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Self-Assembling Robots Using Flying Drones 33

mikejuk writes with an excerpt from I Programmer on a neat swarm of robots that use flying drones to build a map of their environment: "How can a swarm of robots get a global picture of its environment? Easy it simply sends up a drone. We are used to thinking of drones as being used for surveillance by humans operating on the ground, but what is good for humans is good for robots too. The drone can view the overall terrain and run simulations of what configurations of robots could best traverse the slopes. Once it has worked out how to assemble the robots into a single machine the drone has to communicate the plan to the swarm using a protocol based on the colored lights they all have. The ground robots adopt a random color and the drone selects the one it wants to communicate with by displaying the same color. They then repeat the process until only one robot has been selected i.e the drone follows the color changes of the selected robot. Of course if you don't like the idea of human drones flying over your head you may not be happy about robots getting in on the act as well..." Original paper

Some Smart Meters Broadcast Readings in the Clear 138

alphadogg writes "University of South Carolina have discovered that some types of electricity meter are broadcasting unencrypted information that, with the right software, would enable eavesdroppers to determine whether you're at home. The meters, called AMR (automatic meter reading) in the utility industry, are a first-generation smart meter technology and they are installed in one third of American homes and businesses. They are intended to make it easy for utilities to collect meter readings. Instead of requiring access to your home, workers need simply drive or walk by a house with a handheld terminal and the current meter reading can be received." Perhaps more distressing, given trends in 4th amendment interpretation, I bet the transmissions are open game for law enforcement.

Microsoft-Built Smartphone Could Irritate Hardware Partners, Harm Nokia 100

Nerval's Lobster writes "Rumors have circulated for weeks that Microsoft intends to release a smartphone of its own design and manufacture, embracing the strategy that drove Apple's iPhone to such enormous success over the past few years. While releasing a branded smartphone offers several potential benefits—look at the revenue and brand recognition Apple's earned as a result of the iPhone—such a strategy also carries significant risks for Microsoft. First, it could alienate smartphone partners such as Nokia, which would find itself competing against a high-end device backed by Microsoft's sizable marketing dollars. (Given the Finnish phone-maker's already perilous situation, that could prove ruinous.) But a branded smartphone could also convince hardware manufacturers that Microsoft really is 'all in' on building its own devices, which could lead to all sorts of drama."

A Piezoelectric Pacemaker That Is Powered By Your Heartbeat 84

MrSeb writes "Engineers at the University of Michigan have created a pacemaker that is powered by the beating of your heart — no batteries required. The technology behind this new infinite-duration pacemaker is piezoelectricity. Piezoelectricity is is literally 'pressure electricity,' and it relates to certain materials that generate tiny amounts of electricity when deformed by an external force — which, in the case of the perpetual pacemaker, the vibrations in your chest as your heart pumps blood around your body. Piezoelectric devices generate very small amounts of power — on the order of tens of milliwatts — but it turns out that pacemakers require very little power. In testing, the researchers' energy harvester generated 10 times the required the power to keep a pacemaker firing. Currently, pacemakers are battery powered — and the battery generally need to be replaced every few years, which requires surgery. According M. Amin Karami, the lead researcher, 'Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years,' he said. 'You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.' This piezoelectric energy harvester is about half the size of a conventional battery, too, which is presumably a good thing."

Software Uses Almost 1/2 the Storage On 32GB Surface Tablet 471

First time accepted submitter jigamo writes "Microsoft's newly released Surface tablets are available in 32 and 64 GB capacities. The company has disclosed how much of that space is available to the user. After taking into account Windows RT, Microsoft Office, built-in apps, and Windows recovery tools, nearly 13 GB of the available space is eliminated from user accessible storage. Microsoft's recommendations for adding additional capacity are to use cloud storage, a memory card, or a USB storage device."
Data Storage

Intel DC S3700 SSD Features New Proprietary Controller 54

crookedvulture writes "For the first time in more than four years, Intel is rolling out a new SSD controller. The chip is featured in the DC S3700 solid-state drive, an enterprise-oriented offering that's 40% cheaper than the previous generation. The S3700 has 6Gbps SATA connectivity, end-to-end data protection, LBA tag validation, 256-bit AES encryption, and ECC throughout. It also includes onboard capacitors to prevent against data loss due to power failure; if problems with those capacitors are detected by the drive's self-check mechanism, it can disable the write cache. Intel's own high-endurance MLC NAND can be found in the drive, which is rated for 10 full disk writes per day for five years. Prices start at $235 for the 100GB model, and capacities are available up to 800GB. In addition to 2.5" models, there are also a couple of 1.8" ones for blade servers. The DC S3700 is sampling now, with mass production scheduled for the first quarter of 2013."

