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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Robotics

Robot Snake Could Aid Search and Rescue Operations 66

Posted by samzenpus
from the slither-and-save dept.
mikejuk writes "The Carnegie Mellon University Biorobotics Lab demonstrates how the snakelike robots can aid search and rescue operations in collapsed buildings. The video appeared more or less at the same time as the current real disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh where an 8-storey building collapsed, trapping some three thousand people. Bangladesh rescue teams, helped by members of the community, have so far worked with small tools and their bare hands to bring out survivors. Having a snake robot that could provide pictures from within the building would lead to speedier and more effective rescue operations."
Portables

$200 Intel Android Laptops Are Coming 319

Posted by Soulskill
from the race-to-zero dept.
symbolset writes "Outbound Intel CEO Paul Otellini created quite a stir when mentioning that touchscreen laptops would reach a $200 price point. CNET is now reporting in an interview with Intel chief product officer Dadi Perlmutter that these touchscreen laptops will run Android on Intel Atom processors at first. 'Whether Windows 8 PCs hit that price largely depends on Microsoft, he said. "We have a good technology that enables a very cost-effective price point," Perlmutter said. The price of Windows 8 laptops "depends on how Microsoft prices Windows 8. It may be a slightly higher price point." ... Perlmutter didn't specify what the Android notebooks will look like, but it's probable they'll be convertible-type devices. He also noted that he expects the PC market to pick up in the back half of the year and heading into 2014 as new devices become available."
Input Devices

$5 Sensor Turns LCD Monitors Into Touchscreens 98

Posted by timothy
from the later-comes-the-voice-control dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from ExtremeTech: "Researchers at the University of Washington's aptly named Ubiquitous Computing Lab can turn any LCD monitor in your house into a touchscreen, with nothing more than a $5 sensor that plugs into the wall and some clever software." The system works by measuring changes that your hand creates in the electromagnetic signature of the monitor. Surprisingly, it offers some pretty fine-grained detection, too: "full-hand touch, five-finger touch, hovering above the screen, pushing, and pulling." The "$5 sensor" part is mostly theoretical for now to those of us who don't live in a lab, though; on the other hand, "co-author Sidhant Gupta tells Technology Review that the $5 sensor uses off-the-shelf parts, and the algorithms are included in the paper, so it would be fairly easy for you — or a commercial entity — to recreate the uTouch system."
Power

Maryland Team Hopes To Nab $250k Prize For Leg-Powered Copter 33

Posted by timothy
from the go-terps dept.
daltec writes "The $250,000 American Helicopter Society Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize, unclaimed since 1980, is now closer than ever to being won. With flights up to ten feet in altitude and lasting over 65 seconds, the prize's strict requirements (thought by many to be impossible to satisfy) have all been met — but not on the same flight. Two teams — AeroVelo in Canada and Gamera II at the University of Maryland — are tantalizingly close to claiming the prize. The Gamera team will be making its latest attempt this weekend."
Data Storage

Btrfs Is Getting There, But Not Quite Ready For Production 268

Posted by timothy
from the delicious-on-popcrnfs dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Btrfs is the next-gen filesystem for Linux, likely to replace ext3 and ext4 in coming years. Btrfs offers many compelling new features and development proceeds apace, but many users still aren't sure whether it's 'ready enough' to entrust their data to. Anchor, a webhosting company, reports on trying it out, with mixed feelings. Their opinion: worth a look-in for most systems, but too risky for frontline production servers. The writeup includes a few nasty caveats that will bite you on serious deployments."
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Setting Up a System Integration Room At VAR? 70

Posted by timothy
from the don't-forget-all-the-little-screwdrivers dept.
o2binbuzios writes "Due to an office move, I have a chance to do a clean-sheet design for an integration room at a fairly large VAR ($100M+ ). I'm looking for some ideas or best practice to support 100-120 square meters (~50 x 30 ft). I'm particularly interested in ideas around efficient workflow, ways to manage cabling and electrical, and 'environmental' solutions that make it a pleasant place to work. There will be a central bench with 6-8 stations (3-4 per side) with engineers and techs who may be configuring stacks of up to 10 devices at a time that could range from servers, to network elements, to SAN & NAS devices and more. I've been looking for a paper that seems like it must exist — but I'm happy to gather good ideas one at a time or in bunches here on Slashdot."
Input Devices

Texas Company's Antique Computers Are For Production, Not Display 289

Posted by timothy
from the commute-by-horseback-numb-with-ether dept.
concealment writes "Sparkler Filters up north in Conroe [Texas] still uses an IBM 402 in conjunction with a Model 129 key punch – with the punch cards and all – to do company accounting work and inventory. The company makes industrial filters for chemical plants and grease traps. Lutricia Wood is the head accountant at Sparkler and the data processing manager. She went to business school over 40 years ago in Houston, and started at Sparkler in 1973. Back then punch cards were still somewhat state of the art." See kottke.org for an eye-popping view of one of the "programs" — imagine debugging that.
IBM

