mrspoonsi writes "The Xbox One controller went through many radical designs, including a built-in pico projector and a cartridge designed to release smell. Apparently, 'the core base didn't appreciate them,' so these wacky features were dropped in favor of a standard controller. According to VentureBeat, over $100 million worth of research went into the design they ended up using. 'Microsoft’s first tweaks for a new controller focused on the overall size and how it’d fit into hands, golden or otherwise. Using the Xbox 360 controller as a starting point, the engineers would make plastic-molded or 3D-printed prototypes that were each 1 millimeter wider or narrower than the last, testing a full range of up to plus or minus 8 millimeters. “That gave us the ability to test, with actual users including women and children, which width feels best,” said Morris. “We tested with more than 500 people throughout the course of the project. All ages, all abilities.” ... Morris and his team then looked at different thicknesses and shapes of the grips (or “lobes,” as he calls them), plus the angle of the triggers, different styles of analog sticks, and more.'"
jones_supa writes "During the first day of the latest virtual Ubuntu Developer Summit, Canonical developers finally plotted out the enabling of TRIM/DISCARD support by default for solid-state drives on Ubuntu 14.04. Ubuntu developers aren't looking to enable discard at the file-system level since it can slow down delete operations, so instead they're wanting to have their own cron job that routinely runs fstrim for TRIMing the system. In the past there has been talk about the TRIM implementation being unoptimized in the kernel. Around when Linux 3.0 was released, OpenSUSE noted that the kernel performs TRIM to a single range, instead of vectorized list of TRIM ranges, which is what the specification calls for. In some scenarios this results in lowered performance."
SmartAboutThings writes "Chip maker AMD has announced that it's won 2 CES Innovation Awards for a gaming tablet the company plans to show off at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The device is called "Project Discovery" and will come with AMD's Mullins chip that is a 64-bit, x86-based chip, perfectly suitable for Windows 8.1. The low-power Mullins APU (accelerated processing unit) is AMD's answer to Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm, aimed at fanless tablets, ultrathin notebooks, and 2-in-1 devices. The 28nm processor is expected to consume as little as 2 watts of energy while in use. The obtained images show that the upcoming AMD tablet is quite similar to Razer Edge."
Nerval's Lobster writes "A small handful of Tesla electric cars have caught fire, driving down the company's stock price, and finally prompting CEO Elon Musk to tackle the issue in a new blog posting. 'Since the Model S went into production last year, there have been more than a quarter million gasoline car fires in the United States alone, resulting in over 400 deaths and approximately 1,200 serious injuries (extrapolating 2012 NFPA data),' he wrote in that posting. 'However, the three Model S fires, which only occurred after very high-speed collisions and caused no serious injuries or deaths, received more national headlines than all 250,000+ gasoline fires combined.' Responsible journalism on the matter, he added, has been 'drowned out' by 'an onslaught of popular and financial media seeking to make a sensation out of something that a simple Google search would reveal to be false.' According to his own figures, Tesla suffers an average of one fire per 6,333 cars, versus a rate of one fire per 1,350 gasoline-powered cars. Every Tesla vehicle includes internal walls between the battery modules, in addition to a firewall between the battery pack and the passenger compartment — enough shielding, in the event of a fire, to prevent pens and papers in the glove compartment from combusting. 'Despite multiple high-speed accidents, there have been no deaths or serious injuries in a Model S of any kind ever,' Musk continued. 'Of course, at some point, the law of large numbers dictates that this, too, will change, but the record is long enough already for us to be extremely proud of this achievement.' Tesla is about to push an 'over-the-air update' to its vehicles' air suspension that will create more ground clearance at highway speeds. In theory, that could reduce the chances of impact damage to the underbody, should the vehicle roll over an object — and that, in turn, could lower the chances of fire."
An anonymous reader writes "The itinerary for Steam Dev Days 2014 lists two talks by Valve's internal virtual and augmented reality researchers, Michael Abrash and Joe Ludwig. Abrash's talk, titled 'What VR Could, Should, and Almost Certainly Will Be within Two Years' will feature a demonstration of Valve's secret prototype VR headset that is 'capable of stunning experiences.' Ludwig's talk 'Virtual Reality and Steam' will discuss how Valve will be adapting Steam to VR to 'support and promote Virtual Reality games.' Rift inventor and Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey will also be taking to the stage at Steam Dev Days to speak on best-practice for VR development." There's a hint that they might be showing off a head mounted display featuring a low persistence display, which would be great news for those of us that get the urge to hurl when playing Doom on a conventional display. If you missed it you might want to check out the slides and notes (PDF) from Michael Abrash's GDC2013 talk on VR.
