Chromebooks, and ChromeOS have come a long way, and this year two of the best selling laptops at Amazon are Chromebooks. Computerworld calls it a punch in the gut for Microsoft. "As of late Thursday, the trio retained their lock on the top three places on Amazon's best-selling-laptop list in the order of Acer, Samsung and Asus. Another Acer Chromebook, one that sports 32GB of on-board storage space -- double the 16GB of Acer's lower-priced model -- held the No. 7 spot on the retailer's top 10. Chromebooks' holiday success at Amazon was duplicated elsewhere during the year, according to the NPD Group, which tracked U.S. PC sales to commercial buyers such as businesses, schools, government and other organizations. ... By NPD's tallies, Chromebooks accounted for 21% of all U.S. commercial notebook sales in 2013 through November, and 10% of all computers and tablets. Both shares were up massively from 2012; last year, Chromebooks accounted for an almost-invisible two-tenths of one percent of all computer and tablet sales."
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An anonymous reader writes with a link to Der Spiegel, which describes a Top-Secret spy-agency catalog which reveals that the NSA "has been secretly back dooring equipment from US companies including Dell, Cisco, Juniper, IBM, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and more, risking enormous damage to US tech sector." Der Spiegel also has a wider ranging article about the agency's Tailored Access Operations unit.
Lasrick writes "Interesting piece about April's physical attack on a power station near San Jose, California, that now looks like a dress rehearsal for future attacks: Quote: 'When U.S. officials warn about "attacks" on electric power facilities these days, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a computer hacker trying to shut the lights off in a city with malware. But a more traditional attack on a power station in California has U.S. officials puzzled and worried about the physical security of the the electrical grid--from attackers who come in with guns blazing.'"
lkcl writes "After the reports on SSD reliability and after experiencing a costly 50% failure rate on over 200 remote-deployed OCZ Vertex SSDs, a degree of paranoia set in where I work. I was asked to carry out SSD analysis with some very specific criteria: budget below £100, size greater than 16Gbytes and Power-loss protection mandatory. This was almost an impossible task: after months of searching the shortlist was very short indeed. There was only one drive that survived the torturing: the Intel S3500. After more than 6,500 power-cycles over several days of heavy sustained random writes, not a single byte of data was lost. Crucial M4: failed. Toshiba THNSNH060GCS: failed. Innodisk 3MP SATA Slim: failed. OCZ: failed hard. Only the end-of-lifed Intel 320 and its newer replacement, the S3500, survived unscathed. The conclusion: if you care about data even when power could be unreliable, only buy Intel SSDs." Relatedly, don't expect SSDs to become cheaper than HDDs any time soon.
zacharye writes "The new Mac Pro is the most powerful and flexible computer Apple has ever created, and it's also extremely expensive — or is it? With a price tag that can climb up around $10,000, Apple's latest enterprise workhorse clearly isn't cheap. For businesses with a need for all that muscle, however, is that steep price justifiable or is there a premium 'Apple tax' that companies will have to pay? Shortly after the new Mac Pro was finally made available for purchase last week, one PC enthusiast set out to answer that question and in order to do so, he asked another one: How much would it cost to build a comparable Windows 8 machine?"
JoeyRox writes "The exponential growth of rooftop solar adoption has utilities concerned about their financial future. Efficiency gains and cost reductions has brought the price of solar energy to within parity of traditional power generation in states like California and Hawaii. HECO, an electric utility in Hawaii, has started notifying new solar adopters that they will not be allowed to connect to the utility's power grid, citing safety concerns of electric circuits becoming oversaturated from the rapid adoption of solar power on the island. Residents claim it's not about safety but about the utility fighting to protect its profits." We mentioned earlier the connection fee recently approved in Arizona. Do you have a solar system? If not (or if so, for that matter), does this make you think twice about it?
zlives writes "Tesla Motors has maintained that the most recent fire involving one of its Model S electric vehicles isn't the result of a vehicle or battery malfunction, but the company is still addressing the situation with a software fix, according to Green Car Reports. The California-based automaker has added a software function that automatically reduces the charge current by about 25 percent when power from the charging source fluctuates outside of a certain range, Green Car Reports says, citing the Twitter feed from an Apple employee, @ddenboer, who owns a Model S. You can read the text of the update below."
