Cloud

Microsoft Built Its Own Custom Linux Kernel For Its New IoT Service (techcrunch.com) 199

At a small press event in San Francisco, Microsoft today announced the launch of a secure end-to-end IoT product that focuses on microcontroller-based devices -- the kind of devices that use tiny and relatively low-powered microcontrollers (MCUs) for basic control or connectivity features. TechCrunch reports: At the core of Azure Sphere is a new class of certified MCUs. As Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith stressed in today's announcement, Microsoft will license these new Azure Sphere chips for free, in hopes to jump-start the Azure Sphere ecosystem. Because it's hard to secure a device you can't update or get telemetry from, it's no surprise that these devices will feature built-in connectivity. And with that connectivity, these devices can also connect to the Azure Sphere Security Service in the cloud. For the first time ever, Microsoft is launching a custom Linux kernel and distribution: the Azure Sphere OS. It's an update to the kind of real-time operating systems that today's MCUs often use.

Why use Linux? "With Azure Sphere, Microsoft is addressing an entirely new class of IoT devices, the MCU," Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's partner director for Windows enterprise and security told me at the event. "Windows IoT runs on microprocessor units (MPUs) which have at least 100x the power of the MCU. The Microsoft-secured Linux kernel used in the Azure Sphere IoT OS is shared under an OSS license so that silicon partners can rapidly enable new silicon innovations." And those partners are also very comfortable with taking an open-source release and integrating that with their products. To get the process started, MediaTek is producing the first set of these new MCUs. These are low-powered, single-core ARM-A7 systems that run at 500MHz and include WiFi connectivity as well as a number of other I/O options.

Power

Ola Wants a Million Electric Rides on India's Roads by 2021 (bloomberg.com) 28

Ride-hailing company Ola, Uber's fiercest Indian competitor, wants to roll out 10,000 electric three-wheeled rickshaws within a year and a million battery-powered vehicles by 2021. From a report: The startup run by ANI Technologies said it's in policy discussions with several state governments, and is talking with potential partners from automakers to battery producers. It aims to build out an existing pilot project in the central Indian city of Nagpur, where Ola's first EVs have already traveled more than 4 million kilometers. Ola's ambitions dovetail with the Indian government's objectives. Prime Minster Narendra Modi plans to significantly increase the number of new energy vehicles on the road. The power ministry in March said Modi had directed senior ministers to ensure that by 2030 most vehicles in India would be powered by electricity.
Robotics

Europe Divided Over Robot 'Personhood' (politico.eu) 246

Politico Europe has an interesting piece which looks at the high-stakes debate between European lawmakers, legal experts and manufacturers over who should bear the ultimate responsibility for the actions by a machine: the machine itself or the humans who made them?. Two excerpts from the piece: The battle goes back to a paragraph of text, buried deep in a European Parliament report from early 2017, which suggests that self-learning robots could be granted "electronic personalities." Such a status could allow robots to be insured individually and be held liable for damages if they go rogue and start hurting people or damaging property.

Those pushing for such a legal change, including some manufacturers and their affiliates, say the proposal is common sense. Legal personhood would not make robots virtual people who can get married and benefit from human rights, they say; it would merely put them on par with corporations, which already have status as "legal persons," and are treated as such by courts around the world.

The Military

Robots Replace Soldiers In First of Its Kind Obstacle-Breaching Exercise (military.com) 23

Long-time Slashdot reader cold fjord writes: U.S. and British troops have completed a first-of-its-kind exercise using robots for breaching a complex anti-tank/anti-personnel obstacle as part of what was titled the "Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration" at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. The exercise included a number of robotic systems, including remotely controlled British Army Terrier engineering vehicles (five cameras, including thermal imaging), UAVs for reconnaissance and chemical agent detection, and the M58 Wolf under remote control and used to provide smoke screens...