MojoKid writes "The supercomputing conference SC13 kicks off this week and Nvidia is kicking off their own event with the launch of a new GPU and a strategic partnership with IBM. Just as the GTX 780 Ti was the full consumer implementation of the GK110 GPU, the new K40 Tesla card is the supercomputing / HPC variant of the same core architecture. The K40 picks up additional clock headroom and implements the same variable clock speed threshold that has characterized Nvidia's consumer cards for the past year, for a significant overall boost in performance. The other major shift between Nvidia's previous gen K20X and the new K40 is the amount of on-board RAM. K40 packs a full 12GB and clocks it modestly higher to boot. That's important because datasets are typically limited to on-board GPU memory (at least, if you want to work with any kind of speed). Finally, IBM and Nvidia announced a partnership to combine Tesla GPUs and Power CPUs for OpenPOWER solutions. The goal is to push the new Tesla cards as workload accelerators for specific datacenter tasks. According to Nvidia's release, Tesla GPUs will ship alongside Power8 CPUs, which are currently scheduled for a mid-2014 release date. IBM's venerable architecture is expected to target a 4GHz clock speed and offer up to 12 cores with 96MB of shared L3 cache. A 12-core implementation would be capable of handling up to 96 simultaneous threads. The two should make for a potent combination."
With her signature pink hair, MIT engineer Limor Fried has become a force in the maker movement. Last year she was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneur Magazine, and her company, Adafruit Industries, did $10 million in sales. Limor has agreed to take some time away from soldering and running a new company to answer your questions about hardware, electronics, and Adafruit. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Several sources, including this report at Forbes, and this one at All Things Digital, say that Apple has bought (or is in the process of buying) Tel-Aviv based PrimeSense, the company behind the 3-D sensing technology in Microsoft's Kinect, for $345 million. The Forbes piece also gives a compact but interesting summary of the possibilities of ubiquitous 3-D hardware, and the sudden, recent drop in price of the components necessary for that to happen. Devices like the Lynx 3-D scanner that I saw at last year's SXSW (targeting the cheap and portable end of the 3-D scanning market) may have a lot of competition in the near future.
The Raspberry Pi project that we've been fans of for quite a while now has hit a new milestone: Today, they announced that as of the last week in October, the project has sold more than two million boards. Raspberry Pi is anything but alone in the tiny, hackable computer world (all kinds of other options, from Arduino to the x86-based Minnowboard, are out there, and all have their selling points), but the low price, open-source emphasis, and focus on education have all helped the Pi catch on. If yours is one of these 2 million, what are you using it for? (And if you favor some other small system for your own experiments, what factors matter?)
New submitter isza writes "MobilECG is probably the first open source clinical-grade electrocardiograph with simultaneous 12-lead recording and Android support. It has been designed to meet all the relevant medical standards (ISO 60601-1, etc.). Manufacturing cost @ 1000 pieces: ~$110. I had worked at a medical device company designing clinical electrocardiographs for three years. Fed up with the unreasonably high price, cumbersome design, and dishonest distribution practices of clinical ECG machines, I started working on a high-quality ECG that is different. After a couple of failed attempts to get funding for the expensive certification process and completely running out of funds, I decided to publish everything under a license that allows others to finalize and manufacture it or reuse parts of it in other projects." From the project page linked: "The software is licensed under WTFPL, the hardware under CERN OHL 1.2," and a few words of disclaimer: "Note: the design is functional but unfinished, it needs additional work before it can be certified. There are also some known bugs in it. Most of the software is unimplemented." Conventional crowdfunding may have fallen short, but Isza has proposed an interesting bargain for working on the project again himself: that will happen if he raises via donation half the amount of his original $22,000 investment.
mdsolar writes with this excerpt from the New York Times: "Japan took a major step back on Friday from earlier pledges to slash its greenhouse gas emissions, saying a shutdown of its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster had made previous targets unattainable. The announcement cast a shadow over international talks underway in Warsaw aimed at fashioning a new global pact to address the threats of a changing climate. Under its new goal, Japan, one of the world's top polluters, would still seek to reduce its current emissions. But it would release 3 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than it did in 1990, rather than the 6 percent cut it originally promised or the 25 percent reduction it promised two years before the 2011 nuclear disaster."
