Power

Transformer Explosion Closes Nuclear Plant Unit North of NYC 213

Posted by timothy
from the could-happen-to-anyone dept.
Reuters reports that a transformer failure and related fire have forced the closure of a generating unit of the Indian Point nuclear plant, about 40 miles north of New York City; another generator at the same facility was unaffected. Witnesses reported seeing an explosion, as well as (according to NBC News) a "huge ball of black smoke" when the transformer exploded, which led to the shut-down of the site's Unit 3. The Reuters article says the plant "has long been controversial because of its proximity to the United States' largest city. Indian Point is one of 99 nuclear power plants licensed to operate in the United States and which generate about 20 percent of U.S. electricity use, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website.
Data Storage

Samsung's SSD 840 Read Performance Degradation Explained 65

Posted by timothy
from the failure-to-spin-is-actually-ok-in-this-case dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a link to TechSpot's explanation of the reason behind the performance degradation noticed by many purchasers of certain models of Samsung SSD (the 840 and 840 EVO), and an evaluation of the firmware updates that the firm has released to address is. From the piece, a mixed but positive opinion of the second and latest of these firmware releases: "It’s not an elegant fix, and it’s also a fix that will degrade the lifetime of the NAND since the total numbers of writes it’s meant to withstand is limited. But as we have witnessed in Tech Report’s extensive durability test there is a ton of headroom in how NAND is rated, so in my opinion this is not a problem. Heck, the Samsung 840 even outlasted two MLC drives. As of writing, the new firmware has only been released for the 2.5” model of the SSD 840 EVO, so users of the 840 EVO mSATA model still have to be patient. It should also be noted that the new firmware does not seem to work well with the TRIM implementation in Linux, as this user shared how file system corruption occurs if discard is enabled."
Power

MIT Report Says Current Tech Enables Future Terawatt-Scale Solar Power Systems 176

Posted by timothy
from the more-power-to-you dept.
Lucas123 writes: Even with today's inefficient wafer-based crystalline silicon photovoltaics, terawatt-scale solar power systems are coming down the pike, according to a 356-page report from MIT on the future of solar energy. Solar electricity generation is one of "very few low-carbon energy technologies" with the potential to grow to very large scale, the study states. In fact, solar resources dwarf current and projected future electricity demand. The report, however, also called out a lack of funds for R&D on newer solar technology, such as thin-film wafers that may be able to achieve lower costs in the long run. Even more pressing than the technology are state and federal policies that squelch solar deployment. For example, government subsidies to solar are dwarfed by subsidies to other energy sources, and trade policies have restricted PV module and other commodity product imports in order to aid domestic industry. Additionally, even though PV module and inverter costs are essentially identical in the United States and Germany, total U.S.residential system costs are substantially above those in Germany.
Intel

Fastest 4.5 Watt Core M 5Y71 In Asus T300 Chi Competitive With Full Core i5 CPUs 48

Posted by timothy
from the smaller-better-faster-cheaper dept.
MojoKid writes: Asus unveiled its latest addition to the Transformer series at CES in January, the Transformer Book Chi, which just recently began shipping. Available in three sizes, the new Transformer Book Chi Series features a 2-in-1 detachable design. The flagship Transformer Book T300 Chi offers a 12.5-inch screen, an Intel Core M processor, and a fanless cooling solution. The 2-in-1 detachable design employs a magnetic hinge that supports four usage modes: Attached, Detached, Flipped, and Tented. The T300 Chi measures about 0.65 inches when docked, making it slightly thinner than an Apple Macbook Air. Asus claims the T300 Chi is the world's thinnest Windows tablet, measuring just 0.28 inches thick. More interestingly, perhaps, is that Asus built this machine with Intel's fastest Core M chip, the Core M 5Y71. In the benchmarks, it competes well even with full-sized ultrabooks, though battery life does take a hit due to the system's mechanical limitations and smaller 31Whr battery. At prices from $400 to $900, this might be an interesting choice for anyone considering the new Surface 3, too.
Cloud

