An anonymous reader writes "CES has come and gone, and we've gotten a chance to see many different models of Valve's Steam Machines. They're being marketed as a device for a living room, and people are wondering if they'll be able to compete with the Big-3 console manufacturers. But this article argues that Valve isn't going after the consoles — instead, Steam Machines are part of a long-term plan to keep the PC gaming industry healthy. Quoting: 'Over the years, Valve has gone from simply evangelizing the PC platform — it once flew journalists in from around the world pretty much just to tell them it was great — to actively protecting it, and what we're seeing now is just the beginning of that push. Take SteamOS. To you and me, it's a direct interface for Steam based on Linux that currently has poor software support. To Valve, though, it's a first step in levering development, publishing, gameplay and community away from their reliance on Windows and DirectX (and to a lesser extent Mac OS), systems that cannot be relied upon in the long term. ... As for Steam Machines, they are a beachhead, not an atom bomb. They are meant to sell modestly. ... The answer is that Valve is thinking in decades, not console generations.'"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
New submitter Forty Two Tenfold writes "Electricity prices across Europe dropped last month as mild temperatures, strong winds and stormy weather produced wind power records in Germany, France and the UK, according to data released by Platts. The price decline was more marked in Germany, where the average day-ahead baseload price in December fell 10% month over month to €35.71/MWh. On a daily basis, December was a month of extremes for Germany, with day-ahead base prices closing on December 10 and 11 at less than €60/MWh – the highest over-the-counter levels seen all year – only to fall to its lowest level December 24 to €0.50/MWh."
MojoKid writes "Plenty of OEMs have lifted the veil on their planned Steam Machine products, but Dell really seems to want to break free of the pack with their Alienware-designed, small form factor machine that they unveiled at CES this week. It's surprisingly tiny, sleek and significantly smaller than the average game console, weighing only about 4 — 6 pounds fully configured. Dell had a prototype of the machine on hand that is mechanically exact, complete with IO ports and lighting accents. Dell also had a SteamOS-driven system running, though it was actually a modified Alienware system powering the action with Valve's innovative Steam Controller. In first-person shooters like Metro: Last Night that Dell was demonstrating, the left circular pad can be setup for panning and aiming in traditional AWSD fashion, while the right pad can be used for forward and back movement with triggers set up for firing and aiming down sights. You can, however, customize control bindings to your liking and share profiles and bindings with friends on the Steam network. What's notable about Dell's unveiling is that the Steam Machines initiative gained critical mass with a major OEM like Dell behind the product offering, in addition to the handful of boutique PC builders that have announced products thus far."
An anonymous reader writes "The PC market continues to be in free fall, having now seen its seventh consecutive quarter of declining worldwide shipments. Worldwide PC shipments dropped to 82.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Gartner, a 6.9 percent decrease from the same period last year. It's worth emphasizing that this past quarter resulted in a total of 315.9 million units shipped in 2013, a 10 percent decline from 2012, and the worst decline in PC market history. The overall shipment level was equal to the one in 2009."
An anonymous reader writes "The 4K television revolution is upon us, and nobody is impressed. Most users seem content to wait until there's actually something to watch on these ultra-high-res displays, and also for the price to come down. However, Brian Hauer has written an article promoting a non-standard use for these displays. His office just got a 39", 3840x2160 display for each of their programmers' workstations. He now confidently declares, 'For the time being, there is no single higher-productivity display for a programmer.' Hauer explains: 'Four editors side-by-side each with over a hundred lines of code, and enough room to spare for a project navigator, console, and debugger. Enough room to visualize the back-end service code, the HTML template, the style-sheet, the client-side script, and the finished result in a web browser — all at once without one press of Alt-tab.'"
retroworks writes "Several news outlets report on Intel's announcement that it will avoid purchases of rare earth minerals and metals, such as tantalum, sourced from high conflict areas such as the Congo basin. Could this lead to manufacturers stating the percentage of their boards which are made from recycled boards, like recycled paper greeting cards?"
sciencehabit writes "A molecule nearly identical to one in rhubarb may hold the key to the future of renewable energy. Researchers have used the compound to create a high-performance 'flow' battery, a leading contender for storing renewable power in the electric utility grid. If the battery prototype can be scaled up, it could help utilities deliver renewable energy when the wind is calm and the sun isn't shining." Abstract.
