walterbyrd writes "Late last year, a vigorous and secretive patent troll began sending out thousands of letters to small businesses all around the country, insisting that they owed between $900 and $1,200 per worker just for using scanners. The brazen patent-trolling scheme, carried out by a company called MPHJ technologies and dozens of shell companies with six-letter names, has caught the attention of politicians. MPHJ and its principals may have gone too far. They're now the subject of a government lawsuit targeting patent trolling—the first ever such case. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell has filed suit in his home state, saying that MPHJ is violating Vermont consumer-protection laws."
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1sockchuck writes "Robotics are beginning to be integrated into data center management, creating the potential for a fully automated, robot-driven data center. What might a robot-controlled 'lights-out' data center look like? The racks will be taller, as robotics systems can reach higher to manage servers. Robotic equipment would be mounted on rails that allow them to find and move hardware. Early examples of this are seen in tape libraries, but the concepts could be applied to other data center equipment. Amazon and Google are said to be among those looking at ways to create a fully automated data center. AOL says it has already built an unmanned data center. Data Center Knowledge looks at the challenges and opportunities in robot-controlled data centers, including how staff roles would evolve."
An anonymous reader writes "Despite warnings that a cyberattack could cripple the nation's power supply, a U.S. Congressional report (PDF) finds that power companies' efforts to protect the power grid are insufficient. Attacks are apparently commonplace, with one utility claiming they fight off some 10,000 attempted attacks every month. The report also found that while most power companies are complying with mandatory standards for protection, few do much else above and beyond that to protect the grid. 'For example, NERC has established both mandatory standards and voluntary measures to protect against the computer worm known as Stuxnet. Of those that responded, 91% of IOUs [Investor-Owned Utilities], 83% of municipally- or cooperatively-owned utilities, and 80% of federal entities that own major pieces of the bulk power system reported compliance with the Stuxnet mandatory standards. By contrast, of those that responded to a separate question regarding compliance with voluntary Stuxnet measures, only 21% of IOUs, 44% of municipally- or cooperatively-owned utilities, and 62.5% of federal entities reported compliance.'"
Just a few weeks after Cody Wilson and friends successfully fired an instance of their own 3-D printed handgun design, Sparrowvsrevolution writes, "a couple of Wisconsin hobbyist gunsmiths have already managed to adapt Defense Distributed's so-called Liberator firearm and print it on a $1,725 Lulzbot 3D printer, a consumer grade machine that's far cheaper than the industrial quality Stratasys machine Defense Distributed used. They then proceeded to record their cheaper gun (dubbed the 'Lulz Liberator') firing nine .380 rounds without any signs of cracking or melting. Eight of the rounds were fired from a single plastic barrel. (Defense Distributed only fired one through its prototype.) In total, the Lulz Liberator's materials cost around $25 and were printed over just 48 hours."
riverat1 writes "After being embarrassed when the Europeans did a better job forecasting Sandy than the National Weather Service Congress allocated $25 million ($23.7 after sequestration) in the Sandy relief bill for upgrades to forecasting and supercomputer resources. The NWS announced that their main forecasting computer will be upgraded from the current 213 TeraFlops to 2,600 TFlops by fiscal year 2015, over a twelve-fold increase. The upgrade is expected to increase the horizontal grid scale by a factor of 3 allowing more precise forecasting of local features of weather. The some of the allocated funds will also be used to hire some contract scientists to improve the forecast model physics and enhance the collection and assimilation of data."
b1tbkt writes "So it seems that furniture manufacturers have not yet acknowledged the realities of modern life. Kitchen tables could benefit greatly from built-in concealable receptacles. Even more obvious is the need for electrical wiring in couches and coffee tables. I realize that there are safety (fire) concerns but as it stands most families that I know already have power cords for laptops, tables and phones draped over, under and through their couches at any given point. If someone wanted to wire their furniture with AC or some type of standardized LV DC system, what are some dangers to watch for and what, if any, specialized hardware exists for the purpose?"
With the kind of cagey phrasing found in many such electronics approval applications, Google describes a device that some are taking to be the successor to its discontinued Nexus Q thus: "The device functions as a media player." From the article: "Some of the specs of the device includes a 2.4GHz WiFi b/g/n connectivity. The FCC report does not contain test photos so we do not know what the device looks like. It is likely that the H840 will support Google Play Music All Access and will have similar functionality as a Sonos media player that can be connected to external speakers."
