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Input Devices

Know Your Type: Five Mechanical Keyboards Compared 169

Posted by timothy
from the ok-but-nothing-beats-my-omnikey-or-model-ms dept.
MojoKid writes As a power user, you notice certain things that the average person might not. One of those is the difference between typing on a sweet mechanical keyboard with luxurious key action, versus pounding away on a run-of-the-mill squishy plank that relies on membrane switches to register your keystrokes. The difference may seem subtle to the uninitiated, though even casual typists can recognize that there's something inherently superior about a mechanical keyboard. Of course, it's the mechanical key switches that are responsible for elevating the typing experience. These are better than the rubber domes found in membrane keyboards in a number of ways, including feel, responsiveness, and durability. Mechanical keyboards are growing in popularity, as word is spreading about how good they are. In turn, keyboard manufacturers have responded by feeding more mechanical models into what was once a niche market. If you go out in search of a mechanical keyboard, you'll now find a mountain of options. This roundup further reinforced something we've known for a long time, which is that mechanical keyboards are the superior choice for both gaming and daily typing chores. That doesn't mean they're all created equal — there are different key switches to choose from, and features vary from one plank to the next. The choice of key switch type is highly subjective but we can say that Cherry MX key switches are indeed of higher quality than knock-offs like the Kailh switch. That's not to say Kailh switches are bad, just that you can discern a difference when going from one to the other.

Phoronix Lauds AMD's Open Source Radeon Driver Progress For 2014 42

Posted by timothy
from the parity-looms dept.
Phoronix has taken an in-depth look at progress on AMD's open source Radeon driver, and declares 2014 to have been a good year. There are several pages with detailed benchmarks, but the upshot is overwhelmingly positive: Across the board there's huge performance improvements to find out of the open-source AMD Linux graphics driver when comparing the state at the end of 2013 to the current code at the end of this year. The performance improvements and new features presented (among them are OpenMAX / AMD video encode, UVD for older AMD GPUs, various new OpenGL extensions, continued work on OpenCL, power management improvements, and the start of open-source HSA) has been nothing short of incredible. Most of the new work benefits the Radeon HD 7000 series and newer (GCN) GPUs the most but these tests showed the Radeon HD 6000 series still improving too. ... Coming up before the end of the year will be a fresh comparison of these open-source Radeon driver results compared to the newest proprietary AMD Catalyst Linux graphics driver.

An Open Source Flat Pack Robot Arm That's As Easy To Build As Ikea Furniture 36

Posted by timothy
from the fold-here-snip-there dept.
An anonymous reader writes The MeArm is a flat-pack robot arm. It has been developed in a very short time frame as the creators have been able to tap into crowd development by open sourcing all of the designs. Because of this it's exploded around the world with builders on every continent (bar Antarctica) and there are even people manufacturing them to sell in Peru, Taiwan and South Africa. MeArm manufacture them in the UK and export to distributors around the world, including Open Source pioneers like Adafruit and Hackaday in the USA. They're currently running a Kickstarter for a controller to take it out of the 'Hackersphere' and into the living room. They doubled their target in the first week and are still going strong so it's looking like they will be the first consumer flat pack robot kit in the world! Controller or not, you can download the arm from Thingiverse, and follow the project at Hackaday.

Bill Gates Sponsoring Palladium-Based LENR Technology 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the betting-on-it dept.
Baldrson writes reports that: "Low energy nuclear reactor (LENR) technology, and by extension palladium, is attracting the attention of one of the richest men in the world and a pioneer inventor of new technology... In a recent visit to Italy, billionaire business man, investor and inventor Bill Gates said that for several years he has been a believer in the idea of LENR, and is a sponsor of companies developing the technology... During his trip to Italy he visited the national agency for new technologies energy and sustainable economic development (ENEA) where scientists have made significant progress towards a working design for low energy nuclear fusion. The centerpiece of their design is the same as in Mitsubishi's, palladium. Creating palladium foil with just the right parameters, and managing stress levels in the material was a key issue, one that the researchers at EMEA were able to resolve several years ago."

Nokia's Back In the Tablet Business, With the Android Lollipop-Based N1 57

Posted by timothy
from the serious-side-talkin' dept.
Esra Erimez writes It's been a little over a year since the announcement of Microsoft Corp.'s acquisition of Finnish tech veteran Nokia Oyj.'s Devices unit. A year later Chinese leaks site SINA Tech says Nokia is back and ready to compete against its former unit, suggesting it will launch in China on Jan. 7. As one commenter on the Daily Tech story points out (as does this ExtremeTech article from last month), the not-yet-launched N1, with its "one piece aluminum body, 7.9", 2048*1536, [and] 3:4 aspect ratio" looks an awful lot like the iPad mini, but costs quite a bit less.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge Review 71

