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Next-Gen Intel Chip Brings Big Gains For Floating-Point Apps 176

An anonymous reader writes "Tom's Hardware has published a lengthy article and a set of benchmarks on the new "Haswell" CPUs from Intel. It's just a performance preview, but it isn't just more of the same. While it's got the expected 10-15% faster for the same clock speed for integer applications, floating point applications are almost twice as a fast which might be important for digital imaging applications and scientific computing." The serious performance increase has a few caveats: you have to use either AVX2 or FMA3, and then only in code that takes advantage of vectorization. Floating point operations using AVX or plain old SSE3 see more modest increases in performance (in line with integer performance increases).

Why Earth Hour Is a Waste of Time and Energy 466

An anonymous reader writes "Next Saturday from 8:30PM to 9:30PM EST is 'Earth Hour' (0:30 to 1:30 UTC on Sunday). Millions of people will be participating by shutting off their lights for an hour to show they care about the environment. However, according to this article in Slate, Earth Hour is simply 'vain symbolism,' and it won't actually save any energy — quite the opposite. Quoting: 'Notice that you have not been asked to switch off anything really inconvenient, like your heating or air-conditioning, television, computer, mobile phone, or any of the myriad technologies that depend on affordable, plentiful energy electricity and make modern life possible. If switching off the lights for one hour per year really were beneficial, why would we not do it for the other 8,759? Hypothetically, switching off the lights for an hour would cut CO2 emissions from power plants around the world. But, even if everyone in the entire world cut all residential lighting, and this translated entirely into CO2 reduction, it would be the equivalent of China pausing its CO2 emissions for less than four minutes. In fact, Earth Hour will cause emissions to increase. As the United Kingdom's National Grid operators have found, a small decline in electricity consumption does not translate into less energy being pumped into the grid, and therefore will not reduce emissions. Moreover, during Earth Hour, any significant drop in electricity demand will entail a reduction in CO2 emissions during the hour, but it will be offset by the surge from firing up coal or gas stations to restore electricity supplies afterward.'"

As US Cleans Its Energy Mix, It Ships Coal Problems Overseas 275

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Thomas K. Grose reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that greenhouse gas emissions in the US have fallen 8 percent from their 2007 peak to 6,703 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, due largely to the drop in coal-fired electricity which in 2012 generated 37.4 percent of US electricity, down from 50 percent in 2005. But don't celebrate just yet. A major side effect of that cleaner air in the US has been the further darkening of skies over Europe and Asia as US coal producers have been shipping the most carbon-intensive fuel to energy-hungry markets overseas. US coal exports to China were on track to double last year and demand for US metallurgical coal, the high-heat content coking coal that is used for steelmaking, is so great in Asia that shipments make a round-the-world journey from Appalachia as they are sent by train to the port of Baltimore, where they steam to sea through the Chesapeake Bay, then south across the Atlantic Ocean and around Africa's Cape of Good Hope to reach Asian ports. The Tyndall Center study estimates that the burning of all that exported coal could erase fully half the gains the United States has made in reducing carbon emissions and if the trend continues, the dramatic changes in energy use in the United States — in particular, the switch from coal to newly abundant natural gas for generating electricity — will have only a modest impact on global warming, observers warn. 'Without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas reserves is likely to increase total emissions,' write Dr John Broderick and Prof Kevin Anderson. 'For this not to be the case, consumption of displaced fuels must be reduced globally and remain suppressed indefinitely; in effect displaced coal must stay in the ground (PDF).'"

Walgreens To Build First Self-Powered Retail Store 186

MojoKid writes "We hear about green deployment practices all the time, but it's often surrounding facilities such as data centers rather than retail stores. However, Walgreens is determined to go as green as possible, and to that end, the company announced plans for the first net zero energy retail store. The store is slated to be built at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Keeney Street in Evanston, Illinois, where an existing Walgreens is currently being demolished. The technologies Walgreens is plotting to implement in this new super-green store will include solar panels and wind turbines to generate power; geothermal technology for heat; and efficient energy consumption with LED lighting, daylight harvesting, and 'ultra-high-efficiency' refrigeration."