New submitter GoJays writes "An 18-year-old from Saratoga, California has won an international science fair for creating an energy storage device that can be fully juiced in 20 to 30 seconds. The fast-charging device is a so-called supercapacitor, a gizmo that can pack a lot of energy into a tiny space, charges quickly and holds its charge for a long time. What's more, it can last for 10,000 charge-recharge cycles, compared with 1,000 cycles for conventional rechargeable batteries, according to the inventor Eesha Khare." This one in particular has been used so far only to power an LED, rather than a phone or laptop, but I hope in a few years near-instant charging of portable electronics will be the norm as supercapacitors grow more common.
Nerval's Lobster writes that a survey from the Uptime Institute "suggests something it calls 'green fatigue' is setting in when it comes to making data centers greener. 'Green fatigue' is exactly as it sounds: managers are getting tired of the increasingly difficult race to chop their PUE, or Power Usage Effectiveness. The PUE is a measure of a data center's efficiency. The lower the PUE, the better — and Microsoft and Google, with nearly limitless resources, have set the bar so high (or low, depending on your perspective) that it's making less-capitalized firms frustrated. Just a few years ago, the Uptime Institute estimated that the average PUE of a data center was around 2.4, which meant for every dollar of electricity to power a data center, $1.4 dollars were spent to cool it. That dropped to 1.8 recently, an improvement to be sure. But then you have companies such as Google and Microsoft building data centers next to rivers for cheap hydroelectric power in remote parts of the Pacific Northwest and reporting insanely low PUEs (below 1.1 in some cases). The Institute latest survey of data center operators shows only 50 percent of respondents in North America said they considered energy efficiency to be very important to their companies, down from 52 percent last year and 58 percent in 2011."
mikejuk writes "The new Arduino robot looks a bit like a robot vacuum cleaner, but it has a lot more going for it and it certainly doesn't suck — well not unless you add an air pump to it. As always, the Arduino Robot is completely open source and comes as an easy to assemble kit involving no soldering, just some plugging in of components. It consists of two circular boards, 19cm in diameter, each with its own Arduino controller. They fit together to create a stack about 10cm tall. The bottom board has two wheels and motors which allow it to move in any direction. The top board contains lots of sensors and a central display. The two communicate via a serial connection. There is also a lot of space for expansion. There is a new library which can be downloaded to help write programs for this fairly sophisticated robot. There is only one big problem with the Arduino robot — you can't buy one at the moment. If you really can't wait, until early July when they should start shipping from the Arduino shop and from distributors, then you will have to get to the Maker Faire San Mateo (May 17-19) where they are being demonstrated and sold."
New submitter TheJish writes "The RPiCluster is a 33-node Beowulf cluster built using Raspberry Pis (RPis). The RPiCluster is a little side project I worked on over the last couple months as part of my dissertation work at Boise State University. I had need of a cluster to run a distributed simulator I've been developing. The RPiCluster is the result. I've written an informal document on why I built the RPiCluster, how it was built, and how it performs as compared to other platforms. I also put together a YouTube video of it running an MPI parallel program I created to demo the RGB LEDs installed on each node as part of the build. While there have certainly been larger RPi clusters put together recently, I figured the Slashdot community might be interested in this build as I believe it is a novel approach to the rack mounting and power management of RPis."
First time accepted submitter Sabine Hauert writes in with news about a robotic bartending system called Makr Shakr. "You're at a busy bar. You order your personalized cocktail through a smart phone app; a drink dispenser measures out the beverage according to your instructions and a Kuka robotic arm give it a shake (or stir), while another garnishes it with a slice of lemon; the made-to-order concoction is delivered to your waiting hand via a slick little ten-lane conveyor belt. The 'mixology system' tracks your order from start to finish: a large display behind the bar shows you the number of drinks ahead of yours in the queue, the current wait time, and lets you know when your drink is ready to be picked up. It also shows you what's popular to drink tonight among both the ladies and the gents in the crowd, and lets you influence drinking trends in real-time by incorporating your suggested tweaks on popular recipes."
MojoKid writes "AMD is announcing its Radeon HD 8970M. The mobile GPU is based on a design that has a few small feature changes that have led it to be unofficially labeled a Graphics Core Next (GCN) 1.1 part versus AMD's previous gen GCN 1.0 technology. AMD claims that the Radeon HD 8970M is significantly faster than NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680M in a variety of tests, but high-end laptops that use AMD hardware are harder to find these days."
