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Hardware Hacking

GNU/Linux Running On An 8-Bit Processor 361

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.

Google, Amazon, Microsoft Go East For Network Gear 88

theodp writes "Wired's Cade Metz has the scoop on the move away from U.S. network equipment stalwarts, calling it of the best-kept secrets in Silicon Valley. 'Cloud computing is an arms race,' writes Metz. 'The biggest web companies on earth are competing to see who can deliver their services to the most people in the shortest amount of time at the lowest cost. And the cheapest arms come straight from Asia.' Or, as Joyent's Howard Wu puts it, 'It's kind of like buying couches. If you buy one, you go to a retail store. If you buy 10,000 couches, you go straight to the factory.'"
Input Devices

Samsung Says Their TVs Aren't Really Spying On You 171

lightbox32 writes "Samsung has finally responded to an article recently published by HD Guru titled 'Is your TV watching you?' [See this related Slashdot post] which discussed the fact that new features in Samsung's top 2012 models — including built-in microphones, HDTV camera, wireless and wired Internet connection, built-in browser with voice to text conversion, face recognition and more — could be used to collect unprecedented personal information and invade our privacy. Samsung has now provided their privacy policy, which may or may not lay the issue to rest." I vote for "not" — conspiracy theories about mandatory (or just secret) surveillance equipment in consumer electronics is just too persistent, even when the technical capabilities turn out to be a hoax; when the equipment is actually all in place and the user is protected only by a corporate honor policy, it's hard to be sanguine. (I recall there was a much rumored secret capability for law enforcement agencies to secretly and remotely turn on the internal microphones in PCs meeting the PC 97 spec, and this was an integral part of the plan. Since the government insists that telecom equipment have built-in backdoors, why should that sound all that crazy?)
Data Storage

Nano-SIM Decision Delayed 117

judgecorp writes "The decision on the next generation of even-smaller SIM cards for phones and other devices has been delayed by standards body ETSI, and the issue (which should have been settled this week) is nowhere near resolution. Apple wants to trim the existing micro-SIM further, Nokia wants to move to something like a micro-SD card which may involve patents. Meanwhile RIM has complained about Apple's approach."

Software-Defined Radio For $11 171

Malvineous writes "Don't have $1500 to drop on a USRP? A Linux kernel developer has discovered that a Realtek digital TV tuner chip has an undocumented mode that turns it into a software-defined radio, with a frequency range of 64-1700MHz. The going rate for one of these USB devices can be as low as US$11. If you're unfamiliar with software-defined radio and have 20 minutes to spare, Balint Seeber has a great video introduction."

Ask Slashdot: It's World Backup Day; How Do You Back Up? 304

MrSeb writes "Today is World Backup Day! The premise is that you back up your computers on March 31, so that you're not an April Fool if your hard drive crashes tomorrow. How do Slashdot users back up? RAID? Multiple RAIDs? If you're in LA, on a fault line, do you keep a redundant copy of your data in another geographic region?"

JAXA Creates Camera That Can See Radiation 49

New submitter Ben_R_R writes "The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has created a camera that can 'see' radioactive contamination by detecting gamma rays emitted by radioactive cesium and other substances. The camera has been tested in the disaster evacuation zone around Fukushima. The image captures levels of radiation in six different colors and overlays the result over an image captured with a wide angle lens."

Bringing Auto-Graders To Student Essays 227

fishmike writes with this excerpt from a Reuters report: "American high school students are terrible writers, and one education reform group thinks it has an answer: robots. Or, more accurately, robo-readers — computers programmed to scan student essays and spit out a grade. The theory is that teachers would assign more writing if they didn't have to read it. And the more writing students do, the better at it they'll become — even if the primary audience for their prose is a string of algorithms. ... Take, for instance, the Intelligent Essay Assessor, a web-based tool marketed by Pearson Education, Inc. Within seconds, it can analyze an essay for spelling, grammar, organization and other traits and prompt students to make revisions. The program scans for key words and analyzes semantic patterns, and Pearson boasts it 'can "understand" the meaning of text much the same as a human reader.' Jehn, the Harvard writing instructor, isn't so sure. He argues that the best way to teach good writing is to help students wrestle with ideas; misspellings and syntax errors in early drafts should be ignored in favor of talking through the thesis."

Tegra 4 Likely To Include Kepler DNA 57

MrSeb writes "Late last week, Jen-Hsun Huang sent a letter to Nvidia employees congratulating them on successfully launching the highly acclaimed GeForce GTX 680. After discussing how Nvidia changed its entire approach to GPU design to create the new GK104, Jen-Hsun writes: 'Today is just the beginning of Kepler. Because of its super energy-efficient architecture, we will extend GPUs into datacenters, to super thin notebooks, to superphones.' (Nvidia calls Tegra-powered products 'super,' as in super phones, super tablets, etc, presumably because it believes you'll be more inclined to buy one if you associate it with a red-booted man in blue spandex.) This has touched off quite a bit of speculation concerning Nvidia's Tegra 4, codenamed Wayne, including assertions that Nvidia's next-gen SoC will use a Kepler-derived graphics core. That's probably true, but the implications are considerably wider than a simple boost to the chip's graphics performance." Nvidia's CEO is also predicting this summer will see the rise of $200 Android tablets.

