An anonymous reader writes "On Cyber Monday, millions of Americans will take to the Internet in search of the newest gadgets to bestow upon their loved ones. Most of these 'gifts' are trojan horses that will spy on their recipients, prevent them from doing what they want with their device, or maybe even block access to their favorite books or music. The Free Software Foundation is proud to introduce a map through this minefield: our 2013 Giving Guide. The Giving Guide features gifts that will not only make your recipients jump for joy; these gifts will also protect their freedom."
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Zothecula writes "When was the last time you heard about a sea turtle getting stuck in a shipwreck? Never, that's when. Although that's partly because stuck turtles rarely make the news, it's also due to the fact that they're relatively small and highly maneuverable. With that in mind, the European Union-funded ARROWS project has created U-CAT – a prototype robotic sunken-ship-exploring sea turtle."
JDG1980 writes "OCZ, a manufacturer of solid-state drives, says it will file for bankruptcy. This move is being forced by Hercules Technology Growth Capital, which had lent $30 million to OCZ under terms that were later breached. The most likely outcome of this bankruptcy is that OCZ's assets (including the Indilinx controller IP) will be purchased by Toshiba. If this deal falls through, the company will be liquidated. No word yet on what a Toshiba purchase would mean in terms of warranty support for OCZ's notoriously unreliable drives."
An anonymous reader writes "Google has launched the Google Voice Search Hotword extension for Chrome, bringing the 'OK Google' feature to the desktop. You can download the new tool, currently in beta, now directly from the Chrome Web Store. Android users with version 4.4 KitKat will recognize the feature: it lets you talk to Google without first clicking or typing. It's completely hands-free, provided you're already on Google.com: just say 'OK Google' and then ask your question." Quick, someone wire Pocketsphinx up to Firefox, or integrate Simon into Krunner.
muterobert writes "The Oculus Rift has competition, and it's incredible. The InfinitEye has a 210 degree field of view (compared with the Oculus Rift's 90) and surrounds your peripheral vision in the game completely. Paul James from RoadToVR goes in-depth with the team behind the new device and finds out how high-FOV Virtual Reality really works. Quoting: 'At the present time, we are using 4 renders, 2 per eye. Left eye renders are centered on left eye, the first render is rotated 90 left and the second looks straight ahead, building two sides of a cube. Right eye renders are centered on its position, the first is rotated 90 degree right and the second looks straight ahead, two sides of another cube. We then process those renders in a final pass, building the distorted image.'"
rjmarvin writes "Docker 0.7 was released today, with 7 major new features including support to run on all Linux distributions. No longer capable solely on running on Debian and Ubuntu Linux, Docker 0.7 adds support for distributions such as Red Hat, SUSE, Gentoo and Arch. From the announcement: 'A key feature of Docker is the ability to create many copies of the same base filesystem almost instantly. Under the hood Docker makes heavy use of AUFS by Junjiro R. Okajima as a copy-on-write storage mechanism. AUFS is an amazing piece of software and at this point it’s safe to say that it has safely copied billions of containers over the last few years, a great many of them in critical production environments. Unfortunately, AUFS is not part of the standard linux kernel and it’s unclear when it will be merged. This has prevented docker from being available on all Linux systems. Docker 0.7 solves this problem by introducing a storage driver API, and shipping with several drivers. Currently 3 drivers are available: AUFS, VFS (which uses simple directories and copy) and DEVICEMAPPER, developed in collaboration with Alex Larsson and the talented team at Red Hat, which uses an advanced variation of LVM snapshots to implement copy-on-write. An experimental BTRFS driver is also being developed, with even more coming soon: ZFS, Gluster, Ceph, etc. When the docker daemon is started it will automatically select a suitable driver depending on its capabilities.'"
Bennett Haselton has in years previous made some canny suggestions for tech-oriented holiday gifts; you can look forward to another one. Today, though, Bennett writes about one cool toy in particular: a kit to make your own creepy robot: "For over 20 years, Dutch inventor Theo Jansen has been building truck-sized sculptures that crab-walk eerily across the beach, using only the power of the wind to turn fan blades that power the gears and crankshafts and enable the walking motion. This kit allows you to assemble your own working model that 'walks' sideways across your desktop." Read on for the rest.
stigmato writes "Once upon a time the MacBook Pro line was well-regarded amongst IT professionals for their quality, performance, serviceability & upgradeability. As appealing as the new Retina displays are, I don't want a device I cannot upgrade or repair. Glued in batteries and soldered in RAM with high prices have made me look to other manufacturers again. What are you buying, /. community? System76? Dell? Old article but still rings true with the latest models. I post this from my 2010 MBP 13" with a 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD in the optical bay, 8GB (possibly 16GB soon) and a user replaced battery."
