MojoKid writes "Is the world really ready to shift from native apps to HTML5 Web apps? Probably not, at least not in North America yet, but developing nations may see it differently. That's the hope with Firefox OS, a web-based operating system that's (in theory) a lot more open. Of course, one needs only look at Microsoft's battle to get Windows Phone into a place of competition to realize that gaining market share is no easy task, which is why Mozilla will soon be handing out Firefox OS developer phones in order to bolster that. The company's goal is to get app builders to build for Firefox OS, so Mozilla is sending out free Preview handsets for folks to tinker with."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
In the U.S., subsidized phones are the norm: for post-paid, long-term contract use, getting a low up-front price on a phone is one of the few upsides. New submitter Apptopia writes "After T Mobile mostly did away with subsidized phone plans, the other major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint) are paying attention. Carriers lose money with phone subsidies for high-end smartphones (particularly Apple's iPhone). If they do away with the subsidy, you will have to pay full retail price for phones, but your monthly bill will be lower." If people had a better idea what they were paying for, though, manufacturers might fight harder on price. There are lots of well-reviewed, multi-band, unlocked phones on Amazon and DealExtreme from lesser-known companies, and Nokia's new Asha 501 (though limited in many ways, including availability, having just launched in India) shows that the "smartphone" label can apply even to a sub- $100 phone.
An anonymous reader writes "With the personal robotics revolution imminent, a law professor and a roboticist (called Professor Smart!) argue that the law needs to think about robots properly. In particular, they say we should avoid 'the Android Fallacy' — the idea that robots are just like us, only synthetic. 'Even in research labs, cameras are described as "eyes," robots are "scared" of obstacles, and they need to "think" about what to do next. This projection of human attributes is dangerous when trying to design legislation for robots. Robots are, and for many years will remain, tools. ... As the autonomy of the system increases, it becomes harder and harder to form the connection between the inputs (your commands) and the outputs (the robot's behavior), but it exists, and is deterministic. The same set of inputs will generate the same set of outputs every time. The problem, however, is that the robot will never see exactly the same input twice. ... The problem is that this different behavior in apparently similar situations can be interpreted as "free will" or agency on the part of the robot. While this mental agency is part of our definition of a robot, it is vital for us to remember what is causing this agency. Members of the general public might not know, or even care, but we must always keep it in mind when designing legislation. Failure to do so might lead us to design legislation based on the form of a robot, and not the function. This would be a grave mistake."
CowboyRobot writes "Two researchers at San Francisco State University has successfully implemented hardware acceleration for realtime audio using graphics processing units (GPUs). 'Suppose you are simulating a metallic plate to generate gong or cymbal-like sounds. By changing the surface area for the same object, you can generate sound corresponding to cymbals or gongs of different sizes. Using the same model, you may also vary the way in which you excite the metallic plate — to generate sounds that result from hitting the plate with a soft mallet, a hard drumstick, or from bowing. By changing these parameters, you may even simulate nonexistent materials or physically impossible geometries or excitation methods. There are various approaches to physical modeling sound synthesis. One such approach, studied extensively by Stefan Bilbao, uses the finite difference approximation to simulate the vibrations of plates and membranes. The finite difference simulation produces realistic and dynamic sounds (examples can be found here). Realtime finite difference-based simulations of large models are typically too computationally-intensive to run on CPUs. In our work, we have implemented finite difference simulations in realtime on GPUs.'"
cylonlover writes "Millions of years have evolution has resulted in plants being the most efficient harvesters of solar energy on the planet. Much research is underway into ways to artificially mimic photosynthesis in devices like artificial leaves, but researchers at the University of Georgia are working on a different approach that gives new meaning to the term 'power plant.' Their technology harvests energy generated through photosynthesis before the plants can make use of it (abstract), allowing the energy to instead be used to run low-powered electrical devices."
