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Graphics

AMD Announces Fiji-based Radeon R9 Fury X, 'Project Quantum', Radeon 300 Series 76 76

MojoKid writes: Today AMD announced new graphics solutions ranging from the bottom to the top ($99 on up to $649). First up is the new range of R7 300 Series cards that is aimed squarely at gamers AMD says are typically running at 1080p. For gamers that want a little bit more power, there's the new R9 300 Series (think of them as R9 280s with higher clocks and 8GB of memory). Finally, AMD unveiled its Fiji graphics cards that feature onboard High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), offering 3x the performance-per-watt of GDDR5. Fiji has 1.5x the performance-per-watt of the R9 290X, and was built with a focus on 4K gaming. The chip itself features 4096 stream processors and is comprised of 8.9 billion transistors. It has a graphics core clock of 1050MHz and is rated at 8.6 TFLOPs. AMD says there will also be plenty of overhead for overclocking. Finally, AMD also took the opportunity to showcase its "Project Quantum," which is a small form-factor PC that manages to cram two Fiji GPUs inside. The processor, GPUs, and all other hardware are incorporated into the bottom of the chassis, while the cooling solution is built into the top of the case.
Data Storage

TRIM and Linux: Tread Cautiously, and Keep Backups Handy 182 182

An anonymous reader writes: Algolia is a buzzword-compliant ("Hosted Search API that delivers instant and relevant results") start-up that uses a lot of open-source software (including various strains of Linux) and a lot of solid-state disk, and as such sometimes runs into problems with each of these. Their blog this week features a fascinating look at troubles that they faced with ext4 filesystems mysteriously flipping to read-only mode: not such a good thing for machines processing a search index, not just dishing it out. "The NGINX daemon serving all the HTTP(S) communication of our API was up and ready to serve the search queries but the indexing process crashed. Since the indexing process is guarded by supervise, crashing in a loop would have been understandable but a complete crash was not. As it turned out the filesystem was in a read-only mode. All right, let's assume it was a cosmic ray :) The filesystem got fixed, files were restored from another healthy server and everything looked fine again. The next day another server ended with filesystem in read-only, two hours after another one and then next hour another one. Something was going on. After restoring the filesystem and the files, it was time for serious analysis since this was not a one time thing.

The rest of the story explains how they isolated the problem and worked around it; it turns out that the culprit was TRIM, or rather TRIM's interaction with certain SSDs: "The system was issuing a TRIM to erase empty blocks, the command got misinterpreted by the drive and the controller erased blocks it was not supposed to. Therefore our files ended-up with 512 bytes of zeroes, files smaller than 512 bytes were completely zeroed. When we were lucky enough, the misbehaving TRIM hit the super-block of the filesystem and caused a corruption."

Since SSDs are becoming the norm outside the data center as well as within, some of the problems that their analysis exposed for one company probably would be good to test for elsewhere. One upshot: "As a result, we informed our server provider about the affected SSDs and they informed the manufacturer. Our new deployments were switched to different SSD drives and we don't recommend anyone to use any SSD that is anyhow mentioned in a bad way by the Linux kernel."
Power

Energy Harnessed From Humidity Can Power Small Devices 41 41

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have built small devices that generate electricity by harnessing changes in the ambient humidity. This is done through the use of dormant bacterial spores which expand when they absorb moisture from the air. To prove the concept, researchers attached the spores to one side of a curved polymer sheet, and when the spores absorbed humidity from the air, the sheet straightened out. Coupling this movement with an electromagnetic generator allowed them to harvest enough energy to power small devices like an LED and a 100-gram toy car.
XBox (Games)

Microsoft Announces Customizable Xbox Elite Wireless Controller 99 99

MojoKid writes: Today, Microsoft announced that later this year, it will be releasing what could be the "ultimate" Xbox and Windows game controller. Called Xbox Elite Wireless, this gamepad has a dramatically overhauled D-pad and four paddles underneath. Other features that make this gamepad special: there are trigger locks, the ability to customize thumbstick sensitivity, along with the level of travel for the top triggers. In addition, it also sports swappable components, like the paddles, etc. Pricing has been announced at $149 and given just how advanced this gamepad is over the original, it's understandable but still pretty steep.
Facebook

