cylonlover writes "Exploring the regions of deep space beyond Mars means sending probes where solar power isn't practical. Since the 1960s, NASA has equipped its Apollo missions and unmanned explorers with Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTGs). These have worked very well, but they run on plutonium 238, which is currently in short supply. Therefore, the Los Alamos National Laboratory is developing a new small nuclear reactor for spacecraft that uses uranium instead of plutonium to power Stirling engines and generate electricity. At the Nevada National Security Site's Device Assembly Facility near Las Vegas, engineers from Los Alamos, the NASA Glenn Research Center and National Security Technologies LLC conducted a Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions (DUFF) experiment that produced 24 watts of electricity using a pair of free-piston Stirling engines."
Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.
Readycharged writes "A generation's childhood dreams have come true with the creation of a working 'robot in disguise' Transformer which, when operated by remote control, morphs from a luxury sports car to a missile hurling robot in seconds. Japanese inventor Kenji Ishida is planning to make 10 lucky (and undoubtedly rich) purchasers owners of these toys in the run up to Christmas, having first displayed them at the Maker Faire in Tokyo during the first week of December. For those willing to wait a few years, Ishida plans to have created a life size, drivable model by 2030."
eldavojohn writes "Mojang's Marcus Persson (better known as 'Notch') has answered quite a few questions in an interview with PC Gamer about his new game 0x10c. Since its announcement, there's been very few details about game play aside from the DCPU-16 and art tests. But in this interview, Notch has revealed quite a bit about how the game will function and non-final ideas he has for either a monthly fee to play in a 'multiverse' or micropayments. He talks about a custom OS people are working on to load into the game's CPU as well as a an in-game 3D printer that will allow you to make virtual objects. When asked about Kickstarter and his Oculus dev kit, Notch said 'Definitely going to make it work in 0x10c no matter what' and his account of using the Oculus Rift sounds more than promising for the VR Device. When asked about Linux he said, '[Linux] is wonderful. I think we need to have it, and it's a shame that more people, including myself, don't use it. It's gotten easier and friendlier.' When asked about Microsoft he said, 'I use their OS – Windows 7 is an amazing operating system in my opinion and of course there's the Xbox, which I love. I'm sure Bing is going to take off and save them. [Editor's note: Notch is smiling mischievously as he says this.]'"
cryptoz writes "Cumulonimbus has released a new version of their open source, global barometer network. The network is built around an Android app called pressureNET which uses barometric sensors in new phones (such as the Nexus 4, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S3, Note, and others) in order to build the comprehensive network. They plan to use the data to improve short-term weather prediction, and the gives a teaser of the new data visualization tool they are building."
jfruh writes "Automakers are striving mightily to bring their in-dash systems into the modern age, providing integration with smartphones and other advanced features. The problem: while smartphones go in and out of vogue every few years, modern cars have lifespans of a decade or more. Add in the fact that many (though not all) manufacturers have no plans to allow software upgrades to their systems, and you might end up driving a car with a fancy in-dash computer system that's completely useless for much of the time you own it."
garymortimer writes "Earlier this month, Iran's news agency provided visual evidence that its government had figured out to make a fancy new drone that could take off and land vertically. What they didn't tell us is that they used Photoshop to make it stop taking off from the roof of Japan's Chiba University, which built the aircraft and never had anything to do with Iran's alleged version of it."
jandersen writes "I am the system manager in charge of a smallish server room (~50 servers, most in racks), and I am going to buy a set of tools; but first I want to hear what other people think would be a good idea. Certainly a range of good quality screwdrivers — slotted, Phillips, Pozidriv, Torx. But what else? Tape measure? Spirit level (for aligning the racks)? Any meters or cable testers? A wood lathe? I can probably get away with a budget of a few hundred GBP, but there ought to be some mileage in that."
New submitter arobatino writes "A new method of manufacturing semiconductors which eliminates the substrate (in other words, no wafer) could be much faster and cheaper. From the article: 'Instead of starting from a silicon wafer or other substrate, as is usual today, researchers have made it possible for the structures to grow from freely suspended nanoparticles of gold in a flowing gas. "The basic idea was to let nanoparticles of gold serve as a substrate from which the semiconductors grow. This means that the accepted concepts really were turned upside down!" Since then, the technology has been refined, patents have been obtained and further studies have been conducted. In the article in Nature, the researchers show how the growth can be controlled using temperature, time and the size of the gold nanoparticles.'"