Dropbox Moves Accounts Outside North America To Ireland 135

Posted by timothy
from the which-is-technically-outside-of-north-america dept.
monkeyzoo writes: Similar to a previous announcement by Twitter, Dropbox has changed its Terms of Service for users outside of North America (USA/Canada/Mexico) such that services will now be provided out of Ireland. Will other companies follow this trend and leave the USA (and the jurisdiction of the NSA)? Note, the announcement states that North American users are not able to opt into the Irish Terms of Service.
Build

Going Beyond the 'Stock' Arduino with Justin Mclean (Video) 12

Posted by Roblimo
from the traveling-with-gun-and-camera-through-the-wilds-of-open-source dept.
Justin McLean is probably best-known for his work with Apache Flex. He also started playing with open source hardware before Arduino, and now works with systems like Fritzing, an open source hardware initiative that can take you all the way from initial concept to production-ready PCBs you can have made by a production house -- or make yourself if that's the way you roll. This can be an educational activity, a way to make prototype boards for potential Internet of Things products or even just a fun way to occupy yourself by making LEDs light up.
Encryption

Poor, Homegrown Encryption Threatens Open Smart Grid Protocol 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the leave-it-to-the-experts dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Millions of smart meters, solar panels, and other grid-based devices rely on the Open smart grid protocol for communication and control — it's similar to SCADA's role for industrial systems. But new research shows that its creators made the common mistake of rolling their own encryption, and doing a poor job of it. The researchers believe this threatens the entire system. They say, "This function has been found to be extremely weak, and cannot be assumed to provide any authenticity guarantee whatsoever." Security analyst Adam Crain added, "Protocol designers should stick to known good algorithms or even the 'NIST-approved' short list. In this instance, the researchers analyzed the OMA digest function and found weaknesses in it. The weaknesses in it can be used to determine the private key in a very small number of trials."
Debian

$9 Open Source Computer Blows Past Crowdfunding Goal 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the computer-chips-soon-to-be-cheaper-than-potato-chips dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A team of engineers and artists has launched a Kickstarter campaign for C.H.I.P., a small computer that costs $9. The campaign met and far exceeded its $50,000 goal on the first day. The device runs an R8 ARM CPU clocked at 1 GHz, 512 MB of RAM, and 4GB of storage. It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and runs a version of Debian. The price was enabled by two things: super-cheap Chinese tablets pushing down processor costs, and support from manufacturer Allwinner to make it even cheaper. The team is also building breakout boards for VGA and HDMI connections, as well as one with a tiny LCD screen, keyboard, and battery. Importantly, "all hardware design files schematic, PCB layout and bill of materials are free for you the community to download, modify and use."
AMD

AMD Outlines Plans For Zen-Based Processors, First Due In 2016 166

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
crookedvulture writes: AMD laid out its plans for processors based on its all-new Zen microarchitecture today, promising 40% higher performance-per-clock from from the x86 CPU core. Zen will use simultaneous multithreading to execute two threads per core, and it will be built using "3D" FinFETs. The first chips are due to hit high-end desktops and servers next year. In 2017, Zen will combine with integrated graphics in smaller APUs designed for desktops and notebooks. AMD also plans to produce a high-performance server APU with a "transformational memory architecture" likely similar to the on-package DRAM being developed for the company's discrete graphics processors. This chip could give AMD a credible challenger in the HPC and supercomputing markets—and it could also make its way into laptops and desktops.
Displays

Oculus Rift Launching In Q1 2016 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the virtually-immediately dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Oculus has announced that their Rift virtual reality headset will be coming out sometime in the first quarter of 2016. They've also posted a couple images of the final consumer headset design. The device was Kickstarted in August, 2012. Consumer-level release dates have slowly slipped further and further out since then, though they've shipped two different development kits. Ars points out that a 2016 launch date will bring the Oculus Rift to market after the Valve/HTC VR headset, and possibly after Sony's Project Morpheus.
Intel