How Facebook Is Eating the $140 Billion Hardware Market 89 89

mattydread23 writes: It started out as a controversial idea inside Facebook. In four short years, the Open Compute Project has turned the $141 billion data-center computer-hardware industry on its head. This is the comprehensive history of the project, including interviews with founder Jonathan Heiliger and members of the financial services industry who are already on board, plus a dismissal from Google's own data center guru Urs Holzle.
Handhelds

UW Researchers Prototype Sonar-Based Contactless Sleep Monitoring 40 40

n01 writes: Researchers of the University of Washington are testing the prototype of their ApneaApp to diagnose sleep apnea, a health problem that can become life-threatening. To monitor a person's sleep, the app transforms the user's smartphone into an active sonar system that tracks tiny changes in a person's movements. The phone's speaker sends out inaudible sound waves, which bounce off a sleeping person's body and are picked back up by the phone's microphone. "It's similar to the way bats navigate," said Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, lead author and a doctoral candidate in the UW's department of computer science and engineering. "They send out sound signals that hit a target, and when those signals bounce back they know something is there." In technical terms, the app continuously analyzes changes in the acoustic room-transfer-function (sampled at ultrasonic frequencies) to detect motion. This is very similar to what the iPhone app Sleep Cycle Sonalarm Clock does, except that the UW researchers have improved the sensitivity of the method so it can precisely track the person's breathing movements which allows it to not only detect different sleep phases but also sleep apnea events. The advantage in both use cases is that the sleep monitoring is contact-less (there's nothing in the user's bed that could disturb their sleep) and doesn't require any additional hardware besides the user's smart phone.
Displays

210 Degree VR Headset With 5K Display Revealed By 'Payday' Developer Starbreeze 79 79

An anonymous reader writes: Starbreeze Studios has taken wraps off of StarVR, a new VR headset with dual displays comprising a 210 degree horizontal field of view with a total resolution of 5120x1440. The headset's origins come from InfinitEye, a company working on a super-wide dual-display headset back in 2013, which went into stealth mode for quite some time before being reborn as StarVR in partnership with Starbreeze Studios. The studio is the developer behind the Payday franchise, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and now Overkill's The Walking Dead, which will have a VR component utilizing the new headset.
AI

Toshiba Introduces a Cortana Keyboard Button For Windows 10 127 127

Ammalgam writes: In what seems like a really pivotal moment for computing, Toshiba have indicated that they will be introducing a new button to their line of keyboards. This key would be dedicated to summoning Microsoft's virtual assistant in Windows 10 — Cortana. A dedicated Cortana key would be one of the more significant changes to the keyboard since the Windows key was added at about the time Windows 95 was introduced, in 1995.
Input Devices

Logitech Introduces G29, G920 Racing Wheels For PS3, PS4, Xbox One and PC 67 67

MojoKid writes: If you're an ardent PC racing fiend, chances are that you either own or have heard of Logitech's G27. The G27 has been a popular gaming peripheral (it supports the PC, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3) that not only includes a steering wheel and three pedals (accelerator, brake, clutch), but also a six-speed "H" pattern gearbox. Today, Logitech is finally introducing successors, the G29 Driving Force Racing Wheel and the G920 Driving Force Racing Wheel for PS3 and PS4, as well as PC and Xbox One racers, respectively. Both wheels are equipped with dual-motor force feedback, 900-degree (2.5 turns to lock) steering, helical gearing, and anti-backlash hardware. Logitech is also hoping to impart a premium feel to its new controllers courtesy of a hand-stitched leather wheel, stainless steel paddle shifters, and steel ball bearings to stand up to abuse. Like its predecessor, the G29 and G920 both come with a separate, floor-mounted three-pedal unit to keep your feet busy when blasting around the Nürburgring. Unfortunately, the six-speed shifter unit that used to come standard in the box with the G27 is now an optional accessory. The G29 will be available this July, while the G920 won't arrive at retailers until October.
Robotics

