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Quantum Dots Made From Fool's Gold Boost Battery Performance ( 18

Science_afficionado writes: A lot of attempts have been made to use nanocrystals to improve battery performance, but the results have been disappointing. The problem is that when the size of the crystals drop below a certain size they begin to react chemically with the electrolytes which prevents them from recharging. Now, however, a team of engineers from Vanderbilt University report in an article published in the journal ACS Nano that they can overcome this problem by making the nanocrystals out of iron pyrite, commonly known as fool's gold.

Ask Slashdot: What's Out There For Poor Vision? 197

hackwrench writes: I like to read on my computer, but when I resize text to be comfortably big, web pages and browsers handle it badly, and some applications don't offer an option to enlarge. Some applications even are bigger than the screen, which Windows doesn't handle well. Lastly, applications consist of bright backgrounds which feels like staring into a headlight. Windows' built in options like magnifier are awkward. What tools are there for Windows to increase text size, make things fit inside the screen, and substitute colors that windows use?
United Kingdom

Bank of England's Andy Haldane Warns Smart Machines Could Take 15M UK Jobs ( 291

New submitter Colin Robotenomics writes In an important new paper based on a speech at the trade union congress in London, Andy Haldane Chief Economist at the Bank of England and Executive Director of Monetary Analysis and Statistics has examined the history of technological unemployment and has given a thorough review of the literature and implications for public policy. The media will likely focus on the number of jobs that can be displaced and not necessarily Haldane's points on new jobs being created – both of which are highly important as is 'skilling-up'. His report reads in part: "...Taking the probabilities of automation, and multiplying them by the numbers employed, gives a broad brush estimate of the number of jobs potentially automatable. For the UK, that would suggest up to 15 million jobs could be at risk of automation. In the US, the corresponding figure would be 80 million jobs."
Hardware Hacking

Hacked Amazon Echo Controls a Wheelchair ( 23

An anonymous reader writes with a cool hack for making an electric wheelchair voice activated. Robotics Trends reports: "Amazon Echo, which is designed around your voice, answers to 'Alexa' and can tell you scores, read your book, play your music, or check your calendar. And if you have a smart home, Echo can control lights and other technology. Bob Paradiso, however, wondered if he 'could push Echo's utility a little further.' He certainly did. Paradiso turned an electric wheelchair into a voice-controlled wheelchair using Echo, a Raspberry Pi and Arduino Uno. Echo thinks it's turning lights on and off, but it's really controlling the wheelchair. Paradiso says, 'Alexa, turn on left 4' and the wheelchair spins. He then says, 'Alexa, turn on forward 4' and the wheelchair moves forward."

Getting Started With GNU Radio ( 42

An anonymous reader writes: Software Defined Radio must be hard to create, right? Tools like GNU Radio and GNU Radio Companion make it much easier to build radios that can tune AM, FM, and even many digital modes. Of course, you need some kind of radio hardware, right? Not exactly. Hackaday has one of their video hands on tutorials about how to use GNU Radio with no extra hardware (or, optionally, a sound card that you probably already have). The catch? Well, you can't do real radio that way, but you can learn the basics and do audio DSP. The next installment promises to use some real SDR hardware and build an actual radio. But if you ever wanted to see if it was worth buying SDR hardware, this is a good way to see how you like working with GNU Radio before you spend any money.

Bluetooth 2016 Roadmap Brings Fourfold Range Increase and Mesh Networking ( 29

An anonymous reader writes: The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced its roadmap for Bluetooth Smart in 2016, promising a fourfold range increase in the low-energy, IoT-oriented version of the protocol, along with dedicated mesh networking, a 100% increase in speed and no extra consumption of energy. The last set of upgrades to the protocol offered direct access to the internet and security enhancements. Since Bluetooth must currently contend with attacks on everything from cars to toilets, the increased range means that developers may not be able to rely on 'fleeting contact' as a security feature quite as much.

Even the CEO's Job Is Susceptible To Automation, McKinsey Report Says ( 176

colinneagle sends word that according to a new report it's not just blue collar workers who need to be concerned about being replaced with a robot, top execs should be worried too. According to Network World: "Global management consultants McKinsey and Company said in a recent report that many of the tasks that a CEO performs could be taken over by machines. Those redundant tasks include 'analyzing reports and data to inform operational decisions; preparing staff assignments; and reviewing status reports,' the report says. This potential for automation in the executive suite is in contrast to 'lower-wage occupations such as home health aides, landscapers, and maintenance workers,' the report says. Those jobs aren't as suitable for automation, according to the report. The technology has not advanced enough."

