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Robotics

Open Source Gardening Robot 'FarmBot' Raises $560,000 17

Slashdot reader Paul Fernhout writes: FarmBot is an open-source gantry-crane-style outdoor robot for tending a garden bed. The project is crowdfunding a first production run and has raised US$561,486 of their US$100,000 goal -- with one day left to go... The onboard control system is based around a Raspberry Pi 3 computer and an Arduino Mega 2560 Microcontroller. Many of the parts are 3D printable.
Two years ago Slashdot covered the genesis of this project, describing its goal as simply "to increase food production by automating as much of it as possible."
Earth

World's Largest Solar Power Plant Planned For Chernobyl Nuclear Wasteland (electrek.co) 113

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Electrek: Chernobyl, the world's most famous and hazardous nuclear meltdown, is being considered for the world's largest solar power plant. Even though nearly 1,600 square miles of land around Chernobyl has radiation levels too high for human health, Ukraine's ecology minister has said in a recent interview that two U.S. investment firms and four Canadian energy companies have expressed interest in Chernobyl's solar potential. Electrek reports: "According to PVTech, the Ukrainian government is pushing for a 6 month construction cycle. Deploying this amount of solar power within such a time frame would involve significant resources being deployed. The proposed 1GW solar plant, if built today, would be the world's largest. There are several plans for 1GW solar plants in development (Egypt, India, UAE, China, etc) -- but none of them have been completed yet. One financial benefit of the site is that transmission lines for Chernobyl's 4GW nuclear reactor are still in place. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has stated they would be interested in participating in the project, 'so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank's satisfaction.'"
Power

A Look Inside Tesla's $5 Billion Gigafactory (cnet.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: A joint effort between Tesla and Panasonic, the Gigafactory is a $5 billion project that will create the world's premier battery manufacturing facility. The Gigafactory will not only be physically larger than any other cell-packing plant on the planet, it'll produce more batteries than the entire industry did back in 2013. That's a lot of batteries, enough to meet Tesla's 500,000-per-year manufacturing goals -- and potentially even more. When completed, the factory will cover five million square feet of the desert floor just outside of Reno, Nevada. Right now, the uncompleted but already-operational factory sits on 800,000 square feet. Over the next four years the building will grow and grow again, swelling to its full size while production dials up simultaneously. The roof will be covered in solar panels, with the goal of producing enough electricity to power the entire thing. Tesla is already assembling Powerwall units here, but the first Model 3 battery packs are expected to roll off the line by the middle of next year. From there, Tesla will have to scale quickly to meet the company's Model 3 production goals for 2018. And, once the company does, the cost savings will begin. The "Tesla Gigafactory Tour" video can also be viewed on YouTube via Roadshow.
Robotics

US Military Using $600K 'Drone Buggies' To Patrol Camps In Africa (cnbc.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The U.S. military is using an unmanned robotic vehicle to patrol around its camps in the Horn of Africa. The remote controlled vehicle is the result of a 30-year plan after military chiefs approved the concept of a robotic security system in 1985. Now the Mobile Detection Assessment and Response System, known as MDARS, are carrying out patrols in the east African country of Djibouti, under the control of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. The area is known as home to a number of hostile militant groups including the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. An operator sits in a remote location away from the vehicle watching the terrain via a camera link which is fixed to the chassis. U.S. military software engineer Joshua Kordanai said in a video presentation that the vehicle drives itself, freeing the remote operator to monitor video. "The vehicle has an intruder detection payload, consisting of radar, a night vision camera, a PTZ [pan-tilt-zoom] camera and two-way audio, so the system will be able to detect motion," he added. One report prices the cost of an earlier version of the military 'drone buggy' at $600,000 each.
The Courts

Judge Rules Political Robocalls Are Protected By First Amendment (onthewire.io) 172

