Nerval's Lobster writes "Dell is going private again, as the result of a $24.4 billion deal involving private-equity investors and Microsoft. The deal will close before the end of the second quarter of Dell's fiscal 2014, according to Reuters. Dell founder and namesake Michael Dell, who owns roughly 14 percent of the company's common shares, will continue to lead the newly privatized venture as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He will contribute his existing shares to the new company, on top of a 'substantial' additional cash investment. As with other hardware manufacturers in the space, Dell faces the specter of a softening PC market. And while Dell has made significant efforts to penetrate other markets—including the launch of a private cloud architecture based on the open-source OpenStack—that weakness has affected its bottom line: for its fiscal 2013 third quarter, the company reported an 11 percent decrease in revenue from the previous year; while it enjoyed an increase in revenue from its servers and services businesses, revenue from its Consumer division dipped 23 percent. Its Large Enterprise, Small and Medium Business, and Public revenue also declined." Another take at the New York Times.
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MTorrice writes "To make light-weight, inexpensive electronics using renewable materials, scientists have turned to a technology that is almost 2,000 years old: paper. Researchers fabricated organic transistors on a transparent, exceptionally smooth type of paper called nanopaper. This material has cellulose fibers that are only 10 nm in diameter. The nanopaper transistors are about 84% transparent, and their performance decreases only slightly when bent."
MatthewVD writes "In 2006, researcher Mark Changizi came up with a novel theory for why humans evolved with color vision: to detect social cues and emotions in others. He built glasses called 02Amps to enhance perception of blood pooling. Some hospitals have tried using the glasses to see bruising that's not visible unaided, or help nurses find veins. But it turns out now that the glasses might be able to fix some forms of colorblindness, too."
Lucas123 writes "Ultrathin notebooks, smart phones and SSDs are all putting pressure on the hard drive market, which is set to take an almost 12% revenue loss this year, according to a new report from IHS iSuppli. Hard drive market revenue is set to drop to about $32.7 billion this year, down 11.8% from $37.1 billion last year. At the same time, In what appears to be a grim scenario, the optical disk drive industry is expected to encounter continued challenges this year, and optical drives could eventually be abandoned by PC makers altogether."
An anonymous reader writes with a link to an intriguing account of the challenge of designing a close-range, hand and finger-based gesture recognition interface using 3D cameras. Things like this look good in science-fiction, but it's hard to create a gesture-based system that makes sense to the user and rejects gestures not meant for the computer.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that Sony, the creators of the MiniDisc audio format, are to deliver their last MiniDisc stereo system in March. Launched over 20 years ago in late 1992 as a would-be successor to the original audio cassette, MiniDisc outlasted Philips' rival Digital Compact Cassette format, but never enjoyed major success outside Japan. Other manufacturers will continue making MiniDisc players, but this is a sign that — over ten years after the first iPod — the MiniDisc now belongs to a bygone era."
FatLittleMonkey writes "Researchers in Germany have developed a device that allows users of portable devices, such as smartphones, experience force-feedback from games using just their own muscles... and a small EMS device. When stimulated by a painless electric pulse, the player's arm moves the device in whichever direction the game commands. The player then fights the movement with their other muscles, creating a strong sensation that the device itself is bucking in their hands. According to the developers, users found the sensation much more realistic than traditional vibrotactile feedback. (Should make PvP more interesting too.)"
ananyo writes "Transistors, the simple switches at the heart of all modern electronics, generally use a tiny voltage to toggle between 'on' and 'off.' The voltage approach is highly reliable and easy to miniaturize, but has its disadvantages. First, keeping the voltage on requires power, which drives up the energy consumption of the microchip. Second, transistors must be hard-wired into the chips and can't be reconfigured, which means computers need dedicated circuitry for all their functions. Now, researchers have made a type of transistor that can be switched with magnetism. The device could cut the power consumption of computers, cell phones and other electronics — and allow chips themselves to be 'reprogrammed' (abstract)."
jones_supa writes "Apple has been forced to remove the Mac Pro from sale in the European Union after an amendment to a safety regulation left the machines non-compliant. The updated electronics safety standard IEC 60950-1 increases requirements around electrical port protection (PDF) and the fan guards in the system. Apple does not plan to modify their machines and will simply pull them from market in the EU. Apple wishes to warn customers and partners about the change so that they would have sufficient time to order Mac Pro units and meet any needs prior to 1 March, when the amendment comes into effect."