Google's I/O annual conference is ramping up at San Francisco's Moscone Center. Last year, in the conference keynote, the company took its biggest-yet dive into hardware when it introduced the Nexus 7 tablet, Google Glass, and the ill-fated Nexus Q. The secret is out on Glass, of course: this year, there's a pavilion inside the conference center where I'm sure they'll be showing off applications for it. (Quite a few of the people in the endless lines here are wearing their own, too.) Anticipating the announcements at I/O is practically its own industry, but it's easy to guess that there will be announcements from all the major pots in which Google has its many thousands of (tapping) fingers. Android, search, Chrome, mapping, and all the other ways in which the behemoth of Mountain View is watching what you do. You can watch the keynote talk (talks, really) streamed online from the main conference link above, but this story will be updated with highlights of the announcements, as well with stories that readers contribute. Update: 05/15 16:22 GMT by T : Updates below. Update: 05/15 19:02 GMT by T :Update details: Notes (ongoing) added below on maps, gaming, the Play store, Google+, and more. And, notable, Larry Page is (at this writing) on stage, with an unannounced Q & A session.
mattOzan writes "When data centers first opened in the 1990s, the tenants paid for space to plug in their servers with a proviso that electricity would be available. As computing power has soared, so has the need for electricity, turning that relationship on its head: electrical capacity is often the central element of lease agreements, and space is secondary. While lease arrangements are often written in the language of real estate, they are essentially power deals. 'Since tenants on average tend to contract for around twice the power they need, Mr. Tazbaz said, those data centers can effectively charge double what they are paying for that power. Generally, the sale or resale of power is subject to a welter of regulations and price controls. For regulated utilities, the average "return on equity" — a rough parallel to profit margins — was 9.25 percent to 9.7 percent for 2010 through 2012.'"
redletterdave writes "The FAA predicts 30,000 drones will patrol the US skies by 2020, but New Jersey drivers could see these unmanned aerial vehicles hovering above the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway much sooner than that. New Jersey lawmakers from both Republican and Democratic parties have introduced a number of bills to tackle the drones issue before the federal government starts issuing the first domestic drone permits in September 2015."
kkleiner writes "The first NeuroGaming Conference and Expo took place at the beginning of May to showcase the convergent technologies that are paving the way toward gaming with your mind. Tech news has been dominated with stories about Google Glass and the Oculus Rift, which was on display for attendees to test out. Other technologies that utilize EEG are opening up possibilities of a controller-free gaming experience into virtual realities with unlimited potential. 'Deeper questions surrounding the morality of neurogames will be sure to stir debate. As virtual reality technology inches closer to lifelike resolution, should gamers simulate themselves as characters engaged in acts of violence or criminal activity? It’s unpredictable what these games could uncover about the user as neurogames gain insight into a users’ psyche and how they respond to stimuli at a subconscious level. For instance, a game could uncover how its user particularly enjoys shooting at civilians in gameplay. Games might even become expert at diagnosing psychiatric disorders. As computers become exponentially more powerful, game resolution could fully mimic our ever-present reality.'"
mask.of.sanity writes "While Hollywood often fails to portray hacking, one researcher has made the art of exploitation look more like the big screen. Kinectasploit is hacking in the form of a first-person shooter that melds Microsoft's Kinect controls with 20 hacking tools including Metasploit, Snort, Nessus, John the Ripper and Ettercap. The work in progress can be downloaded from github."
MojoKid writes "For the past decade, AMD and Intel have been racing each other to incorporate more components into the CPU die. Memory controllers, integrated GPUs, northbridges, and southbridges have all moved closer to a single package, known as SoCs (system-on-a-chip). Now, with Haswell, Intel is set to integrate another important piece of circuitry. When it launches next month, Haswell will be the first x86 CPU to include an on-die voltage regulator module, or VRM. Haswell incorporates a refined VRM on-die that allows for multiple voltage rails and controls voltage for the CPU, on-die GPU, system I/O, integrated memory controller, as well as several other functions. Intel refers to this as a FIVR (Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator), and it apparently eliminates voltage ripple and is significantly more efficient than your traditional motherboard VRM. Added bonus? It's 1/50th the size." Update: 05/14 01:22 GMT by U L : Reader AdamHaun comments: "They already have a test chip that they used to power a ~90W Xeon E7330 for four hours while it ran Linpack. ... Voltage ripple is less than 2mV. Peak efficiency per cell looks like ~76% at 8A. They claim hitting 82% would be easy..." and links to a presentation on the integrated VRM (PDF).
Nate the greatest writes "It looks like those 4 month old rumors are true. Amazon has confirmed today that they have bought Liquavista, a Netherlands based screen tech company. There's no info yet on how much Amazon paid to Samsung, but previous rumors suggested that the asking price was under $100 million. Amazon also isn't talking about how they plan to use the electrowetting screen tech, but many are assuming that a Color Kindle is in the works."