Nerval's Lobster writes "In 2005, the first business to offer colocated Mac Minis inside a data center made its debut, provoking criticism on Slashdot of everything from how the Mini was cooled to the underlying business model. But nowadays, more than half a dozen facilities are either hosting their own Mac Minis for rent, or offering colocation services for individual consumers and businesses. While some vendors declined to give out reliability information, those who did claimed a surprisingly small number of failures. 'If Dell makes a small little machine, you don't know that they'll be making that, in that form factor, six months down the road, or what they're going to do, or how they're going to refresh it,' Jon Schwenn, a network engineer for CyberLynk Networks (which owns Macminivault) said in an interview. 'We've had three model years of Minis that have stayed externally, physically identical.' Customers are using Minis for all sorts of things: providing Mail, iCal, and the Websites for small businesses; databases, like Filemaker or Daylite; as a VPN server for those who want an IP address in the United States; build servers for Xcode; and general personal servers for Plex media streaming and other fun projects. Some are even using it for Windows."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
New submitter fluxgate writes "Steve Mann (whom you might know for his having pioneered wearable computing as a grad student at MIT back in the 1990s) writes in IEEE Spectrum magazine about his decades of experience with computerized eyeware. His article warns that Google Glass hasn't been properly engineered to avoid creating disorientating effects and significant eyestrain. While it's hard to imagine that Google has missed something fundamental here, Mann convincingly describes why Google Glass users might experience serious problems. Quoting: 'The very first wearable computer system I put together showed me real-time video on a helmet-mounted display. The camera was situated close to one eye, but it didn’t have quite the same viewpoint. The slight misalignment seemed unimportant at the time, but it produced some strange and unpleasant results. And those troubling effects persisted long after I took the gear off. That’s because my brain had adjusted to an unnatural view, so it took a while to readjust to normal vision. ... Google Glass and several similarly configured systems now in development suffer from another problem I learned about 30 years ago that arises from the basic asymmetry of their designs, in which the wearer views the display through only one eye. These systems all contain lenses that make the display appear to hover in space, farther away than it really is. That’s because the human eye can’t focus on something that’s only a couple of centimeters away, so an optical correction is needed. But what Google and other companies are doing—using fixed-focus lenses to make the display appear farther away—is not good.'"
ios and web coder writes "An article at Ars notes, 'Unmanned aircraft crash. In fact, they crash a lot—though there's no recent specific data, the Congressional Research Service reported last year that despite improvements, "the accident rate for unmanned aircraft is still far above that of manned aircraft.' And while many of those accidents can be attributed to being exposed to hostile fire or operating in conditions when aircraft normally wouldn't, a significant percentage of drone crashes is caused by human error. A December 2004 FAA study of Defense Department drone crashes found human factors to be a causal factor in about a third of the cases they examined (PDF).' Drones are un-cheap. As yesterday's Super Hornet story noted, they are cheaper than manned planes... but not that much cheaper. Expect them to get more expensive. Also, as they get armed, the price paid for a bad UX decision could become quite tragic."
An anonymous reader writes "Flash SSDs are non-volatile, right? So how could power failures screw with your data? Several ways, according to a ZDNet post that summarizes a paper (PDF) presented at last month's FAST 13 conference. Researchers from Ohio State and HP Labs researchers tested 15 SSDs using an automated power fault injection testbed and found that 13 lost data. 'Bit corruption hit 3 devices; 3 had shorn writes; 8 had serializability errors; one device lost 1/3 of its data; and 1 SSD bricked. The low-end hard drive had some unserializable writes, while the high-end drive had no power fault failures. The 2 SSDs that had no failures? Both were MLC 2012 model years with a mid-range ($1.17/GB) price.'"
yenrabbit writes "A friend has just told me he has 80 CRT TVs, a stack of DVD players and hundreds of VCR machines, all broken and all mine free of charge. I can already think of a few awesome components I can extract (flyback transformers for high voltage contraptions and so on) and have a few ideas, such as DVD lasers, that I can build. But what else can be made from such a treasure-trove of components, and how would one go about processing such a large volume of stuff with the least amount of effort? Also, I don't have access to online shopping so I'd also like a pain free way of salvaging many simpler parts such as resistors as well." Another reader sent in a similar question: "The other day I went down to my University's property disposition center for the first time. In addition to mundane things like chairs and desks, it also had a wealth of technological devices, from old PCs and monitors to obscure medical and chemistry equipment. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed. I just don't know what I'd do with a old gene sequencing machine or a broken oscilloscope. Any ideas for fun projects? Or better yet, suggestions on how I can figure out which machines (or their components) are worth playing with?"
the_newsbeagle writes "This year, a biotech company called Ion Torrent will introduce a new chip for its genome sequencing machine, which should enable researchers and doctors to scan a complete human genome for $1000 and in just a couple of hours. Compare that to the effort required to complete the first human genome: $3 billion and 13 years. Ion Torrent has nearly reached the $1000-genome milestone by virtue of a process called 'semiconductor sequencing,' and the company's founder says his chip-based sequencing machine benefits from all the efficiencies of the computer industry. At a price point of $1000, genome scans could become a routine part of medicine. And the price could keep dropping. To test out the technology, and to investigate just how useful genome scans are these days for your typical, reasonably healthy person, the IEEE Spectrum reporter got her own genome scanned and analyzed."