Lucas123 writes "IronKey has released a thumb drive certified to be used as a bootable Windows 8 device, enabling users to use Windows To Go — an enterprise feature of Windows 8 — to deliver a fully portable desktop. While Imation doesn't promote this feature, users can also boot up this USB on any Intel-based Apple computer. The flash drive has its drawbacks. It's not yet FIPS certified, it can't be provisioned as storage, and it lacks admin management features. The IronKey Workspace drive comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities. It offers either 128-bit or 256-bit full disk encryption. Users must purchase the Windows 8 software separately. According to Imation's specifications, the IronKey Workspace has a maximum average read speed of 300MB/sec. and an average write speed of 100MB/sec. to 200MB/sec. When I timed the boot-up times, the initial boot-up from the USB drive was slow — 3 minutes and 40 seconds — but the drive was configuring itself. Subsequent boot-ups took a mere 35 seconds. Shutdown is near instantaneous — about 2 seconds. The flash drive is priced from $129 to $389 depending on capacity."
hypnosec writes "The Linux Foundation's UEFI secure boot pre-bootloader is still in the works, and has been modified substantially so that it allows any Linux version to boot through UEFI secure boot. The reason for modifying the pre-bootloader was that the current version of the loader wouldn't work with Gummiboot, which was designed to boot kernels using BootServices->LoadImage(). Further, the original pre-bootloader had been written using 'PE/Coff link loading to defeat the secure boot checks.' As it stands, anything run by the original pre-bootloader must also be link-loaded to defeat secure boot, and Gummiboot, which is not a link-loader, didn't work in this scenario. This is the reason a re-write of the pre-bootloader was required and now it supports booting of all versions of Linux." Also in UEFI news: Linus Torvalds announced today that the flaw which was bricking some Samsung laptops if booted into Linux has been dealt with.
Nerval's Lobster writes "To give the Mars Rover Curiosity the brains she needs to operate took 5 million lines of code. And while the Mars Science Laboratory team froze the code a year before the roaming laboratory landed on August 5, they kept sending software updates to the spacecraft during its 253-day, 352 million-mile flight. In its belly, Curiosity has two computers, a primary and a backup. Fun fact: Apple's iPhone 5 has more processing power than this one-eyed explorer. 'You're carrying more processing power in your pocket than Curiosity,' Ben Cichy, chief flight software engineer, told an audience at this year's MacWorld."
waderoush writes "In November, Lytro, the maker of the first light field camera for consumers, upgraded its viewer software to enable a feature called 'Perspective Shift.' In addition to refocusing pictures after they've been taken, Lytro audiences can now pivot between different virtual points of view, within a narrow baseline. This 3-D capability was baked into Lytro's technology from the start: 'The light field itself is inherently multidimensional [and] the 2-D refocusable picture that we launched with was just one way to represent that,' says Eric Cheng, Lytro's director of photography. But while Perspective Shift is currently little more than a novelty, the possibilities for future 3-D imaging are startling, especially as Lytro develops future devices with larger sensors — and therefore larger baselines, allowing more dramatic 3-D effects. Cheng says the company is already exploring future versions of its viewer software that would work on 3-D televisions. 'We are moving the power of photography from optics to computation,' he says. 'So when the public really demands 3-D content, we will be ready for it.'"
silentbrad sends word of a recent lecture given by Valve's Gabe Newell to a college class. He had some interesting remarks about the future of games in the living room: "The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform," Newell said. "I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room? ... We're happy to do it if nobody else will do it, mainly because everybody else will pile on, and people will have a lot of choices, but they'll have those characteristics. They'll say, 'Well, I could buy a console, which assumes I'll re-buy all my content, have a completely different video system, and, oh, I have a completely different group of friends, apparently. Or I can just extend everything I love about the PC and the internet into the living room.' ... I think the biggest challenge is that Apple moves on the living room before the PC industry sort of gets its act together." There's another hour-long lecture from Newell posted on YouTube talking about productivity, economics, and the future of corporations. Speaking of Steam, reader skade88 points out an article at Linux.com about the current state of the Steam for Linux beta.
Zothecula writes "A major obstruction to the development of practical 3D microchips is moving data and logic signals from one layer of circuitry to another. This can be done with conventional circuitry, but is quite cumbersome and generates a good deal of heat inside the 3D circuit. Physicists at the University of Cambridge have now developed a spintronic shift register that allows information to be passed between different layers of a 3D microchip. 'To create the microchip, the researchers used an experimental technique called ‘sputtering’. They effectively made a club-sandwich on a silicon chip of cobalt, platinum and ruthenium atoms (abstract). The cobalt and platinum atoms store the digital information in a similar way to how a hard disk drive stores data. The ruthenium atoms act as messengers, communicating that information between neighbouring layers of cobalt and platinum. Each of the layers is only a few atoms thick. They then used a laser technique called MOKE to probe the data content of the different layers. As they switched a magnetic field on and off they saw in the MOKE signal the data climbing layer by layer from the bottom of the chip to the top.'"