NVIDIA Releases JTX1 ARM Board That Competes With Intel's Skylake i7-6700K ( 84

An anonymous reader writes: NVIDIA has unveiled the Jetson TX1 development board powered by their Tegra X1 SoC. The Jetson TX1 has a Maxwell GPU capable of 1 TFLOP/s, four 64-bit ARM A57 processors, 4GB of RAM, and 16GB of onboard storage. NVIDIA isn't yet allowing media to publish benchmarks, but the company's reported figures show the graphics and deep learning performance to be comparable to an Intel Core i7-6700K while scoring multiple times better on performance-per-Watt. This development board costs $599 (or $299 for the educational version) and consumes less than 10 Watts.

Qualcomm Unveils Snapdragon 820 With Adreno 530 Graphics For Mobile Devices ( 34

MojoKid writes: Qualcomm held an event in New York City today to demonstrate for the first time its highly anticipated Snapdragon 820 System-on-Chip (SoC). More than just a speed bump and refresh of the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm says it designed the Snapdragon 820 "from the ground up to be unlike anything else." Behind that marketing spin is indeed an SoC with a custom 64-bit quad-core Kyro processor clocked at up to 2.2GHz. Qualcomm says it delivers up to twice the performance and twice the power efficiency of its predecessor, which is in fact an 8-core chip. Qualcomm officials have quoted 2x the performance of their previous gen Snapdragon 810 in single threaded throughput alone, which is a sizable gain. Efficiency is also being touted here, and according to Qualcomm, the improvements it made to the underlying architecture translate into nearly a third (30 percent) less power consumption. That should help the Snapdragon 820 steer clear of overheating concerns, which is something the 810 wasn't able to do.

Sony To End Sales of Betamax Tapes Next Year 103

AmiMoJo writes: In March 2016 Sony will finally end sales of its Betamax video tapes. The firm revealed on its website that it will also stop shipping the Micro MV cassette, used in video cameras. Sony launched the format in 1975, a year before JVC's rival the VHS cassette — which eventually became the market leader after a long battle between the two brands and their fans. Although many felt Betamax was the superior format, most cite the longer recording length of VHS tapes — three hours versus one — and the cheaper manufacturing costs for VHS machines as the main factors as to why VHS eventually won out. When my dad stops buying VHS tapes in bulk, maybe that market will finally wither away, too.

In Ireland, All RC and Drones Over 1kg To Be Registered ( 108

New submitter charliehotel writes: The Irish Aviation Authority announced that it will have its drone registry up and running by December 21st this year. This registry will be the first of its kind in Europe, and the Irish Aviation Authority will require all RPA / drones that weigh over 1kg to be registered; this includes model aircraft. I hope that the U.S.'s gathering storm of regulation doesn't start quite that small.

Ask Slashdot: Open Source Back-Up Tool For Business? 118

New submitter xerkot writes: I am looking for a tool to make backups of PCs in a big company. We want to replace the one that we are using at this moment for this new one. The tool will be used to do backups of PCs (mainly Windows, and a few Linux), and we want to manage these backups centrally from a console, being able to automatize the backup process. The servers of the company are backed up with another tool, so they are out of scope. In the company we are being encouraged more and more to use open source software, so I would like to ask you, what are best open source tools to do backups of PCs? Are they mature enough for a big company?

The Dawn of the Robotic Chef ( 50

pRobotika writes: When Moley announced its robotic kitchen back in April, the media jumped on the story as a promising glimpse into the future. But how realistic are robot chefs? Robotics' professionals are understandably skeptical but, if Moley manages to overcome one major issue, their approach could have real potential. Why? Because their kitchen is basically a flexible robotic workcell, and in manufacturing that's nothing new.

Ask Slashdot: Tiny PCs To Drive Dozens of NOC Monitors? 197

mushero writes: We are building out a new NOC with dozens of LCD monitors and need ideas for what PCs to use to drive all those monitors. What is small and easy to stack, rack, power, manage, replace, etc.?

The room is 8m x 8m. It has a central 3x3 LCD array, as well as mixed-size and -orientation LCD monitors on the front and side walls (plus scrolling LEDs, custom desks, team tables, etc) — it's designed as a small version of the famous AT&T Ops Center. We are an MSP and this is a tour showcase center, so more is better — most have real functions for our monitor teams, DBAs, SoC, alert teams, and so on, 7x24. We'll post pics when it's done.

But what's the best way to drive all this visual stuff? The simplest approach for basic/tiny PCs is to use 35-50 of these — how do we do that effectively? Almost all visuals are browser-only, so any PC can run them (a couple will use Apple TV or Cable feeds for news). The walls are modular and 50cm thick, and we'll have a 19" rack or two, so we have room, and all professional wiring/help as needed.

Raspberry Pis are powerful enough for this, but painful to mount and wire. Chromeboxes are great and the leading candidate, as the ASUS units can drive two monitors. The Intel NUC can also do this — those and the Chromeboxes are easily stackable. My dream would be a quad-HDMI device in Chromebox form factor. Or are there special high-density PCs for this with 4-8-16 HDMI outputs?

Each unit will be hard-wired to its monitor, and via ip-KVM (need recommendations on that, too, 32+ port) for controls. Any other ideas for a cool NOC are also appreciated, as we have money and motivation to do anything that helps the team and the tours.

Google's Robotics Group Lacks Leadership ( 43

An anonymous reader writes: Google has been snapping up promising robotics companies for the past several years, placing them in a division internally called "Replicant." But the division itself is struggling to come together, not having consistent leadership since Andy Rubin left in 2014. One robotics employee said, "The technology pieces we have are incredible. We just have to commit to a particular direction to go in and focus." While Google has accumulated bleeding-edge hardware and software systems, it hasn't been able to bring them together yet in any meaningful way. "Sources say that after Rubin left, there was no one who knew how to tie all the disparate acquisitions together. Rubin had provided a destination, but the team no longer had a road map or a guide to get there."

ABC's 'BattleBots' Reboot Will Come Back For a Second Season ( 37

An anonymous reader writes: Good news if you're a fan of watching robots fight or just flail around in a corner. ABC has renewed BattleBots for a second season. According to The Wrap: "Following the summer ratings hit "Celebrity Family Feud," the six-episode first season of "BattleBots" earned an average of 5.4 million total viewers and a 1.7 rating among adults 18-49. Season 2 will keep the single-elimination tournament format of the first, but will double the size of the field to include expert roboticists, garage builders, families on a mission and past winners returning to defend their turf."

Intel Skylake-U For Laptops Posts Solid Gains In Testing, Especially Graphics ( 104

MojoKid writes: Intel's 6th Generation Skylake family of Core processors has been available for some time now for desktops. However, the mobile variant of Skylake is perhaps Intel's most potent incarnation of the new architecture that has been power-optimized on 14nm technology with a beefier graphics engine for notebooks. In late Q3, Intel started rolling out Skylake-U versions of the chip in a 15 Watt TDP flavor. This is the power envelope that most "ultrabooks" are built with and it's likely to be Intel's highest volume SKU of the processor. The Lenovo Yoga 900 tested here was configured with an Intel Core i7-6500U dual-core processor that also supports Intel HyperThreading for 4 logical processing threads available. Its base frequency is 2.5GHz, but the chip will Turbo Boost to 3GHz and down clocks way down to 500MHz when idle. The chip also has 4MB of shared L3 cache and 512K of L2 and 128K of data cache, total. In the benchmarks, the new Skylake-U mobile chip is about 5 — 10 faster than Intel's previous generation Broadwell platform in CPU-intensive tasks and 20+ percent faster in graphics and gaming, at the same power envelope, likely with better battery life, depending on the device.

Hands-On With the Nintendo PlayStation ( 51

An anonymous reader writes: Several months ago, we got a look at a weird bit of technology: a Nintendo PlayStation prototype made in the late '80s during an unusual partnership between Sony and Nintendo. Despite cries of "hoax" and "fake," the console turns out to be real. Engadget got to try it out, X-ray it, and even open the device up to try repairing the CD drive. They brought in Daniel Cheung, a retro console technician from Restart Workshop, and he said, "I got to see the real deal so I can't discredit it. And there's even an OS. You can't question it. It can't be fake. Going back to the chips we saw earlier on the logic board: NEC used to make gaming consoles, and Sony also participated here. And with Nintendo as part of this team, you just can't discredit this."
Input Devices

Scan a Book In Five Minutes With a $199 Scanner? ( 221

New submitter David Rothman writes: Scan a 300-page book in just five minutes or so? For a mere $199 and shipping — the current price on Indiegogo — a Chinese company says you can buy a device to do just that. And a related video is most convincing. The Czur scanner from CzurTek uses a speedy 32-bit MIPS CPU and fast software for scanning and correction. It comes with a foot pedal and even offers WiFi support. Create a book cloud for your DIY digital library? Imagine the possibilities for Project Gutenberg-style efforts, schools, libraries and the print-challenged as well as for booklovers eager to digitize their paper libraries for convenient reading on cellphones, e-readers and tablets. Even at the $400 expected retail price, this could be quite a bargain if the claims are true. I myself have ordered one at the $199 price.

Jack McCauley's Next Challenge: the Perfect Head-Tracker For VR ( 25

Tekla Perry writes: He used a webcam and LEDs to do position tracking for the Oculus DK2, but Jack McCauley, co-founder of Oculus and now working independently, says that's the wrong approach. He likes the laser scanning system of the HTC Vive better, but says it's just not fast enough. McCauley thinks he can do better, using a design approach borrowed from picoprojectors. Speaking at this week's MEMS Executive Congress, he said better tracking of head position will solve the problem of VR sickness, not more expensive screen technologies.