How Tesla Batteries Will Force Home Wiring To Go Low Voltage 549

Posted by timothy
from the avoiding-another-conversion dept.
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.

California Is Giving Away Free Solar Panels To Its Poorest Residents 269

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-a-panel-and-you-get-a-panel-and-you-get.... dept.
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."

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

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-a-dumberer-phone? dept.
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.

Linux 4.0 Has a File-System Corruption Problem, RAID Users Warned 226

Posted by timothy
from the don't-store-the-ark-there dept.
An anonymous reader writes: For the past few days kernel developers and Linux users have been investigating an EXT4 file-system corruption issue affecting the latest stable kernel series (Linux 4.0) and the current development code (Linux 4.1). It turns out that Linux users running the EXT4 file-system on a RAID0 configuration can easily destroy their file-system with this newest "stable" kernel. The cause and fix have materialized but it hasn't yet worked its way out into the mainline kernel, thus users should be warned before quickly upgrading to the new kernel on systems with EXT4 and RAID0.

Energy Dept. Wants Big Wind Energy Technology In All 50 US States 256

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-way-the-wind-blows dept.
coondoggie writes: Bigger wind turbines and towers are just part of what the U.S. needs in order to more effectively use wind energy in all 50 states.That was the thrust of a wind energy call-to-arms report called "Enabling Wind Power nationwide" issued this week by the Department of Energy. They detail new technology that can reach higher into the sky to capture more energy and more powerful turbines to generate more gigawatts. These new turbines are 110-140 meters tall, with blades 60 meters long. The Energy Department forecasts strong, steady growth of wind power across the country, both on land and off shore.

Why Apple Ditched Its Plan To Build a Television 243

Posted by Soulskill
from the team-shifted-to-smellovision-development dept.
Apple has been rumored to be developing their own line of HDTVs for years, but a new report from the Wall Street Journal (paywalled) says while those plans did exist, they've been abandoned. Apple began pondering the idea of jumping into the television market roughly a decade ago, as iTunes started hosting video content. The AppleTV made a foray into living rooms in 2007, and other devices reached the prototype stage. The company continued to do research and work on their ideas, but eventually gave up more than a year ago. Apple had searched for breakthrough features to justify building an Apple-branded television set, those people said. In addition to an ultra-high-definition display, Apple considered adding sensor-equipped cameras so viewers could make video calls through the set, they said. Ultimately, though, Apple executives didn't consider any of those features compelling enough to enter the highly competitive television market, led by Samsung Electronics Co. Apple typically likes to enter a new product area with innovative technology and easier-to-use software.

How Windows 10 Performs On a 12-inch MacBook 241

Posted by Soulskill
from the burning-questions dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As Microsoft prepares for the launch of Windows 10, review sites have been performing all sorts of benchmarks on the tech preview to evaluate how well the operating system will run. But now a computer science student named Alex King has made the most logical performance evaluation of all: testing Windows 10's performance on a 2015 MacBook. He says, "Here's the real kicker: it's fast. It's smooth. It renders at 60FPS unless you have a lot going on. It's unequivocally better than performance on OS X, further leading me to believe that Apple really needs to overhaul how animations are done. Even when I turn Transparency off in OS X, Mission Control isn't completely smooth. Here, even after some Aero Glass transparency has been added in, everything is smooth. It's remarkable, and it makes me believe in the 12-inch MacBook more than ever before. So maybe it's ironic that in some regards, the new MacBook runs Windows 10 (a prerelease version, at that) better than it runs OS X."

Oculus Rift Hardware Requirements Revealed, Linux and OS X Development Halted 227

Posted by Soulskill
from the sad-penguin dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Oculus has selected the baseline hardware requirements for running their Rift virtual reality headset. To no one's surprise, they're fairly steep: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater, Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater, and 8GB+ RAM. It will also require at least two USB 3.0 ports and "HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture."

Oculus chief architect Atman Binstock explains: "On the raw rendering costs: a traditional 1080p game at 60Hz requires 124 million shaded pixels per second. In contrast, the Rift runs at 2160×1200 at 90Hz split over dual displays, consuming 233 million pixels per second. At the default eye-target scale, the Rift's rendering requirements go much higher: around 400 million shaded pixels per second. This means that by raw rendering costs alone, a VR game will require approximately 3x the GPU power of 1080p rendering." He also points out that PC graphics can afford a fluctuating frame rate — it doesn't matter too much if it bounces between 30-60fps. The Rift has no such luxury, however.

The last requirement is more onerous: WIndows 7 SP1 or newer. Binstock says their development for OS X and Linux has been "paused" so they can focus on delivering content for Windows. They have no timeline for going back to the less popular platforms.

Here Comes the Keurig of Everything 270

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-the-lazy-people-who-only-eat-4-things dept.
Tekla Perry writes: Keurig made a huge business out of single-serving coffee machines. Now, as more complex machinery shrinks in size and cost, many companies are trying to duplicate that success for other types of food and drink. Startups are introducing the Keurig of cocktails, the Keurig of Jell-O shots, and the Keurig of dinner (it makes stir fries, stews, and risottos). The question is: does having a single- or limited-purpose device make really make sense for consumables that aren't coffee? Counter space is not infinite, and most people want more variety out of their lunches, dinners, and nightcaps than they do for their morning pick-me-up. (Also, let's retire this metaphor before we get a Keurig for cats.)
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Open Document Format? 200

Posted by timothy
from the when-plaintext-just-won't-do dept.
kramer2718 writes: I am working on a project that requires uploading and storing of documents. Although the application will need to allow uploading of .docx, doc, .pdf, etc, I'd like to store the documents in a standard open format that will allow easy search, compression, rendering, etc. Which open document format is the best? Since "best" can be highly driven by circumstances, please explain your reasoning, too.

