smackay writes "Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory is building a humanoid robot designed for dangerous rescue missions as part of the new DARPA Robotics Challenge. Lab founder/director Dennis Hong calls it the 'greatest challenge of my career.' The robot's name: THOR" From the article: "The task is massive: The adult-sized robot must be designed to enter a vehicle, drive it, and then exit the vehicle, walk over rubble, clear objects blocking a door, open the door, and enter a building. The robot then must visually and audibly locate and shut off a leaking valve, connect a hose or connector, climb an industrial ladder and traverse an industrial walkway. The final and possibly most difficult task: Use a power tool and break through a concrete wall. All these tasks must be accomplished under a set time limit."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
sfcrazy writes "Andrew Wafaa, an ARM developer who is responsible for porting openSUSE to ARM, just got his hands on the Chromebook, and he managed to run openSUSE on it." Hopefully that means other distros can be soon ported to the Chromebook as well.
Says a story at Slash Datacenter: "Dell announced Oct. 24 that it had taken the next step into the low-power server market through the development of a second ARM-based server platform, which it will donate to the Apache Software Foundation for software development and app porting. The 'Zinc' concept runs the Calxeda EnergyCore chip, an ARM-based processor that the company hopes will eventually be featured in data centers running specialized workloads. It follows Dell’s earlier effort, dubbed 'Copper,' which it released in May. Neither server is commercially available, with Dell saying only that it would bring the hardware to market at an 'appropriate time.' Dell has said that it believes that the ARM-based server market is approaching an inflection point, and that it believes now is the right time to help foster development and testing of operating systems and applications for ARM servers. It’s a big step for the company, which has historically been an all-Intel shop, only occasionally buying processors from AMD." The ASF has access to the server (humming in a data center in Austin), and it's been busy: developers have "performed more than a dozen builds within the first 24 hours of the servers’ deployment, and on-going builds are being performed by the Apache Derby, River, Tapestry, and Thrift projects."
concealment writes "State-owned Baotou Steel Rare Earth (Group) Hi-tech Co. said in a statement released through the Shanghai Stock Exchange that it suspended production Tuesday to promote 'healthy development' of rare earths prices. It gave no indication when production would resume and phone calls to the company on Thursday were not answered. Beijing is tightening control over rare earths mining and exports to capture more of the profits that flow to Western makers of lightweight batteries and other products made of rare earths. China has about 30 percent of rare earths deposits but accounts for more than 90 percent of production. Beijing alarmed global manufacturers by imposing export quotas in 2009. It also is trying to force Chinese rare earths miners and processors to consolidate into a handful of government-controlled groups."
1sockchuck writes "Facebook has now adapted its Open Compute servers to work in leased data center space a step that could make the highly-efficient 'open hardware' designs accessible to a broader range of users. The Open Compute Project was launched last year to bring standards and repeatable designs to IT infrastructure, and has been gaining traction as more hardware vendors join the effort. Facebook's move to open its designs has been a welcome departure from the historic secrecy surrounding data center design and operations. But energy-saving customizations that work in Facebook's data centers present challenges in multi-tenant facilities. To make it work, Facebook hacked a rack and gave up some energy savings by using standard 208V power."
Microsoft has made hardware for quite a while, but not much of it as visible as the Surface; now, it looks like there's more where that came from. Dupple writes: "Steve Ballmer told the BBC: 'Is it fair to say we're going to do more hardware? Obviously we are... Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah we'll dive in.' The chief executive's comments came ahead of a Windows 8 launch event in New York, following which Microsoft's Surface tablet will go on sale. News other devices are likely to follow may worry some of the firm's partners. Mr Ballmer caused a stir when he revealed in June that his company was making its own family of tablet computers — one offering extended battery-life powered by an Arm-based chip, the other using Intel's technology to offer a deeper Windows experience."
An anonymous reader writes "An EXT4 file-system data corruption issue has reached the stable Linux kernel. The latest Linux 3.4, 3.5, 3.6 stable kernels have an EXT4 file-system bug described as an apparent serious progressive ext4 data corruption bug. Kernel developers have found and bisected the kernel issue but are still working on a proper fix for the stable Linux kernel. The EXT4 file-system can experience data loss if the file-system is remounted (or the system rebooted) too often."
First time accepted submitter e-sas writes "Researchers from the University of Bristol have built a new type of display which allows both a shared view and a personalised view to users at the same time. Through the two view-zones, PiVOT provides multiple personalized views where each personalized view is only visible to the user it belongs to while presenting an unaffected and unobstructed shared view to all users. They conceive PiVOT as a tabletop system aimed at supporting mixed-focus collaborative tasks where there is a main task requiring the focus of all individuals of the group but also concurrent smaller personal tasks needing access to information that is not usually shared e.g. a war-room setup. Imagine you and your friends playing multiplayer Starcraft on one big screen instead of individual computer screens!"
As tablets and computer-phones flood the market, the headlines read: "The Personal Computer is Dying." But they are only half true: an artifact of the PC is dying, but the essence of the PC revolution is closer to realization than ever before, while also being closer to loss than ever before.
"The Raspberry Pi project relies heavily on Open Source and Free Software — heck, it's targeted by more than one Linux distro. But some of the hardware stack that makes up the Pi itself needs closed-source code to run; the code that runs all kinds of low-level hardware is often closed source and closed off. I got wind from project instigator and lead Eben Upton that the system-on-a-chip at the Raspberry Pi's heart is about to get a lot more open. Says Upton: "We're about to open source all of the remaining closed source ARM code for the Pi. This will make BCM2835 the first ARM multimedia SoC with a fully-open-source ARM user and kernel implementation." I spoke for a few minutes with Alex Bradbury, who runs the Linux software work for the project, about licensing and what the new code means not only for Raspberry Pi but for users and other OS projects." (Note: the sound quality on this translantic Skype call is poor. We suggest reading the transcript.) Get the code while it's hot.
MrSeb writes "A team of researchers from MIT, Caltech, Harvard, and other universities in Europe, have devised a way of boosting the performance of wireless networks by up to 10 times — without increasing transmission power, adding more base stations, or using more wireless spectrum. The researchers' creation, coded TCP, is a novel way of transmitting data so that lost packets don't result in higher latency or re-sent data. With coded TCP, blocks of packets are clumped together and then transformed into algebraic equations (PDF) that describe the packets. If part of the message is lost, the receiver can solve the equation to derive the missing data. The process of solving the equations is simple and linear, meaning it doesn't require much processing on behalf of the router/smartphone/laptop. In testing, the coded TCP resulted in some dramatic improvements. MIT found that campus WiFi (2% packet loss) jumped from 1Mbps to 16Mbps. On a fast-moving train (5% packet loss), the connection speed jumped from 0.5Mbps to 13.5Mbps. Moving forward, coded TCP is expected to have huge repercussions on the performance of LTE and WiFi networks — and the technology has already been commercially licensed to several hardware makers."
An anonymous reader writes "AMD just officially took the wraps off Vishera, its next generation of FX processors. Vishera is Piledriver-based like the recently-released Trinity APUs, and the successor to last year's Bulldozer CPU architecture. The octo-core flagship FX-8350 runs at 4.0 GHz and is listed for just $195. The 8350 is followed by the 3.5 GHz FX-8320 at $169. Hexa-core and quad-core parts are also launching, at $132 and $122, respectively. So how does Vishera stack up to Intel's lineup? The answer to that isn't so simple. The FX-8350 can't even beat Intel's previous-generation Core i5-2550K in single-threaded applications, yet it comes very close to matching the much more expensive ($330), current-gen Core i7-3770K in multi-threaded workloads. Vishera's weak point, however, is in power efficiency. On average, the FX-8350 uses about 50 W more than the i7-3770K. Intel aside, the Piledriver-based FX-8350 is a whole lot better than last year's Bulldozer-based FX-8150 which debuted at $235. While some of this has to do with performance improvements, that fact that AMD is asking $40 less this time around certainly doesn't hurt either. At under $200, AMD finally gives the enthusiast builder something to think about, albeit on the low-end." Reviews are available at plenty of other hardware sites, too. Pick your favorite: PC Perspective, Tech Report, Extreme Tech, Hot Hardware, AnandTech, and [H]ard|OCP.
An anonymous reader writes "Technology Review has an update on Microsoft's effort to push Kinect gesture control technology beyond the Xbox console and make it a standard Windows computer accessory. Microsoft has sold Kinect for Windows hardware to developers since February and now products based on it are appearing, such as GestSure's system for surgeons in the operating room. Microsoft won't say when it will begin selling Kinect for Windows hardware directly to consumers, but seems poised to do so once enough developers have readied applications."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In a YouTube interview released by Microsoft, co-founder Bill Gates offered a few hints of where Microsoft plans on taking Windows in coming years. 'It's evolving literally to be a single platform,' he said, referring to how Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 share a kernel, file system, graphics support, and other elements. At least in theory, that will allow developers to port apps from the desktop/tablet OS to the smartphone OS with relatively little work. The two operating systems already share the same design aesthetic, with Start screens composed of colorful tiles linked to applications. Gates also praised natural user interfaces — which include touch and voice — while taking a subtle dig at Apple's iPad and other tablets on the market. 'People want to consume their mail, reading, video anywhere, and they want it to be awfully simple,' he said. 'But you want to incorporate touch without giving up the kind of mouse, keyboard capability that's just so natural in most settings.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Due to low electricity prices in the Midwest, and an inability to find a buyer for the power station, Dominion will be shutting down and decomissioning Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station. One of two operating nuclear power stations in Wisconsin, Kewaunee's license from the NRC was not due to expire until the end of 2033."
First time accepted submitter icepick3000 writes "There are probably many digital photoframes unused these days laying around. Mine is from the first generation meaning you can only insert a compact flash card and display photos. Newer models nowadays can display weather, news, and stocks. Anyone have some good idea's how to give these old frames a second life? I have been thinking about compact flash cards that support wifi... maybe someone has a better idea?"
Hugh Pickens writes "Jean-Louis Gassée says Apple and Samsung are engaged in a knives-out smartphone war. But when it comes to chips, the two companies must pretend to be civil because Samsung is the sole supplier of ARM-based processors for the iPhone. So why hasn't Intel jumped at the chance to become Apple's ARM source? 'The first explanation is architectural disdain,' writes Gassée. 'Intel sees "no future for ARM," it's a culture of x86 true believers. And they have a right to their conviction: With each iteration of its manufacturing technology, Intel has full control over how to improve its processors.' Next is pride. Intel would have to accept Apple's design and 'pour' it into silicon — it would become a lowlymerchant foundry.' Intel knows how to design and manufacture standard parts, but it has little experience manufacturing other people's custom designs or pricing them. But the most likely answer to the Why-Not-Intel question is money. Intel meticulously tunes the price points for its processors to generate the revenue that will fund development. Intel's published prices range from a 'low' $117 for a Core i3 processor to $999 for a top-of-the-line Core i7 device. Compare this to iSuppli's estimate for the cost of the A6 processor: $17.50. Even if more A6 chips could be produced per wafer — an unproven assumption — Intel's revenue per A6 wafer start would be much lower than with their x86 microprocessors. In Intel's perception of reality, this would destroy the business model. 'For all of Intel's semiconductor design and manufacturing feats, its processors suffer from a genetic handicap: They have to support the legacy x86 instruction set, and thus they're inherently more complicated than legacy-free ARM devices, they require more transistors, more silicon. Intel will argue, rightly, that they'll always be one technological step ahead of the competition, but is one step enough for x86 chips to beat ARM microprocessors?'"
An anonymous reader sends this quote from Wired: "Affordable 3-D printers and CNC mills are popping up everywhere, opening up new worlds of production to wide ranges of designers. However, one major tool still hasn’t received a DIY overhaul: the laser cutter. Maybe people are sensitive because Goldfinger tried to cut James Bond in half with one, but all that changes now with Patrick Hood-Daniel’s new Kickstarter, 'Build Your Own Laser Cutter.' ... A 40-watt laser tube and power supply means it can cut a variety of materials: wood, plastic, fabric, and paper. ... There is one major red flag, however. The machine’s frame is built from of Medium Density Overlay (MDO) — a type of plywood. Hood-Daniels says this is a feature, making the blackTooth less sensitive to thermal distortion and inaccuracy than a metal frame, but it also creates a serious, fire-breathing concern. ... When asked for comment, Hood-Daniel says 'Initially, I had the same thoughts as to the precarious use of wood for the structure, but even with long burns to the structure which were made on accident when starting a run, there was no ignition.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Samsung has decided to terminate an ongoing contract with Apple to supply LCD panels for use in its growing range of devices. That means, come next year, there will be no Samsung panels used across the iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Mac range of devices. The reason seems to be two-fold. On the one hand, Apple has been working hard to secure supplies from other manufacturers and therefore decrease its reliance on Samsung. On the other, Apple is well-known for demanding and pushing lower pricing, meaning it just doesn't make business sense anymore for Samsung to keep supplying Apple with displays."
paroneayea writes "MediaGoblin and LulzBot have teamed up to bring 3-D model support to MediaGoblin! The announcement shows off a live demo of the new feature... it uses Blender on the backend to render stills and thingiview.js to show realtime WebGL previews. This means MediaGoblin is becoming more useful for 3-D artists and people interested in 3-D printing, especially those looking for a free-as-in-freedom alternative to Thingiverse."