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Businesses

French Nuclear Industry In Turmoil As Manufacturer Buckles 355

Posted by samzenpus
from the bad-times dept.
mdsolar writes with bad news for France and its nuclear industry. "France's nuclear industry is in turmoil after the country's main reactor manufacturer, Areva, reported a loss for 2014 of 4.8 billion euros ($5.3 billion) — more than its entire market value. The government of France, the world's most nuclear dependent country, has a 29% stake in Areva, which is among the biggest global nuclear technology companies. The loss puts its future — and that of France as a leader in nuclear technology — at risk. Energy and Environment Minister Segolene Royal said Wednesday she asked Areva and utility giant Electricite de France to work together on finding solutions, amid reports of a possible merger or other link-up. The government said in a statement that it's working closely with Areva to restructure and secure financing, and would 'take its responsibility as a shareholder' in future decisions about its direction. Areva reported Wednesday 1 billion euros in losses on three major nuclear projects in Finland and France, among other hits. Areva has lost money for years, in part linked to delays on those projects and to a global pullback from nuclear energy since the 2011 Fukushima accident."
Power

The US's First Offshore Wind Farm Will Cut Local Power Prices By 40% 249

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-way-the-wind-blows-kinda-actually-matters dept.
merbs writes: The U.S. is finally getting its first offshore wind farm. Deepwater Wind has announced that its Block Island project has been fully financed, passed the permitting process, and will begin putting "steel in water" this summer. For local residents, that means a 40% drop in electricity rates. The company has secured $290 million in financing, with funding from the likes of Key Bank and France's Société Générale, in part on the strength of its long-term power purchase agreement with US utility National Grid. Block Island has thus surpassed the much-publicized Cape Wind project, long touted as "the nation's first offshore wind farm," but that has been stalled out for over a decade in Massachusetts, held up by a tangle of clean power foes, regulatory and financing woes, and Cape Cod homeowners afraid it'd ruin the view.
Software

How a Kickstarter Project Can Massively Exceed Its Funding Goals and Still Fail 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the optimism-to-a-fault dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In November, 2013, a Kickstarter project for a software-defined camera trigger scored £290,386 (~$450,000) in funding after asking for a mere £50,000. After almost a year of delays, they've now announced the project is dead. Their CEO has published a lengthy article about how such a successful funding round can still turn into a failed product. In short: budgeting. To get their software into a workable state, they ended up spending 940% of the amount they'd originally allocated to software development. Their protoyping went over budget, too, and they had to spend a fair bit in legal fees to fend off a major camera manufacturer complaining about their product's name.

Still, they had more funding than they expected, and would have been able to deal with these costs. Unfortunately, the bill of materials for their final product clocked in way higher than they expected. They would have had to sell the device at about $350 each, when they were originally targeting a $99 price point. (And that figure assumes good sales — with a smaller production run, price per unit goes even higher.) The company is now going to refund the remaining money left over from its Kickstarter campaign — about 20% of the total. They're also open sourcing the software and sharing the PCB designs and schematics.
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware? 323

Posted by Soulskill
from the very-carefully dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In light of recent revelations from Kaspersky Labs about the Equation Group and persistent hard drive malware, I was curious about how easy it might be to verify my own system's drives to see if they were infected. I have no real reason to think they would be, but I was dismayed by the total lack of tools to independently verify such a thing. For instance, Seagate's firmware download pages provide files with no external hash, something Linux distributions do for all of their packages. Neither do they seem to provide a utility to read off the current firmware from a drive and verify its integrity.

Are there any utilities to do such a thing? Why don't these companies provide verification software to users? Has anyone compiled and posted a public list of known-good firmware hashes for the major hard drive vendors and models? This seems to be a critical hole in PC security. I did contact Seagate support asking for hashes of their latest firmware; I got a response stating, "...If you download the firmware directly from our website there is no risk on the file be tampered with." (Their phrasing, not mine.) Methinks somebody hasn't been keeping up with world events lately.
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Old PC File Transfer Problem 464

