Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
mikejuk writes with some robot eye candy, in the form of this excerpt: "If you think its cool to video the unboxing of your latest mobile phone — think again. Unboxing a robot has a lot more going for it and reaches a whole new level of sci-fi realized. The Atlas robot is a standard humanoid robot to be used by competitors in the DARPA Robotics challenge. Built by Boston Dynamics, it is in the same line as Petman and BigDog. It is now being delivered to the labs that will take part and the temptation to make an unboxing video has been irresistible They arrive in plain of wooden crates as if they were auto parts. Next it is unwrapped and lifted out of its packing case using a crane. It looks black and threatening — just like a sci-fi movie but watch the videos and see."
theodp writes "Throwing some cold water on the buzz surrounding the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch launch, The New Yorker's Matt Buchanan questions how smart a watch can really be. Calling offerings like the Galaxy Gear useful but not the stuff of dreams and revolutions, Buchanan writes, 'So there remains a strange undercurrent of hope that somebody-Apple-will figure out, soon, some grander vision for wearable technology, transforming it from something that people have vaguely imagined into something people intensely desire. It did it for smartphones, once, and again, for tablets. The question that Apple has been charged with, since nobody has definitively answered it yet, is whether the lack of an invention that truly carries us beyond the last five hundred years of wrist-mounted technology is the result of a failure of imagination or simply a fact of nature-that a watch will always just be a watch, no matter how smart it might think it is.' So, will you be an early adopter and drink Samsung's or Sony's smartwatch Kool-Aid, wait to see what Apple comes up with, or hold out for a Windows Forearm Pad 8?"
MojoKid writes "Tesla CEO Elon Musk has more on his mind that just cars and 4,000 MPH Hyperloop transportation systems. He also tweeted his intention of developing a hand-manipulated holographic design engine and designing a rocket part with only hand gestures, finally printing the part in titanium." And now Musk has posted the video he promised showing off the design process: "Musk showed a wireframe of the rocket part, and he was able to rotate the 3D object on a screen with one hand, and with a second hand, he zoomed in and out, moved it around the screen, and spun the object around and "caught it"--all in the air. He moved on to manipulating an actual 3D CAD model and interacting with the software; you can see that he used a Leap Motion controller. Next, he shows off a 3D projection, a freestanding glass projection (Ironman style), and interacts with the model using the Oculus Rift. Finally, he prints the part in titanium with a 3D metal printer. Note that we don't actually see him design anything; the models he works with are already made. Still, it's exciting to see new ways of doing things come to life on screen."
An anonymous reader writes "Using a Lego Mindstorms set, a Mac, and optical character recognition, Austrian professor Peter Purgathofer created a makeshift ebook copier. From the article: 'It's sort of a combination of high tech meets low. The scanning is done by way of the Mac's iSight camera. The Mindstorms set does two things: Hits the page-advance button on the Kindle (it appears to be an older model, like the one in the picture above), then mashes the space bar on the Mac, causing it to take a picture.' Purgathofer calls the creation a 'reflection on the loss of long established rights.' Check out the Vimeo video for a demonstration."
jjslash writes "CPU cooling units are an often-overlooked but always important side of PC building, whether you're looking to overclock or you simply want a cool-running, silent system. It's also easy to get lost if you aren't an enthusiast who keeps tabs on the best options. TechSpot has rounded up 10 high-end CPU coolers (read: huge heatsinks) including top units from Noctua, Thermalright, Xigmatek, Silverstone and Thermaltake. If you're willing to spend the cash, they rate the Noctua NH-U14S as the best overall pick. For a tighter budget, the Thermalright offerings provide the best bang for your buck."
colinneagle writes with word of work done by researchers at Arizona State University, Delaware State University and GFS Technology Inc., who find that the multiple-picture sequence security option of Windows 8 suffers from various flaws -- some of them specific to a password system based on gestures, and some analogous to weaknesses in conventional passwords entered by keyboard. "The research found that the strength of picture gesture password has a 'strong connection' to how long a person spent setting up that password gesture. The most common gesture combination is three taps, meaning it took about 4.33 — 5.74 seconds to setup. Passwords with two circles and one line took the longest average input time of about 10.19 seconds. After studying why people choose certain categories of images, the most common gesture types and direction patterns in PGA passwords, the researchers developed an attack framework that is 'capable of cracking passwords on previously unseen pictures in a picture gesture authentication system.'"