DeviceGuru writes "Embedded Linux pioneer LinuxDevices.com departed from the web earlier this week. The site became a collateral casualty of the aquisition of eWEEK by Quinstreet in February 2012, as part of a bundle of Ziff Davis Enterprise assets. Quinstreet immediately fired all the LinuxDevices staffers and ceased maintaining the site. A few days ago, the site's plug was finally pulled and it is now gone from the Web, save for a few pages on the WayBack Machine. For more than a decade, LinuxDevices played a pivotal role in serving and fostering an emerging embedded Linux ecosystem, and it was well respected by the embedded Linux community at the time it was acquired by QuinStreet. Unfortunately, the site did not mesh well with QuinStreet's B2B market focus. Fortunately, its spirit remains alive and well at LinuxGizmos.com, a site recently launched by LinuxDevices founder Rick Lehrbaum."
recoiledsnake writes "The first real world stats for Chromebooks show that they're struggling to have any traction in the marketplace. In its first week of monitoring worldwide usage of Google's Chrome OS, NetMarketShare reported that the percentage of web traffic from Chromebooks was roughly 2/100 of 1 percent, a figure too small to earn a place on its reports. The first Chromebooks went on sale in June 2011, nearly two years ago, with Acer reportedly selling fewer than 5000 units in the first six months and Samsung selling even fewer. In the past three years, Chromebook sales have been worse than even three months worth of WindowsRT sales. Perhaps users are heeding Stallman's warning on Chromebooks. We previously discussed reports of Chromebook topping Amazon sales, selling to 2000 schools and wondered whether QuickOffice on ChromeOS can topple Microsoft Office." I find ChromeOS good in some contexts (any place that a browser and a thin layer of Linux is all you need), but the limitations are frustrating — especially on hardware that can run a conventional Linux as well as Google's specialized one. We'll watch for developments in the Google hardware world at next week's I/O conference.
PC Mag is one of several outlets reporting that the Kickstarter-funded Ouya Android game console has been delayed by a few weeks; the new target date for launch is June 25. Says the article "The delay does not affect early backers, who are still on track to receive their devices by month's end. Helping to meet that demand will be $15 million in funding, led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers." Also at CNET.
New submitter Mathieu Stephan writes "Hello everyone! Some people told me that my latest project might interest you. I'm not sure you publish this kind of projects, but here it goes. Basically, it is a small platform that recognizes whistles in order to switch on/off appliances. It will be obviously more useful for lighting applications: just walk in a room, whistle, and everything comes on. The project is open hardware, and all the details are published on my website." The linked video is worth watching for the hidden-camera footage alone: it would be hard to not keep playing with this sensor.
crookedvulture writes "Seagate and Toshiba both offer hybrid hard drives that manage their built-in flash caches entirely in firmware. WD has taken a different approach with its Black SSHD, which instead uses driver software to govern its NAND cache. The driver works with the operating system to determine what to store in the flash. Unfortunately, it's Windows-only. You can choose between two drivers, though. WD has developed one of its own, and Intel will offer a separate driver attached to its upcoming Haswell platform. While WD remains tight-lipped on the speed of the Black's mechanical portion, it's confirmed that the flash is provided by a customized SanDisk iSSD embedded on the drive. The iSSD and mechanical drive connect to each other and to the host system through a Serial ATA bridge chip, making the SSHD look more like a highly integrated dual-drive solution than a single, standalone device. With Intel supporting this approach, the next generation of hybrid drives appears destined to be software-based."
We've seen FIRST robotics competitions on Slashdot before. But Kraken-themed FIRST robots? And a good look at what goes into making a competitive robot? For that, Timothy went to Sehome High School in Bellingham, Washington, where members of their Seamonsters robotics team (AKA FIRST Robotics Competition team # 2605; it's a team number, not a date) gave him a good look at their robot's guts, along with showing him how it's controlled and how they organize the 25+ people who work to build and run their robot(s). If you're thinking about joining or starting a FIRST team, this video is essential viewing for you. It's also essential if you just like the idea of robots competing with each other at pyramid-climbing and Frisbee-style disc-throwing. Go, bots, go! Update: 05/08 22:16 GMT by T : Correction: I didn't go to the high school — much simpler, I met the robot creators (and their disk-chucking robot) at LinuxFest Northwest, where they had an impressive demo room set up.
An anonymous reader writes "ARM licensee Allwinner sold more application processors for tablet computers in 2012 than Intel and Qualcomm put together, according to this EE Times article that references market researcher Strategy Analytics. Overall one in five tablet processors was provided by a Chinese vendor in 2012, according to the article, partly because they sell chips at half the price of similarly specified chips from better known vendors."
First time accepted submitter ememisya writes "Ever thought it might be a good idea to store encrypted data in a QRCode video? Using this technique one could easily store 10GB of data to be available anywhere in the world, and completely free."