Soft Robot Tentacle Can Lasso an Ant Without Harming It 49 49

jan_jes writes: A soft robot tentacle, developed by a team from Iowa State University, can curl itself into a circle with a radius of just 200 micrometers. It was capable of capturing an ant without harming it, and the tentacle was also able to grasp the egg of a fish. Such miniature soft robots could be useful for microsurgery. The lassoing motion and low force exerted by the tentacle could be an advantage in endovascular operations, for example, where the target for surgery is reached through blood vessels. They describe their findings in Scientific Reports.
Earth

Solar Power Capacity Installs Surpass Wind and Coal For Second Year 259 259

Lucas123 writes: Residential rooftop solar installations hit a historical high in the first quarter of 2015, garnering an 11% increase over the previous quarter and a 76% increase over the Q1, 2014. New installations of solar power capacity surpassed those of wind and coal for the second year in a row, accounting for 32% of all new electrical capacity, according to a new report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Residential solar installation costs dropped to $3.46 per watt of installed capacity this quarter, which represents a 2.2% reduction over last quarter and a 10% reduction over the first quarter of 2014.
Robotics

Do Robots Need Passports? Should They? 164 164

Hallie Siegel writes: With countries evolving different regulations over robotic devices, law professor Anupam Chander looks into whether robots crossing borders will need passports, and what the role of international trade law should be in regulating the flow of these devices. Fascinating discussion on what happens when technology like robots crosses over international borders, as part of this year's We Robot conference in Seattle.
Biotech

An Origami Inspired Bacteria-Powered Battery 27 27

jan_jes writes: Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding created by Akira Yoshizawa, which can be used to create beautiful birds, frogs and other small sculptures. Last year a team of engineers from MIT and Harvard has developed an origami flat-pack robot (YouTube video) which can fold itself and crawl away without any human intervention. But now a Binghamton University engineer says this technique can be applied to building batteries, too. The battery generates power from microbial respiration, delivering enough energy to run a paper-based biosensor with nothing more than a drop of bacteria-containing liquid. This method should be especially useful to anyone working in remote areas with limited resources. The total cost of this potentially game-changing device is "five cents."
Hardware Hacking

Pi Stays Sky High In 2015 Hacker SBC Survey 32 32

DeviceGuru writes: The results from the 2015 Hacker SBC Survey cohosted by LinuxGizmos.com and the Linux Foundation's Linux.com community site have just been announced and, not surprisingly, RPi won two of the top three slots. With 1721 voting in the survey, the ten most popular single board computers turned out to be the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, Beaglebone Black, Raspberry Pi Model B+, Odroid-C1, DragonBoard 410c, Odroid-XU3, Parallella, Arduino TRE, Edison Kit for Arduino, and Odroid-U3. The report includes scores for all 53 SBCs that were listed in the susrvey, along with data on feature preferences, targeted applications, and the nature of participants' use of [SBCs], and more.
Government

Inspectors Warn Faulty Valves In New-Generation EPR Nuclear Reactor Pose Meltdown Risk 126 126

Bruce66423 writes: Valves for the new generation of French reactors being built now have raised substantial safety concerns on top of the existing issues about the quality of the steel used for the containment vessel. Similar to the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, France’s nuclear safety watchdog found “multiple” malfunctioning valves in the Flamanville EPR that could cause its meltdown. The Telegraph reports: "The watchdog reportedly cited 'multiple failure modes' that could have 'grave consequences' on the safety relief valves, which play a key role in regulating pressure in the reactor. Owned by state-controlled French utilities giant EDF, Flamanville lies close to the British Channel Islands and about 150 miles from the southern English coast. Designed to be the safest reactors in the world and among the most energy-efficient, the €9 billion (£6.5 billion) EPR has suffered huge delays in models under construction in France, Finland and China. It is now due to enter service in 2017, five years later than originally planned."
AMD