Posted by samzenpus
from the I'll-never-let-you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes I have an old Compaq Contura Aero laptop from the nineties (20 Mhz, 12 Mb RAM, Windows 3.11, 16-bit, PCMCIA, COM, LPT, floppy) with 160 Mb drive that I would want to copy in full to a newer machine. The floppies are so unreliable — between Aero's PCMCIA floppy drive and USB floppy disk drive — that it is a total nightmare to try and do it; it just doesn't work. If that option is excluded, what else can I do? I have another old laptop with Windows XP (32-bit, PCMCIA, COM, LPT) that could be used; all other machines are too new and lack ports. Will be grateful for any ideas.
AI

Machine Intelligence and Religion 531

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-god-can't-let-you-do-that dept.
itwbennett writes: Earlier this month Reverend Dr. Christopher J. Benek raised eyebrows on the Internet by stating his belief that Christians should seek to convert Artificial Intelligences to Christianity if and when they become autonomous. Of course that's assuming that robots are born atheists, not to mention that there's still a vast difference between what it means to be autonomous and what it means to be human. On the other hand, suppose someone did endow a strong AI with emotion – encoded, say, as a strong preference for one type of experience over another, coupled with the option to subordinate reasoning to that preference upon occasion or according to pattern. what ramifications could that have for algorithmic decision making?
Businesses

5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken 257

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-for-one-welcome-our-new-robot-coworkers dept.
bizwriter writes University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimated in 2013 that 47 percent of total U.S. jobs could be automated and taken over by computers by 2033. That now includes occupations once thought safe from automation, AI, and robotics. Such positions as journalists, lawyers, doctors, marketers, and financial analysts are already being invaded by our robot overlords. From the article: "Some experts say not to worry because technology has always created new jobs while eliminating old ones, displacing but not replacing workers. But lately, as technology has become more sophisticated, the drumbeat of worry has intensified. 'What's different now?' asked Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst at market research firm Outsell. 'The pace of technology advancements plus the big data phenomenon lead to a whole new level of machines to perform higher level cognitive tasks.' Translated: the old formula of creating more demanding jobs that need advanced training may no longer hold true. The number of people needed to oversee the machines, and to create them, is limited. Where do the many whose occupations have become obsolete go?"
Government

The Groups Behind Making Distributed Solar Power Harder To Adopt 372

Posted by Soulskill
from the sunsetting-the-sun dept.
Lucas123 writes: Distributed rooftop solar is a threat not only to fossil fuel power generation, but also to the profits of monopolistic model of utilities. While the overall amount of electrical capacity represented by distributed solar power remains miniscule for now, it's quickly becoming one of leading sources of new energy deployment. As adoption grows, fossil fuel interests and utilities are succeeding in pushing anti-net metering legislation, which places surcharges on customers who deploy rooftop solar power and sell unused power back to their utility through the power grid. Other state legislation is aimed at reducing tax credits for households or businesses installing solar or allows utilities to buy back unused power at a reduced rate, while reselling it at the full retail price.
Books

The Case Against E-readers -- Why Digital Natives Prefer Reading On Paper 260

Posted by Soulskill
from the love-affairs-with-dead-trees dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Michael Rosenwald writes in the WaPo that textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer reading on paper for pleasure and learning. This bias surprises reading experts, given the same group's proclivity to consume most other content digitally. "These are people who aren't supposed to remember what it's like to even smell books," says Naomi S. Baron. "It's quite astounding." Earlier this month, Baron published Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, a book that examines university students' preferences for print and explains the science of why dead-tree versions are often superior to digital (PDF).

Her conclusion: readers tend to skim on screens, distraction is inevitable and comprehension suffers. Researchers say readers remember the location of information simply by page and text layout — that, say, the key piece of dialogue was on that page early in the book with that one long paragraph and a smudge on the corner. Researchers think this plays a key role in comprehension — something that is more difficult on screens, primarily because the time we devote to reading online is usually spent scanning and skimming, with few places (or little time) for mental markers.

