Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
MrSeb writes "Back in the olden days, when WiFi and Bluetooth were just a glimmer in the eye of IEEE, another short-range wireless communications technology ruled supreme: Infrared Data Association, or IrDA for short. IrDA was awful; early versions were only capable of kilobit-per-second speeds, and only over a distance of a few feet. Trying to get my laptop and mobile phone to link up via IrDA was, to date, one of the worst tech experiences I've ever had. There's a lot to be said for light-based communications, though. For a start, visible (and invisible) light has a frequency of between 400 and 800THz (800 and 375nm), which is unlicensed spectrum worldwide. Second, in cases where you really don't want radio interference, such as hospitals, airplanes, and other sensitive environments, visible light communication (VLC), or free-space optical communication, is really rather desirable. Now researchers at the National Taipei University of Technology in Taiwan have transmitted data using lasers — not high-powered, laboratory-dwelling lasers; handheld, AAA-battery laser pointers. A red and green laser pointer were used, each transmitting a stream of data at 500Mbps, which is then multiplexed at the receiver for a grand total of 1Gbps."
New submitter schlesingerj writes in with news about a six legged robot "The Artisans Asylum hackerspace in Somerville, MA is building a monster rideable hexapod named 'Stompy', with fully articulated legs (18 hydraulics actuators in total), powered by a humongous propane forklift engine. This is being built as a class, lead by a team of expert roboticists with an impressive background, including DEKA, Boston Dynamics and Barret Technologies and is expected to be finished by the end of the summer. I for one welcome our new robot overlords."
Uwe Hermann today announced the availability of sigrok, one of the first Open Source logic analyzers. Tired of being tied to Windows and proprietary software with limited features, in late 2010 he began work on flosslogic, which, after discovering Bert Vermeulen was also working on similar software, became sigrok. From the article: "Thus, the goal was to write a portable, GPL'd, software that can talk to many different logic analyzers via modules/plugins, supports many input/output formats, and many different protocol decoders. ... Currently supported hardware includes: Saleae Logic, CWAV USBee SX, Openbench Logic Sniffer (OLS), ZEROPLUS Logic Cube LAP-C, ASIX Sigma/Sigma2, ChronoVu LA8, and others." Their wiki has a list of supported protocols as well. You can grab the source over at SourceForge.
MrSeb writes with news about a production ready electric-hybrid airplane. From the article: "... The four-passenger carbon fiber aircraft isn't really an electric plane but more of a plug-in hybrid plane, much like the Chevrolet Volt. Whatever it is, the Volta Volare aeronautics company of Portland, Oregon says the plane can travel 300 miles on battery power, then a 1.5-liter gasoline engine engages and extends the plane's range to 1,000 miles. The company sees the plane being attractive for its low cost of operation and its environmental friendliness. Aviation gasoline is typically leaded fuel, which has been gone from motor vehicle fuel since the 1980s. On a 200-mile trip in a comparable four-passenger gas-engine private plane, you'd burn $80 worth of avgas, while the electricity to carry the GT4 200 miles would cost only $20 — nice savings, but perhaps a little inconsequential when the plane itself is expected to cost around $500,000. Testing begins this spring on the Volta Volare GT4."
MrSeb writes "When Intel launched Ivy Bridge last week, it didn't just release a new CPU — it set a new record. By launching 22nm parts at a time when its competitors (TSMC and GlobalFoundries) are still ramping their own 32/28nm designs, Intel gave notice that it's now running a full process node ahead of the rest of the semiconductor industry. That's an unprecedented gap and a fairly recent development; the company only began pulling away from the rest of the industry in 2006, when it launched 65nm. With the help of Mark Bohr, Senior Intel Fellow and the Director of Process Architecture and Integration, this article explains how Intel has managed to pull so far ahead."
An anonymous reader writes "MIT's The Tech published an article with technical details behind the Tetris hack they did on the Green Building earlier this year. The article includes photographs of the LED modules, as well as a link to some of the source code used in the hack. The hackers have released some of the source code on GitHub, and are looking for people to contribute code that could run on the system."
1sockchuck writes "Apple's North Carolina data center will tap landfills for biogas, which will then be converted into electricity using fuel cells from Bloom Energy. The 24 'Bloom boxes' will have a capacity of 4.8 megawatts of power, and along with a large solar array, will provide Apple with a significant on-site generation of sustainable energy. Microsoft is also developing biogas-powered data plants where modular data centers will be housed near water treatment plants and landfills. GigaOm has a useful primer on biogas in data centers, as well as video of the new higher capacity Bloom boxes that will support Apple's server farm."
mikejuk writes, quoting I Programmer: "If you are looking for an exciting hardware project, KegDroid deserves a look. It is a sophisticated system that involves Android, Arduino, NFC, plumbing and — beer. Perhaps the final stroke of genius is to package the whole thing in a Droid body. Some how the little green fella looks at home on the bar. You have heard of desktop and laptop apps now we have bartop apps to add to the list" Details are fuzzy currently, but from all appearances this is a repackaged KegBot in a very fancy shell. (Video for those without Flash.)
MrSeb writes "Numerous research groups around the world are reporting that they have created silicene, a one-atom-thick hexagonal mesh of silicon atoms — the silicon equivalent of graphene. You will have heard a lot about graphene, especially with regard to its truly wondrous electrical properties, but it has one rather major problem: It doesn't have a bandgap, which makes it very hard to integrate into existing semiconductor processes. Silicene, on the other hand, is theorized to have excellent electrical properties, while still being compatible with silicon-based electronics (abstract). For now, silicene has only been observed (with a scanning tunneling electron microscope), but the next step is to grow a silicene film on an insulating substrate so that its properties can be properly investigated."
First time accepted submitter NGTechnoRobot writes "In a turn for the books the BBC reports that Microsoft has invested $300 million in Barnes and Noble's Nook e-reader. The new Nook reader will integrate with Microsoft's yet-to-be-released Windows 8 operating system. From the article: 'The deal could make Barnes and Noble's Nook e-book reader available to millions of new customers, integrating it with the Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system. The as-yet unnamed new company will be 82.4% owned by Barnes and Noble, with Microsoft getting a 17.6% stake.' Guess the lawsuit's over, folks."
MrSeb writes "Details of a new, ultra-compact computer form factor from Intel, called the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) are starting to emerge. First demonstrated at PAX East at the beginning of April, and Intel's Platinum Summit in London last week, NUC is a complete 10x10cm (4x4in) Sandy Bridge Core i3/i5 computer. On the back, there are Thunderbolt, HDMI, and USB 3.0 ports. On the motherboard itself, there are two SO-DIMM (laptop) memory slots and two mini PCIe headers. On the flip side of the motherboard is a CPU socket that takes most mobile Core i3 and i5 processors, and a heatsink and fan assembly. Price-wise, it's unlikely that the NUC will approach the $25 Raspberry Pi, but an Intel employee has said that the price will 'not be in the hundreds and thousands range.' A price point around $100 would be reasonable, and would make the NUC an ideal HTPC or learning/educational PC. The NUC is scheduled to be released in the second half of 2012."
MojoKid writes "Today at the GeForce LAN taking place in Shanghai, NVIDIA's CEO Jen Hsun Huang unveiled the company's upcoming dual-GPU powered, flagship graphics card, the GeForce GTX 690. The GeForce GTX 690 will feature a pair of fully-functional GK104 "Kepler" GPUs. If you recall, the GK104 is the chip powering the GeForce GTX 680, which debuted just last month. On the upcoming GeForce GTX 690, each of the GK104 GPUs will also be paired to its own 2GB of memory (4GB total) via a 256-bit interface, resulting in what is essentially GeForce GTX 680 SLI on a single card. The GPUs on the GTX 690 will be linked to each other via a PCI Express 3.0 switch from PLX, with a full 16 lanes of electrical connectivity between each GPU and the PEG slot. Previous dual-GPU powered cards from NVIDIA relied on the company's own NF200, but that chip lacks support for PCI Express 3.0, so NVIDIA opted for a third party solution this time around."
mikejuk writes "John Graham-Cumming is the leading light behind a project to actually build the analytical engine dreamed of by Charles Babbage. There is a tendency to think that everything that Babbage thought up was little more than a calculating machine, but as the video makes 100% clear the analytical engine was a real computer that could run programs. From the article: 'Of course Ada Lovelace was the first programmer, but more importantly her work with Babbage took the analytical engine from the realms of mathematical table construction into the wider world of non-mathematical programming. Her notes indicate that had the machine been built there is no question that it would have been exploited just as we use silicon-based machines today. To see the machine built and running programs would be the final proof that Babbage really did invent the general purpose computer in the age of the steam engine.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Outside of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, it seems work is being done to support the tiny PC with add-ons. One of the companies set to launch such a product is Adafruit, which has just announced an electronics plate kit for the device. The kit is currently in the prototype stages, but once released Adafruit is hoping to encourage people to use the board to prototype electronic circuits and create some embedded computer projects. It's certainly an idea that will excite those coming to the Raspberry Pi who have experience with Arduino."
New submitter DillyTonto writes "Amazon got shelled by analysts and the press after releasing a buggy first iteration of the Fire edition of the Kindle e-reader. Three weeks later the Kindle Fire owned 14 percent of the whole market for tablets. Three months later, more than half of all Android tablets sold in the U.S. are seven-inch Kindle Fires, despite a huge bias among buyers for 10-inch tablets. How could a heavily modded e-reader beat full-size tablets by major PC vendors? It's cheaper than any other tablet or e-reader on the market, for one thing. Also important is its focus on being an e-reader, 'because people buy hardware to have access to one app or function, then take the other things it can do as an additional benefit.'"