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New Threat To Seaside Nuclear Plants, Datacenters: Jellyfish 123

Nerval's Lobster writes "One of the largest nuclear-power plants in the world was forced to shut down temporarily Sept. 29, after pipes that bring Baltic Sea water in to cool the plant's turbines became clogged with tons of jellyfish. The sudden influx of common moon jellyfish overwhelmed the screens and filters that keep flotsam and most sea life out of the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in southeastern Sweden. The plant was forced to shut down its No. 3 reactor – the largest boiling-water reactor in the world, which generates 1,400 megawatts of electricity when it is jellyfish-free and running at full power. The reactor stayed down until early Oct. 1, after the jellyfish had been cleared out and engineers approved the cooling system as invertebrate-free. It's not easy to overwhelm the cooling system for a nuclear power plant, but Oskarshamn's is unusually resilient. There is a separate intake- and cooling system for each reactor, all of which were designed for the brackish, polluted water in that area of the Baltic Sea. Most datacenters are too far inland to worry about jellyfish in their cooling water, though green-IT-promoters Vertatique estimated that a 5,000-sq.-ft. datacenter would consume almost 9 million gallons of water for cooling. That means ocean-side datacenters that use sea water for cooling (such as Google's datacenter in Hamina, Finland — also on the Baltic Sea) are just as susceptible to jellyfish attacks as nuclear power plants."

Bypassing US GPS Limits For Active Guided Rockets 126

Kristian von Bengtson writes with a link to a short guest post at Wired with an explanation of how his amateur rocket organization Copenhagen Suborbitals managed to obtain GPS receivers without U.S. military limits for getting accurate GPS information at altitude. Mostly, the answer is in recent relaxations of the rules themselves, but it was apparently still challenging to obtain non-limited GPS hardware. "I expect they only got the OK to create this software modification for us," von Bengston writes, "since we are clearly a peaceful organization with not sinister objectives – and also in a very limited number of units. Basically removing the limits is a matter of getting into the hardware changing the code or get the manufacturers to do it. Needless to say, diplomacy and trust is the key to unlock this."
Input Devices

Captain Cyborg Is Back! Kevin Warwick Predicts the Future 57

richi writes "Kevin Warwick: His name raises extremes of opinion. For more than a decade, this highly controversial cybernetics professor has been making waves. His high-profile experiments — and even higher-profile claim that he's the first living cyborg — earned him column inches and unflattering nicknames. In this Forbes interview, 'Captain Cyborg' talks about exploding motorcycles, wireless power, and fish and chips."

Students Build Ship Inspecting Robot 47

First time accepted submitter Hallie Siegel writes "A team of students from ETH Zurich and ZHdK have developed a prototype for a robotic ship inspection unit that is capable of conducting visual inspections of ship ballasts. Ballast inspection – which involves navigating hard-to-reach spots with no line of sight, often in the presence of intense heat, humidity, and hazardous gases – is normally done by human inspectors, and represents a significant cost to ship-owners who must pay for dry-docking and who face lost income when they cannot operate their ships during the inspection period. Because robotic ship inspection can occur while the ship is in operation, it could significantly reduce dry-dock time. The Ship Inspection Robot (SIR), which was developed in conjunction with Alstom Inspection Robotics and which uses magnetic wheels to navigate the I-beams and other awkward obstacles found inside ship ballast, is relatively compact and does not require any cables for power or communication, and thus offers significant mobility improvements over other robotic ship inspection prototypes. Project leaders anticipate that a per unit production cost could be as low as €4K, enabling shipping companies to operate several units in parallel as an additional time-saving measure."
Input Devices

Video The Difference Between Film and Digital Photography (Video) 182

Sally Wiener Grotta and her husband Daniel wrote some of the first books and articles about digital photography. Sally was an award-winning photographer in film days, and has maintained her reputation in the digital imaging age. In this interview, she talks about how to buy a digital camera -- including the radical idea that most people really don't need to spend more than $200 to take quality photos. (We had some bandwidth problems while doing this remote interview, but the sound is clear so we decided to run it "as is" rather than try to remake the video and lose the original's spontaneity.)
The Almighty Buck

Central New York Nuclear Plants Struggle To Avoid Financial Meltdown 270

mdsolar writes "As recently as four years ago, nuclear power companies were planning to spend billions of dollars to build a new reactor in Oswego County, alongside three existing nuclear plants. Then the bottom fell out. Natural gas-burning power plants that benefit from a glut of cheap gas produced by hydrofracking cut wholesale electricity prices in half. Now the outlook for nuclear power plants is so bleak that Wall Street analysts say one or more Upstate nuclear plants could go out of business if conditions don't change. Two Upstate nukes in particular — the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County and the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in nearby Wayne County — are high on the watch list of plants that industry experts say are at risk of closing for economic reasons."