Rich0 writes "I own an HP 48 calculator that I'm quite content with, but soon I'll need to take a certification exam where this calculator will not be welcome. I'm sure this is a common problem for those who own higher-end calculators. Sure, I could just buy a random $15 calculator with a few trig functions, but I was wondering who makes the best moderately-priced calculators for somebody who already has and appreciates a programmable calculator and just needs something simple. Bonus points if the calculator can handle polar vector arithmetic and unit conversions, but it has to be simple enough that virtually any exam would accept its use."
ClaraBow writes "I find it interesting that Dell has started selling a thin and light touchscreen laptop called the XPS 13 Developer Edition, which will have Ubuntu Linux OS and Intel's fourth-generation Core processors, code-named Haswell. The laptop, code-named Sputnik, has a 13.3-inch touchscreen and will run on Ubuntu 12.04 OS. It is priced starting at $1,250 and is available in the U.S." One thing I wish was addressed in the blog post announcing this newest entry in the Sputnik line, or its listed specs (bad news beats not knowing, in this case), is battery life.
Lucas123 writes "Google just announced it is investing another $80 million in six new solar power plants in California and Arizona, bringing its total investment in renewable energy to more than $1 billion. The new plants are expected to generate 160MW of electricity, enough to power 17,000 typical U.S. homes. They are expected to be operational by early 2014. With the new plants, Google's renewable power facilities will be able to generate a total of 2 billion watts (gigawatts) of energy, enough to power 500,000 homes or all of the public elementary schools in New York, Oregon, and Wyoming for one year, it said. Currently, Google gets about 20% of its power from renewable energy, but it has set a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy."
mdsolar writes with this excerpt from Bloomberg News: "Arizona will permit the state's largest utility to charge a monthly fee to customers who install photovoltaic panels on their roofs, in a closely watched hearing that drew about 1,000 protesters and may threaten the surging residential solar market. The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, agreed in a 3-to-2 vote at a meeting [Thursday] in Phoenix that Arizona Public Service Co. may collect about $4.90 a month from customers with solar systems. Arizona Public is required to buy solar power from customers with rooftop panels, and the commission agreed with its argument that the policy unfairly shifts some of the utility's costs to people without panels. Imposing a fee designed to address this issue may prompt power companies in other states to follow suit, and will discourage some people from installing new systems, according to the Sierra Club."
waderoush writes "Anki gained instant fame as the robot-car company that launched at Apple's WWDC in June. Its iPhone-controlled racing game hit Apple stores in October, and the company is hoping it will be a holiday hit. But while Anki Drive offers offers a novel physical/virtual entertainment experience for kids and their gadget-loving parents, being a toy company 'is not our vision,' says co-founder and CEO Boris Sofman in this combined company profile and product review from Xconomy. Anki Drive is planned as the first in a series of new consumer-robotics products that are intensively AI-driven, as compared to the mechanically sophisticated but relatively instinctual or behavioral robots exemplified by iRobot's Roomba (which is probably the most successful consumer robot to date). The common characteristics of Anki's coming products, in Sofman's mind: 'Relatively simple and elegant hardware; incredibly complicated software; and Web and wireless connectivity to be able to continually expand the experience over time.'"
An anonymous reader writes "There's many improvements due in the Linux 3.13 kernel that just entered development. On the matter of new hardware support, there's open-source driver support for Intel Broadwell and AMD Radeon R9 290 'Hawaii' graphics. NFTables will eventually replace IPTables; the multi-queue block layer is supposed to make disk access much faster on Linux; HDMI audio has improved; Stereo/3D HDMI support is found for Intel hardware; file-system improvements are on the way, along with support for limiting the power consumption of individual PC components."