IBM Robotic Coworker Will Help Engineers Fix Broken Systems 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the little-electric-friend dept.
coondoggie writes "When it comes to fixing broken systems, especially in remote locations, engineers could soon turn to a new mobile robotic system IBM is developing that could help them more easily find the broken equipment, offer up information about the system and provide real-time visual support from supervising experts. The mobile maintenance, repair and operations prototype includes an application that lets a supervisor monitor an engineer's progress towards the maintenance site, and a robotic arm coupled with a camera system, a microphone and laser pointer."
China

China Slows Nuclear Expansion 78

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the secretly-invented-fusion dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Hui Zhang and Shangui Zhao describe China's decision to move ahead with nuclear power. Following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, China slowed its rapid expansion of nuclear power and undertook a major reevaluation of safety practices. The government has now resumed approval of new nuclear power projects, and is cautiously moving forward. Good description of safety issues that remain." They are suspending in-land construction, and are aiming at 58GWe instead of 80GWe of generation capacity by 2020. It's still more than the 40GWe they planned to build under their 2007 plans.
AMD

AMD Radeon HD 7990 Released: Dual GPUs and 6G of Memory for $1000 189

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the faster-than-a-voodoo-4 dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Today AMD has officially unveiled its long-awaited dual-GPU Tahiti-based card. Codenamed Malta, the $1,000 Radeon HD 7990 is positioned directly against Nvidia's dual-GPU GeForce GTX 690. Tom's Hardware posted the performance data. Because Fraps measures data at a stage in the pipeline before what is actually seen on-screen, they employed Nvidia's FCAT (Frame Capture Analysis Tools). ... The 690 is beating AMD's new flagship in six out of eight titles. ... AMD is bundling eight titles with every 7990, including: BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution." OpenGL performance doesn't seem too off from the competing Nvidia card, but the 7990 dominates when using OpenCL. Power management looks decent: ~375W at full load, but a nice 20W at idle (it can turn the second chip off entirely when unneeded). PC Perspective claims there are issues with Crossfire and an un-synchronized rendering pipeline that leads to a slight decrease in the actual frame rate, but that should be fixed by an updated Catalyst this summer.
Robotics

Teachable Robot Helps Assemble IKEA Furniture 88

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the next-step-world-domination dept.
cylonlover writes "Teaching a robot how to deal with real-world problems is a challenging task. There has been much progress in building robots that can precisely repeat individual tasks with a level of speed and accuracy impossible for human craftspeople. But there are many more tasks that could be done if robots could be supplied with even a limited amount of judgment. A robotics group led by Professor Sylvain Calinon at the Italian Institute of Technology is making progress in solving this problem and has developed a robot whose purpose in life is to help a person build an IKEA table."
Power

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Cleanup May Take More Than 40 Years 218

Posted by Soulskill
from the public-to-forget-about-it-within-40-months dept.
mdsolar writes "'A U.N. nuclear watchdog team said Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission the Fukushima power plant and urged Tepco to improve stability at the facility. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency team, Juan Carlos Lentijo, said Monday that damage at the nuclear plant is so complex that it is impossible to predict how long the cleanup may last.' Meanwhile, Gregory B. Jaczko, former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that all 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology."
Cloud

BitTorrent Opens Up Its Sync Alpha To the Public For Windows, Mac, and Linux 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the solutions-in-search-of-problems dept.
An anonymous reader writes "BitTorrent on Tuesday announced it has released its file synchronization tool Sync into open alpha. You can download the latest version now for Windows, Mac, and Linux over at labs.bittorrent.com. The company first announced its Sync software back in January, explaining at the time that it uses peer-to-peer technology to synchronize personal files across multiple computers and devices."
Transportation

Will Future Tesla Cars Use Metal-Air Batteries? 171

Posted by Soulskill
from the powered-by-the-tears-of-oil-execs dept.
thecarchik writes "Most advocates and industry analysts expect lithium-ion batteries to dominate electric-car energy storage for the rest of this decade. But is Tesla Motors planning to add a new type of battery to increase the range of its electric cars? Tesla has filed for eight separate patents on uses of metal-air battery technology (for example, #20120041625). The metals covered for use in the metal-air battery are aluminum, iron, lithium, magnesium, vanadium, and zinc. Metal-air batteries, which slowly consume their anodes to give off energy, hit the news last month when Israeli startup Phinergy demonstrated its prototype battery and let reporters drive a test vehicle fitted with the energy-storage device. Mounted in a subcompact demonstration car, Phinergy's aluminum-air battery provides 1,000 miles of range, it said, and requires refills of distilled water (which acts as electrolyte in the cells) about every 200 miles."
Robotics