An anonymous reader writes "The Xeon Phi co-processor requires a Xeon CPU to operate... for now. The next generation of Xeon Phi, codenamed Knights Landing and due in 2015, will be its own CPU and accelerator. This will free up a lot of space in the server but more important, it eliminates the buses between CPU memory and co-processor memory, which will translate to much faster performance even before we get to chip improvements. ITworld has a look."
MojoKid writes "Benchmarks are serious business. Buying decisions are often made based on how well a product scores, which is why the press and analysts spend so much time putting new gadgets through their paces. However, benchmarks are only meaningful when there's a level playing field, and when companies try to 'game' the business of benchmarking, it's not only a form of cheating, it also bamboozles potential buyers who (rightfully) assume the numbers are supposed mean something. 3D graphics benchmark software developer Futuremark just 'delisted' a bunch of devices from its 3DMark benchmark results database because it suspects foul play is at hand. Of the devices listed, it appears Samsung and HTC in particular are indirectly being accused of cheating 3DMark for mobile devices. Delisted devices are stripped of their rank and scores. Futuremark didn't elaborate on which specific rule(s) these devices broke, but a look at the company's benchmarking policies reveals that hardware makers aren't allowed to make optimizations specific to 3DMark, nor are platforms allowed to detect the launch of the benchmark executable unless it's needed to enable multi-GPU and/or there's a known conflict that would prevent it from running."
cartechboy writes "The Tesla Model S, for all its technical and design wizardry, has a dirty little secret: Its a vampire. The car has an odd and substantial appetite for kilowatt-hours even when turned off and parked. This phenomenon has been dubbed the 'vampire' draw, and Tesla promised long ago to fix this issue with a software update. Well, a few software updates have come and gone since then, and the Model S is still a vampire sucking down energy when it's shut down. While this is a concern for many Model S owners and would be owners, the larger question becomes: After nine months, and multiple software updates,why can't Tesla fix this known issue? Tesla has recognized the issue and said a fix would come, yet the latest fix is only a tiny improvement — and the problem remains unsolved. Is Tesla stumped? Can the issue be fixed?"
A year after the first schematics were completed and a few months after the first prototype board shipped, Make Play Live has released Improv, the first engineering card for EOMA-68 (EOMA-68 is a specification for modular systems that splits the cpu board from the rest of the system, allowing the end user to use the same core with several devices or upgrade e.g. a tablet without having to pay for a new screen shell). From Aaron Seigo's weblog post: "The hardware of Improv is extremely capable: a dual-core ARM® Cortex-A7 System on Chip (SoC) running at 1Ghz, 1 GB of RAM, 4 GB of on-board NAND flash and a powerful OpenGL ES GPU. To access all of this hardware goodness there are a variety of ports: 2 USB2 ports (one fullsize host, one micro OTG), SD card reader, HDMI, ethernet (10/100, though the feature card has a Gigabit connector; more on that below), SATA, i2c, VGA/TTL and 8 GPIO pins. The entire device weighs less than 100 grams, is passively cooled and fits in your hand. Improv comes pre-installed with Mer OS, sporting a recent Linux kernel, systemd, and a wide variety of software tools. By default it boots into console, so if you are making a headless device you needn't worry about extra overhead running that you don't need. If you are going to hook it up to a screen (or two), then you have an amazing starting point with choices such as X.org, Wayland, Qt4, Qt5 and a full complement of KDE libraries and Plasma Workspaces. Improv takes advantage of the open EOMA68 standard to deliver a unique design: the SoC, RAM and storage live on one card (the 'CPU card'), the feature ports are on a PCB it docks with (the 'feature board'). The two dock securely together with the CPU card sitting under the feature board nestled in a pair of rails; they are undocked from each other by pushing a mechanical ejector button." Check out the specs and pictures. The card is available now for $75. Improv is open hardware, with the schematics licensed under the GPL and available soon.
Zothecula writes "Harvesting power from the wind and the sun is nothing new. We've seen flying wind turbines and solar power plants that aim to provide clean renewable energy. UK-based New Wave Energy has a bolder idea in the works. The company plans to build the first high altitude aerial power plant, using networks of unmanned drones that can harvest energy from multiple sources and transmit it wirelessly to receiving stations on the ground."
mikejuk writes "Considering how long we have been trying to solve the problem, a robot walking is mostly amusing. Atlas is an impressive robot, evoking the deepest fears of sci fi. Watch as one of the DARPA challenge teams makes Atlas walk, unaided, on randomness. This video of Atlas was created by the Florida Institute For Human and Machine Cognition robotics team. It shows Atlas walking across a random collection of obstacles. Notice that even though it looks as if Atlas is supported by a tether, it isn't — as proved when it falls over at the end."