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
MojoKid writes Differentiation is difficult in the smartphone market these days. Larger screens, faster processors, additional sensors and higher resolution cameras, all are nice upgrades but are only iterative, especially when you consider the deluge of products that come to market. True innovation is coming along with less frequency and Samsung, more so perhaps than some other players, is guilty of punching out so many different phone models that it's hard not to gloss over new releases. However, the new Samsung Galaxy Note Edge may offer something truly useful and innovative with its supplementary 160 pixel curved edge display. The Note Edge is based on the same internal platform as the Galaxy Note 4, and features a 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 SoC with Adreno 420 graphics and 3GB of RAM. What makes the Galaxy Note Edge so different from virtually all other smartphones on the market is its curved edge display and what Samsung calls its "revolving UI" that offers app shortcuts, status updates, data feeds and features all on its own, but integrated with the rest of the UI on the primary display. You can cycle through various "edge panels" as Samsung calls them, like shortcuts to your favorite apps, a Twitter ticker, news feeds, and a tools panel for quick access to the alarm clock, stop-watch, a flashlight app, audio recorder and even a digital ruler. The Galaxy Note Edge may not be for everyone, but Samsung actually took curved display technology and built something useful out of it."

How Laws Restricting Tech Actually Expose Us To Greater Harm 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the defective-by-design dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Cory Doctorow has an article in Wired explaining why crafting laws to restrict software is going to hurt us in the long run. The reason? Because we're on an irreversible trajectory toward integrating technology with our cars and houses, bodies and brains. If we don't control the software, then at some point, we won't control parts of our homes and our selves. Doctorow writes, "Any law or regulation that undermines computers' utility or security also ripples through all the systems that have been colonized by the general-purpose computer. And therein lies the potential for untold trouble and mischief.

Code always has flaws, and those flaws are easy for bad guys to find. But if your computer has deliberately been designed with a blind spot, the bad guys will use it to evade detection by you and your antivirus software. That's why a 3-D printer with anti-gun-printing code isn't a 3-D printer that won't print guns—the bad guys will quickly find a way around that. It's a 3-D printer that is vulnerable to hacking by malware creeps who can use your printer's 'security' against you: from bricking your printer to screwing up your prints to introducing subtle structural flaws to simply hijacking the operating system and using it to stage attacks on your whole network."
Hardware Hacking

Many DDR3 Modules Vulnerable To Bit Rot By a Simple Program 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the flipping-bits-for-fun-and-profit dept.
New submitter Pelam writes: Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Intel report that a large percentage of tested regular DDR3 modules flip bits in adjacent rows (PDF) when a voltage in a certain control line is forced to fluctuate. The program that triggers this is dead simple — just two memory reads with special relative offset and some cache control instructions in a tight loop. The researchers don't delve deeply into applications of this, but hint at possible security exploits. For example a rather theoretical attack on JVM sandbox using random bit flips (PDF) has been demonstrated before.

Samsung Announces Production of 20nm Mobile LPDDR4, Faster Than Desktop DDR4 41

Posted by timothy
from the leapfrog-is-fun dept.
MojoKid writes Samsung announced today that it has begun volume production of its 8Gb LPDDR4 memory chips, with expected commercial shipments in 2015. The announcement is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, one of the most important characteristics of a modern mobile device is its battery life, and moving to a new memory standard should significantly reduce the memory subsystem's power consumption. Second, however, there's the clock speed. Samsung is claiming that its LPDDR4 will hit 3.2GHz, and while bus widths on mobile parts are significantly smaller than the 64-bit channels that desktops use, the higher clock speed per chip will help close that gap. In fact, multiple vendors have predicted that LPDDR4 clock speeds will actually outpace standard DDR4, with a higher amount of total bandwidth potentially delivered to tablets and smartphones than conventional PCs will see. In addition, the power savings are expected to be substantial.

Quadcopter Drone Packs First All-Linux Autopilot 31

Posted by Soulskill
from the flying-penguins dept.
DeviceGuru writes: Erle Robotics has launched what is claimed to be the first drone to run both a Pixhawk APM autopilot and ROS directly on Linux. Over the last year Erle Robotics and 3DRobotics have collaborated on developing an open source, all-Linux BeagleBone Black-based autopilot for drones using the popular 3DR APM architecture, but without using Nuttx RTOS for the real-time bits. In addition to being used on a new 'Erle-copter' quadcopter drone, the new all-Linux 'Erle-brain' APM will ship in both a two-winged UAV and a four-wheeled robotic vehicle, due next spring.