USC Launches 3-D Printed VR Headset Library 25

Hesh writes "The University of Southern California has launched a website that contains the blueprints for many of their custom VR headsets as well as new mods to the much anticipated yet unreleased Oculus Rift. Some are helping push DIY VR forward through custom sensor mounts to support, for example, stereo cameras and others add more functionality like new eye cups to help increase the already large FOV of the headset. This is truly an exciting time for VR; by GDC, developers will already have Rifts in hand and tinkerers can 3D-print their own designs now as well!"

Obama Wants To Fund Clean Energy Research With Oil & Gas Funds 409

An anonymous reader writes "The Obama Administration has put forth a proposal to collect $2 billion over the next 10 years from revenues generated by oil and gas development to fund scientific research into clean energy technologies. The administration hopes the research would help 'protect American families from spikes in gas prices and allow us to run our cars and trucks on electricity or homegrown fuels.' In a speech at Argonne National Laboratory, Obama said the private sector couldn't afford such research, which puts the onus on government to keep it going. Of course, it'll still be difficult to get everyone on board: 'The notion of funding alternative energy research with fossil fuel revenues has been endorsed in different forms by Republican politicians, including Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowsi. But the president still faces an uphill battle passing any major energy law, given how politicized programs to promote clean energy have become in the wake of high-profile failures of government-backed companies.'"

Should We Be Afraid of Google Glass? 307

An anonymous reader writes "An article at TechCrunch bemoans the naysayers of ubiquitous video camera headsets, which seems like a near-term certainty whether it comes in the form of Google Glass or a similar product. The author points out, rightly, that surveillance cameras are already everywhere, and increasingly sophisticated government drones and satellites mean you're probably on camera more than you think already. 'But there's something about being caught on video, not by some impersonal machine but by another human being, that sticks in people's craws and makes them go irrationally berserk.' However, he also seems happy to trade privacy for security, which may not be palatable to others. He references a time he was mugged in Mexico as well as a desire to keep an eye on abuses of authority from police and others. 'If pervasive, ubiquitous networked cameras ultimately make public privacy impossible, which seems likely, then at least we can balance the scales by ensuring that we have two-way transparency between the powerful and the powerless.'"

Where Have All the Gadgets Gone? 278

waderoush writes "How many electronic gadgets did you own in 2005? How many do you own today? The answer is almost certainly a lot fewer. Counter to the dominant trend in consumer technology since the 1920s — and despite predictions of a coming 'Internet of things' — there may actually be *less* electronic stuff in our homes and offices today than ever before. That's thanks largely to the rise of multipurpose wireless devices like smartphones and tablets, which are now powerful enough to replace many older, dedicated devices like point-and-shoot cameras, music players, digital voice recorders — even whole home entertainment systems. To prove the point, here are before-and-after photos from one San Francisco household (mine) where the herd of digital devices has been thinned from about three dozen, eight years ago, to just 15 today."

Apple Faces Lawsuit For Retina MacBook Pro 'Ghosting' Issue 195

redletterdave writes "Apple is facing a potential class action suit in San Francisco's California Northern District Court after an owner of its MacBook Pro with Retina display accused the computer company on Wednesday of 'tricking' consumers into paying for a poor-quality screen, citing an increasingly common problem that causes images to be burned into the display, also known as 'image persistence' or 'ghosting.' The lawsuit claims only LG-made screens are affected by this problem, but 'none of Apple's advertisements or representations disclose that it produces display screens that exhibit different levels of performance and quality.' Even though only one man filed the lawsuit, it can become a class action suit if others decide to join him in his claim, which might not be an issue: An support thread for this particular problem, entitled 'MacBook Pro Retina display burn-in,' currently has more than 7,200 replies and 367,000 views across more than 500 pages."