Rambo Tribble writes "In what appears to be a major reversal of policy, Intel's new president, Renee James, has indicated that Intel will be open to manufacturing chips based on rivals' designs. While the language is a bit tentative, this appears to open an opportunity for such as ARM to benefit from Intel's manufacturing expertise and technology." From the article: "James said Intel will evaluate prospective foundry clients on a 'deal by deal basis, not on an architecture by architecture basis.' That applies, James said, 'even in areas where there may be some competition with businesses that we’re in.'" Intel is already manufacturing FPGAs for Altera that include 64-bit ARM cores.
MojoKid writes "Motorola is forging ahead with the concept of modular, customizable smartphones first put forth by designer Dave Hakkens with his Phonebloks concept. The company said recently that it was officially pursuing such an idea with Project Ara, and Motorola is already putting together important partnerships to make it happen. 3D Systems, a maker of 3D printers and other related products, has signed on to create a 'continuous high-speed 3D printing production platform and fulfillment system' for it. In other words, 3D Systems is going to print parts for the project, and what's more, the company has what appears to be an exclusive agreement to make all the enclosures and modules for Project Ara."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that self-professed Apple fanatic Jonathan Zufi has published a book of photography profiling 500 of Apple's products through the years, because unlike other companies Apple has unapologetically focused on design says Zufi and he wants to celebrate that with his images. 'Other companies came up with the guts for a machine and then the engineers would find a way to stuff them into a box,' says Zufi. 'Steve Jobs started with the box and said, "You need to find a way to get the guts in."' It's an unlikely project for a software engineer with no formal photography training. Zufi bought new equipment and consulted with a professional as he began the project, which was four years in the making. 'I had a sudden memory of an old game I used to play in high school called Robot War,' says Zufi. 'I hopped on eBay to look for the game and an old Apple II to play it on, and that's how I ended up looking through old Apple products.' Zufi says that he approached each shot by looking for an image that would 'create that same emotional connection to that product, but maybe doesn't look like something you've seen before,' and says that his mission is to showcase the entire spectrum of products that Apple have sold to the public since 1976 – every desktop, every laptop, every notebook, monitor, iPod, iPad, iPhone, mouse, keyboard, modem, cable, port, adapter, docking station, memory expansion card — and that's just their hardware."
MojoKid writes "When Intel debuted Haswell this year, it launched its first mobile processor with a massive 128MB L4 cache. Dubbed "Crystal Well," this on-package (not on-die) pool of memory wasn't just a graphics frame buffer, but a giant pool of RAM for the entire core to utilize. The performance impact from doing so is significant, though the Haswell processors that utilize the L4 cache don't appear to account for very much of Intel's total CPU volume. Right now, the L4 cache pool is only available on mobile parts, but that could change next year. Apparently Broadwell-K will change that. The 14nm desktop chips aren't due until the tail end of next year but we should see a desktop refresh in the spring with a second-generation Haswell part. Still, it's a sign that Intel intends to integrate the large L4 as standard on a wider range of parts. Using EDRAM instead of SRAM allows Intel's architecture to dedicate just one transistor per cell instead of the 6T configurations commonly used for L1 or L2 cache. That means the memory isn't quite as fast but it saves an enormous amount of die space. At 1.6GHz, L4 latencies are 50-60ns which is significantly higher than the L3 but just half the speed of main memory."
First time accepted submitter fasuin writes "Which is the most advanced cloud storage solution? Which is the impact of server locations? What are the benefits of advanced techniques to optimise data transfers? Researchers from Italy and The Netherlands have come out with a set of benchmarks that allowed them to compare Dropbox, CloudDrive, SkyDrive and Google Drive. Which is the best? You can check it by yourself by running the tests on your own if you like." What this kind of benchmarking can't well do, though, is predict which of these cloud storage companies are going to be around in five years, which might be at least as an important a factor.
cartechboy writes "The electric car challenge is what insiders call "getting butts in seats" — and a lot of butts today still belong to humans who are not yet buying electric cars. The big question is: Why? Surveys show drivers are interested in electric cars--and that they love them once they drive them. EVs also cost less to maintain (though more to buy in the first place) and many experts say they're simply nicer to drive. So what's the problem? Disinterested dealers, uneven distribution, limited supplies, and media bias are some potential challenges. Or maybe it's just lousy marketing--casting electric cars as a moral imperative or a duty, like medicine you have to take."