dcblogs writes "One year ago this month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $120 million plan to develop a technology capable of radically extending battery life. 'We want to change the game, basically,' said George Crabtree, a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a physics professor who is leading the effort. The goal is to develop a battery that can deliver five times the performance, measured in energy density, that's also five times cheaper, and do it in five years. They are looking at three research areas. Researchers are considering replacing the lithium with magnesium that has two charges, or aluminum, which has three charges. Another approach investigates replacing the intercalation step with a true chemical reaction. A third approach is the use of liquids to replace crystalline anodes and cathodes, which opens up more space for working ions."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports on efforts at Sydney University, where researchers have had excellent success herding dairy cows with robots. By designing the robots to move smoothly, they have kept the cows moving without stressing them. From the video, one can see the animals seem not to interpret the machine as any threat. 'The robot could also cut down the number of accidents involving humans on farms. Most dairy farmers in Australia use quad bikes to round up their cattle and they are one of the leading causes of injury. The team hopes that by using the robot to do the job instead, accident rates could fall.'"
Lucas123 writes "Autonomous robots programmed to scan city streets with thermal imaging and robotic equipment carriers created to aid in transporting ammunition and other supplies will likely outnumber U.S. troops in 10 years, according to robotic researchers and U.S. military officials. 5D Robotics, Northrop Grumman Corp., QinetiQ, HDT Robotics and other companies demonstrated a wide array of autonomous robots during a display at Ft. Benning in Georgia last month. The companies are already gaining traction in the military. For example, British military forces, use QinetiQ's 10-pound Dragon Runner robot, which can be carried in a backpack and then tossed into a building or a cave to capture and relay surveillance video. 'Robots allow [soldiers] to be more lethal and engaged in their surroundings,' said Lt. Col. Willie Smith, chief of Unmanned Ground Vehicles at Fort Benning, Ga. 'I think there's more work to be done but I'm expecting we'll get there.'"
First time accepted submitter NoImNotNineVolt writes "Coin, a Y Combinator-backed startup, has started accepting pre-orders for a device as slim as a standard piece of payment plastic that can hold eight credit, debit, and gift cards in its dynamic magnetic stripe. Paired with the Coin smartphone app via Bluetooth low energy, card details can easily be swapped in and out of the device. A minimalist user interface on the device itself allows the owner to toggle between the loaded cards and then swipe just as they would their ordinary card. All card details are encrypted (both on the device and in the smartphone app), and the device's on-board battery is expected to last for two years of typical usage. No support for chip&pin (EMV) yet, so this may have limited utility outside of the USA. They expect to start shipping in summer of 2014."
An anonymous reader writes "At a press event in Stockholm, Sweden today, Skype confirmed it is evaluating the addition of a typing suppression feature to its desktop clients that will automatically filter the sound of your fingers hitting the keys. Unfortunately, the Microsoft-owned company isn't ready to ship the functionality yet, despite it being available in the company's enterprise-focused Lync tool."
mahiskali writes with this interesting news via the EFF's Deep Links "The new Renault Zoe comes with a 'feature' that absolutely nobody wants. Instead of selling consumers a complete car that they can use, repair, and upgrade as they see fit, Renault has opted to lock purchasers into a rental contract with a battery manufacturer and enforce that contract with digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that can remotely prevent the battery from charging at all. This coming on the heels of the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership IP Rights Chapter leak certainly makes you wonder how much of that device (car?) you really own. Perhaps Merriam-Webster can simply change the definition of ownership."
miller60 writes "How do you cool a high-density server installation inside a high rise in Hong Kong? You dunk the servers, immersing them in fluid to create an extremely efficient HPC environment in a hot, humid location. Hong Kong's Allied Control developed its immersion cooling solution using a technique called open bath immersion (OBI), which uses 3M's Novec fluid. OBI is an example of passive two-phase cooling, which uses a boiling liquid to remove heat from a surface and then condenses the liquid for reuse, all without a pump. It's a slightly different approach to immersion cooling than the Green Revolution technique being tested by Intel and deployed at scale by energy companies. Other players in immersion cooling include Iceotope and Hardcore (now LiquidCool)."
sfcrazy writes "In a surprising and unexpected move, Google and its partners have removed the recently launched HP Chromebook 11 from shelves. Users were complaining about the issues with the trackpad and performance of the laptop." Specifically (as also reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer), some of the laptops have been reported to overheat.