Dropbox Acquires Mailbox 63

Dropbox announced today that it is acquiring Mailbox, an iOS email client designed to take better advantage of a touch interface. The app launched last month, and the Mailbox team says they're already delivering more than 60 million emails daily. Demand for the service continues to grow, so they were exploring their options to expand. They said, "We can’t wait to put Mailbox in the hands of everyone who wants it. This means not only continuing to scale the service, but also including support for more email providers and mobile devices. Add to that a host of new features and we’ve got a LOT of work to do, certainly more than our current team of 14 can handle. We need to grow and we need to grow thoughtfully, with top-notch people who share our goals and values. Enter Dropbox, the team from San Francisco who helps over 100M people bring their photos, docs, and videos with them anywhere. They’re a profoundly talented bunch who build great tools that make work frictionless, and Mailbox fits Dropbox’s mission like a glove. Plus, they’ve got a ton of experience scaling services and are experts at handling people’s data with care. In short, Dropbox is our kind of company."

Windfarm Sickness Spreads By Word of Mouth 482

eldavojohn writes "Just like the many stories surrounding alleged 'Wi-Fi sickness,' research is now showing that windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth instead of applying universally to windfarms. Areas that had never had any noise or health complaints were suddenly experiencing them after 2009 when anti-wind groups targeted populations surrounding windfarms. From the article, 'Eighteen reviews of the research literature on wind turbines and health published since 2003 had all reached the broad conclusion that there was very little evidence they were directly harmful to health.' While there's unfortunately no way to prove that someone is lying about how they feel, it's likely a mixture of confirmation bias, psychosomatic response, hypochondria, greed and hatred of seeing windmills on the horizon that drives this phenomenon."
PlayStation (Games)

Nvidia Walked Away From PS4 Hardware Negotiations 255

An anonymous reader writes "Tony Tamsai, Nvidia's senior vice president of content and technology, has said that providing hardware for use in the PlayStation 4 was on the table, but they walked away. Having provided chips for use in both the PS3 and the original Xbox, that decision doesn't come without experience. Nvidia didn't want to commit to producing hardware at the cost Sony was willing to pay. They also considered that by accepting a PS4 contract, they wouldn't have the resources to do something else in another sector. In other words, the PS4 is not a lucrative enough platform to consider when high-end graphics cards and the Tegra line of chips hold so much more revenue potential."

Too Much Gold Delays World's Fastest Supercomputer 111

Nerval's Lobster writes "The fastest supercomputer in the world, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's 'Titan,' has been delayed because an excess of gold on its motherboard connectors has prevented it from working properly. Titan was originally turned on last October and climbed to the top of the Top500 list of the fastest supercomputers shortly thereafter. Problems with Titan were first discovered in February, when the supercomputer just missed its stability requirement. At that time, the problems with the connectors were isolated as the culprit, and ORNL decided to take some of Titan's 200 cabinets offline and ship their motherboards back to the manufacturer, Cray, for repairs. The connectors affected the ability of the GPUs in the system to talk to the main processors. Oak Ridge Today's John Huotari noted the problem was due to too much gold mixed in with the solder."

Solaris Machine Shut Down After 3737 Days of Uptime Screenshot-sm 409

An anonymous reader writes "After running uninterrupted for 3737 days, this humble Sun 280R server running Solaris 9 was shut down. At the time of making the video it was idle, the last service it had was removed sometime last year. A tribute video was made with some feelings about Sun, Solaris, the walk to the data center and freeing a machine from internet-slavery."
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: How To Donate Older Computers to Charity? 260

yanom writes "My school gave me several circa-2006 computers with no operating system. I fixed them up, and now they run Lubuntu fairly well, making them great internet/LibreOffice/general Linux workstations. I've been wanting to donate them to local nonprofits where they'll go to good use — for example, I've already given several to a local church for them to use in their afterschool care/tutoring program. However, I'm having trouble finding other places where these machines could go to good use. How should I best conduct this search? How can I find nonprofits that could benefit from these workstations?"

