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Power

Bill Gates Investing $2 Billion In Renewables 271 271

An anonymous reader writes: Bill Gates has dumped a billion dollars into renewables, and now he's ready to double down. Gates announced he will increase his investment in renewable energy technologies to $2 billion in an attempt to "bend the curve" on limiting climate change. He is focusing on risky investments that favor "breakthrough" technologies because he thinks incremental improvements to existing tech won't be enough to meet energy needs while avoiding a climate catastrophe. He says, "There's no battery technology that's even close to allowing us to take all of our energy from renewables and be able to use battery storage in order to deal not only with the 24-hour cycle but also with long periods of time where it's cloudy and you don't have sun or you don't have wind. Power is about reliability. We need to get something that works reliably." At the same time, Gates rejected calls to divest himself and his charitable foundation of investments in fossil fuel companies.
Power

New Manufacturing Technique Halves Cost of Lithium-Ion Batteries 214 214

An anonymous reader writes: Experts in materials science at MIT have developed a new process for creating lithium-ion batteries that will drop the associated production costs by half. The researchers say fundamental battery construction techniques have been refined over the past two decades, but not re-thought. "The new battery design is a hybrid between flow batteries and conventional solid ones: In this version, while the electrode material does not flow, it is composed of a similar semisolid, colloidal suspension of particles. Chiang and Carter refer to this as a 'semisolid battery.' This approach greatly simplifies manufacturing, and also makes batteries that are flexible and resistant to damage, says Chiang. ... Instead of the standard method of applying liquid coatings to a roll of backing material, and then having to wait for that material to dry before it can move to the next manufacturing step, the new process keeps the electrode material in a liquid state and requires no drying stage at all. Using fewer, thicker electrodes, the system reduces the conventional battery architecture's number of distinct layers, as well as the amount of nonfunctional material in the structure, by 80 percent."
Power

The Presidential Candidate With a Plan To Run the US On 100% Clean Energy 308 308

merbs writes: Thus far, no other candidate has said they're going to make climate change their top priority. Martin O'Malley has not only done that, but he has outlined a plan that would enact emissions reductions in line with what scientists say is necessary to slow global climate change—worldwide emissions reductions of 40-70 percent by 2050. He's the only candidate to do that, too. His plan would phase out fossil-fueled power plants altogether, by midcentury.
Data Storage

When Will Your Hard Drive Fail? 297 297

jfruh writes: Tech writer Andy Patrizio suffered his most catastrophic hard drive failure in 25 years of computing recently, which prompted him to delve into the questions of which hard drives fail and when. One intriguing theory behind some failure rates involve a crisis in the industry that arose from the massive 2011 floods in Thailand, home to the global hard drive industry.
Earth

Solar Power Capacity Installs Surpass Wind and Coal For Second Year 259 259

Lucas123 writes: Residential rooftop solar installations hit a historical high in the first quarter of 2015, garnering an 11% increase over the previous quarter and a 76% increase over the Q1, 2014. New installations of solar power capacity surpassed those of wind and coal for the second year in a row, accounting for 32% of all new electrical capacity, according to a new report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Residential solar installation costs dropped to $3.46 per watt of installed capacity this quarter, which represents a 2.2% reduction over last quarter and a 10% reduction over the first quarter of 2014.
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: What Hardware Is In Your Primary Computer? 558 558

An anonymous reader writes: Here's something we haven't done in a while: list the specs of your main system (best one) so we can see what kinds of computers Slashdot geeks use. Context would be interesting, too — if you're up for it, explain how and why you set it up as you did, as well as the computer's primary purpose(s). Things you can list include (but are not limited to): CPU, motherboard, video card, memory, storage (SSD/HDD), exotic Controllers (RAID or caching), optical drives, displays, peripherals, etc. We can compare and contrast, see what specs are suitable for what purposes, and perhaps learn a trick or two.
Earth

G7 Vows To Phase Out Fossil Fuels By 2100 298 298

Taco Cowboy writes: The G7 group of countries has issued a pledge that they will phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century. The announcement was warmly welcomed by environmental groups. "Angela Merkel took the G7 by the scruff of the neck," said Ruth Davis a political advisor to Greenpeace and a senior associate at E3G. "Politically, the most important shift is that chancellor Merkel is back on climate change. This was not an easy negotiation. She did not have to put climate change on the agenda here. But she did," Davis said. The G7 plege includes a goal proposed by the EU to cut emissions 60% on 2010 levels by 2050, with full decarbonisation by 2100.
AI