MojoKid writes "The seemingly never-ending onslaught of new graphics cards as of late continues today with the official release of the AMD Radeon R9 270. This mainstream graphics card actually leverages the same GPU that powered last-year's Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition. AMD, however, has tweaked the clocks and through software and board level revisions updated the card to allow for more flexible use of its display outputs (using Eyefinity no longer requires the use of a DisplayPort). Versus the 1GHz (GPU) and 4.8Gbps (memory) of the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, the Radeon R9 270 offers slightly lower compute performance (2.37 TFLOPS vs. 2.56 TFLOPS), but much more memory bandwidth--179.2GB/s vs. 153.6GB/s to be exact. AMD and its add in board partners are launching the Radeon R9 270 today, with prices starting at $179. The Radeon R9 270's starting price is somewhat aggressive and once again puts pressure on NVIDIA. GeForce GTX 660 cards, which typically performed lower than the Radeon R9 270 are priced right around the $190 mark. Along with this card, AMD is also announcing an update to its game bundle, and beginning November 13 Radeon R9 270 – R9 290X cards will include a free copy of Battlefield 4. NVIDIA, on the other hand, is offering Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Assassins Creed – Black Flag, plus $50 off a SHIELD portable gaming device with GTX 660 and 760 cards."
rtoz writes "MIT researchers have found that adding genetically modified viruses to the production of nanowires will boost the performance of lithium-air battery used in electric cars. The key to their work was to increase the surface area of the wire, thus increasing the area where electrochemical activity takes place during charging or discharging of the battery (abstract). The increase in surface area produced by their method can provide a big advantage in lithium-air batteries' rate of charging and discharging. Unlike conventional fabrication methods, which involve energy-intensive high temperatures and hazardous chemicals, this process can be carried out at room temperature using a water-based process."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "At the start of this year, President Obama nicely summed up the grandiose promise of 3D printing — or rather, the hype surrounding it. In his State of the Union address the president suggested the fledgling technology could save manufacturing by ushering in a second industrial revolution. That shout-out inspired a spate of buzzkill blog posts pointing out — rightly enough — that despite its potential, 3D printing is still in its infancy. It's not the panacea for the struggling economy we want it to be, at least not yet. Apparently the naysayers weren't enough to kill the 3D-printing dream, because, with support from the federal government, MakerBot announced its initiative to put a 3D printer in every school in America. The tech startup and the administration are betting big that teaching kids 3D printing is teaching them the skills they'll need as tomorrow's engineers, designers, and inventors." Caveat: Makerbot no longer produces open hardware, and they are pushing proprietary Autodesk software and educational materials as part of the free 3D printer. Makerbot also launched a call for open models of math manipulatives on Thingiverse (you might remember them from elementary school) so that teachers have something useful to print immediately.
muterobert writes with an article about a new head mounted virtual retinal display (technology last covered ages ago). The folks over at Road to VR took a look at an engineering prototype; from the article: "The Avegant HMD uses a virtual retinal projection display consisting of a single LED light source and an array of micro-mirrors. This differs from normal screens in that with a VRD there is no actual screen to look at. Instead, a virtual image (in the optical sense) is drawn directly onto your retina. . ... 'At one point I was looking at a sea turtle in shallow coral waters. Sunlight was beaming down from the surface and illuminating the turtle's shell in a spectacular way — it was one of the most vivid and natural things I've ever seen on any display. The scene before me looked incredibly real, even though the field of view is not at immersive levels.'"
MojoKid writes "At APU13 today, AMD announced a full suite of new products and development tools as part of its push to improve HSA development. One of the most significant announcements to come out the sessions today-- albeit in a tacit, indirect fashion, is that Kaveri is going to pack a full 512 GPU cores. There's not much new to see on the CPU side of things — like Richland/Trinity, Steamroller is a pair of CPU modules with two cores per module. AMD also isn't talking about clock speeds yet, but the estimated 862 GFLOPS that the company is claiming for Kaveri points to GPU clock speeds between 700 — 800MHz. With 512 cores, Kaveri picks up a 33% boost over its predecessors, but memory bandwidth will be essential for the GPU to reach peak performance. For performance, AMD showed Kaveri up against the Intel 4770K running a low-end GeForce GT 630. In the intro scene to BF4's single-player campaign (1920x1080, Medium Details), the AMD Kaveri system (with no discrete GPU) consistently pushed frame rates in the 28-40 FPS range. The Intel system, in contrast, couldn't manage 15 FPS. Performance on that system was solidly in the 12-14 FPS range — meaning AMD is pulling 2x the frame rate, if not more."