AMD Radeon Fury and Fury X Specs Leaked, HBM-Powered Graphics On the Way 66 66

MojoKid writes: A fresh alleged leak of next AMD Fiji graphics info has just hit the web and there's an abundance of supposedly confirmed specifications for what will be AMD's most powerful graphics card to date. Fiji will initially be available in both Pro and XT variants with the Fiji Pro dubbed "Fury" and Fiji XT being dubbed "Fury X." The garden variety Fury touts single-precision floating point (SPFP) performance of 7.2 TFLOPS compared to 5.6 TFLOPS for a bone stock Radeon R9 290X. That's a roughly 29-percent performance improvement. The Fury X with its 4096 stream processors, 64 compute units, and 256 texture mapping units manages to deliver 8.6 TFLOPS, or a 54-percent increase over a Radeon R9 290X. The star of the show, however, will be AMD's High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) interface. Unlike traditional GDDR5 memory, HBM is stacked vertically, decreasing the PCB footprint required. It's also integrated directly into the same package as the GPU/SoC, leading to further efficiencies, reduced latency and a blistering 100GB/sec of bandwidth per stack (4 stacks per card). On average HBM is said to deliver three times the performance-per-watt of GDDR5 memory. With that being said, the specs listed are by no means confirmed by AMD, yet. We shall find out soon enough during AMD's E3 press conference scheduled for June 16.
Microsoft

Microsoft Manufacturing Surface Hub In the US 124 124

overThruster writes: According to the New York Times, Microsoft has chosen to manufacture its Surface Hub in Wilsonville, Oregon. The announcement follows Apple’s decision to build the Mac Pro in Texas. "It makes a lot of sense to manufacture in the U.S.," said Steve Hix, an entrepreneur who founded several Portland-area tech companies, including one that had a manufacturing facility in Wilsonville. "The key issue is quality."
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: What Hardware Is In Your Primary Computer? 558 558

An anonymous reader writes: Here's something we haven't done in a while: list the specs of your main system (best one) so we can see what kinds of computers Slashdot geeks use. Context would be interesting, too — if you're up for it, explain how and why you set it up as you did, as well as the computer's primary purpose(s). Things you can list include (but are not limited to): CPU, motherboard, video card, memory, storage (SSD/HDD), exotic Controllers (RAID or caching), optical drives, displays, peripherals, etc. We can compare and contrast, see what specs are suitable for what purposes, and perhaps learn a trick or two.
Power

Ex-CIA Director: We're Not Doing Nearly Enough To Protect Against the EMP Threat 182 182

An anonymous reader writes: Last week saw the release of an open letter written to President Obama by a committee of notable political, security and defense experts — which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others — on the country's concerning level of vulnerability to a natural or man-made Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP). An EMP has very real potential for crippling much of our electrical grid instantaneously. Not only would that immediately throw the social order into chaos, but the timeline to repair and restart the grid in most estimated scenarios would take months to a year or more.

Executive Director of the EMP Task Force Dr Peter Pry said, "Well, the short answer to [why we aren't defending against EMPs] is called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. They used to be a trade association or a lobby for the 3,000 electric utilities that exist in this country. ... There is no part of the U.S. government that has the legal powers to order them to protect the grid. This is unusual, because in the case of every other critical infrastructure, there's an agency in the U.S. government that can require them to take actions for public safety. For example, the Food & Drug Administration can order certain medicines kept off shelves to protect the public safety. ... The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn't have those legal powers or authorities."
Robotics

Why So Many Robots Struggled With the DARPA Challenge 44 44

stowie writes: The DARPA Robots Challenge concluded recently, and three teams were given prizes for completing all the tasks. The other robots in the competition struggled — not only were they unable to complete the required tasks, many of them were unable to even stay standing the entire time. So why did these robots have such a hard time? "DARPA deliberately degraded communications (low bandwidth, high latency, intermittent connection) during the challenge to truly see how a human-robot team could collaborate in a Fukushima-type disaster. And there was no standard set for how a human-robot interface would work. So, some worked better than others. The winning DRC-Hubo robot used custom software designed by Team KAIST that was engineered to perform in an environment with low bandwidth. It also used the Xenomai real-time operating system for Linux and a customized motion control framework. The second-place finisher, Team IHMC, used a sliding scale of autonomy that allowed a human operator to take control when the robot seemed stumped or if the robot knew it would run into problems." If nothing else, the competition's true legacy may lie in educating the public on the realistic capabilities of high-tech robots.