EU Committee Votes To Make All Smartphone Vendors Utilize a Standard Charger 415

Deathspawner writes "The EU has been known to make a lot of odd decisions when it comes to tech, but one committee's latest vote is one that most people will likely agree with: Standardized smartphone chargers. If passed, this decision would cut down on never having the right charger handy, but as far as the EU is concerned, this is all about a reduction of waste. The initial vote went down on Thursday, and given its market saturation, it seems likely that micro USB would be the target standard. Now, it's a matter of waiting on the EU Parliament to make its vote."

Robotic Boat Hits 1,000-Mile Mark In Transatlantic Crossing 68

toygeek writes "'Scout,' a 4-meter-long autonomous boat built by a group of young DIYers, is attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It is traveling from Rhode Island, where it launched on 24 August, to Spain, where all being well it will arrive in a few months' time. Scout has now gone about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of its planned 3,700-mile (5,900 kilometer) journey. Should it complete this voyage successfully, its passage will arguably belong in the history books."
Input Devices

What Valve's Announcements Mean for Gaming 182

Now that we have the full picture of Valve's efforts to bring PC gaming to the living room (SteamOS, dedicated hardware, and a fresh controller design), people are starting to analyze what those efforts will mean for gaming, and what Valve must do to be successful. Eurogamer's Oli Welsh points out that even if Steam Machines aren't able to take the market away from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, they put us a step closer to the final console generation. "Valve has hopefully sidestepped the most depressing aspect of console gaming: the enforced obsolescence that makes you consign your entire games collection to a dusty cupboard every five years." GamesRadar notes that Valve's approach is fundamentally different from that of the current console manufacturers because it's about putting more power into the hands of the users. "The takeaway from SteamOS, then, is that openness breeds innovation. Valve's putting the very source code of its operating system in the hands of everyone who wants it just to see what happens. Comparatively, Microsoft is pushing its Windows Store, turning Windows into an increasingly closed platform (i.e. one that charges costly development licensing fees and restricts access to certain content providers)." Everyone's curious to see how the controller will perform, so Gamasutra and Kotaku reached out to a number of game developers who have experimented with prototypes already. "[Dan Tabar of indie studio Data Realms] said the configuration map for the controller allows you to do 'pretty much anything.' For example, developers can slice up a pad into quarters, each one representing a different input, or even into eight radial sections, again, each section representing whatever you want, mapping to key combinations, or to the mouse." Tommy Refenes, co-creator of Super Meat Boy, wrote an in-depth description of his experience with the device. He summed up his reaction by saying, "Great Start, needs some improvements, but I could play any game I wanted with it just fine."
Input Devices

Valve Announces Steam Controller 317

Today Valve unveiled their third and final announcement about living room gaming: a Steam controller. The company made the determination that existing gamepads simply weren't good enough for bringing PC games to the living room, so they made their own. Instead of having directional pads or thumb sticks, the Steam controller has two circular trackpads. The trackpads are also clickable, and Valve claims they provide much higher fidelity than any previous controller trackpad. Valve also eschewed the traditional 'rumble' feedback mechanism: "The Steam Controller is built around a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback, employing dual linear resonant actuators. These small, strong, weighted electro-magnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads. They are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement." The center of the controller holds a clickable touchscreen. "When programmed by game developers using our API, the touch screen can work as a scrolling menu, a radial dial, provide secondary info like a map or use other custom input modes we haven't thought of yet." The design also breaks up the common diamond-shaped button layout, instead putting the A B X Y buttons at the corners of the touchscreen. The controller is designed to be hackable, and Valve will "make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering." The controller is being beta tested concurrently with the Steam Machines they announced on Wednesday, so you can expect them to be on sale in 2014.

Tesco: 3D Printing Will Come To Supermarkets 'Within a Few Years' 81

TinTops writes "The IT chief of supermarket giant Tesco has said he believes there is a market for 3D printing in large supermarkets, and that it will be 'good for customers.' Mike McNamara told V3: 'I think it will help Tesco as a company, I don't think it will be a bad thing. It'll be a great thing for customers, we'll have 3D printing in our stores. As retailers you'll always adapt. So new things come along — the internet came along, we adapted to that one. We kind of have the internet version two with smartphones now, which has been a bigger impact than the wired internet, we'll adapt to that, we'll adapt to 3D printing, we'll adapt to RFID. You live, you change.' McNamara thinks 3D printers will be commonplace in stores before they start showing up in significant numbers at people's homes. This could 'give shoppers a new reason to visit shops for quick access to niche items.'"

Microsoft Shows Off Its Vision For Gesture-Controlled PCs 139

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has demoed a prototype gesture-controlled PC using an augmented version of its Kinect motion sensing system. The rig detects 16 gestures and can be used to navigate Windows 8. Microsoft said it wants gestures to complement what is possible using mouse and keyboard, rather than replacing them, and the system favors simple gestures made just above the keyboard, rather than more elaborate Minority Report-style gestures. '[A] window is maximized by clenching a fist to "grab" it and then opening the hand while moving towards the top of the keyboard. Performing the same series of gestures in reverse minimize the window. Repeating the gesture while moving the hand to the left or right edge of the keyboard docks the window with the left or right edge of the screen. The same series of gestures while moving the hand to the top left and right corners of the keyboard will throw the window to the left or right of screen, but not dock it with the edge. Bringing hands together in the middle of the keyboard and then moving them to the keyboard's left and right edge with palms down and fingers splayed will show the desktop. Repeating the gesture restores the original view.'"