MrSeb writes with this excerpt, linking to several pretty graphs: "For more than 30 years, the realm of computing has been intrinsically linked to the humble hard drive. It has been a complex and sometimes torturous relationship, but there's no denying the huge role that hard drives have played in the growth and popularization of PCs, and more recently in the rapid expansion of online and cloud storage. Given our exceedingly heavy reliance on hard drives, it's very, very weird that one piece of vital information still eludes us: How long does a hard drive last? According to some new data, gathered from 25,000 hard drives that have been spinning for four years, it turns out that hard drives actually have a surprisingly low failure rate."
mdsolar writes in with news about a new wind-energy project off the coast of Fukushima. "A project to harness the power of the wind about 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Fukushima, site of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, began generating power on an operational basis today. The project, funded by the government and led by Marubeni Corp. (8002), is a symbol of Japan's ambition to commercialize the unproven technology of floating offshore wind power and its plan to turn quake-ravaged Fukushima into a clean energy hub. 'Fukushima is making a stride toward the future step by step,' Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima, said today at a ceremony in Fukushima marking the project's initiation. 'Floating offshore wind is a symbol of such a future.'"
An anonymous reader writes "An Apple insider who asked not to be identified because the information is classified told Bloomberg that Apple's next iPhone models will come with curve displays and enhanced touchscreen sensors that can detect heavy and light touches. The two models -- 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches -- would be Apple's largest iPhones. Apple is still developing the two models and the person disclosed that Apple could launch the devices in the third quarter of next year."
MarkWhittington writes "Project M was a proposal at NASA's Johnson Spaceflight Center that would have put together a mission to deliver a bipedal robot to the lunar surface within a thousand days. The idea never got out of the conception stage, but two major components, a new type of lunar lander, now called Morpheus, and a robonaut continued on as separate projects. Morpheus is getting ready to conduct a second attempt at free flight tests at the Kennedy Space Center. The first attempt resulted in the destruction of the prototype vehicle. If the second round of tests is successful, NASA will have a spacecraft that could deliver 1,100 pounds of payload to the lunar surface. While a copy of Robonaut 2 is still undergoing tests on board the International Space Station, ABC News reports that a cousin of the mechanical person has been built with legs. It stands eight feet tall and weighs 500 pounds. With two major components of Project M nearing completion, could a robonaut become the next moon walker?"
An anonymous reader writes "While he acknowledged that technology needs to keep going forward, LeVar Burton didn't seem comfortable with the idea of using Google Glass. '"It disturbed me. I was skeptical... [and] I'm a person that's very open to technology." That's the reaction LeVar Burton, the man best known from Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation, first had when encountering Google Glass backstage at Engadget Expand. Burton, a self-described edutainment pioneer, acknowledges the disruptive power new technologies can have on media and culture — after all, he did help transform television into a worthy educational tool/babysitter with his PBS program. But even with that storied success, and his company's current inroads into digital with an iPad Reading Rainbow application, Burton still had a "knee-jerk" response when confronted with Glass. Although his celebrity status and the resulting paranoia could have something to do with it.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Matthew Philips writes at Bloomberg that US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Geneva on Friday to begin negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program and there is sudden optimism that a deal is in the offing. But the simple fact is that Iran would not be coming to the negotiating table without the US oil boom. Over the last two years, the US has increased its crude production by about 2 million barrels a day. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (pdf), Iran's oil exports have been cut in half since 2011 (PDF), from 2.5 million barrels per day to a bit more than 1 million today. As a result, Iran has had to halt an equal amount of production. 'I think it's pretty clear that without the U.S. shale revolution, it never would have been possible to put this kind of embargo on Iran,' says Julius Walker. 'Without US production gains, I think we'd be looking at $150 a barrel.' Instead, international prices have hovered around $110, and are less than $100 in the US. According to data from Bloomberg, the combined carrying capacity of oil tankers leaving Iranian ports last month dropped 22 percent from September. 'They're having a very hard time finding buyers,' says Walker. If a deal gets done, the trick will be to ease Iranian oil back onto the broader market without disrupting prices. If not managed properly, flooding the market with Iranian crude could carry its own negative consequences by suddenly making fracked oil in the US unprofitable."