Mr_Blank writes "Organizations like the EFF and ACLU have been raising the alarm over increased government surveillance of U.S. citizens. Legislators haven't been quick to respond to concerns of government spying on citizens. But Texas legislators are apparently quite concerned that private citizens operating hobby drones might spot environmental violations by businesses. Representative Lance Gooden has introduced HB912 which proposes: 'A person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image. ('Image' is defined as including any type of recorded telemetry from sensors that measure sound waves, thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves, odor, or other conditions.)' Can you foresee any unintended consequences if this proposal becomes law?" Another reader notes that New Hampshire has introduced a similar bill: "Neal Kurk, a Republican member of New Hampshire's House of Representatives knows that those drones present a growing privacy concern, and in response has introduced a bill that would ban all aerial photography in the state. That is, unless you're working for the government. The bill, HB 619-FN (PDF), is blessedly short, and I suggest reading the whole thing for yourself." Here's part of the bill: "A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if such person knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state where such image is created by or with the assistance of a satellite, drone, or any device that is not supported by the ground."
cylonlover writes "Boston Dynamics' BigDog may have already been replaced by the beefier LS3, but that doesn't mean it's totally obsolete. Today the company unveiled a version of the quadruped equipped with an arm where a head (or tail) would go. As can be seen in a slightly disquieting video, it's powerful enough to lift and toss a heavy cinder block. Key to this work, funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, is that BigDog uses the dynamic forces of its whole body to help it throw the cinder block. It begins by taking several steps to the side before quickly accelerating as it swings its arm, temporarily launching itself into the air in the process. This approach is similar to the way an athlete winds up before throwing a discus, for example, and greatly enhances the robot's throwing power. Since few robots are as capable as BigDog when it comes to balance, it's an excellent platform to test these sorts of strenuous actions."
iONiUM writes "From the article: 'Many are only just getting their heads around the idea of 3D printing but scientists at MIT are already working on an upgrade: 4D printing. At the TED conference in Los Angeles, architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits showed how the process allows objects to self-assemble.' There could be many applications for this. Definitely a cool step forward." Pictures and video of the process.
Deathspawner writes "Using a mobile device to control an application on a PC, media player or video game console, isn't too uncommon, but it is when the content being controlled is a game. Just how possible would it be to play a fairly fast-paced game on your PC via your mobile device? Google wanted to find out, so it crafted a game called Super Sync Sports, where you control an athlete on your desktop or notebook via controls on your phone or tablet. To make a game like this possible, Google turned to WebSockets for real-time collaboration between two devices, HTML5 for the audio, Canvas for the graphics, and CSS3 for the styling and transitions." It appears that it routes your controls through the Internet rather than locally. Something like this over bluetooth or wifi with a shared touch screen might be cool for electronic board games.
Dystopian Rebel writes "A Stanford comp-sci student has found a serious bug in Chromium, Safari, Opera, and MSIE. Feross Aboukhadijeh has demonstrated that these browsers allow unbounded local storage. 'The HTML5 Web Storage standard was developed to allow sites to store larger amounts of data (like 5-10 MB) than was previously allowed by cookies (like 4KB). ... The current limits are: 2.5 MB per origin in Google Chrome, 5 MB per origin in Mozilla Firefox and Opera, 10 MB per origin in Internet Explorer. However, what if we get clever and make lots of subdomains like 1.filldisk.com, 2.filldisk.com, 3.filldisk.com, and so on? Should each subdomain get 5MB of space? The standard says no. ... However, Chrome, Safari, and IE currently do not implement any such "affiliated site" storage limit.' Aboukhadijeh has logged the bug with Chromium and Apple, but couldn't do so for MSIE because 'the page is broken" (see http://connect.microsoft.com/IE). Oops. Firefox's implementation of HTML5 local storage is not vulnerable to this exploit."
MojoKid writes "Aside from the terrible nickname (it sounds like a term for the spoiled offspring of fabulous people), phablets are somewhat controversial because they seem to be the epitome of inflated phone sizes. A lot of people wanted bigger, and this is 'bigger' to the extreme. A larger screen on a smartphone is attractive for obvious reasons, but surely there's a limit. So how big is too big? If you're not into parsing out the particulars of form factors and use cases, here's a really easy way to figure out if your phone or phablet is too big: Can you hold the device in one hand and 1) unlock the phone, 2) type out a text message with your thumb, and 3) adjust the volume with the rocker without using your other hand? If not, you might need a smaller phone."