Generating Alcohol Fuels From Electrical Current and CO2 82

New submitter AcMNPV writes "A news release from UCLA describes a new process for producing biofuels using microorganisms, electrical current and carbon dioxide (abstract). Quoting: 'Liao and his team genetically engineered a lithoautotrophic microorganism known as Ralstonia eutropha H16 to produce isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol in an electro-bioreactor using carbon dioxide as the sole carbon source and electricity as the sole energy input. Photosynthesis is the process of converting light energy to chemical energy and storing it in the bonds of sugar. There are two parts to photosynthesis — a light reaction and a dark reaction. The light reaction converts light energy to chemical energy and must take place in the light. The dark reaction, which converts CO2 to sugar, doesn't directly need light to occur. "We've been able to separate the light reaction from the dark reaction and instead of using biological photosynthesis, we are using solar panels to convert the sunlight to electrical energy, then to a chemical intermediate, and using that to power carbon dioxide fixation to produce the fuel," Liao said.'"

RoboBonobo: A Project To Outfit Apes With Tablets and Telepresence Bots 68

MrSeb writes "Ken Schweller, a computer scientist and psychologist, and also the chairman of the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, has a vision: He wants to put wireless Android tablets in the hands of bonobo apes. The Great Ape Trust Sanctuary is home to seven bonobos, including the world-famous Kanzi, and two orangutans. So far the Sanctuary has focused almost exclusively on language, with the bonobos and their keepers communicating through lexigrams on a touch-screen TV. Now Schweller wants to go one step further and outfit the bonobos with wireless tablets running custom Bonobo Chat software, allowing the apes to communicate with their keepers (and other bonobos!) from anywhere in the Sanctuary, and to remotely control devices such as vending machines, doors, and the RoboBonobo. If all this wasn't weird (cool?) enough, the RoboBonobo is even outfitted with a water cannon (so the telepresent apes can play "chase games" with humans) and Schweller is trying to fund the whole thing with Kickstarter. If you're a big fan of apes (or Darwinism), be sure to donate."
Data Storage

Obama Administration Places $200 Million Bet On Big Data 72

wiredmikey writes "As the Federal Government aims to make use of the massive volume of digital data being generated on a daily basis, the Obama Administration today announced a 'Big Data Research and Development Initiative' backed by more than $200 million in commitments to start. Through the new Big Data initiative and associated monetary investments, the Obama Administration promises to greatly improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data. Interestingly, as part of a number of government announcements on big data today, The National Institutes of Health announced that the world's largest set of data on human genetic variation – produced by the international 1000 Genomes Project (At 200 terabytes so far) is now freely available on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. Additionally, the Department of Defense (DoD) said it would invest approximately $250 million annually across the Military Departments in a series of programs. 'We also want to challenge industry, research universities, and non-profits to join with the Administration to make the most of the opportunities created by Big Data,' Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy at OSTP noted in a blog post. 'Clearly, the government can't do this on its own. We need what the President calls an 'all hands on deck' effort.'"

LG Begins Mass Production of First Flexible E-ink Displays 87

MrSeb writes "LG has just announced it has begun mass production of the world's first flexible, plastic e-ink display, with finished devices expected to hit Europe next month. LG says these plastic displays are half the weight (14g) and 30% thinner (0.7mm) than the hard, heavy, prone-to-cracking glass-laminate e-ink displays found in e-book readers like the Kindle and Nook. The press release says the plastic display survives repeated 1.5-meter drop tests and break/scratch tests with a small hammer, and that it's flexible up to 40 degrees from the mid point. Technology-wise, it's not very clear how LG's e-paper actually works. The press release suggests LG is using a conventional TFT process, which hints that they've cracked Electronics on Plastic by Laser Release (EPLaR). EPLaR is basically a technique of embedding electrophoretic ink capsules in a plastic substrate, but using existing TFT manufacturing processes, rather than building a whole new factory (unlike E Ink, which makes displays for the Kindle and other e-book readers). If this is the case, then other LCD manufacturers like Samsung and Sharp could start producing e-ink displays as well, hopefully driving prices down and further improving the display technology."

Ask Slashdot: Home Testing For Solar Roof Coverage? 85

DudeTheMath writes "Here in the Sunshine State (Florida), solar should be a no-brainer. However, large oaks that require permits to trim partially shade my roof. I'd like to (inexpensively) 'pre-qualify' my roof for effective panel area. Googling for 'home solar testing' gets me equipment for checking the efficiency of an existing PV installation. Do any makers know what I can do on my own in terms of placing a few individual cells and, over a year, measuring and recording their output, so I can get an idea whether solar would be cost-effective for me?"
Data Storage

After 60 Years, Tape Reinserts Itself 312

Lucas123 writes "While magnetic tape is about as boring as technology gets, it's still the cheapest storage medium and among the fastest in sequential reads and writes. And, with the release of LTO-6 with 8TB cartridges around the corner and the relatively new open linear tape file system (LTFS) being embraced by movie and television markets, tape is taking on a new life. It may even climb out of the dusty archives that cheap disk has relegated it to. 'Over the last two years, disk drives have gotten bigger, they've gone from 1TB to 3TB, but they haven't gotten faster. They're more like tape. Meanwhile, tape is going the other direction, it's getting faster,' said Mark Lemmons, CTO of Thought Equity Motion, a cloud storage service for the motion picture industry."