An anonymous reader writes "After an amazing Kickstarter campaign garnering over $2.4M in backing, VR headset Manufacture OculusVR has announced manufacturing details and also a shipping delay until March or April 2013. Oculus says that due to the number of backers, mass manufacturing would be required. 'All together, preparing the factory for mass production of a product like the Rift takes approximately 90 days and the factory can’t begin until design and feature set has been locked down. Our manufacturer is already underway with the first tooling (T1), which takes roughly 50-70 days. Once the primary tooling is complete, we’ll do a series of pilot runs for minor tweaks and adjustments before mass production. Simultaneously, we’ll be testing and certifying the device for public use.' Additional details are included on their 1000hz 9DOF head tracker and 7" screen: 'Ultimately, we selected a modern, 1280×800 7’’ display for the developer kit. The bright side is that the new display beats the old display in almost every key area including response time, switching time, contrast, and color quality. The improved switching time of the panel actually alleviates most of the motion blur people saw in earlier prototype demos. The downside to our new 7’’ is the weight differential: approximately 30g more than the 5.6".' It looks like the VR revolution will have to wait a little bit longer."
MojoKid writes "Not many SSD controller manufacturers have been able to compete with the likes of SandForce and the myriad of SATA drives from various OEMs on the market that are based on their technology. However, OCZ took a different approach recently when they acquired SSD controller manufacturer Indilinx and PCI Express Switch maker PLX. Today the company took the wraps of their new Vector line of SSDs. The Vector is the first drive from OCZ to utilize only technologies developed by the unified Indilinx, PLX, and OCZ teams (except for the actual NAND flash), since the acquisitions. The Vector is based on the new INDILINK Barefoot 3 controller, which in terms of its features and specifications, looks competitive with some of the fastest drives on the market currently. In the benchmarks, the drive's IOMeter and CrystalDiskMark scores line up well and OCZ is offering a 5 year warranty on the product."
hypnosec writes "A new flaw has been discovered in printers manufactured by Samsung whereby a backdoor in the form of an administrator account would enable attackers to not only take control of the flawed device, but will also allow them to attack other systems in the network. According to a warning on US-CERT the administrator account is hard-coded in the device in the form of an SNMP community string with full read-write access. The backdoor is not only present in Samsung printers but also in Dell printers that have been manufactured by Samsung. The administrator account remains active even if SNMP is disabled from the printer's administration interface."
nicholast writes "If your driverless car is about to crash into a bus, should it veer off a bridge? NYU Prof. Gary Marcus has a good essay about the need to program ethics and morality into our future machines. Quoting: 'Within two or three decades the difference between automated driving and human driving will be so great you may not be legally allowed to drive your own car, and even if you are allowed, it would immoral of you to drive, because the risk of you hurting yourself or another person will be far greater than if you allowed a machine to do the work. That moment will be significant not just because it will signal the end of one more human niche, but because it will signal the beginning of another: the era in which it will no longer be optional for machines to have ethical systems.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Netflix has released Hystrix, a library designed for managing interactions between distributed systems, complete with 'fallback' options for when those systems inevitably fail. The code for Hystrix—which Netflix tested on its own systems—can be downloaded at Github, with documentation available here, in addition to a getting-started guide and operations examples, among others. Hystrix evolved out of Netflix's need to manage an increasing rate of calls to its APIs, and resulted in (according to the company) a 'dramatic improvement in uptime and resilience has been achieved through its use.' The Netflix API receives more than 1 billion incoming calls per day, which translates into several billion outgoing calls (averaging a ratio of 1:6) to dozens of underlying systems, with peaks of over 100,000 dependency requests per second. That's according to Netflix engineer Ben Christensen, who described the incredible loads on the company's infrastructure in a February blog posting. The vast majority of those calls serve the discovery user interfaces (UIs) of the more than 800 different devices supported by Netflix."
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday there was a rumor doing the rounds that Nintendo was set to release a brand new version of the Wii console called the Wii Mini. The new machine would be significantly smaller than the current Wii, is expected to ship with a Wii Remote Plus, Nunchuk, and Sensor Bar, and hopefully carries a much lower (sub-$100) price. Well, it looks as though this wasn't just a rumor. Best Buy Canada has it listed with an image on its front page and a December 7 release date." Also at PC Mag.
New submitter alexanderb writes "While DOOM 3 BFG Edition might not have blown most gamers' minds, it sure blew some hackers' minds by supporting the Oculus Rift head-mounted display. Now, id Software have put up the source code of the BFG Edition under the GPL in good time for the tentative Oculus Rift release date, 12/12/12."