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A federal judge has ruled that robocalls made on behalf of political candidates are protected by the First Amendment and cannot be outlawed. The decision came in a case in Arkansas, where political robocalls had been illegal for more than 30 years. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Leon Holmes ruled that banning political robocalls amounts to an infringement of free speech protections and also constitutes prior restraint of speech. Political campaigns have been using robocalls for decades, and some states have sought to ban them, arguing that they are intrusive and violate recipients' privacy. In the Arkansas case, the state attorney general put forward both of these arguments, and also argued that the calls can tie up phone lines, making them unusable in an emergency. Holmes said in his decision that there was no evidence that political robocalls prevent emergency communications, and also said that the Arkansas statute should have banned all robocalls, not just commercial and political ones. "The statute at issue here imposes a content-based restriction on speech; it is not one of the rare cases that survives strict scrutiny. The state has failed to prove that the statute at issue advances a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest," Holmes wrote.
Medicine

E-Cigarettes Emit Toxic Vapors, Says Study (upi.com) 304

An anonymous reader quotes a report from UPI: All electronic cigarettes emit harmful chemicals, and levels of those toxic compounds are affected by factors such as temperature, type and age of the device, a new study finds. In laboratory tests, scientists found that the heat-related breakdown of propylene glycol and glycerin -- two solvents found in most e-cigarette liquids -- causes emissions of toxic chemicals such as acrolein, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. All three are either respiratory irritants or carcinogens, the investigators said. The researchers also found that levels of harmful chemicals in e-cigarette vapor increase between the first few puffs and later puffs as the device gets hotter, and with each use of the device.The new study was published July 27 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. "Advocates of e-cigarettes say emissions are much lower than from conventional cigarettes, so you're better off using e-cigarettes," study corresponding author Hugo Destaillats said in a Berkeley news release. "I would say, that may be true for certain users -- for example, long-time smokers that cannot quit -- but the problem is, it doesn't mean that they're healthier. Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy," he explained. The FDA will start regulating e-cigarettes like tobacco on August 8, 2016.
Democrats

Tech Takes Its K-12 CS Education and Immigration Crisis To the DNC (cnet.com) 118

theodp writes: In early 2013, Code.org and FWD.us coincidentally emerged after Microsoft suggested tech's agenda could be furthered by creating a crisis linking U.S. kids' lack of computer science savvy to tech's need for tech worker visas. Three years later, CNET's Marguerite Reardon reports that tech took its K-12 computer science and immigration crisis to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, where representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon called for the federal government to invest in more STEM education and reform immigration policies -- recurring themes the industry hopes to influence in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. "We believe in the importance of high-skilled immigration coupled with investments in education," said Microsoft President Brad Smith, repeating the Microsoft National Talent Strategy. The mini-tech conference also received some coverage in the New Republic, where David Dayen argues that the DNC is one big corporate bride.
Businesses

Tesla and Autopilot Supplier Mobileye Split Up After Fatal Crash (usatoday.com) 127

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Tesla and Mobileye, one of the top suppliers to its Autopilot partial self-driving system, are parting ways in the wake of the May accident that killed an owner of one of its electric Model S sedans. Mobileye is considered a leader in developing the equipment that will be needed for fully self-driving cars. The Israeli tech company will continue to support and maintain current Tesla products, including upgrades that should help the Autopilot system with crash avoidance and to better allow the car to steer itself, said Chairman Amnon Shashua in releasing the company's second-quarter earnings Tuesday. Shashua said moving cars to higher levels of self-driving capability "is a paradigm shift both in terms of function complexity and the need to ensure an extremely high level of safety." He added there is "much at stake" in terms of Mobileye's reputation, and that it is best to end the relationship with Tesla by the end of the year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, meeting with reporters at the company's new battery Gigafactory outside Reno, indicated that Tesla can go forward without Mobileye. "Us parting ways was somewhat inevitable. There's nothing unexpected here from our standpoint," Musk said. "We're committed to autonomy. They'll go their way, and we'll go ours."
Earth

