postermmxvicom writes "I have a friend who is a mechanic, but enjoys tinkering with software and hardware as a hobby. I want to get him a gift that will either broaden his horizons or deepen his understanding in these fields. He is proficient at soldering components and removing them from circuit boards. His programming experience is with a wide variety of scripting languages. He recently used teensy and arduino boards and an accelerometer to add some bells and whistles to a toy car he made. He also used his knowledge to help a friend find and correct weaknesses in his shareware (that would have let 'customers' share more freely than intended). He is fascinated that people can create chips to modify existing hardware. Do you know of any good books or kits (or even tools of the trade) that would appeal to a hobbyist and allow him to grow? Is there anything that might also play off of his handyman/mechanic abilities?"
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retroworks writes "J.D. Tuccille of the conservative think tank Reason Foundation discusses last week's news about the first working 3D-printed gun. According to the original article, the partly plastic '.22-caliber pistol, formed from a 3D-printed AR-15 (M16) lower receiver, and a normal, commercial upper' fired 200 rounds without any sign of wear and tear. Tuccille takes the discovery in the direction of politically topical gun control. '...the development makes it clear that a wide range of bans, restrictions and prohibitions are becoming increasingly unenforcable.' But in my mind, this example of additive-manufacturing technology raises even more questions about patent law enforcement. Will 3D printing be to the Anti-gray-market-alliance what online porn became to neighborhood blue laws?"
jones_supa writes "To accompany Windows 8, Microsoft has released some interesting keyboard and mouse devices, all of which are wireless and use Bluetooth. The Wedge Touch Mouse is an artful product shaped as an angular wedge, being compact enough for travel too. Wedge Mobile Keyboard follows the style of laptop keyboards and includes a snap-on cover. Sculpt Touch Mouse is more like a classic mouse, but features a four-way touch-scroll strip. Finally, we have Sculpt Mobile Keyboard, which is a lighter version of a classic curved keyboard. All four are on the expensive side, but at first blush seem high-quality."
New submitter Hanike writes "According to The Verge, Japanese hi-tech company Suidobashi Heavy Industry is developing a 13-foot, diesel-powered, real Mecha robot called Kuratas! 'The two-man team — artist Kogoro Kurata and robotics researcher Wataru Yoshizaki — isn't stopping there, either. Suidobashi wants to mass produce, starting at the low price of $1.35 million. So, what do you get for the money? Kuratas has over 30 hydraulic joints that allow it to freely move its arms, legs, and torso. It can fire water bottle rockets and fireworks, and its 6,000 round-per-minute BB Gatling guns are controlled with the pilot's smile; part of Yoshizaki's V-Shido (read like bushido, as in "way of the samurai") control system. In order to get around, the four-legged mech uses ordinary wheels, but the Suidobashi team wants to get it walking in order to navigate uneven terrain.'"
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that a massive power breakdown has hit India for a second day running, leaving more than half the country without power as the northern and eastern grids have both collapsed. The breakdown has hit a large swathe of the country including Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan states in the north, and West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand in the east. Power cuts are a common occurrence in Indian cities because of a fundamental shortage of power and an aging grid. The chaos caused by such cuts has led to protests and unrest on the streets but the collapse of an entire grid is rare — the last time the northern grid failed was in 2001. India's demand for electricity has soared in recent years as its economy has grown but its power infrastructure has been unable to meet the growing needs. In the weeks leading up to the failure, extreme heat had caused power use to reach record levels in New Delhi and on July 30 a line feeding into the Agra-Bareilly transmission section, the 400-kV Bina-Gwalior line, tripped, triggering the collapse. The second grid collapse occurred on 31 July as the Northern, Eastern and North-Eastern power grids of India tripped/failed causing power blackout in 19 states across India. The crisis was allegedly triggered after four states — Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and UP — drew much more than their assigned share of power."
Harperdog writes "Scott Kemp has a disturbing look at SILEX, a new technology that 'happens to be well suited for making nuclear weapons.' There are many disturbing aspects the this article, not least that the NRC, which is required to consider the critical question of proliferation, has so far punted when it comes to examining that question. 'The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has refused to consider the proliferation risk in its decision to issue a license for the first commercial SILEX facility, despite a statutory obligation to do so. Only a few weeks remain for Congress to intervene.'" Not everyone agrees that SILEX poses a real proliferation threat. Kind of a shame that its environmental benefits (lower power consumption and a smaller waste stream than existing processes) are what increase the proliferation risk.