The device that does this is the Geonaute 360 Degree Camera. The Geonaute display caught Tim Lord's eye at CES, and he got Geonauter (is that a word?) Marian Le Calves to show him the company's "action camera," which costs $499 -- or more accurately, will cost $499 when it starts shipping. Until then, you can pre-order. Or you could buy a GoPro camera for as little as $199. Geonaute has a bunch of videos on YouTube, some of which are quite fetching. But GoPo has a bunch of slick YouTube videos, too, and at this point they're the dominant brand in the action camera market niche. Will Geonaute be able to capture a decent market share with their 360 degree coolness -- and higher price? Or will they, GoPro, and other action camera vendors get into a price war so that every kid who has a skateboard can make good-looking videos?
Taco Cowboy writes "Japanese researchers are planning an experiment to better understand what transpires during a nuclear meltdown by attempting to create a controlled nuclear meltdown. Using a scaled down version of a nuclear reactor — essentially a meter long stainless steel container — the experiment will involve the insertion of a foot long (30 cm) nuclear fuel rod, starting the fission process, and then draining the coolant. The experiment is scheduled to take place later this year."
Lasrick writes "Mark Gubrud has another great piece exploring the slippery slope we seem to be traveling down when it comes to autonomous weapons systems: Quote: 'Autonomous weapons are robotic systems that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator. Advances in computer technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics may lead to a vast expansion in the development and use of such weapons in the near future. Public opinion runs strongly against killer robots. But many of the same claims that propelled the Cold War are being recycled to justify the pursuit of a nascent robotic arms race. Autonomous weapons could be militarily potent and therefore pose a great threat.'"
dryriver writes "We have developed a graphics algorithm that got an electronics manufacturer interested in turning it into hardware. Here comes the problematic bit... The electronics manufacturer asked us to describe how complex the algorithm is. More specifically, we were asked 'How many (logic) gates would be needed to turn your software algorithm into hardware?' This threw us a bit, since none of us have done electronics design before. So here is the question: Is there a piece of software or another tool that can analyze an algorithm written in C/C++ and estimate how many gates would be needed to turn it into hardware? Or, perhaps, there is a more manual method of converting code lines to gates? Maybe an operation like 'Add' would require 3 gates while an operation like 'Divide' would need 6 gates? Something along those lines, anyway. To state the question one more time: How do we get from a software algorithm that is N lines long and executes X number of total operations overall, to a rough estimate of how many gates this algorithm would use when translated into electronic hardware?"
crabel writes "The Oculus rift prototype Crystal Cove shown at CES uses a camera to track over two dozen infrared dots placed all over the headset. With the new tracking system, you can lean and crouch because the system knows where your head is in 3D space, which can also help reduce motion sickness by accurately reflecting motions that previously weren't detected. On top of that, the new 'low persistence' display practically removes motion blur." The new low-persistence AMOLEDs also achieve 1920x1080 across the field of vision. Reports are that immersion was greatly enhanced with head tracking.
dcblogs writes "The technology industry has been coasting along on steady, predictable performance gains, as laid out by Moore's law. But stability and predictability are also the ingredients of complacency and inertia. At this stage, Moore's Law may be more analogous to golden handcuffs than to innovation. With its end in sight, systems makers and governments are being challenged to come up with new materials and architectures. The European Commission has written of a need for 'radical innovation in many computing technologies.' The U.S. National Science Foundation, in a recent budget request, said technologies such as carbon nanotube digital circuits will likely be needed, or perhaps molecular-based approaches, including biologically inspired systems. The slowdown in Moore's Law has already hit high-performance computing. Marc Snir, director of the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at the Argonne National Laboratory, outlined in a series of slides the problem of going below 7nm on chips, and the lack of alternative technologies."
Ars Technica has posted their impressions from a hands-on session with Valve's new Steam Controller. The controller notably departs from standard practice of relying on two thumbsticks for precise movement, instead replacing them with concave touchpads. From the article: "When used as a kind of virtual trackball, as most games did with the right pad, it was a revelation. When used as a virtual d-pad, as it was on the left pad, it was an exercise in frustration. Let's focus on the right pad first. There's definitely a learning curve to using this side of the pad properly; years of muscle memory had me trying to use it like an analog stick (minus the stick) at first. It only really began to click when I started swiping my thumb over the pad, as I've seen in previous videos (there was no one on hand to really explain the controller to me, so I was left figuring it out on my own, just like a new Steam Machine owner). When I say it "started to click," I mean that literally. The subtle clicking in your hands as you swipe along the pad is an incredible tactile experience, as if there was an actual weighted ball inside the controller that's rolling in the direction you swipe. And like a trackball slowly losing its inertia, the clicking slows its pace after you lift your thumb off the pad, giving important contextual information for the momentum imparted by your swipe." More write-ups are available about the controller from Gamespot, Gizmodo, and Joystiq.