New Solar Cell Sets Record For Energy Efficiency 165

Lucas123 writes "After three years of work, German and French researchers have achieved a new world record on converting sunlight to energy through a photovoltaic cell, achieving a 44.7% rate of efficiency, which was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. The efficiency rating means the solar cell collects 44.7% of the sun's spectrum's energy, from ultraviolet to the infrared spectrum, which is converted into electrical energy. The team of researchers said the technology places them on the path to achieving their roadmap of 50% efficiency in solar energy conversion."

Malware Now Hiding In Graphics Cards 125

mask.of.sanity writes "Researchers are closing in on a means to detect previously undetectable stealthy malware that resides in peripherals like graphics and network cards. The malware was developed by the same researchers and targeted host runtime memory using direct memory access provided to hardware devices. They said the malware was a 'highly critical threat to system security and integrity' and could not be detected by any operating system."
Open Source

Video The MinnowBoard is a Low-Cost, Open Hardware Single-Board Computer (Video) 84

Out in the Northeast Texas town of Ft. Worth, a company called CircuitCo started making something they called the BeagleBoard -- an open source hardware single-board computer for educators and experimenters. Now, with help and support from Intel, they're making and supporting the Atom-based MinnowBoard, which is also open source, and comes with Angstrom Linux to help experimenters get started with it. David Anders is the Senior Embedded Systems Engineer at CircuitCo. Slashdot's Timothy Lord met David at LinuxCon North America 2013 in New Orleans and made this video of him talking about the recently-released MinnowBoard and the more mature BeagleBoard.

Undiscovered Country of HFT: FPGA JIT Ethernet Packet Assembly 452

michaelmalak writes "In a technique that reminds me of the just-in-time torpedo engineering of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a company called Argon Design has "developed a high performance trading system" that puts an FPGA — and FPGA-based trading algorithms — right in the Ethernet switch. And it isn't just to cut down on switch/computer latency — they actually start assembling and sending out the start of an Ethernet packet simultaneously with receiving and decoding incoming price quotation Ethernet packets, and decide on the fly what to put in the outgoing buy/sell Ethernet packet. They call these techniques 'inline parsing' and 'pre-emption.'"

AMD Unveils New Family of GPUs: Radeon R5, R7, R9 With BF 4 Preorder Bundle 188

MojoKid writes "AMD has just announced a full suite of new GPUs based on its Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. The Radeon R5, R7, and R9 families are the new product lines aimed at mainstream, performance, and high-end gaming, respectively. Specs on the new cards are still limited, but we know that the highest-end R9 290X is a six-billion transistor GPU with more than 300GB/s of memory bandwidth and prominent support for 4K gaming. The R5 series will start at $89, with 1GB of RAM. The R7 260X will hit $139 with 2GB of RAM, the R9 270X and 280X appear to replace the current Radeon 7950 and 7970 with price points at $199 and $299, and 2GB/3GB of RAM, and then the R9 290X, at an unannounced price point and 4GB of RAM. AMD is also offering a limited preorder pack, that offers Battlefield 4 license combined with the graphics cards, which should go on sale in the very near future. Finally, AMD is also debuting a new positional and 3D spatial audio engine in conjunction with GenAudio dubbed 'AstoundSound,' but they're only making it available on the R9 290X, R9 280X, and the R9 270X."

Valve Announces Hardware Beta Test For 'Steam Machine' 271

Valve's second major living-room-gaming announcement landed today: they have produced a prototype model of their first "Steam Machine." They've made 300 units, and they'll be sending the machines to users in a very limited beta test. Valve hastens to add that this device isn't the only Steam-focused hardware: "Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world. We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS." They haven't released specs, but they guaranteed the prototypes will ship this year. They explicitly permit using it in any way — swapping parts, changing the OS, installing any software, etc. "The specific machine we're testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimize for size, price, quietness, or other factors."

Amazon Launches Kindle Fire HDX Tablets 88

New submitter casab1anca writes "In classic Amazon fashion, without much fanfare, a bunch of new tablets just popped up on their homepage today. The new range, dubbed HDX, is available in the usual 8.9" and 7" versions, with improved hardware and software, but perhaps equally interesting is the revamped 7" Fire HD from last year, which goes for just $139 now." Compared to the Kindle Fire HD, the new models feature a jump in display density (216 PPI to 323 PPI for the 7" and 254 to 339 PPI for the 9"), a switch from a dual-core TI OMAP Cortex-A9 (at 1.2/1.5GHz) to a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon, and a bump from 1G to 2G of RAM. On the software side, Android has been upgraded from 4.0 to 4.2.2 and Amazon added a few new features to their applications. Businessweek has an interview with Jeff Bezos running today too (starting a bit down the first page).