mdsolar writes in with news that plans to build two new reactors at the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant have been put on hold. "On Friday, Luminant, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings, suspended its application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build two new reactors at the plant. Its partner on the project, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said it was focusing on getting its nuclear reactors in Japan back in operation. The majority of Japan's reactors were shut down because of safety concerns following a 2011 tsunami that caused a radiation leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex 150 miles north of Tokyo. Mitsubishi 'has informed us that they will materially slow the development of their design control document for their new reactor design by several years. In addition, both [Mitsubishi] and Luminant understand the current economic reality of low Texas power prices driven in large part by the boom in natural gas,' read a statement from Luminant."
Lucas123 writes "Researchers have already built robots that can use microorganisms to digest waste material, such as rotten fruit and vegetables, and generate electricity from it. This time, a group of scientists has taken that concept to a strange, new place: urine-powered robots. The scientists from the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol constructed a system in robots that functions like the human heart, except it's designed to pump urine into the robot's 'engine room,' converting the waste into electricity and enabling the robot to function completely on its own. The researchers hope the system, which can hold 24.5 ml of urine, could be used to power future generations of robots, or what they're calling EcoBots. 'In the city environment, they could re-charge using urine from urinals in public lavatories,' said Peter Walters, a researcher with the University of the West of England. 'In rural environments, liquid waste effluent could be collected from farms.'"
cagraham writes "International engineering and construction firm Balfour Beatty is considering using drones in order to construct walls and monitor work sites, among other things. Beatty CIO Danny Reeves, speaking at the Fujitsu Forum, said drones could improve efficiency and safety on sites. He also talked of implementing sensors that would monitor worker's stress levels and bodily functions, and notify management when they became less effective, or mistake-prone, on the job."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Researchers have demonstrated a technique that produces inexpensive, functional electrical circuits that can be printed using about $300 worth of materials and equipment, including generic inkjet printers. The technique, developed by researchers from Georgia Tech, the University of Tokyo and Microsoft Research, allows circuits to be printed onto irregularly-shaped materials or almost anything able to go through the paper feed on a printer designed for consumers. The chief advantage of the technique is the ability to print circuits using silver nanoparticle ink rather than relying on the thermal-bonding technique called sintering, which is time-consuming and can destroy delicate base materials. Researchers were able to print new circuits in about 60 seconds on almost any material that could go through the printer, though resin-covered paper, PET film and glossy photo paper worked best, while sheets of canvas cloth and anything magnetic were ineffective. Once printed using silver ink on flexible base material, the circuits can be attached to existing hardware by simply laying or taping them in place and making connections using conductive tape or conductive glue. (Soldering would destroy the underlying material.)"
mdsolar writes with this bit of news from Green Tech Media "The German government has responded to the next big challenge in its energy transition – storing the output from the solar boom it has created — by doing exactly what it has successfully done to date: greasing the wheels of finance to bring down the cost of new technology. ... Now it is looking at bringing down the cost of the next piece in the puzzle of its energy transition — battery storage. ... KfW’s aim, according to Axel Nawrath, a member of the KfW Bankengruppe executive board, is to ensure that the output of wind and solar must be 'more decoupled' from the grid. ... This is seen as critical as the level of renewable penetration rises to around 40 per cent — a level expected in Germany within the next 10 years. ... According to Papenfuss, households participating in the scheme will spend between €20,000 and €28,000 on solar and storage, depending on the size of the system (the average size is expected to be around 7kW for the solar array and around 4kWh for the battery)."
sfcrazy writes "The newly incorporated CyanogenMod has secured a deal with Oppo to bring their N1 to the market preloaded with CyanogenMod. The special edition of the OPPO N1 has been customized to support all the unique features of the OPPO N1, and include extra CyanogenMod accessories."