Intel Launches Xeon E7-8800 and E7-4800 V3 Processor Families 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the xeonward-and-upward dept.
MojoKid writes: Intel is taking the wraps off of its latest processors for enterprise server and pro workstation applications today, dubbed the Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3. Like its high-end desktop processors, the Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3 product families are based on the Haswell-EX CPU core. These new Xeons, however, offer a plethora of other enhancements and are packing significantly more cores than any current desktop processor. The highest-end Xeon E7-8800 series processors, for example, are 18 core chips. Previous generation Xeon E7 v2 processors were based on the Ivy Bridge-EX core, while the new E7 v3 parts are based on Haswell-EX, though both are manufactured on Intel's 22nm process node. Next generation Broadwell-EX based Xeons will make the move to 14nm. Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3 series processors have 32-lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity per socket, TSX is enabled in all SKUs, they offer support for both DDR3 and DDR4 memory (though, not simultaneously), and can address up to 6TB of memory in a 4-socket configuration or 12TB in an 8-socket setup. Intel has also goosed the chip's QPI interface speeds to 9.6GT/s.
Intel

Mark and Joel Make Autonomous Drones in Their Spare Time (Video) 17

Posted by Roblimo
from the when-a-drone-hits-your-eye-like-a-big-pizza-pie-that's-a-lawsuit dept.
Mark F. Brown and Joel Rozenweig build autonomous drones; that is, drones that don't need an operator every second. You tell the autonomous drone, "Pick up package # 941A at the loading dock and deliver it to 451 Bradbury St.' and off it goes. It's going to be a while yet before that happens, but one day....

Back in the present, dronemaking is still a hobby for Mark and Joel, something they do for fun after spending their workdays as software engineers at Intel. Joel says there is 'remarkably little' crossover between their jobs and their hobby, and that (so far) Intel has contributed little beyond some Edison modules (which you can buy for less than $50) and travel to the Embedded Linux Conference, where they gave a talk accompanied by these slides. NOTE: We have a little bonus for you today. We try to keep videos to 10 minutes or less, but we have no such constraints on transcript length. So if you want the 'full' version of this interview, please read the transcript.
Input Devices

The Challenge of Getting a Usable QWERTY Keyboard Onto a Dime-sized Screen 144

Posted by timothy
from the you-will-fail-at-that-task dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Spain and Germany are building on Carnegie Mellon's work to attempt to create workable text-input interfaces for wearables, smartwatches and a new breed of IoT devices too small to accomodate even the truncated soft keyboards familiar to phone users. In certain cases, the screen area in which the keyboard must be made usable is no bigger than a dime. Of all the commercial input systems I've used, Graffiti seems like it might be the most suited to such tiny surfaces.
Security

USBKill Transforms a Thumb Drive Into an "Anti-Forensic" Device 288

Posted by timothy
from the content-scrambling-system dept.
Orome1 writes with a snippet from a report at net-security.org; a hacker going by Hephaestos has shared with the world a Python script that, when put on an USB thumb drive, turns the device in an effective kill switch for the computer to which it's plugged in. USBkill, as the programmer dubbed it, "waits for a change on your USB ports, then immediately kills your computer." The device would be useful "in case the police comes busting in, or steals your laptop from you when you are at a public library," Hephaestos explained.
Communications

How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text 164

Posted by timothy
from the message-could-not-be-lawfullly-transcribed dept.
Presto Vivace writes: Dan Froomkin reports at The Intercept: "Though perfect transcription of natural conversation apparently remains the Intelligence Community's 'holy grail,' the Snowden documents describe extensive use of keyword searching as well as computer programs designed to analyze and 'extract' the content of voice conversations, and even use sophisticated algorithms to flag conversations of interest." I am torn between admiration of the technical brilliance of building software like this and horror as to how it is being used. It can't just be my brother and me who like to salt all phone conversations with interesting keywords.
Hardware Hacking

Apple Watch's Hidden Diagnostic Port To Allow Battery Straps, Innovative Add-Ons 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the corkscrew-now-included dept.
MojoKid writes: Apple's Watch launched two weeks ago to some unbelievable hype and coverage in the press. However, it appears one feature flew under the radar and Apple actually had just one more trick up its sleeve. You see, on one side of the watch face is a hidden door that exposes a 6-pin port. It's assumed that this could be used for diagnostic purposes, but with an Apple Watch in hand, a company by the name of Reserve Strap was able to verify that it could also be used for charging. This seems pretty huge and strange at the same time: why would Apple keep such a thing quiet, when the Apple Watch's battery-life isn't what most people would consider impressive? Even more interesting is the fact that Apple didn't make use of this port to release its own charging straps — watch straps that carry a charge themselves. Apple's lack of transparency here doesn't much matter, though, as the aforementioned Reserve Strap is planning to get such a product to market as soon as possible. The company says about its first offering: "The Reserve Strap will come in White, Gray and Black and will fit both the 38mm and 42mm case sizes. The first batch of straps will be shipped in the Fall.
Power

Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs 317

Posted by timothy
from the stick-it-on-the-wall dept.
Technologist Ramez Naam (hat tip to Tyler Cowen's "Marginal Revolution" blog) has taken a look at the economics of Tesla's new wall-mounted household battery system, and concludes that it's "almost there," at least for many places in the world -- and seems to already make sense in some. From his analysis: For some parts of the US with time-of-use plans, this battery is right on the edge of being profitable. From a solar storage perspective, for most of the US, where Net Metering exists, this battery isn’t quite cheap enough. But it’s in the right ballpark. And that means a lot. Net Metering plans in the US are filling up. California’s may be full by the end of 2016 or 2017, modulo additional legal changes. That would severely impact the economics of solar. But the Tesla battery hedges against that. In the absence of Net Metering, in an expensive electricity state with lots of sun, the battery would allow solar owners to save power for the evening or night-time hours in a cost effective way. And with another factor of 2 price reduction, it would be a slam dunk economically for solar storage anywhere Net Metering was full, where rates were pushed down excessively, or where such laws didn’t exist. That is also a policy tool in debates with utilities. If they see Net Metering reductions as a tool to slow rooftop solar, they’ll be forced to confront the fact that solar owners with cheap batteries are less dependent on Net Metering. ... And the cost of batteries is plunging fast. Tesla will get that 2x price reduction within 3-5 years, if not faster.
Programming

Bill Gates Owes His Career To Steven Spielberg's Dad; You May, Too 171

Posted by timothy
from the our-fathers'-fathers'-fathers dept.
theodp writes: On the 51st birthday of the BASIC programing language, GE Reports decided it was finally time to give-credit-where-credit-was-long-overdue, reporting that Arnold Spielberg, the 98-year-old father of Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, helped revolutionize computing when he designed the GE-225 mainframe computer. The machine allowed a team of Dartmouth University students and researchers to develop BASIC, which quickly spread and ushered in the era of personal computers. BASIC helped kickstart many computing careers, include those of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, as well as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.
Robotics

Robots In 2020: Lending a Helping Hand To Humans (And Each Other) 46

Posted by timothy
from the never-show-them-weakness dept.
Lashdots writes: In the next five years, robots won't kill us (or drive our cars). But they will get better at helping us do routine tasks—and at helping each other too. Those are some of the predictions Fast Company gleaned from some of the robotics firms on its "most innovative" list, including Anki Robotics, robot-based genetic testing startup Counsyl, and Lockheed Martin, which has demonstrated a pair of unmanned aerial vehicles that work together to fight fires. I'm just waiting for drones that will simultaneously cut my lawn and deter burglars.
Games

Game:ref's Hardware Solution To Cheating In eSports 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the anti-cheating-baseball-bats dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Cheating is a real problem in today's most popular online multiplayer games, and not just on public servers. Some of the world's top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players have been banned by Valve's Anti-Cheat System (VACS) in recent months too, bringing a nascent eSport into disrepute. But one gamer is taking a different approach, creating a hardware solution called Game:ref to tackle the problem. Simple in design — Game:ref, which the creator hopes to fund on Kickstarter soon, compares on screen movement with your inputs — but powerful in potential, the device has the potential to catch out illegal macro users both on and offline. It's already attracting interest in the top flight too.

"I've had some people from [eSports teams] Complexity, SK Gaming, and a few high-profile streamers reach out. I would say everyone seems onboard with making online PC gaming a more enjoyable experience," says inventor David Titarenco, a former Counter-Strike pro himself. "After all, most cheating on consoles has been eradicated, why should PC be so far behind?"