UnknowingFool writes "For consumers who had hoped that Microsoft would greatly upgrade their recent entries into the tablet market, leaks and rumors have said that both machines will receive modest hardware changes. Surface Pro 2 will sport new Haswell processors which will increase battery life to 7 hours. RAM is expected to increase from 4GB to 8GB. Surface (formerly RT) will get Tegra 4 processors. The only other confirmed change will be new kickstands that have 2 positions instead of one."
mdsolar sends this quote from Bloomberg: "More than 50 years into the age of nuclear energy, one of the biggest growth opportunities may be junking old reactors. Entergy Corp. (ETR) said Aug. 27 it will close its 41-year-old Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in 2014, making the reactor the fifth unit in the U.S. marked for decommissioning within the past 12 months, a record annual total. Companies that specialize in razing nuclear plants and hauling away radioactive waste are poised to benefit. Disposal work is 'where companies are going to make their fortune,' Margaret Harding, an independent nuclear-industry consultant based in Wilmington, North Carolina, said in an phone interview. Contractors that are usually involved in building reactors ... 'are going to be looking very hard at the decommissioning side of it.' [T]he U.S. nuclear fleet of 104 units is shrinking, even as Southern Co. and Scana Corp. build two units each. ... During a reactor decommissioning, the plant operator transfers radioactive fuel rods to cooling pools and, ultimately, to so-called dry casks for storage. Workers clean contaminated surfaces by sandblasting, chemical sprays and hydrolasing, a process that involves high-pressure water blasts, according to King. 'You do get to a point that you need someone to come in that has the equipment and the technology to actually dismantle the components,' she said. 'That typically is hired out.'"
Lucas123 writes "A fire that engulfed portions of a major Hynix memory FAB in Wuxi, China earlier today did not do as much damage as reports originally claimed and the company said it expects to be back in production soon. According to a Hynix statement, the fire occurred during equipment installation at around 16:50 Korean time and it was extinguished in under two hours. The company said while published photos showed the FAB facility surrounded by smoke and engulfed in flames, 'the damage is not as severe as it seems as the smoke created was because the fire was concentrated in the air purification facilities that are linked to the rooftop of the fab.' The company also said that there is no material damage to the fab equipment in the clean room, and Hynix expects to resume operations in a short time period, so overall production and supply volume should not be 'materially affected.' Even so, the spot price of DRAM is expected to leap as a result of the news."
jones_supa writes with news that HDMI 2.0 is out. From Engadget "The folks at HDMI Licensing are announcing HDMI 2.0 officially. Arriving just in time for the wide rollout of a new generation of Ultra HDTVs, it adds a few key capabilities to the standard. With a bandwidth capacity of up to 18Gbps, HDMI 2.0 has the ability to carry 3,840 x 2,160 resolution video at 60fps. It also has support for up to 32 audio channels, 'dynamic auto lipsync' and additional CEC extensions. The physical cables and connectors remain unchanged." Just like HDMI 1.4, the specification is only available to HDMI Forum members.
kkleiner writes "Boston-based Harvest Automation has made good on its mission to bring robots into the world of agriculture by introducing Harvey, a bot tasked with the rather modest job of moving plants around in nurseries and greenhouses because people aren't keen on doing the laborious work. At a price point of $30k each, two bots would cost the same as three unskilled human laborers who earn about $20k annually not to mention medical bills due to injury. Harvey's job may not be flashy, but considering the potted plant industry is valued at $50 billion, the bot's little impact could translate into significant money."
DeviceGuru writes "SolidRun refreshed its line of tiny 2 x 2 x 2-inch mini-PCs with four new community-backed models based on 1.2GHz multi-core Freescale i.MX6 SoCs. The CuBox-i devices support Android 4.2.2 and Linux, offer HDMI, S/PDIF, IR, eSATA, GbE, USB, WiFi, and Bluetooth interfaces (depending on model). All the models offer 1.2GHz clock speeds, OpenGL/ES 2.0 3D support, and video acceleration for 1080p video, while the two higher-end ones supply more robust GPUs that add OpenCL 1.1 support."
cartechboy writes "Lets just say Elon Musk may need to go battery shopping, like, big-time. Here's some little-understood Tesla math that could turn the global market for cylindrical lithium-ion cells upside down by 2015. It turns out the massive Model S battery takes almost 2,000 times the number of cells a basic laptop does. Assume Tesla just doubles production from its current 21K cars/year to 40K cars/year. (Something it expects to do by 2015). At that point, Tesla would require the *entire* existing global capacity for 18650 commodity cells. That assumes no other growth, no next gen model, nada. What should Elon do? Better get on the horn to Panasonic and Samsung."