MojoKid writes "One of the hallmark features of Google's Nexus 5 flagship smartphone by LG isn't its bodaciously big 5-inch HD display, its 8MP camera, or its "OK Google" voice commands. That has all been done before. What does stand out about the Nexus 5 is Google's new Android 4.4 Kit Kat OS and LG's SoC (System on Chip) processor of choice, namely Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 quad-core. Qualcomm is known for licensing ARM core technology and making it their own; and Qualcomm's latest Krait 400 quad-core along with the Adreno 330 GPU that comprise the Snapdragon 800, is a powerful beast. Google also has taken the scalpel to Kit Kat in all the right places, whittling down the overall footprint of the OS, so it's more efficient on lower-end devices and also offers faster multitasking. Specifically memory usage has been optimized in a number of areas. Couple these OS tweaks with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 and you end up with a smartphone that hugs the corners and lights 'em up on the straights. Putting the Nexus 5 through its paces, it turns out preliminary figures are promising. In fact, the Nexus 5 actually was able to surpass the iPhone 5s with Apple's 64-bit A7 processor in a few tests and goes toe to toe with it in gaming and graphics." Ars Technica has a similarly positive view of the hardware aspects of the phone, dinging it slightly for its camera but otherwise finding little to fault.
Lucas123 writes "Engineers at Duke University say they've constructed a device that can collect stray wireless signals and convert them into energy to charge batteries in devices such as cell phones and tablets. The WiFi collection device, made of cheap copper coils and fiberglass, can even aggregate energy from satellite signals and sound waves (abstract). The researchers created a series of five fiberglass and copper energy conductors on a circuit board, which was able to convert microwaves into 7.3V of electrical energy. By comparison, Universal Serial Bus (USB) chargers for small electronic devices provide about 5V of power. The device, the researchers say, is as efficient as solar cells with an energy conversion rate of 37%."
Zothecula writes "We tend to think of livestock farmers as 'one man and his dog,' but if AgResearch of New Zealand has anything to say, that pair may have to move over to include a robot. A team led by Dr. Andrew Manderson is developing AgriRover, an agricultural robot inspired by NASA's Mars rovers. It's a proof-of-concept prototype designed to show how robots can make life easier and more productive for livestock farmers."
An anonymous reader writes "After all the revelations about NSA's spying efforts, and especially after the disclosure of details about its Bullrun program aimed at subverting encryption standards and efforts around the world, the question has been raised of whether any encryption software can be trusted. Security experts have repeatedly said that it you want to trust this type of software, your best bet is to choose software that is open source. But, in order to be entirely sure, a security audit of the code by independent experts sounds like a definitive answer to that issue. And that it exactly what Matthew Green, cryptographer and research professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Kenneth White, co-founder of hosted healthcare services provider BAO Systems, have set out to do. The software that will be audited is the famous file and disk encryption software package TrueCrypt. Green and White have started fundraising at FundFill and IndieGoGo, and have so far raised over $50,000 in total." (Mentioned earlier on Slashdot; the now-funded endeavor is also covered at Slash DataCenter.)
Dave Knott writes "Just over one week ahead of the launch of the Playstation 4, Wired has posted an article with a full teardown of Sony's new device. In an accompanying video Sony engineering director Yasuhiro Ootori dismantles the PS4 piece by piece, describing each component and showing just what is contained inside the sleek black box."
Nerval's Lobster writes "By 2015, Americans' ability to access digital media at home and on mobile devices will raise the average volume of media consumed to the equivalent of nine DVDs worth of data per person, per day – not including whatever media they consume at work. That estimate adds up to 15.5 hours of media use per day per person, which breaks down to 74 gigabytes of data per person and a national, collective total of 8.75 zettabytes, according to a new report. Between 2008 and 2013, Americans grew from watching 11 hours of media per day to 14 hours per day – a growth rate of about 5 percent per year, lead author James E. Short wrote in the report. The increasing number of digital-data consumers and the shift from analog to digital media drove the total volume of data in bytes to grow 18 percent per year. That growth rate 'is less than the capacity to process data, driven by Moore's Law, [of about] 30 percent per year,' he added, 'but is still impressive.' Social media is growing even faster than other options – 28 percent per year, from 6.3 billion hours in 2008 to an estimated 35.2 billion hours in 2015. Companies expecting to catch the attention of either employees or customers will have to do so in the context of an increasingly media-swamped population. Digital data consumption will continue to rise, the SDSC projections estimate, possibly to more than an average of 24 hours per person per day – which is only possible assuming multiple simultaneous data streams running through the minds of Americans watching TV, browsing the Web and texting each other simultaneously, probably to ask why they never have time to just sit and talk any more."