Hyperloop One Announces Opening of Its First Manufacturing Plant (techcrunch.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Hyperloop One is today announcing the opening of its first manufacturing plant. Called Hyperloop One Metalworks, the 105,000 square-foot building in North Las Vegas will be the new professional home of many of the company's 170 employees, including engineers, machinists and welders. These folks will build and test a number of components for the DevLoop, a full-system prototype of the Hyperloop, set for testing in 2017. The project, if successful, promises a half-hour travel time between Stockholm and Helsinki, which is the equivalent of about 300 miles. The company plans to have a working prototype of the Hyperloop by 2017 thanks to this new plant."Hyperloop One Metalworks is the first Hyperloop manufacturing plant in the world," said co-founder and President of Engineering Josh Giegel in a press release. "The ability to have a world-class machine shop in-house gives us an advantage to build rapidly and develop the Hyperloop in real-time."
Nintendo

Nintendo NX Is a Portable Console With Detachable Controllers, Says Report (eurogamer.net) 157

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Eurogamer.net: We now have a good idea as to what the Nintendo NX will consist of thanks to a new report from Eurogamer. According to a number of sources, Nintendo's upcoming NX will be a portable, handheld console with detachable controllers. Eurogamer.net reports: "On the move, NX will function as a high-powered handheld console with its own display. So far so normal -- but here's the twist: we've heard the screen is bookended by two controller sections on either side, which can be attached or detached as required. Then, when you get home, the system can connect to your TV for gaming on the big screen. A base unit, or dock station, is used to connect the brain of the NX -- within the controller -- to display on your TV. NX will use game cartridges as its choice of physical media, multiple sources have also told [Eurogamer]. Another source said the system would run on a new operating system from Nintendo. It won't, contrary to some earlier rumors, simply run on Android. [...] The system will harness Nvidia's powerful mobile processor Tegra. Graphical comparisons with current consoles are difficult due to the vastly different nature of the device -- but once again we've heard Nintendo is not chasing graphical parity. Quite the opposite, it is sacrificing power to ensure it can squeeze all of this technology into a handheld, something which also tallies with earlier reports. Finally, we've heard from one source that NX planning has recently moved up a gear within Nintendo ahead of the console's unveiling, which is currently slated for September. After the confused PR fiasco of the Wii U launch, the company is already settling on a simple marketing message for NX -- of being able to take your games with you on the go."
Software

Tesla Model S In Fatal Autopilot Crash Was Going 74 MPH In a 65 Zone, NTSB Says (latimes.com) 602

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: The Tesla car involved in a fatal crash in Florida this spring was in Autopilot mode and going about 10 miles faster than the speed limit, according to safety regulators, who also released a picture of the mangled vehicle. Earlier reports had stated the Tesla Model S struck a big rig while traveling on a divided highway in central Florida, and speculated that the Tesla Autopilot system had failed to intervene in time to prevent the collision. The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Tuesday that confirms some details of the May 7 collision, along with a photo that shows the car with its windshield flattened and most of its roof sheared off. The federal agency also included a photo of the big rig, circling an area on the right side of the tractor-trailer that showed the light damage the truck received from the collision. The 2015 Model S was moving at 74 mph, above the posted 65 mph speed limit, when it struck a 53-foot trailer being pulled by a Freightliner Cascadia truck. Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot driving feature was engaged, the report says.
Iphone

Apple Q3 Earnings: iPhone Sales Continue To Slide, But Apple Beats Estimates (bgr.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BGR: Apple on Tuesday announced fiscal third-quarter earnings of $1.42 per share, or $7.8 billion in net income, on sales totaling $42.4 billion. That compares to a net profit of $1.85 per share in the same quarter last year, while revenue slid from the Q3 record of $49.6 billion that Apple set in fiscal 2015. Ahead of Apple's report, analysts were expecting EPS to come in at $1.39 while revenue was seen dropping to $42.1 billion, right in the middle of Apple's guidance of between $41 billion and $43 billion. iPhone sales in fiscal Q3 2016 totaled 40.4 million units, down from the 47.5 million iPhones the company sold during the June quarter last year, which was also a third-quarter record. Wall Street's consensus for this past quarter was 40 million units. The company said it expects between $45.5 billion and $47.5 billion in sales for the fiscal fourth quarter. The only part of Apple's business that's really growing is its mobile apps and online services. The company reported a 19 percent sales jump for the segment that includes iTunes, Apple Music, the App Store and services like Apple Pay and iCloud storage. "That segment produced nearly $6 billion in sales -- more than Apple pulled in from quarterly sales of either iPad or Macs," reports ABC News.
HP