Lucas123 writes "Even though production of 75W and 100W incandescent lamps were phased out earlier this year, many U.S. consumers remain blissfully unaware of The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, an energy efficiency standard that requires an initial 30% reduction in energy use for screw-in bulbs. By 2020, the federal standard requires bulbs to use 65% less energy. According to a new survey, only 40% of Americans are aware that incandescent bulbs are being phased out. However, the federal regulations are about to impact the most popular bulbs of all — 40W and 60W lamps. As of Jan. 1, 2014, the bulbs will no longer be produced. A significant portion of those who are aware of the phase out have been hoarding the bulbs in anticipation of the ban."
wjcofkc writes "Interactive displays projected into the air in the spirit of Iron Man have been heralded as the next step in visual technology. Yet many obstacles remain. According to Russian designer Max Kamanin, creator of Displair, many the problems have now been largely cracked. With this attempt at refining the technology, the image is created inside a layer of dry fog which is composed of ultra-fine water droplets so small they lack moisture. Three-dimensional projections are then created using infrared sensors. The projected screen currently responds intuitively to 1,500 hand movements, many of which are similar to those used on mobile devices, such as pinch and zoom. The most immediate applications include advertising and medicine, with the latter offering a more hygienic alternative to touchscreens. The most immediate objection from home and office computer users is that they don't want to be waving their hands around all day, and while such questions as 'What happens when I turn on a fan?' are not answered here, just imagine a future with a projected keyboard and trackpad that use puff-air haptic feedback with the option of reaching right into the screen whenever it applies to the application at hand — and applications that take advantage of such a technology would no doubt come along. Better yet, imagine for yourself in the comments. As always, pictures speak a thousand words, so don't neglect the articles gallery."
An anonymous reader writes "The common trope these days is that the internet never forgets. We tech-inclined folk warn our friends and relatives that anything embarrassing they put on the internet will stay there whether they want it to or not. But at the same time, we're told about massive amounts of data being lost as storage services go out of business or as the media it's stored on degrades and fails. There are organizations like the Internet Archive putting a huge amount of effort into saving everything that can be saved, and they're not getting all of it. My question is this: how long can we reasonably expect the internet to remember us? Assume, of course, that we're not doing anything particularly famous or notable — just normal people leading normal lives. Will our great-grandkids be able to trace our online presence? Will all your publicly-posted photos be viewable in 50 years, or just the one of you tripping over a sheep and falling into the mud?"
Like many other review sites, it seems that MacWorld can hardly find enough good things to say about the new Mac Pro, even while conceding it's probably not right for many users. 9to5 Mac has assembled a lot of the early reviews, including The Verge's, which has one of the coolest shots of its nifty design, which stacks up well against the old Pro's nifty design. The reviews mostly boil down to this: If you're in a field where you already make use of a high-end Mac for tasks like video editing, the newest one lives up to its hype.
DeviceGuru writes "One of most widely respected repositories of embedded and mobile Linux news and information has just returned to the web. LinuxDevices.com, which tracked the evolution of embedded and mobile Linux from an unknown player to being at the heart of billions of mobile and embedded devices, transferred from Ziff Davis Enterprise to QuinStreet through an acquisition two years ago, then went dormant for a year, and finally vanished from the web in May. Now, through an arrangement with QuinStreet, more than 14,000 news items and articles are back online in the form of a LinuxDevices Archive, hosted by LinuxGizmos.com. The archive is searchable from a calendar interface that lets you click on any month of any year between 1999 and 2012, to see what was going on in that time period."
MojoKid writes "Mobile device displays continue to evolve and along with the advancements in technology, resolution continues to scale higher, from Apple's Retina Display line to high resolution IPS and OLED display in various Android and Windows phone products. Notebooks are now also starting to follow the trend, driving very high resolution panels approaching 4K UltraHD even in 13-inch ultrabook form factors. Lenovo's Yoga 2 Pro, for example, is a three pound, .61-inch thick 13.3-inch ultrabook that sports a full QHD+ IPS display with a 3200X1800 native resolution. Samsung's ATIV 9 Plus also boast the same 3200X1800 13-inch panel, while other recent releases from ASUS and Toshiba are packing 2560X1440 displays as well. There's no question, machines like Lenovo's Yoga 2 Pro are really nice and offer a ton of screen real estate for the money but just how useful is a 3 or 4K display in a 13 to 15-inch design? Things can get pretty tight at these high resolutions and you'll end up turning screen magnification up in many cases so fonts are clear and things are legible. Granted, you can fit a lot more on your desktop but it raises the question, isn't 1080p enough?"