Sharp Warns That It Might Collapse 284

angry tapir writes "Japan's Sharp, a major supplier of LCD displays to Apple and other manufacturers, has warned that it may not survive if it can't turn around its business. The Osaka-based manufacturer said there is "material doubt" about its ability to continue operating in its earnings report filed Thursday. Sharp added, however, that it still believes it can cut costs and secure enough credit to survive. Its IGZO technology for mobile displays is likely to be a key element of its business strategy."

MIT Research Tweaks Smartphone Amplifier Voltage To Gain Battery Life 47

hypnosec writes "Two MIT electrical engineering professors, Joel Dawson and David Perreault, have claimed that they have cracked the age old efficiency problem related to the power amplifier in smartphones by designing a new amplifier that consumes just half the power as compared to their current counterparts. Current transistor-based power amplifiers consume power in two modes – standby and output signal mode. The only way to reduce power consumption and increase battery life is to use the least possible power when in standby mode. The problem here is that if the power is kept very low when in standby mode, because of sudden jumps from low-power standby mode to high-power output mode, signals get distorted. This is why current technologies waste a lot of electricity as standby power levels are kept at a relatively higher level to avoid distortion. The new technology, dubbed asymmetric multilevel outphasing, is basically a blazingly fast electronic gearbox that would select the best possible voltage to send across to the transistors that would minimize power consumption."

Shanghai Hosts Its First Maker Carnival 20

First time accepted submitter spanner888 writes "The first Shanghai Maker Carnival was held this weekend in conjunction with a Creation Exhibition, an arts and crafts expo with about 200 exhibitors. Makers attended from Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen and visitors came from around China. More photos are in this post, and videos in this one. Other photos can be found in this thread." I like the video that appears to show a smartphone's camera being used as the basis of an input device for a laptop; can anyone out there better explain it?

How To Build a Supercomputer In 24 Hours Screenshot-sm 161

An anonymous reader writes with a link to this "time lapse video of students and postdocs at the University of Zurich constructing the zBox4 supercomputer. The machine has a theoretical compute capacity of ~1% of the human brain and will be used for simulating the formation of stars, planets and galaxies." That rack has "3,072 2.2GHz Intel Xeon cores and over 12TB of RAM." Also notable: for once, several of the YouTube comments are worth reading for more details on the construction and specs.

Solar Panel Breaks "Third of a Sun" Efficiency Barrier 237

Zothecula writes "Embattled photovoltaic solar power manufacturer Amonix announced on Tuesday that it has broken the solar module efficiency record, becoming the first manufacturer to convert more than a third of incoming light energy into electricity – a goal once branded 'one third of a sun' in a Department of Energy initiative. The Amonix module clocked an efficiency rating of 33.5 percent."

iPhone Interface For Ham Radio Mates Old With New 51

jjp9999 writes "By using the same technology found in older modems, Thomas Tumino, vice president of the Hall of Science Amateur Radio Club, has invented an iPhone interface for ham radios. He told The Epoch Times, 'Today there are iPhone apps where you can use the systems in the phone — and its sound card, which is being used as a modem ... And then you connect that into your radio with an interface like this, that just isolates the telephone from the radio, and then you can do all sorts of things.'"

Con Ed Says NYC Datacenters Should Get Power Saturday 107

Nerval's Lobster writes "The local utility serving most of the New York City area, Con Edison, reported that it should begin supplying utility power to midtown and lower Manhattan by Saturday evening, returning the island's data centers and citizens to some semblance of normalcy. In the past few days, data center managers have been forced to add fuel logistics to their list of responsibilities, as most Manhattan data centers have been subsisting on generator power. That should come to an end, for the most part, when utility power is restored. In a possibly worrying note, Verizon warned late on Nov. 1 that its services to business customers could be impacted due to lack of fuel."

Why Does a Voting Machine Need Calibration? 398

New submitter Shotgun writes "I heard on the radio that there were some issues with voting machines in Greensboro, NC (my hometown), and the story said the machines just needed "recalibration". Which made me ask, "WTF? Why does a machine for choosing between one of a few choices need 'calibration'?" This story seems to explain the issue."

Microsoft Reportedly Working On Its Own Smartphone 215

According to a (paywalled) report in the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is experimenting with its own smartphone design. "Officials at some of Microsoft's parts suppliers, who declined to be named, said the Redmond, Wash.-based company is testing a smartphone design but isn't sure if a product will go into mass production." The article continues: "If Microsoft pushes ahead with its mobile phone, it would underscore how far Microsoft has moved away from its long-standing practice of making software and leaving decisions about design, features and marketing of the computing hardware to partners such as Hewlett-Packard or Samsung Electronics. ... As it does so, Microsoft pulls from a modified playbook of Apple—whose hardware-plus-software approach Microsoft officials long have scorned. ... Smartphones running Microsoft's two-year-old Windows Phone operating software for cellphones haven't sold well, and Microsoft may want to leave itself an option to test whether its own phone would spur sales."

VR Tech Lets People Interact With Rats 33

cylonlover writes "The EU Commission's Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) is working on a 'beaming' telepresence system that is designed to allow users to virtually experience being in a remote location by seeing, hearing and even feeling that location through the sensory inputs of a robot located there. That robot, in turn, would relay the user's speech and movements to the people at that location. Now, two of the CORDIS partners have put an interesting slant on the technology – they've used it to let people interact with rats."

Crushed Silicon Triples Life of Li-Ion Batteries In the Lab 123

derekmead writes "Batteries rule everything around us, which makes breakthroughs a big deal. A research team at Rice says they have produced a nice jump: by using a crushed silicon anode in a lithium-ion battery, they claim to have nearly tripled the energy density of current li-ion designs. Engineer Sibani Lisa Biswal and research scientist Madhuri Thakur reported in Nature's Scientific Reports (it has yet to be published online) that by taking porous silicon and crushing it, they were able to dramatically decrease the volume required for anode material. Silicon has long been looked at as an anode material because it holds up to ten times more lithium ions than graphite, which is most commonly used commercially. But it's previously been difficult to create a silicon anode with enough surface area to cycle reliably. Silicon also expands when it's lithiated, making it harder to produce a dense anode material. After previously testing a porous silicon 'sponge,' the duo decided to try crushing the sponges to make them more compact. The result is a new battery design that holds a charge of 1,000 milliamp hours per gram through 600 tested charge cycles of two hours charging, two hours discharging. According to the team, current graphite anodes can only handle 350 mAh/g."
Input Devices

The Evolution of the Computer Keyboard 201

Lucas123 writes "As anyone who's typed on a virtual keyboard — or yelled at a voice-control app like Siri — can attest, no current text input holds a candle to a traditional computer keyboard. From the reed switch keyboards of the early '70s to the buckling spring key mechanism that drove IBM's popular PC keyboards for years to ThinTouch technology that will have about half the travel of a MacBook Air's keys, the technology that drove data entry for decades isn't likely to go anywhere anytime soon. This article takes a look back on five decades of keyboard development and where it's likely to go in the future."

Volcano Power Plan Gets US Go-Ahead 114

cylonlover writes "Having successfully negotiated the challenging regulatory slopes of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a host of Oregon state agencies, the Newberry Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) demonstration project is in the process of creating a new geothermal reservoir in central Oregon. The core of the new reservoir is a two mile (3.2 km) deep well drilled about four miles (6.4 km) from the center of Newberry Volcano. The rock surrounding the wellbore reaches temperatures in the order of 600 F (300 C), and is nearly impermeable to water. That, however, is about to change. Newberry Volcano is one of the largest and youngest volcanoes in the United States. Having last erupted about 1,300 years ago, it consists of over 400 individual volcanic vents, which, when combined, form a broad mounded landform referred to as a shield volcano. The Newberry EGS Demonstration geothermal reservoir is being formed in the high-temperature, low-permeability deep lava of the volcano's northwest flank."