Another significant problem, especially for college students, is distraction. The lives of millennials are increasingly lived on screens. In her surveys, Baron was surprised by the results to the question of whether students were more likely to multitask in hard copy (1 percent) vs. reading on-screen (90 percent). "When a digital device has an Internet connection, it's hard to resist the temptation to jump ship."
Intel

Intel Moving Forward With 10nm, Will Switch Away From Silicon For 7nm 279

Posted by Soulskill
from the ever-smaller-ever-faster dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Intel has begun talking about its plans for future CPU architectures. The company is already working on a 10nm manufacturing process, and expects the first such chips to be ready by early 2017. Beyond that, things are getting difficult. Intel says it will need to move away from silicon when it develops a 7nm process. "The most likely replacement for silicon is a III-V semiconductor such as indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs), though Intel hasn't provided any specific details yet." Even the current 14nm chips they're making ran into unexpected difficulties. "While Intel didn't provide any specifics, we strongly suspect that we're looking at the arrival of transistors based on III-V semiconductors. III-V semiconductors have higher electron mobility than silicon, which means that they can be fashioned into smaller and faster (as in higher switching speed) transistors."
Robotics

Only Twice Have Nations Banned a Weapon Before It Was Used; They May Do It Again 318

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-skynet-cares-about-international-treaties dept.
Lasrick writes: Seth Baum reports on international efforts to ban 'killer robots' before they are used. China, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are apparently developing precursor technology. "Fully autonomous weapons are not unambiguously bad. They can reduce burdens on soldiers. Already, military robots are saving many service members' lives, for example by neutralizing improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq. The more capabilities military robots have, the more they can keep soldiers from harm. They may also be able to complete missions that soldiers and non-autonomous weapons cannot." But Baum, who founded the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, goes on to outline the potential downsides, and there are quite a few.
Data Storage

Sony Offers a "Premium Sound" SD Card For a Premium Price 213

Posted by timothy
from the putting-hi-fi-jumpropes-to-shame dept.
nateman1352 (971364) writes "Don't you just hate all that noise your memory cards make? No? Then you probably aren't going to want to buy Sony's new $160 memory cards, which the company brags offers "Premium Sound" that generates less electrical noise when reading data." As long as it works well with my hi-fi ethernet cable.
Security

Lenovo Allegedly Installing "Superfish" Proxy Adware On New Computers 248

Posted by timothy
from the hey-man-you're-s'posed-to-join-the-nsa-first dept.
An anonymous reader writes It looks like Lenovo has been installing adware onto new consumer computers from the company that activates when taken out of the box for the first time. The adware, named Superfish, is reportedly installed on a number of Lenovo's consumer laptops out of the box. The software injects third-party ads on Google searches and websites without the user's permission. Another anonymous reader points to this Techspot article, noting that that it doesn't mention the SSL aspect, but this Lenovo Forum Post, with screen caps, is indicating it may be a man-in-the-middle attack to hijack an SSL connection too. It's too early to tell if this is a hoax or not, but there are multiple forum posts about the Superfish bug being installed on new systems. Another good reason to have your own fresh install disk, and to just drop the drivers onto a USB stick. Also at ZDnet.
Robotics

What To Do After Robots Take Your Job 389

Posted by timothy
from the have-them-train-you dept.
sarahnaomi writes In 2013, researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne of the Oxford Martin School dropped the bombshell that 47 percent of US jobs were at risk of computerisation. Since then, they've made similar predictions for the UK, where they say 35 percent of jobs are at high risk. So what will our future economy look like? "My predictions have enormously high variance," Osborne told me when I asked if he was optimistic. "I can imagine completely plausible, incredibly positive scenarios, but they're only about as probable as actually quite dystopian futures that I can imagine."

In a new report produced as part of a programme supported by Citi, he and Frey outline how increased innovation—read: automation—could lead to stagnation.
Power

Nuclear Plant Taken Down In Anticipation of Snowstorm 311

Posted by samzenpus
from the too-much-to-shovel dept.
mdsolar writes Pilgrim Power Plant in Plymouth was taken offline in anticipation of the weekend snowstorm. According to a statement from Entergy, the owner of Pilgrim, the plant was taken off line in preparation of "a potential loss of offsite power or the grid's inability to accept the power Pilgrim generates." This is the second time this season the plant has been shut down due to storm conditions. On January 27 the facility was taken offline after the two main power transmission lines were knocked out by blizzard conditions. Although the transmission lines were restored within a few days, the plant remained offline until February 7 at which time it was reconnected to the grid.