Ars Technica reports that the next planned spacewalk in the continuing repairs of the International Space Station's ammonia pump has been delayed, because of problems with the spacesuit worn by astronaut Rick Mastracchio. From the article: "According to Deutsche Welle, the problem is with how the sublimator (a cooling unit) in Mastracchio's suit operated when entering ISS airlock. NASA said the question is whether water entered the sublimator at that time. 'During repressurization of the station's airlock following the spacewalk, a spacesuit configuration issue put the suit Mastracchio was wearing in question for the next excursion,' NASA said in a statement. Delaying the next steps of the valve replacement from Monday until Tuesday will give NASA time to address the issue. Mastracchio is scheduled to wear a backup suit and needs this time to have it resized."
savuporo writes "The two days of DARPA's humanoid robotics challenge are now over. 16 teams entered in three categories — custom built humanoid, DARPA supplied Atlas platform, and a non-humanoid form — and competed in eight different tasks. The all-Japanese SCHAFT team scored 27 out of 32 maximum points, followed by IHMC Robotics and Tartan Rescue, with 20 and 18 points. The tasks included challenges like driving a vehicle, climbing ladders and walls, using handheld tools to cut through walls, etc. All robots had a mix of autonomy and teleoperated controls to accomplish the tasks. Full details on scores can be found here. The eight teams that scored highest will get continued funding from DARPA to compete in the final challenge in 2014. Two NASA teams also entered, and the JPL-built non-humanoid RoboSimian placed 5th, whereas the JSC built and touted 'Valkyrie' came out of competition with zero points. Team SCHAFT and Boston Dynamics (building the Atlas platform) were recently acquired by Google."
An anonymous reader writes "About 2 years ago, Jonas Pfeil, created a Throwable Panorama Ball: A rugged, grapefruit-sized ball with 36 fixed-focus, 2-megapixel digital camera sensors that capture simultaneously when thrown in the air, creating a full spherical panorama of the surrounding scene. Now, an Indiegogo campaign aims to produce the the camera (Now known as Panono) available for about $500. The quality of the sample images is impressive: the resolution is quite good and most importantly, the stitching artifacts are hardly visible."
First time accepted submitter Maurits van der Schee writes "Where in older versions you had to add a cron job calling "fstrim" or mounting with the "discard" option in fstab, the new LTS (Long Term Stable) version of Ubuntu Linux will automatically enable TRIM for your SSD. Good news for hardware enthusiasts!"
First time accepted submitter monkaru writes "Given reports that various vendors and encryption algorithms have been compromised. Is it still possible to trust any commercial hardware routers or is 'roll your own' the only reasonable path going forward?" What do you do nowadays, if anything, to maintain your online privacy upstream of your own computer?
theodp writes "If you own an Android phone, you may have inadvertently butt-dialed 911 from time-to-time. So, wonders Kix Panganiban, why don't our phones come with a universal 'Panic Button', that would make it just as easy to intentionally dial the police when it's truly needed? Panganiban envisions "a smartphone app that when triggered, would discreetly send out a distress message to contacts of your choice, and perhaps do some other functions that can get you out of bad (and maybe even life-threatening) situations." While a quick search reveals that some have taken a crack at apps that put a Panic Button in smartphone users' hands, are there good reasons why such a feature isn't just standard on mobile devices? And, with GPS and always-watching and always-listening tech only becoming cheaper and more ubiquitous, how far out in the future is it before your person can be continuously remotely monitored like your residence, even while mobile, and what might that look like?"
An anonymous reader writes "It looks like AI-powered weapons systems could soon be outlawed before they're even built. While discussing whether robots should be allowed to kill might like an obscure debate, robots (and artificial intelligence) are playing ever-larger roles in society and we are figuring out piecemeal what is acceptable and what isn't. If killer robots are immoral, then what about the other uses we've got planned for androids? Asimov's three laws don't seem to cut it, as this story explains: 'As we consider the ethical implications of having robots in our society, it becomes obvious that robots themselves are not where responsibility lies.'"