New submitter mpicpp points out that Intel has unveiled a PC called Edison, which fits into a casing the size of an SD card. "Edison is based on Intel’s Quark chip, which it launched last year as its attempt to muscle in on that other flavour-of-the-month market: the so-called Internet of Things. It also reflects the company’s new-found keenness on the 'maker' community. Quark, a 22nm low-power x86 processor with two cores, sits inside Intel’s Arduino-compatible Raspberry Pi-alike Galileo board computer. Edison takes the same chip, connects it to a wee bit of LPDDR2 memory and Flash storage, and plugs in Bluetooth 4.0 Smart — aka LE — and Wi-Fi for broader connectivity."
sfcrazy writes "Nvidia just announced Tegra K1, its first 192-core processor. NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang made the announcement at CES 2014. He also said that Android will be the most important platform for gaming consoles. 'Why wouldn't you want to be open, connected to your TV and have access to your photos, music, gaming. It's just a matter of time before Android disrupts game consoles,' said Huang." Nvidia's marketing department created a crop circle to promote the chip after CEO Jen Hsun Huang declared that it was so advanced that "it's practically built by aliens."
New submitter asliarun writes "David Kanter of Realworldtech recently posted his take on Intel's upcoming Knights Landing chip. The technical specs are massive, showing Intel's new-found focus on throughput processing (and possibly graphics). 72 Silvermont cores with beefy FP and vector units, mesh fabric with tile based architecture, DDR4 support with a 384-bit memory controller, QPI connectivity instead of PCIe, and 16GB on-package eDRAM (yes, 16GB). All this should ensure throughput of 3 teraflop/s double precision. Many of the architectural elements would also be the same as Intel's future CPU chips — so this is also a peek into Intel's vision of the future. Will Intel use this as a platform to compete with nVidia and AMD/ATI on graphics? Or will this be another Larrabee? Or just an exotic HPC product like Knights Corner?"
sfcrazy writes "YouTube will demonstrate 4K videos at the upcoming CES. That's not the best news, the best part of this story is that Google will do it using it's own open sourced VP9 technology. Google acquired the technology from O2 and open sourced it. Google started offering the codec on royalty free basis to vendors to boost adoption. Google has also learned the hardware partnership game and has already roped in hardware partners to use and showcase VP9 at CES. According to reports LG (the latest Nexus maker), Panasonic and Sony will be demonstrating 4K YouTube using VP9 at the event. Google today announced that all leading hardware vendors will start supporting the royalty-free VP9 codecs. These hardware vendors include major names like ARM, Broadcom, Intel, LG, Marvell, MediaTek, Nvidia, Panasonic, Philips, Qualcomm, RealTek, Samsung, Sigma, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba."
An anonymous reader writes "Over the past several years, we've had a spate of new input methods for playing video games. Instead of just pushing buttons, now we can wave body parts around, yell at the screen, or even (weakly) control things with our thoughts. Now, we're adding an eye-tracking sensor bar. It's being created by SteelSeries, but it's based on tech from a Swedish company called Tobii, who built similar tech for cars. 'Inside the device there are two cameras and an infrared light source. The infrared light reflects off your pupil and cornea, which is then captured by the two camera sensors. Throw in a healthy serving of Tobii's proprietary image processing algorithms, and a physiological 3D model of the eye, and you can work out the position of the eye and the direction of the gaze with high accuracy. Tobii doesn't seem to put an exact figure on the resolution/accuracy, merely saying that "within less than a centimeter" is possible.' Of course, the biggest question will be how well it works, but it seems like it could be a useful supplement to normal control schemes. I can see how it would be nice to simply flick your eyes to an icon to do something, or to make it easier to dig through your in-game inventory."
Lucas123 writes "Ford plans to demonstrate its first solar-powered hybrid vehicle at CES next week. The Ford CMAX Solar Energi Concept car will have 1.5 square meters of solar photovoltaic cells on its roof to generate power to charge its battery. By themselves, the PV solar panels generate only 300W of power — not enough to charge the vehicle's battery in one day. Ford, however, said the car will be coupled with a carport that has solar concentrating lens atop it. The magnifying lens, called a Fresnel lens, will concentrate about 10 times the solar energy so the vehicle can be recharged in a single day — the same speed with which a standard hybrid charges using a plug." (Of course, some charge faster than others.)