New submitter toygeek writes "In an effort to give various robots more control during free-fall and navigation of severe obstacles, researchers have studied how agama lizards use their tails to retain or correct orientation during leaps and jumps. They've applied the research to both hexapod and wheeled robots, and the results are both astounding, and outstanding!"
twoheadedboy writes "Microsoft is going to release its Surface tablet on the same day Windows 8 goes on general availability, Oct. 26. The news was disclosed in a filing made with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which also revealed that the company expects launch and the accompanying marketing to harm its profits. We'll soon find out whether Microsoft has what it takes to take on the seemingly indomitable iPad."
First time accepted submitter bigvibes writes "A technology that would enable low-cost, high efficiency solar cells to be made from virtually any semiconductor material has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley. This technology allows for plentiful, relatively inexpensive semiconductors, such as metal oxides, sulfides and phosphides that had previously been considered unsuitable for solar cells because of the difficulty in tailoring their properties by chemical means."
An anonymous reader writes "Project Glass made a big splash not too long ago at Google's annual developer conference when they showed several users falling on to the Moscone West in San Francisco. Google's pretty bent on showing us the sharing possibilities with Project Glass, but it feels like in time that technology could become a ubiquitous part of our lives. Fortunately for those of us who lack a hyperactive imagination, a short film popped up recently that can help fill in the blanks. The world created in the film was made possible by wearable tech. Games, cooking challenges, information in real-time about the person you are talking to, all made possible by the contact lenses being worn. And of course there's a darkside to the equation, the potential to hack and therefore influence the actions of others. Ultimately, it's a realistic idea of the future we all face."
MrSeb writes "There's a lot of FUD when it comes to self-repairing a broken hard drive. Does sticking it in the freezer help? The oven? Hitting it with a hammer? Does replacing the PCB actually work? Can you take the platters out and put them in another drive? And failing all that, if you have to send the dead drive off to a professional data recovery company, how much does it cost — and what's their chance of success, anyway? They're notoriously bad at obfuscating their prices, until you contact them directly. This article tries to answer these questions and strip away the FUD." What has been your experience with trying to fix broken drives?
An anonymous reader writes "The processing power available inside modern supercomputers isn't just able to help us better understand the universe we live in, develop better medicines, and model complex systems. Apparently it is also helping to make better ice cream. Research has been carried out at the University of Edinburgh to simulate the soft matter that makes up ice cream. More specifically, scientists are trying to understand the complex interactions occurring between the many different ingredients that make up your favorite flavor of the delicious cold stuff."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Europe's most powerful supercomputer — and the fourth most powerful in the world — has been officially inaugurated. The SuperMUC, ranked fourth in the June TOP500 supercomputing listing, contains 147,456 cores using Intel Xeon 2.7-GHz, 8-core E5-2680 chips. IBM, which built the supercomputer, stated in a recent press release that the supercomputer actually includes more than 155,000 processor cores. It is located at the Leibniz-Rechenzentrum (Leibniz Supercomputing Centre) in Garching, Germany, near Munich. According to the TOP500 list, the SuperMUC is the world's most powerful X86-based supercomputer. The Department of Energy's 'Sequoia' supercomputer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., the world's [overall] most powerful, relies on 16-core, 1.6-GHz POWER BQC chips."
First time accepted submitter mchnz writes "Need to read in some old punch cards? Have a hankering to return to yesteryear? I've combined an Arduino, the CHDK enhanced firmware for Canon cameras, and the Python Image Library to build a reader for standard IBM 80 column punch cards. You can see it in action in "Punch Card Reader — The Movie" or read more about it." This is an inspiring, intimidating project.
MrSeb writes "An American gunsmith has become the first person to construct and shoot a pistol partly made out of plastic, 3D-printed parts. The creator, who goes by the name HaveBlue and is an AR-15/M16 enthusiast, has reportedly fired 200 rounds with his part-plastic pistol without any sign of wear and tear. HaveBlue's custom creation is a .22-caliber pistol, formed from a 3D-printed AR-15 (M16) lower receiver, and a normal, commercial upper. In other words, the main body of the gun is plastic, while the chamber — where the bullets are actually struck — is solid metal. ... While this pistol obviously wasn't created from scratch using a 3D printer, the interesting thing is that the lower receiver — in a legal sense at least — is what actually constitutes a firearm. This means that people without gun licenses — or people who have had their licenses revoked — could print their own lower receiver and build a complete, off-the-books gun." Here come the illegal shapes. Note that the legal fiction of receiver-as-firearm is true in the U.S., but may not be in other jurisdictions, and that no gun license is required in most of the U.S. to purchase or possess a semi-automatic weapon.