Popular Wireless Keyboards From HP, Toshiba and Others Don't Use Encryption, Can Be Easily Snooped On (threatpost.com) 85

Reader msm1267 writes: Wireless keyboards made by eight different companies suffer from a vulnerability that can allow attackers to eavesdrop on keystrokes from up to 250 feet away, researchers warned Tuesday. If exploited, the vulnerability, dubbed KeySniffer, could let an attacker glean passwords, credit card numbers, security questions and answers -- essentially anything typed on a keyboard, in clear text. Keyboards manufactured by Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Kensington, Insignia, Radio Shack, Anker, General Electric, and EagleTec are affected, according to Marc Newlin, a researcher with Bastille Networks who discovered the vulnerability. Bastille gave the manufacturers of the keyboards 90 days to address the vulnerability, but most vendors failed to respond to their findings. Newlin said only Jasco Products, a company that manufactures the affected keyboard (GE 98614) for General Electric, responded and claimed it no longer manufactures wireless devices, like keyboards. As there doesn't appear to be a way to actually fix the vulnerability, it's likely the companies will eventually consider the devices end of life.
AMD

AMD Unveils Radeon Pro WX and Pro SSG Professional Graphics Cards (hothardware.com) 53

MojoKid writes: AMD took the wraps off its latest pro graphics solutions at SIGGRAPH today, and announced three new professional graphics cards in the new Polaris-based Radeon Pro WX Series. The Radeon Pro WX 4100 is the entry-level model with a half-height design for use in small form-factor workstations. The Radeon Pro WX 5100 is the middle child, while the Radeon Pro WX 7100 is AMD's current top-end WX model. The Radeon Pro WX 7100 has 32 compute units, offers 5 TFLOPs of compute performance, and is backed by 8GB of GDDR4 memory over a 256-bit memory interface. The Radeon Pro WX 5100 offers 28 compute units and 4 TFLOPs of performance along with 8GB memory over the same 256-bit interface, and the Radeon Pro WX 4100 is comprised of 16 compute units at 2 TFLOPs of perf with 4GB memory over a 128-bit memory link. The Radeon Pro WX 4100 has four mini DisplayPort outputs, while the Radeon Pro WX 5100 and 7100 each have four full-size DisplayPort connectors. None of these cards will be giving the new NVIDIA Quadro P6000 a run for its money in terms of performance, but they don't have to. The Quadro card will no doubt cost thousands of dollars, while the Radeon Pro WX 7100 will eek in at just under $1,000. The Radeon Pro WX 5100 and 4100 will slot in somewhat below that mark. AMD also announced the Radeon Solid State Storage Architecture and the Radeon Pro SSG card today. Details are scant, but AMD is essentially outfitting Radeon Pro SSG cards with large amounts of Solid State Flash Memory, which can allow much larger data sets to reside close to the GPU in an extended frame buffer. Whereas the highest-end professional graphics cards today may have up to 24GB of memory, the Radeon Pro SSG will start with 1TB, linked to the GPU via a custom PCI Express interface. Giving the GPU access to a large, local data repository should offer significantly increased performance for demanding workloads like real-time post-production of 8K video, high-resolution rendering, VR content creation and others.
Businesses

Apple's Electric Car Project To Be Led By Bob Mansfield (techcrunch.com) 143

An anonymous reader writes: Long-time Apple executive Bob Mansfield will lead Apple's electric car project, according to the Wall Street Journal. TechCrunch reports: "Mansfield stepped down from the Apple executive board in 2013, yet stayed around the company to work on, what Apple called, special projects. In this role he was reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. One of Mansfield's projects turned out to be the Apple Watch. Now it seems he will head-up Apple's car ambitions -- a project Apple has yet to publicly confirm. During Mansfield's tenure he lead the engineering teams responsible for numerous products including the MacBook Air, iMac, and the iPad."

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