Noodle Robots Replacing Workers In Chinese Restaurants 531

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-can-go-wrong-nothing-can-go-can-go dept.
kkleiner writes "Recently developed noodle-making robots have now been put into operation in over 3,000 restaurants in China. Invented by a noodle restaurant owner, each unibrow-sporting robot currently costs 10,000 yuan ($1,600), which is only three months wages for an equivalent human noodle cook. As the cost of the robot continues to drop, more noodle shops are bound to displace human workers for the tirelessly working cheaper robots."
Android

BeagleBone Black Released With 1GHz Cortex-A8 For Only $45 142

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the waiting-for-eoma-68 dept.
DeviceGuru tipped us to the release of the latest single board computer from Beagle Board. It's been two years since the previous BeagleBone was released, and today they've released the BeagleBone Black (including full hardware schematics) at a price competitive with the Raspberry Pi ($10 more, but it comes with a power brick). Powered by a Cortex-A8, it has 512M of DDR3 RAM, 2G of onboard eMMC, two blocks of 46 I/O pins, a pair of 32-bit DSPs, the usual USB host/client ports, Ethernet, and micro-HDMI (a much requested feature). Support is provided for Ångstrom GNU/Linux, Ubuntu, and Android out of the box. Linux Gizmos reports where some of the cost savings came from: "According to BeagleBoard.org cofounder Jason Kridner, interviewed in a Linux.com report today, cost savings also came from removing the default serial port as well as USB-to-serial and USB-to-JTAG interfaces, and including a cheaper single-purpose USB cable. (Three serial interfaces are available via the expansion headers.) In addition, the power expansion header for battery and backlight has been removed."
China

China Leads in "Clean" Energy Investment 313

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the for-some-definitions dept.
derekmead writes "According to a new study (PDF) from Pew Charitable Trusts, China was the world leader in clean energy investment in 2012. The U.S., meanwhile, saw its grip loosen on many of the clean energy technologies it developed. According to the research, total clean energy investment totaled $269 billion worldwide last year, a decline from 2011's record high of $302 billion. However, clean energy investment in the Asia and Oceania markets grew by 16 percent to $101 billion. In terms of investment — which is an indicator that a country or region has offered compelling projects, struck a good regulatory balance, and has a strong economy — that makes Asia the epicenter of the global clean energy market. The Pew researchers thus labeled the U.S. clean energy sector as 'underperforming,' largely for a trio of reasons. First, China's boom and manufacturing prowess has taken investment away from the U.S.. Second, the U.S. regulatory environment for clean energy is horrifically unstable (as is the regulatory environment as a whole) as politicians battle over budget rhetoric. Finally, the U.S. has failed to capitalize on its innovation prowess and develop its clean energy manufacturing sector to its full potential." They do not count nuclear as clean, but including nuclear would only widen China's lead over everyone else (they almost have their first new AP1000 ready and are building lots more).
AMD

64-bit x86 Computing Reaches 10th Anniversary 332

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the long-live-athlonmp dept.
illiteratehack writes "10 years ago AMD released its first Opteron processor, the first 64-bit x86 processor. The firm's 64-bit 'extensions' allowed the chip to run existing 32-bit x86 code in a bid to avoid the problems faced by Intel's Itanium processor. However AMD suffered from a lack of native 64-bit software support, with Microsoft's Windows XP 64-bit edition severely hampering its adoption in the workstation market." But it worked out in the end.
Power

IBM Models Human Blood System To Build Solar Power Prototype 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the solar-in-your-veins dept.
coondoggie writes "IBM today said its researchers are developing a solar power system that concentrates solar radiation 2,000 times by using a human-blood supply modeled way of cooling and converting 80% of Sun's heat into useful energy. IBM says the system can also desalinate water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where such systems are often in short supply."
Power

USB SuperSpeed Power Spec To Leap From 10W To 100W 242

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
Lucas123 writes "While news stories have focused on the upcoming jump from 5Gbps to 10Gbps for USB SuperSpeed, less talked about has been the fact that it will also increase charging capabilities from 10W to 100W, meaning you'll be able to charge your laptop, monitor, even a television using a USB cord. Along with USB, the Thunderbolt peripheral interconnect will also be doubling it throughput thanks to a new controller chip, in its case from 10Gbps to 20Gbps. As with USB SuperSpeed, Thunderbolt's bandwidth increase is considered an evolutionary step, but the power transfer increase is being considered revolutionary, according to Jeff Ravencraft, president of the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). 'This is going to change the way computers, peripheral devices and even HDTVs will not only consume but deliver power,' Ravencraft said. 'You can have an HDTV with a USB hub built into it where not only can you exchange data and audio/video, but you can charge all your devices from it.'"

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