Tim Lord met Jay Kim at the RSA Conference in an Francisco. Kim's background is in manufacturing, but he's got an interest in security that has manifested itself in hardware with an emphasis on ease of use. His company, DataLocker, has come up with a fully cross-platform, driver independent portable system that mates a touch-pad input device with an AES-encrypted drive. It doesn't look much different from typical external USB drives, except for being a little beefier and bulkier than the current average, to account for both a touchpad and the additional electronics for performing encryption and decryption in hardware. Because authentication is done on the face of the drive itself, it can be used with any USB-equipped computer available to the user, and works fine as a bootable device, so you can -- for instance -- run a complete Linux system from it. (For that, though, you might want one of the smaller-capacity, solid-state versions of this drive, for speed.) Kim talked about the drive, and painted a rosy picture of what it's like to be a high-tech entrepreneur in Kansas.
Nerval's Lobster writes "The Apache Hadoop open-source framework specializes in running data applications on large hardware clusters, making it a particular favorite among firms such as Facebook and IBM with a lot of backend infrastructure (and a whole ton of data) to manage. So it'd be hard to blame Intel for jumping into this particular arena. The chipmaker has produced its own distribution for Apache Hadoop, apparently built 'from the silicon up' to efficiently access and crunch massive datasets. The distribution takes advantage of Intel's work in hardware, backed by the Intel Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) Instructions (Intel AES-NI) in the Intel Xeon processor. Intel also claims that a specialized Hadoop distribution riding on its hardware can analyze data at superior speeds—namely, one terabyte of data can be processed in seven minutes, versus hours for some other systems. The company faces a lot of competition in an arena crowded with other Hadoop players, but that won't stop it from trying to throw its muscle around."
AstroPhilosopher writes "In a move not far removed from the model T-101, U.S. researchers have succeeded in re-animating a dead sparrow. Duke scientists were studying male behavior aggression among sparrows. They cleverly decided to insert miniaturized robotics into an empty sparrow carcass and operate it like a puppet (abstract). It worked; they noticed wing movements were a primary sign of aggression. Fortunately the living won out this time. The experiment stopped after the real sparrows tore off the robosparrow's head. But there's always a newer model on the assembly-line. Good luck sparrows." Bad Horse has not yet made a decision on the researchers' application.
Dr. Tom writes "The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones, up from fewer than 200 in 2002. They carry out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank GlobalSecurity.org. Pike suspects that the F-35 Lightning II, now under development by Lockheed Martin, might be 'the last fighter with an ejector seat, and might get converted into a drone itself.' The weakest link is the pilot. A jet could pull 15 Gs, out-turning any conventional aircraft, except it would kill the pilot. Is it time to stop spending billions on obsolete aircraft?"
First time accepted submitter AchilleTalon writes "Research by Harvard professor David Keith suggests that the global capacity for energy generation from wind power has been overestimated, and that geophysical / climate effects of turbines will reduce the benefits of large-scale power installations. 'People have often thought there's no upper bound for wind power—that it's one of the most scalable power sources," he says. After all, gusts and breezes don't seem likely to 'run out' on a global scale in the way oil wells might run dry. Yet the latest research suggests that the generating capacity has been overestimated."
adeelarshad82 writes "Needless to say, the march of processor speeds always continues. However, Nvidia Tegra 4's benchmark results are off the charts. Comparing the results against several other phones, it was evident that Tegra 4 will make for the fastest mobile phones yet. For instance when benchmarked against iPhone 5, results showed 1640 on Geekbench and 27 fps on GLBenchmark's Egypt HD offscreen benchmark. Whereas the Tegra 4 scores 4148 on Geekbench and 57 fps on the Egypt HD. Of course, the competition isn't standing still, either. Qualcomm is countering the Tegra 4 with its Snapdragon 800, which the company claims is even faster than the Tegra 4. And at the same time Samsung is readying the Exynos 5 Octa."
New submitter KublaCant writes "'At this very moment, researchers around the world – including in the United States – are working to develop fully autonomous war machines: killer robots. This is not science fiction. It is a real and powerful threat to humanity.' These are the first words of a Human Rights Watch Petition to President Obama to keep robots from the battlefield. The argument is that robots possess neither common sense, 'real' reason, any sense of mercy nor — most important — the option to not obey illegal commands. With the fast-spreading use of drones et al., we are allegedly a long way off from Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics being implanted in autonomous fighting machines, or into any ( semi- ) autonomous robot. A 'Stop the Killer Robots' campaign will also be launched in April at the British House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons. The Guardian has more about this, including quotes from well-known robotics researcher Noel Sharkey from Sheffield University."
theodp writes "You know the old adage, 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?' Still, even if you got bit by the HP TouchPad debacle, HP's newly-announced $169 Slate7 tablet could prove hard to resist. Specs-wise, the Slate7 sports an ARM Dual Core Cortex-A9 1.6 GHz processor, 7-inch 1024x600 HFFS screen, Android 4.1 (Jellybean), three-megapixel camera on the back, front-facing VGA camera, 8GB of on-board storage, HP ePrint, Beats Audio, and a micro SD expandable card slot. It measures 197mm x 116mm x 10.7mm thick, and weighs in at 13 ounces. It will be available in the U.S. in April. Engadget has some pics and their initial hands-on take."