Russian Company Unveils Homegrown PC Chips 268

Posted by timothy
from the in-formerly-soviet-russia dept.
Reader WheatGrass shares the news from Russia Insider that MCST, Moscow Center of SPARC Technologies, has begun taking orders for Russian-made computer chips, though at least one expert quoted warns that the technology lags five years behind that of western companies; that sounds about right, in that the chips are described as "comparable with Intel Corp’s Core i3 and Intel Core i5 processors." Also from the article: Besides the chips, MCST unveiled a new PC, the Elbrus ARM-401 which is powered by the Elbrus-4C chip and runs its own Linux-based Elbrus operating system. MCST said that other operating systems, including Microsoft’s Windows and other Linux distributions, can be installed on the Elbrus ARM-401. Finally, the company has built its own data center server rack, the Elbrus-4.4, which is powered by four Elbrus-4C microprocessors and supports up to 384GB of RAM.

Transformer Explosion Closes Nuclear Plant Unit North of NYC 213

Posted by timothy
from the could-happen-to-anyone dept.
Reuters reports that a transformer failure and related fire have forced the closure of a generating unit of the Indian Point nuclear plant, about 40 miles north of New York City; another generator at the same facility was unaffected. Witnesses reported seeing an explosion, as well as (according to NBC News) a "huge ball of black smoke" when the transformer exploded, which led to the shut-down of the site's Unit 3. The Reuters article says the plant "has long been controversial because of its proximity to the United States' largest city. Indian Point is one of 99 nuclear power plants licensed to operate in the United States and which generate about 20 percent of U.S. electricity use, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website.

USBKill Transforms a Thumb Drive Into an "Anti-Forensic" Device 288

Posted by timothy
from the content-scrambling-system dept.
Orome1 writes with a snippet from a report at net-security.org; a hacker going by Hephaestos has shared with the world a Python script that, when put on an USB thumb drive, turns the device in an effective kill switch for the computer to which it's plugged in. USBkill, as the programmer dubbed it, "waits for a change on your USB ports, then immediately kills your computer." The device would be useful "in case the police comes busting in, or steals your laptop from you when you are at a public library," Hephaestos explained.

Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs 317

Posted by timothy
from the stick-it-on-the-wall dept.
Technologist Ramez Naam (hat tip to Tyler Cowen's "Marginal Revolution" blog) has taken a look at the economics of Tesla's new wall-mounted household battery system, and concludes that it's "almost there," at least for many places in the world -- and seems to already make sense in some. From his analysis: For some parts of the US with time-of-use plans, this battery is right on the edge of being profitable. From a solar storage perspective, for most of the US, where Net Metering exists, this battery isn’t quite cheap enough. But it’s in the right ballpark. And that means a lot. Net Metering plans in the US are filling up. California’s may be full by the end of 2016 or 2017, modulo additional legal changes. That would severely impact the economics of solar. But the Tesla battery hedges against that. In the absence of Net Metering, in an expensive electricity state with lots of sun, the battery would allow solar owners to save power for the evening or night-time hours in a cost effective way. And with another factor of 2 price reduction, it would be a slam dunk economically for solar storage anywhere Net Metering was full, where rates were pushed down excessively, or where such laws didn’t exist. That is also a policy tool in debates with utilities. If they see Net Metering reductions as a tool to slow rooftop solar, they’ll be forced to confront the fact that solar owners with cheap batteries are less dependent on Net Metering. ... And the cost of batteries is plunging fast. Tesla will get that 2x price reduction within 3-5 years, if not faster.

Tesla Announces Home Battery System 514

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-plans-for-a-1.21-gigawatt-model dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, Elon Musk finally revealed Tesla's plans for the home: battery systems designed to store up to 10 kWh of power. The company is leveraging the battery technology they've developed for their electric cars to enable more people to switch to renewable power for their homes. There will be two models of the battery. The 10 kWh version will cost $3,500, and the 7 kWh version will cost $3,000. They can deliver power at a continuous rate of 2kW, with peaks up to 3 kW. Crucially, the batteries will be warrantied for 10 years. Musk thinks the market for home batteries will expand to at least two billion, eventually. But even a much smaller uptake for now will validate the creation of Tesla's "gigafactory."

"The gigafactory is the recipient of the largest incentive package ever given by Nevada at $1.3 billion, which followed a hotly contested tax incentive bidding war between various states to land the Tesla battery plant. For the investment to pay off, Tesla needs to convince hundreds of thousands of consumers per year to buy its cars and battery products, with the gigafactory serving as a cornerstone to the company's sales strategy. ... An early gigafactory rendering released by Tesla stated that the plant will have an annual battery pack output of 50 gigawatt hours — the bulk of which will go toward batteries for cars with most of the remainder to be allocated for stationary batteries, according to figures mentioned by Tesla's chief technology JB Straubel last year. The gigafactory's sheer scope makes other battery products a possibility as well."