An anonymous reader writes with an update on the rapid adoption of BitTorrent Lab's Sync tool. From the article: "BitTorrent on Monday announced an impressive milestone for its file synchronization tool Sync: users have synced over 1PB of data. The company says over 70 terabytes are synced via the tool every day. BitTorrent first announced its Sync software back in January and released a private alpha. Between then and April 23, when the company release a public alpha, users synced over 200TB worth of data. In other words, over the past 13 days users have synced over 800TB of data. At this rate, the service will pass 10PB before even hitting a stable release."
crookedvulture writes "Since their debut five years ago, Intel's low-power Atom microprocessors have relied on the same basic CPU core. That changes with the next generation, which will employ an all-new Silvermont microarchitecture built using a customized version of Intel's tri-gate, 22-nm fabrication process. Silvermont ditches the in-order design of previous Atoms in favor of an out-of-order approach based on a dual-core module equipped with 1MB of shared L2 cache. The design boasts improved power sharing between the CPU and integrated graphics, allowing the CPU cores to scale up to higher speeds depending on system load and platform thermals. Individual cores can be shut down completely to provide additional clock headroom or to conserve power. Intel claims Silvermont doubles the single-threaded performance of its Saltwell predecessor at the same power level, and that dual-core variants have lower peak power draw and higher performance than quad-core ARM SoCs. Silvermont also marks the Atom's adoption of the 'tick-tock' update cadence that guides the development of Intel's Core processors. The successor to Silvermont will be built on 14-nm process tech, and an updated microarchitecture is due after that."
An anonymous reader writes "The students at Royal College of Art in London have developed masks that can increase your sight and hearing senses. They allow you to choose one conversation or one visual among a cluster of sounds and visuals, then hear or see the one which you want to. There are two masks developed by them: Eidos Vision and Eidos Audio. Eidos Audio allows a wearer to hear a specific conversation in a crowd and could be developed as a hearing aid and help ADHD sufferers. Eidos Vision improves vision allowing wearer to see 'time trails' similar to a timelapse photography."
puddingebola writes with a New York Times article about how mundane PC equipment — not just more esoteric and eyebrow-raising network monitoring equipment from Blue Coat — makes its way to Syria: "Large amounts of computer equipment from Dell have been sold to the Syrian government through a Dubai-based distributor despite strict trade sanctions intended to ban the selling of technology to the regime, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. The disclosure of the computer sales is the latest example of how the Syrian government has managed to acquire technology, some of which is used to censor Internet activity and track opponents of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad."
symbolset writes "Though there were some troubles and worries along the way, Datawind has delivered to India's government the full allocation of 100,000 (1 lakh) 'Aakash 2' Android tablets from their first order. Priced at about $40, these tablets aren't the sort Americans would rave about: 330 MHz, 256MB RAM and so on. But for the last 2,000 units for the same price Datawind supplied Aakash 3 1GHz, 1GB RAM, 4GB Android tablets with SDHC and 3G mobile — for the same price. Such is the progress in mobile today. There was some doubt whether Datawind could deliver, so kudos to them."
An anonymous reader writes "Soon anyone will be able to head out to the store and buy a 3D printer: 'Staples, one of the leading office supply retailers in the U.S. announced it would begin selling 3-D Systems' entry level personal 3-D printer, The Cube. This is quite simply the single largest 3-D printer retail move to date by any 3-D printer manufacturer.' 'The Cube is one of a number of 3-D printers designed with traditional consumers in mind. Specifically, this unit can print items up to 5.5 inches tall, wide and long in one of 16 different colors. The retail bundle includes 25 free design templates to get users started but the real fun is designing and building something all your own.'"
waderoush writes "Consumer Reports calls extended warranties 'money down the drain,' and as a tech journalist and owner of myriad gadgets — none of which have ever conked out or cracked up during the original warranty period — that was always my attitude too. But when I met recently with Steve Abernethy, CEO of San Francisco-based warranty provider SquareTrade, I tried to keep an open mind, and I came away thinking that the industry might be changing. In a nutshell, Abernethy says he's aware of the extended-warranty industry's dreadful reputation, but he says SquareTrade is working to salvage it through a combination of lower prices, broader coverage, and better service. On top of that, he made some persuasive points – which don't seem to figure into Consumer Reports' argument – about the way the 'risk vs. severity' math has changed since the beginning of the smartphone and tablet era. One-third of smartphone owners will lose their devices to drops or spills within the first three years of purchase, the company's data shows. If you belong to certain categories — like people in big households, or motorcycle owners, or homeowners with hardwood floors — your risk is even higher. So, in the end, the decision about buying an extended warranty boils down to whether you think you can defy the odds, and whether you can afford to buy a new device at full price if you're one of the unlucky ones."