Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.
mikejuk writes with an excerpt from I Programmer on a neat swarm of robots that use flying drones to build a map of their environment: "How can a swarm of robots get a global picture of its environment? Easy it simply sends up a drone. We are used to thinking of drones as being used for surveillance by humans operating on the ground, but what is good for humans is good for robots too. The drone can view the overall terrain and run simulations of what configurations of robots could best traverse the slopes. Once it has worked out how to assemble the robots into a single machine the drone has to communicate the plan to the swarm using a protocol based on the colored lights they all have. The ground robots adopt a random color and the drone selects the one it wants to communicate with by displaying the same color. They then repeat the process until only one robot has been selected i.e the drone follows the color changes of the selected robot. Of course if you don't like the idea of human drones flying over your head you may not be happy about robots getting in on the act as well..." Original paper
alphadogg writes "University of South Carolina have discovered that some types of electricity meter are broadcasting unencrypted information that, with the right software, would enable eavesdroppers to determine whether you're at home. The meters, called AMR (automatic meter reading) in the utility industry, are a first-generation smart meter technology and they are installed in one third of American homes and businesses. They are intended to make it easy for utilities to collect meter readings. Instead of requiring access to your home, workers need simply drive or walk by a house with a handheld terminal and the current meter reading can be received." Perhaps more distressing, given trends in 4th amendment interpretation, I bet the transmissions are open game for law enforcement.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Rumors have circulated for weeks that Microsoft intends to release a smartphone of its own design and manufacture, embracing the strategy that drove Apple's iPhone to such enormous success over the past few years. While releasing a branded smartphone offers several potential benefits—look at the revenue and brand recognition Apple's earned as a result of the iPhone—such a strategy also carries significant risks for Microsoft. First, it could alienate smartphone partners such as Nokia, which would find itself competing against a high-end device backed by Microsoft's sizable marketing dollars. (Given the Finnish phone-maker's already perilous situation, that could prove ruinous.) But a branded smartphone could also convince hardware manufacturers that Microsoft really is 'all in' on building its own devices, which could lead to all sorts of drama."
MrSeb writes "Engineers at the University of Michigan have created a pacemaker that is powered by the beating of your heart — no batteries required. The technology behind this new infinite-duration pacemaker is piezoelectricity. Piezoelectricity is is literally 'pressure electricity,' and it relates to certain materials that generate tiny amounts of electricity when deformed by an external force — which, in the case of the perpetual pacemaker, the vibrations in your chest as your heart pumps blood around your body. Piezoelectric devices generate very small amounts of power — on the order of tens of milliwatts — but it turns out that pacemakers require very little power. In testing, the researchers' energy harvester generated 10 times the required the power to keep a pacemaker firing. Currently, pacemakers are battery powered — and the battery generally need to be replaced every few years, which requires surgery. According M. Amin Karami, the lead researcher, 'Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years,' he said. 'You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.' This piezoelectric energy harvester is about half the size of a conventional battery, too, which is presumably a good thing."
First time accepted submitter jigamo writes "Microsoft's newly released Surface tablets are available in 32 and 64 GB capacities. The company has disclosed how much of that space is available to the user. After taking into account Windows RT, Microsoft Office, built-in apps, and Windows recovery tools, nearly 13 GB of the available space is eliminated from user accessible storage. Microsoft's recommendations for adding additional capacity are to use cloud storage, a memory card, or a USB storage device."
crookedvulture writes "For the first time in more than four years, Intel is rolling out a new SSD controller. The chip is featured in the DC S3700 solid-state drive, an enterprise-oriented offering that's 40% cheaper than the previous generation. The S3700 has 6Gbps SATA connectivity, end-to-end data protection, LBA tag validation, 256-bit AES encryption, and ECC throughout. It also includes onboard capacitors to prevent against data loss due to power failure; if problems with those capacitors are detected by the drive's self-check mechanism, it can disable the write cache. Intel's own high-endurance MLC NAND can be found in the drive, which is rated for 10 full disk writes per day for five years. Prices start at $235 for the 100GB model, and capacities are available up to 800GB. In addition to 2.5" models, there are also a couple of 1.8" ones for blade servers. The DC S3700 is sampling now, with mass production scheduled for the first quarter of 2013."