An Automated Cat Litter Box With DRM 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-that's-what-the-world-needed dept. writes: Jorge Lopez had always wanted an automatic cat litter box, and finally found one called the CatGenie, a fully automated self-washing litter box connected to water, electricity and the sewer that cleans itself with water and soap. "It's the Rolls Royce of cat litter boxes, a hefty device that scoops, cleans, and disposes of the waste all on it's own. It's completely automated, even senses when a cat poops and cleans up afterwards." But there's trouble in paradise. "Life with the CatGenie was great, but not quite perfect," writes Lopez, after discovering that CatGenie uses a smart cartridge that is only available from the manufacturer. "I found that the "Smart" in SmartCartridge is that it has an RFID chip inside of it to keep track of how much solution it has, and once it runs out, well, you can't refill. I honestly did not believe this and tore one of the cartridges apart, and there it was, looking back at me, a tiny chip holding up it's little metal finger." Fortunately there are some amazing people helping the CatGenie community who have released products like the custom firmware CatGenious and CartridgeGenius, which allows you to use whatever solution you want. "The cost savings is great, but isn't the biggest driver for me, it's mainly the principle that I don't own the device I paid for, and I'm really tired of having cat litter everything in my home."

Texas Instruments Builds New Energy Technology For the Internet of Things 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
dcblogs writes Texas Instruments says it has developed electronics capable of taking small amounts of power generated by harvested sources and turning them into a useful power source. TI has built an efficient 'ultra-low powered' DC-to-DC switching converter that can boost 300 to 400 millivolts power to 3 to 5 volts. To power wearables, the company says it has demonstrated drawing energy from the human body by using harvesters the size of wristwatch straps. It has worked with vibration collectors, for instance, about the same size as a key. It is offering this technology as a means to power sensors in Internet of Things applications, as well as to augment battery power supplies in wearables.

"Infrared Curtain" Brings Touchscreen Technology To Cheap Cars 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-touch dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about an affordable way to integrate touch screen technology in any car. "Although touchscreen controls are appearing in the dashboards of an increasing number of vehicles, they're still not something that one generally associates with economy cars. That may be about to change, however, as Continental has announced an "infrared curtain" system that could allow for inexpensive multi-touch functionality in any automobile. The infrared curtain consists of a square frame with a series of LEDs along two adjacent sides, and a series of photodiodes along the other two. Each LED emits a beam of infrared light, which is picked up and converted into an electrical signal by the photodiode located in the corresponding spot on the opposite side of the frame."

What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers? 623

Posted by Soulskill
from the fewer-wrong-orders-at-the-drivethru dept.
Paul Fernhout writes: An article in the Harvard Business Review by William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone suggests: "The "Second Economy" (the term used by economist Brian Arthur to describe the portion of the economy where computers transact business only with other computers) is upon us. It is, quite simply, the virtual economy, and one of its main byproducts is the replacement of workers with intelligent machines powered by sophisticated code. ... This is why we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value. Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century. ... Ultimately, we need a new, individualized, cultural, approach to the meaning of work and the purpose of life. Otherwise, people will find a solution — human beings always do — but it may not be the one for which we began this technological revolution."

This follows the recent Slashdot discussion of "Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates" citing a NY Times article and other previous discussions like Humans Need Not Apply. What is most interesting to me about this HBR article is not the article itself so much as the fact that concerns about the economic implications of robotics, AI, and automation are now making it into the Harvard Business Review. These issues have been otherwise discussed by alternative economists for decades, such as in the Triple Revolution Memorandum from 1964 — even as those projections have been slow to play out, with automation's initial effect being more to hold down wages and concentrate wealth rather than to displace most workers. However, they may be reaching the point where these effects have become hard to deny despite going against mainstream theory which assumes infinite demand and broad distribution of purchasing power via wages.

As to possible solutions, there is a mention in the HBR article of using government planning by creating public works like infrastructure investments to help address the issue. There is no mention in the article of expanding the "basic income" of Social Security currently only received by older people in the U.S., expanding the gift economy as represented by GNU/Linux, or improving local subsistence production using, say, 3D printing and gardening robots like Dewey of "Silent Running." So, it seems like the mainstream economics profession is starting to accept the emerging reality of this increasingly urgent issue, but is still struggling to think outside an exchange-oriented box for socioeconomic solutions. A few years ago, I collected dozens of possible good and bad solutions related to this issue. Like Davidow and Malone, I'd agree that the particular mix we end up will be a reflection of our culture. Personally, I feel that if we are heading for a technological "singularity" of some sort, we would be better off improving various aspects of our society first, since our trajectory going out of any singularity may have a lot to do with our trajectory going into it.

The Dominant Life Form In the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots 390

Posted by Soulskill
from the quick-destroy-all-the-remaining-copies-of-Battlebots dept.
Jason Koebler writes: If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won't look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It's likely they won't be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, joins a handful of astronomers, including Seth Shostak, director of NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick in espousing the view that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is probably artificial. In her paper "Alien Minds," written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Schneider describes why alien life forms are likely to be synthetic, and how such creatures might think.

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil