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Robotics

Not Quite a T-1000, But On the Right Track 159

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dancing-robot-death-machines dept.
New submitter misanthropic.mofo writes with a look at the the emerging field of robtic warfare. Adding, "Leaping from drones, to recon 'turtlebots', humanity is making its way toward robo-combat. I for one think it would make it interesting to pit legions of robot warriors against each other and let people purchase time on them. Of course there are people that are for and against such technology. Development of ethical robotic systems seems like it would take some of the fun out of things, there's also the question of who gets to decide on the ethics."
Japan

Japan Plans to Restart Most of Their Nuclear Reactors 255

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the thank-you-for-saving-the-biosphere dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "Areva, the French nuclear fuel company, helps supply Japan with a lot of its juice. And Areva's chief executive says that Japan is going to restart up to six reactors by the end of the year. Eventually, it's going to power up at least two thirds of them. Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe has been a little cagey, but he recently told the press that yes, despite the upcoming March 11th anniversary of the Fukushima crisis, the nuke plants are coming back online." Supposedly, they are overhauling their nuclear regulatory agencies to fix the massive failure and regulatory capture that led to Fukushima being run unsafely. They are also not going to restart reactors that are on active fault lines; this includes the largest reactor complex in the world. Vaguely related, the Vogtle plant expansion in the U.S. is running a bit over budget, with folks like the Sierra Club seizing the chance to call for an end to construction (unlikely, since Georgia Power says it'd cost customers more, even pretending natural gas is infinite and will always be cheap, to halt construction in favor of any other kind of power plant), and legislators aiming to 'protect' customers from cost overruns. However, it looks like unless action is taken the nuclear renaissance is already dead due to the inherent short-sightedness of the "free market."
Google

Apple's iWatch Could Come With IOS, Earn $6 Billion a Year 327

Posted by samzenpus
from the better-than-a-swatch dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Apple's long-rumored "iWatch" could earn the company $6 billion a year, if an analyst quoted by Bloomberg proves correct. Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen estimated the global watch industry's annual revenue at $60 billion a year, with gross margins of roughly 60 percent. "This can be a $6 billion opportunity for Apple, with plenty of opportunity for upside if they create something totally new like they did with the iPod," he told the newswire, "something consumers didn't even know they needed." Meanwhile, The Verge reports that Apple has " chosen to rework the full iOS to run on the watch instead of building up the iPod nano's proprietary touch operating system," which has led to battery issues: while Apple would like the device to last "at least 4-5 days" between charges, the current prototypes give somewhat less. While an "Apple TV" long dominated the rumor mill as Apple's next big product, the frequency and detail of "iWatch" rumors over the past few weeks suggests that a timepiece could be the company's next big project."
Displays

Did Steve Jobs Pick the Wrong Tablet Size? 433

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody's-perfect dept.
An anonymous reader writes "During the 2010 Christmas shopping season, Steve Jobs famously dissed the 7-inch tablets being rolled out by competitors, including Samsung's Galaxy, as being 'tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the [9.7-inch diagonal] iPad,' adding that 'the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival.' A year later Jobs was dead, and the iPad Mini, with a 7.9-inch diagonal screen, was rolled out under his successor Tim Cook in October, 2012. Looking at industry-wide tablet sales numbers for January 2013, which show that the iPad Mini surprisingly outsold its larger sibling by a substantial margin (as did 7-inch Android tablets from competitors), Motley Fool's Evan Niu thinks that the 7.9-inch form factor was the correct size all along, contrary to Jobs' pronouncements (which, of course, was partly marketing bluster — but he chose the larger size in the first place). Of course the Mini is cheaper, but not by much — $329 vs. $399 for the larger iPad, for the baseline model with WiFi only and 16GB storage. Had Apple introduced the iPad with the smaller size to begin with, Niu argues, competitors would have faced a much more difficult task grabbing market share. While the Mini is currently available only with 'Super VGA' resolution (1024x768), rumors are afloat that Minis with the Retina display (2048x1536) are close to production."
Data Storage

Seagate To Stop Making 7200rpm Laptop HDDs 261

Posted by Soulskill
from the mourn-the-spinning-platters dept.
jones_supa writes "'We are going stop building our notebook 7200rpm hard disk drives at the end of 2013,' said David Burks, director of marketing and product management at Seagate Technology, during a conversation with X-bit labs. The mainstream market demand is expected shift to different products, such as hybrid drives. Users who need maximum performance and care about battery life have been choosing notebooks with SSDs for years now, whereas those who required capacity and moderate price do not really care about actual performance. With the introduction of third-generation solid-state hybrid drives later this year, Seagate will position them for performance- and capacity-demanding end-users. The company will also continue to offer 5400rpm HDDs for value notebooks."
Apple

Apple's Lightning-to-HDMI Dongle Secretly Packed With ARM, Airplay 392

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-a-reservoir-of-hipness dept.
New submitter joelville writes "After noticing artifacts and a 1600 × 900 image in the output from Apple's new Lightning Digital AV Adapter, the Panic Blog sawed it open and found an ARM chip inside. They suspect that video bypasses the cable entirely and instead uses Airplay to stream three inches to make up for the Lightning connector's shortcomings."
Education

The Raspberry Pi Turns One 81

Posted by timothy
from the leap-year-birth-means-it's-only-point-two-five dept.
hypnosec writes "The Raspberry Pi turned one yesterday. Raspberry Pi was first launched on 29 February 2012 in the UK and it was received with a huge amount of enthusiasm by students and researchers alike. The Pi has had quite an eventful year, with researchers building a Raspberry Pi cluster; release of an official turbo mode patch; a 512 MB RAM upgrade; the launch of a Pi Store; sales of over a million units; and release of the Minecraft Pocket Edition."
Apple

Among Servers, Apple's Mac Mini Quietly Gains Ground 367

Posted by timothy
from the if-you-can't-see-it-is-it-beautiful? dept.
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."
Google

Adjusting to Google Glass May Be Hard 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the unless-walking-into-things-is-your-preference dept.
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.'"
The Military

Hit the Wrong Button, Drone Goes Boom 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-controller-ran-out-of-batteries dept.
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."
Data Storage

How Power Failures Corrupt Flash SSD Data 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-so-solid-state dept.
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.'"
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: Projects For a Heap of Tech Junk? 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the build-a-robot-army-and-send-it-to-texas dept.
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?"
Medicine

The Next Revolution In Medicine: Genome Scans For Everyone 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-tell-the-TSA-about-this dept.
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."
Robotics

Texas Declares War On Robots 387

Posted by Soulskill
from the robots-suffer-texas's-shenanigans...-for-now dept.
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."
Robotics

BigDog Robot Grabs, Lifts, and Throws Cinder Blocks With Its New Arm 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-don't-teach-it-to-aim-for-humans dept.
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."
Printer

MIT Researcher Demos Self-Assembling Objects 69

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the grey-goo-scenario dept.
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.
Google

Google Super Sync Sports Turns Your Phone Into A Gamepad 36

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the network-everything dept.
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.
Bug

HTML5 Storage Bug Can Fill Your Hard Drive 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the disk-write-error dept.
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."
Cellphones

Smartphone Screen Real Estate: How Big Is Big Enough? 320

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-it-doesn't-fit-on-your-coffee-table-you-might-have-a-problem dept.
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."
Security

RSA: Self-Encrypting USB Hard Drives for all Operating Systems (Video) 154

Posted by Roblimo
from the the-mysteries-of-the-crypt-on-a-portable-hard-drive dept.
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.

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