CowboyRobot writes "The National Weather Service has begun testing the way it labels natural disasters. It's hoping that the new warnings, which include words like 'catastrophic,' 'complete devastation likely,' and 'unsurvivable,' will make people more likely to take action to save their lives. But what about their digital lives? Recommendations include: Keep all electronics out of basements and off the floor; Unplug your hardware; Buy a surge protector; Enclose anything valuable in plastic. If the National Weather Service issued a 'complete devastation' warning today, would your data be ready?"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
A week ago, we posted news of the delay that the Raspberry Pi Foundation faced because of a requirement that their boards be tested to comply with EU regulations. Now, the word is in, and the Raspberry Pi passed those tests without needing any modifications. From their post describing the ordeal: "The Raspberry Pi had to pass radiated and conducted emissions and immunity tests in a variety of configurations (a single run can take hours), and was subjected to electrostatic discharge (ESD) testing to establish its robustness to being rubbed on a cat. It’s a long process, involving a scary padded room full of blue cones, turntables that rise and fall on demand, and a thing that looks a lot like a television aerial crossed with Cthulhu."
HizookRobotics writes "The official announcement should be out very soon, but for now here's the unofficial, preliminary details based on notes from Dr. Gill Pratt's talk at DTRA Industry Day: The new Grand Challenge is for a humanoid robot (with a bias toward bipedal designs) that can be used in rough terrain and for industrial disasters. The robot will be required to maneuver into and drive an open-frame vehicle (eg. tractor), proceed to a building and dismount, ingress through a locked door using a key, traverse a 100 meter rubble-strewn hallway, climb a ladder, locate a leaking pipe and seal it by closing off a nearby valve, and then replace a faulty pump to resume normal operations — all semi-autonomously with just 'supervisory teleoperation.' It looks like there will be six hardware teams to develop new robots, and twelve software teams using a common platform."
zacharye writes with this snippet from BGR: "Nearly a dozen suspects have been arrested and charged with crimes related to the theft and sale of AMOLED display technology under development at Samsung. Yonhap News Agency on Thursday reported that 11 suspects either currently or formerly employed by Samsung Mobile Display have been arrested. One 46-year-old researcher at Samsung is believed to have accepted a payment of nearly $170,000 from an unnamed 'local rival firm' in exchange for trade secrets pertaining to proprietary Samsung technology used in the company's AMOLED panels..."
asavin writes "The founder of Marshall Amplification, Jim Marshall OBE, has died at the age of 88. A tribute to the man known as the Father of Loud was posted on his official website, praising the man whose name became iconic for electric guitarists." Reader LizardKing points to the Guardian's coverage of Marshall's passing, and adds : "A former drummer, Jim Marshall initially became involved with guitar amplification as an importer of Fender equipment, until he eventually decided to branch out and make his own amps. The trademark Marshall sound evolved alongside the requirements of such luminaries as Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton. The Marshall stack has since become a ubiquitous symbol of live rock music in particular — so much so that some bands perform in front of veritable walls of Marshall branded speakers. In addition to his lead guitar amplifiers, Jim will also be remembered for his great bass amps (as used by Lemmy Kilmister in particular) and the much sought after Guv'nor distortion pedal."
Hugh Pickens writes "Alasdair Wilkins writes that when a squirrel encounters a rattlesnake in the wild, it does something very peculiar to survive its brush with the predator — something is so peculiar that scientists are building robotic squirrels just to try to understand the behavior. A live squirrel does two things when it sees a rattlesnake. It starts moving its tail in a flagging motion and actually heats up the temperature of its tail. Because rattlesnakes can see in the infrared wavelengths, they should be able to see both the tail move and heat up. The question is which of these two signals is important and just what message it's supposed to send to the rattlesnake. To that end, engineers at UC Davis have built robosquirrels, which allow the biologists to simulate the two squirrel behaviors one a time and the research so far suggests it's the heated tail, not the flagging motion, that the snake responds to, making it one of the first known examples of infrared communication between two distinct species. 'Snakes will rarely strike at a flagging adult squirrel — and if they do they almost always miss,' says Rulon Clark, assistant professor of biology at San Diego State University and an expert on snake behavior. 'In some cases, it seems the rattlesnakes just decide it's best to cut their losses after dealing with these confusing critters,' adds Wilkins, 'as sometimes the snakes just leave the area completely after encountering these flagging, tail-heating squirrels.'"