Oculus-Alike: Build Your Own Virtual Reality Headset 23

Hesh writes "With the impending arrival of the first batch of Oculus Rift VR headsets to developers, Rod Furlan put up a very detailed guide on how to build your very own headset with off-the-shelf parts and a few hours of spare time based off of the original design of the headset from the forums where it all started. This is a very exciting time for VR, and DIY headsets will allow everyone to try out new tricks and form factors while finally being able to test with a whole new world of compatible software that is about to be released very soon."

NASA Restarts Plutonium Production 139

Celarent Darii writes "In what looks like good news for the American Space program, NASA has restarted production of plutonium. According to the article, after the closure of Savannah Rivers reactor NASA purchased plutonium from Russia, but since 2010 this was no longer possible. The native production of plutonium is a step forward for the space program to achieve the energy density for long term space exploration."

Video Point and Shoot 3D Modeling (Video) 49

Slashdot editor Tim Lord was wandering around SXSW and ran into a small display for Lynx Laboratories, a startup that makes this claim about its Lynx A camera: "If you can use a point-and-shoot Nikon, you'll find the Lynx even easier to use. Instead of outputing 2D images, it produces 3D models of whatever you point it at. It's faster and cheaper than existing solutions today." There's a two-minute demo at the end of the video in which Lynx Founder and CEO Chris Slaughter shows how it works, and (at least in his hands) it looks extremely easy. The company is a University of Texas spinoff that "has received prestigious awards including the 1st Place Idea2Product (I2P) Texas, 1st Place I2P Global, Top 10 Dell Innovators and National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research Funding." Naturally, they're hoping to raise money through Kickstarter as well. They're looking for $50,000 and as of 13 March 2013 it looks like they've raised $88,548 of it. There are obviously other ways to make 3-D images and models. But Lynx seems to have made a novel device, and the images it makes can be picked up directly by a number of 3D printer software packages. The Lynx-A also does motion capture, which could really speed up rotoscoping and other techniques that make video games and other animations look more lifelike than pure animation. That's totally different from static 3D modeling but might be more interesting to more people, at least in a commercial sense.

ARM Based Server Cluster Benchmarked 55

An anonymous reader writes "Anandtech compares the Boston Viridis, a server with Calxeda's ARM server technology, with the typical Intel Xeon technology in a server environment. Turns out that the Quad ARM A9 chip has it weaknesses, but it can offer an amazing performance per Watt ratio in some applications. Anandtech tests bandwidth, compression, decompression, building/compiling and a hosted web environment on top of Ubuntu 12.10." At least in their tests (highly parallel, lightweight file serving), the ARM nodes offered slightly better throughput at lower power use, although from the looks of it you'd just be giving money to the server manufacturer instead of the power company.

AMD Unveils Elite A-Series APUs With Enhanced Performance, Improved Efficiency 102

MojoKid writes "AMD has just announced a new family of Elite A-Series APUs for mobile applications, based on the architecture codenamed 'Richland.' These new APUs build upon last year's 'Trinity' architecture, by improving graphics and compute performance, enhancing power efficiency through the implementation of a new 'Hybrid Boost' mode which leverages on-die thermal sensors, and offering AMD-optimized applications meant to improve the user experience. AMD is unveiling a new visual identity as well, with updated logos and clearer language, in a bid to enhance the brand. At the top of the product stack now is the AMD A10-5750M, a 35 Watt, 3.5GHz quad-core processor with integrated Radeon HD 8650G graphics, 4MB of L2 cache and a DDR3-1866 capable memory interface. The low-end is comprised of dual-cores with Radeon HD 8400G series GPUs and a DDR3-1600 memory interface."