MojoKid writes "Low-power parts for hand-held devices may be all the rage right now, but today Intel is taking the wraps off a new high-end desktop processor with the official unveiling of its Ivy Bridge-E microarchitecture. The Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition processor is the flagship product in Intel's initial line-up of Ivy Bridge-E based CPUs. The chip is manufactured using Intel's 22nm process node and features roughly 1.86 billion transistors, with a die size of approximately 257mm square. That's about 410 million fewer transistors and a 41 percent smaller die than Intel's previous gen Sandy Bridge-E CPU. The Ivy Bridge-E microarchitecture features up to 6 active execution cores that can each process two threads simultaneously, for support of a total of 12 threads, and they're designed for Intel's LGA 2011 socket. Intel's Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition processor has a base clock frequency of 3.6GHz with a maximum Turbo frequency of 4GHz. It is easily the fastest desktop processor Intel has released to date when tasked with highly-threaded workloads or when its massive amount of cache comes into play in applications like 3D rendering, ray tracing, and gaming. However, assuming similar clock speeds, Intel's newer Haswell microarchitecture employed in the recently released Core i7-4770K (and other 4th Gen Core processors) offers somewhat better single-core performance."
mask.of.sanity writes "Hundreds of thousands of internet-accessible devices manufactured Chinese telco ZTE have been found with default or hardcoded usernames and passwords. The devices were discovered in analysis of the huge dataset from the Internet Census run this year. ZTE topped the charts, accounting for 28 percent of all affected devices worldwide. Only one manufacturer has responded to the researcher's bid to supply the data in efforts to stop production of insecure devices."
MojoKid writes "The story around AMD's upcoming Kaveri continues to evolve, but it's increasingly clear that AMD's 3rd generation APU won't be available for retail purchase this year. If you recall, AMD initially promised that Kaveri would be available during 2013 and even published roadmaps earlier in May that show the chip shipping in the beginning of the fourth quarter. What the company is saying now is that while Kaveri will ship to manufacturers in late 2013, it won't actually hit shelves until 2014. The reason Kaveri was late taping out, according to sources, was that AMD kept the chip back to put some additional polish on its performance. Unlike Piledriver, which we knew would be a minor tweak to the core Bulldozer architecture, Steamroller, Kaveri's core architecture, is the first serious overhaul to that hardware. That means it's AMD's first chance to really fix things. Piledriver delivered improved clock speeds and power consumption, but CPU efficiency barely budged compared to 'Dozer. Steamroller needs to deliver on that front."
theodp writes "Writing in The Atlantic, Phil Nichols makes a convincing case for why educational technologies should be more like graphing calculators and less like iPads. Just messing around with TI-BASIC on a TI-83 Plus, Nichols recalls, 'helped me cultivate many of the overt and discrete habits of mind necessary for autonomous, self-directed learning.' So, with all those fancy iPads at their schools, today's kids must really be programming up a storm, right? Wrong. Nichols, who's currently pursuing a PhD in education, laments, 'The iPad is among the recent panaceas being peddled to schools, but like those that came before, its ostensibly subversive shell houses a fairly conventional approach to learning. Where Texas Instruments graphing calculators include a programming framework accessible even to amateurs, writing code for an iPad is restricted to those who purchase an Apple developer account, create programs that align with Apple standards, and submit their finished products for Apple's approval prior to distribution.'"
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Now, an EU-funded, £7.2 million ($11 million USD) collaborative project, called Strands, is underway in England to develop 4D, artificial intelligence for security and care applications. It aims to produce intelligent robo-sentinels that can patrol areas, and learn to detect abnormalities in human behavior. Could their project eventually replace security guards with robots? It looks possible. Strands, as Nick Hawes of the University of Birmingham said, will 'develop novel approaches to extract spatio-temporal structure from sensor data gathered during months of autonomous operation,' to develop intelligence that can then 'exploit [those] structures to yield adaptive behavior in highly demanding, real-world security and care scenarios.'"
Zothecula writes "NASA took the metaphorical training wheels off the Mars rover Curiosity on Tuesday, as the unmanned explorer took its first drive using autonomous navigation. It used its onboard cameras and software to select and drive over an area of ground that mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California couldn't see and vet beforehand. This capability allows the nuclear-powered rover to negotiate the most direct route to Mount Sharp rather than having to detour to find routes that can be seen directly by Curiosity before entering, so they can be analyzed by mission control."
Lasrick writes "The Japan Times has an opinion piece about the seriousness of the situation at Fukushima and the incompetence of Tepco. The article makes the case that it's time for the Japanese government to step in and take control of the plant to facilitate clean-up. Quoting: 'Japan has been very lucky that nothing worse has occurred at the plant. But luck eventually runs out. The longer Tepco stays in charge of the decommissioning process, the worse the odds become. Without downplaying the seriousness of leaks and the other setbacks at the plant, it is important to recognize that things could very quickly get much worse. In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4. There are 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies in a pool above the reactor. They weigh a total of 400 tons, and contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The spent-fuel pool, standing 18 meters above ground, was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami and is in a deteriorating condition. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task.'"