MrSeb writes "According to researchers at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, one day in the not too distant future you'll be able to design, print and build your own robot. 'Our vision is to develop an end-to-end process; specifically, a compiler for building physical machines that starts with a high level of specification of function, and delivers a programmable machine for that function using simple printing processes,' MIT Professor Daniela Rus says. The team points to the high expense currently to design and produce functioning robots. By simplifying the process, it would bring robotics to a much wider audience. With an automated process, more time could be spent on teaching the intricacies of robotics or getting to the task at hand rather than the laborious process of building the robot itself. Two paper prototypes have been built so far: an insect-like robot for exploring dangerous areas, and a gripper device for the handicapped."
An anonymous reader writes "A mechanical engineer working out of the University of Delaware has come up with a way to produce hydrogen without any undesirable emissions such as carbon dioxide. The solar reactor is capable of using sunlight to increase the heat inside its cylindrical structure above 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Zinc oxide powder is then gravity fed through 15 hoppers into the ceramic interior where it converts to a zinc vapor. At that point the vapor is reacted with water separately, which in turn produces hydrogen. If the prototype gets through 6 weeks of testing at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology located in Zurich, we could see it scaled up to industrial size, producing emission-free hydrogen."
NIK282000 writes "Ontario farmers rallied in downtown Toronto to protest the subsidization of wind turbines. Several of the protesters stated that they fear for the the health of their families and that they refuse to live near wind turbines. Others fear that the value of their property will be reduced significantly by the presence of turbines. With the cost of gas and oil on its way up it's a wonder that any one would be against the use of renewable energy sources."
CharlyFoxtrot writes "The geeks over on the fail0verflow blog took apart an AT&T Microcell device which is 'essentially a small cell-tower in a box, which shuttles your calls and data back to the AT&T mothership over your home broadband connection.' They soon uncovered some real security issues including a backdoor : 'We believe that this backdoor is NOT meant to be globally accessible. It is probably only intended to be used over the IPSEC tunnel which the picoChip SoC creates. [...] Unfortunately, they set up the wizard to bind on 0.0.0.0, so the backdoor is accessible over the WAN interface.'"
MrSeb, zachareye, and others wrote in with several reviews of the Nokia Lumia 900. Starting things off, Extreme Tech asks if the Lumia redefines the smartphone; BGR chimes in declaring the phone "terrific". Ars Technica, on the other hand, isn't quite so enthusiastic, especially about the camera optics. Anandtech joins Ars in not being particularly enthused. It looks like most reviewers are happy with the UI, but not so enthused about the hardware (low display resolution for one). Signs point to an OK handset, but nothing spectacular.
OverTheGeicoE writes "A group of students and a professor were detained by TSA at Dallas' Love Field. Several of them were led away in handcuffs. What did they do wrong? One of them left a robotic science experiment behind on an aircraft, which panicked a boarding flight crew. The experiment 'looked like a cell phone attached to a remote control car with some exposed wires protruding.' Of course, the false alarm inconvenienced more than the traveling academics. The airport was temporarily shut down and multiple gates were evacuated, causing flight delays and diversions."
First time accepted submitter g7a writes "I've been given the task of testing new hardware for the use in our servers. For memory, I can run it through things such as memtest for a few days to ascertain if there are any issues with the new memory. However, I've hit a bit of a brick wall when it comes to testing hard disks; there seems to be no definitive method for doing so. Aside from the obvious S.M.A.R.T tests ( i.e. long offline ) are there any systems out there for testing hard disks to a similar level to that of memtest? Or any tried and tested methods for testing storage media?"
New submitter alancronin writes "Computer and IT giant Dell said today it will acquire privately held Wyse Technology, a company that specializes in what it calls 'cloud client computing.'"
dartttt writes, quoting Ubuntu Vibe: "Dmitry Grinberg has successfully booted Ubuntu 9.04 on an 8 bit micro machine with 6.5 KHz CPU and 16 MB RAM. Grinberg did this experiment on a ATmega1284p, 8-bit RISC microcontroller clocked at 24MHz and equipped with 16KB of SRAM and 128KB of flash storage. Since the RAM was too low, he added 30-pin 16MB SIMM to the machine and a 1 GB SD card to host Ubuntu image. ... To get the world's slowest Linux Computer running, he had to write an ARMv5 emulator which supports a 32bit processor and MMU. A similar machine can be made very easily and everything should come in about $20." There is source code available, but it's under a non-commercial use only license. Just how slow is it? "It takes about 2 hours to boot to bash prompt ('init=/bin/bash' kernel command line). Then 4 more hours to boot up the entire Ubuntu ('exec init' and then login). Starting X takes a lot longer. The effective emulated CPU speed is about 6.5KHz, which is on par with what you'd expect emulating a 32-bit CPU & MMU on a measly 8-bit micro. Curiously enough, once booted, the system is somewhat usable. You can type a command and get a reply within a minute." If you like watching a whole lot of nothing, there's a video of the boot process below the fold.