Siri, Cortana and Google Have Nothing On SoundHound's Speech Recognition 235 235

MojoKid writes: Your digital voice assistant app is incompetent. Yes, Siri can give you a list of Italian restaurants in the area, Cortana will happily look up the weather, and Google Now will send a text message, if you ask it to. But compared to Hound, the newest voice search app on the block, all three of the aforementioned assistants might as well be bumbling idiots trying to outwit a fast talking rocket scientist. At its core, Hound is the same type of app — you bark commands or ask questions about any number of topics and it responds intelligently. And quickly. What's different about Hound compared to Siri, Cortana, and Google Now is that it's freakishly fast and understands complex queries that would have the others hunched in the fetal position, thumb in mouth. Check out the demo. It's pretty impressive.
Power

Company Extends Alkaline Battery Life With Voltage Booster 243 243

New submitter ttsai writes: Batteroo is a Silicon Valley company preparing to release its Batteriser product in September. The Batteriser is a small sleeve that fits around alkaline batteries to boost the voltage to 1.5V. This means that batteries that would otherwise be thrown into the trash when the voltage dips to 1.3V or 1.4V could be used until the unboosted voltage reaches 0.6V, extending the useful life of a battery 8x, according to the company. This product has the potential to reduce the number of batteries in landfills as well as increasing the time between replacing batteries. The expected price of the sleeve is $10 for a pack of 4 sleeves.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: If You Were Building a New Home, What Cool New Tech Would You Put In? 557 557

An anonymous reader writes: I am starting the process of building a new home, and I would like to make the house as wired (or wireless) as possible. At this stage I can incorporate new tech in the design. What features do you have in your house that you just couldn't live without? What features are nice to have? What features do you want? In-home Fiber? Solar? Audio/Visual? Heating/Cooling?
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: Your Most Unusual Hardware Hack? 258 258

An anonymous reader writes: Another Slashdotter recently asked what kind of things someone can power with an external USB battery. I have a followup along those lines: what kind of modifications have you made to your gadgets to do things that they were never meant to do? Consider old routers, cell phones, monitors, etc. that have absolutely no use or value anymore in their intended form. What can you do with them?
Transportation

Carnegie Mellon Struggles After Uber Poaches Top Robotics Researchers 234 234

ideonexus sends a report from the Wall Street Journal (paywalled) saying Uber has poached 40 researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in an attempt to jump-start development of autonomous vehicle technology. In February, Uber and CMU's National Robotics Engineering Center announced a partnership to work together on the technology. But according to the WSJ, Uber quickly offered massive bonuses and salary increases to simply bring many of the researchers in-house. The NREC's new director made a presentation a few weeks ago about strategies for rebuilding and recovering. The presentation said NREC’s funding from contracts to develop technology with the U.S. Department of Defense and other organizations was expected to sink as low as $17 million from the $30 million originally projected for this year. Some contracts scientists were working on disappeared when the researchers left, accounting for the drop in funding. And it appeared the center would have to raise salaries significantly to prevent more exits. A few scientists left NREC for other companies in Pittsburgh because of concerns the center might be shut down, said two people familiar with the departures.
Power

How Tesla Batteries Will Force Home Wiring To Go Low Voltage 597 597

CIStud writes with a story at CEPro suggesting that solar power and home batteries like Tesla's PowerWall "will force the reinvention of home wiring from primarily AC high voltage to DC home-run low voltage to reduce power conversion loss," writing "To avoid the 20% to 40% power loss when converting from DC to AC, home wiring will have to convert to home-run low-voltage, and eventually eliminate the need for high-voltage 110V electrical wiring." As a former full-time Airstream dweller, I can attest to the importance of DC appliances when dealing with batteries.
Power

California Is Giving Away Free Solar Panels To Its Poorest Residents 272 272

MikeChino writes: Oakland-based non-profit GRID Alternatives is giving away 1,600 free solar panels to California's poorest residents by the year 2016. The initiative was introduced by Senator Kevin de León and launched with funds gathered under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GCRF), the state's cap-and-trade program. SFGate reports: "Kianté London used the program to put panels on his three-bedroom North Richmond home, which he shares with two sons and a daughter. 'It helps me and my family a great deal to have low-cost energy, because these energy prices are really expensive,' said London, 46, whose solar array was installed this week. 'And I wanted to do my part. It’s clean, green energy.' London had wanted a solar array for years, but couldn’t afford it on his income as a merchant seaman — roughly $70,000 per year. Even leasing programs offered by such companies as SolarCity and Sunrun were too expensive, he said. The new program, in contrast, paid the entire up-front cost of his array."
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone? 313 313

An anonymous reader writes: For those of us who don't need or want a smartphone, what would be the best dumb phone around? Do you have a preference over flip or candy bar ones? What about ones that have FM radio? Do any of you still use dumb phones in this smart phone era? Related question: What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life? I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback, but I do miss being able to go 5 or more days on a single charge.