An anonymous reader writes "4 years ago I read about experimental targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR) surgery on Slashdot. 3 years ago I crashed my motorcycle and had my leg amputated — at which time I had TMR done. Today I climbed 103 floors of the Willis Tower in Chicago with a experimental prosthetic using TMR. Thanks, Slashdot."
angry tapir writes "Japan's Sharp, a major supplier of LCD displays to Apple and other manufacturers, has warned that it may not survive if it can't turn around its business. The Osaka-based manufacturer said there is "material doubt" about its ability to continue operating in its earnings report filed Thursday. Sharp added, however, that it still believes it can cut costs and secure enough credit to survive. Its IGZO technology for mobile displays is likely to be a key element of its business strategy."
hypnosec writes "Two MIT electrical engineering professors, Joel Dawson and David Perreault, have claimed that they have cracked the age old efficiency problem related to the power amplifier in smartphones by designing a new amplifier that consumes just half the power as compared to their current counterparts. Current transistor-based power amplifiers consume power in two modes – standby and output signal mode. The only way to reduce power consumption and increase battery life is to use the least possible power when in standby mode. The problem here is that if the power is kept very low when in standby mode, because of sudden jumps from low-power standby mode to high-power output mode, signals get distorted. This is why current technologies waste a lot of electricity as standby power levels are kept at a relatively higher level to avoid distortion. The new technology, dubbed asymmetric multilevel outphasing, is basically a blazingly fast electronic gearbox that would select the best possible voltage to send across to the transistors that would minimize power consumption."
First time accepted submitter spanner888 writes "The first Shanghai Maker Carnival was held this weekend in conjunction with a Creation Exhibition, an arts and crafts expo with about 200 exhibitors. Makers attended from Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen and visitors came from around China. More photos are in this post, and videos in this one. Other photos can be found in this thread." I like the video that appears to show a smartphone's camera being used as the basis of an input device for a laptop; can anyone out there better explain it?
An anonymous reader writes with a link to this "time lapse video of students and postdocs at the University of Zurich constructing the zBox4 supercomputer. The machine has a theoretical compute capacity of ~1% of the human brain and will be used for simulating the formation of stars, planets and galaxies." That rack has "3,072 2.2GHz Intel Xeon cores and over 12TB of RAM." Also notable: for once, several of the YouTube comments are worth reading for more details on the construction and specs.
Zothecula writes "Embattled photovoltaic solar power manufacturer Amonix announced on Tuesday that it has broken the solar module efficiency record, becoming the first manufacturer to convert more than a third of incoming light energy into electricity – a goal once branded 'one third of a sun' in a Department of Energy initiative. The Amonix module clocked an efficiency rating of 33.5 percent."
jjp9999 writes "By using the same technology found in older modems, Thomas Tumino, vice president of the Hall of Science Amateur Radio Club, has invented an iPhone interface for ham radios. He told The Epoch Times, 'Today there are iPhone apps where you can use the systems in the phone — and its sound card, which is being used as a modem ... And then you connect that into your radio with an interface like this, that just isolates the telephone from the radio, and then you can do all sorts of things.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "The local utility serving most of the New York City area, Con Edison, reported that it should begin supplying utility power to midtown and lower Manhattan by Saturday evening, returning the island's data centers and citizens to some semblance of normalcy. In the past few days, data center managers have been forced to add fuel logistics to their list of responsibilities, as most Manhattan data centers have been subsisting on generator power. That should come to an end, for the most part, when utility power is restored. In a possibly worrying note, Verizon warned late on Nov. 1 that its services to business customers could be impacted due to lack of fuel."
New submitter Shotgun writes "I heard on the radio that there were some issues with voting machines in Greensboro, NC (my hometown), and the story said the machines just needed "recalibration". Which made me ask, "WTF? Why does a machine for choosing between one of a few choices need 'calibration'?" This story seems to explain the issue."