltage approach is highly reliable and easy to miniaturize, but has its disadvantages. First, keeping the voltage on requires power, which drives up the energy consumption of the microchip. Second, transistors must be hard-wired into the chips and can't be reconfigured, which means computers need dedicated circuitry for all their functions. Now, researchers have made a type of transistor that can be switched with magnetism. The device could cut the power consumption of computers, cell phones and other electronics — and allow chips themselves to be 'reprogrammed' (abstract)."
jones_supa writes "Apple has been forced to remove the Mac Pro from sale in the European Union after an amendment to a safety regulation left the machines non-compliant. The updated electronics safety standard IEC 60950-1 increases requirements around electrical port protection (PDF) and the fan guards in the system. Apple does not plan to modify their machines and will simply pull them from market in the EU. Apple wishes to warn customers and partners about the change so that they would have sufficient time to order Mac Pro units and meet any needs prior to 1 March, when the amendment comes into effect."
Lucas123 writes "IronKey has released a thumb drive certified to be used as a bootable Windows 8 device, enabling users to use Windows To Go — an enterprise feature of Windows 8 — to deliver a fully portable desktop. While Imation doesn't promote this feature, users can also boot up this USB on any Intel-based Apple computer. The flash drive has its drawbacks. It's not yet FIPS certified, it can't be provisioned as storage, and it lacks admin management features. The IronKey Workspace drive comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities. It offers either 128-bit or 256-bit full disk encryption. Users must purchase the Windows 8 software separately. According to Imation's specifications, the IronKey Workspace has a maximum average read speed of 300MB/sec. and an average write speed of 100MB/sec. to 200MB/sec. When I timed the boot-up times, the initial boot-up from the USB drive was slow — 3 minutes and 40 seconds — but the drive was configuring itself. Subsequent boot-ups took a mere 35 seconds. Shutdown is near instantaneous — about 2 seconds. The flash drive is priced from $129 to $389 depending on capacity."
hypnosec writes "The Linux Foundation's UEFI secure boot pre-bootloader is still in the works, and has been modified substantially so that it allows any Linux version to boot through UEFI secure boot. The reason for modifying the pre-bootloader was that the current version of the loader wouldn't work with Gummiboot, which was designed to boot kernels using BootServices->LoadImage(). Further, the original pre-bootloader had been written using 'PE/Coff link loading to defeat the secure boot checks.' As it stands, anything run by the original pre-bootloader must also be link-loaded to defeat secure boot, and Gummiboot, which is not a link-loader, didn't work in this scenario. This is the reason a re-write of the pre-bootloader was required and now it supports booting of all versions of Linux." Also in UEFI news: Linus Torvalds announced today that the flaw which was bricking some Samsung laptops if booted into Linux has been dealt with.