British Warrant Officer Robert Kemp stated that breaching enemy obstacles is one of the most dangerous tasks on a battlefield, and that, "Any breach like this will have enemy weapons trained in on the area... Roboticizing breach operations takes away the risk of life and makes clearing enemy obstacles much safer." U.S. Army officer 1st Lt. Felix Derosin said, "As an engineer, this means a lot to me... The casualty rate for a breach is expected to be 50 percent. Being able to take our guys away from that, and have some robots go in there, is a very positive thing for us. In the future, this can save engineers' lives."

The engineer added later that "Being able to see it, eyes on, shows me what the future is going to be like, and it's pretty good."
Businesses

Apple's Stumbling HomePod Isn't the Hot Seller It Wanted (bloomberg.com) 98

The recently-released Apple HomePod smart speaker is not selling very well. According to Bloomberg, "By late March, Apple had lowered sales forecasts and cut some orders with Inventec, one of the manufacturers that builds the HomePod for Apple." From the report: At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. "Even when people had the ability to hear these things," he says, "it still didn't give Apple another spike." During the HomePod's first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon's Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod that may help short-term shipments. However, even if the product materializes, he predicts it will only provide a short-term boost to sales.
AMD

AMD Makes 2nd Gen Ryzen Processors Official With Availability Starting Next Week (hothardware.com) 63

MojoKid writes: Today AMD announced official details regarding its new mainstream second-generation Ryzen family of processors. Pricing and detailed specs show some compelling new alternatives from AMD and a refined family of chips to give Intel even more competition, especially considering price point. These new AMD CPUs are all based on the 12nm Zen+ architecture and, at least initially, include four SKUs. The Ryzen 7 family features 8 cores and 16 threads along with 20MB of cache. Ryzen 7 2700 (65W) has a base clock of 3.2GHz and a turbo frequency of 4.1GHz. The top-of-the-line Ryzen 7 2700X (105W) ups the stakes with clocks of 3.7GHz and 4.3GHz respectively. The new Ryzen 5 family features six physical cores capable of executing 12 threads and 19MB of cache. The Ryzen 5 2600 (65W) has a base clock of 3.4GHz and a max boost frequency of 3.9GHz. The Ryzen 5 2600X (95W) ups those speeds to 3.6GHz and 4.2GHz respectively. AMD says that the Ryzen 5 2600, Ryzen 5 2600X, Ryzen 7 2700 and Ryzen 2700X will be available starting April 19th, priced at $199, $229, $299 and $329 respectively.
AI

Google Works Out a Fascinating, Slightly Scary Way For AI To Isolate Voices In a Crowd (arstechnica.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google researchers have developed a deep-learning system designed to help computers better identify and isolate individual voices within a noisy environment. As noted in a post on the company's Google Research Blog this week, a team within the tech giant attempted to replicate the cocktail party effect, or the human brain's ability to focus on one source of audio while filtering out others -- just as you would while talking to a friend at a party. Google's method uses an audio-visual model, so it is primarily focused on isolating voices in videos. The company posted a number of YouTube videos showing the tech in action.

The company says this tech works on videos with a single audio track and can isolate voices in a video algorithmically, depending on who's talking, or by having a user manually select the face of the person whose voice they want to hear. Google says the visual component here is key, as the tech watches for when a person's mouth is moving to better identify which voices to focus on at a given point and to create more accurate individual speech tracks for the length of a video. According to the blog post, the researchers developed this model by gathering 100,000 videos of "lectures and talks" on YouTube, extracting nearly 2,000 hours worth of segments from those videos featuring unobstructed speech, then mixing that audio to create a "synthetic cocktail party" with artificial background noise added. Google then trained the tech to split that mixed audio by reading the "face thumbnails" of people speaking in each video frame and a spectrogram of that video's soundtrack. The system is able to sort out which audio source belongs to which face at a given time and create separate speech tracks for each speaker. Whew.

Android

Google Appears To Be Testing iPhone X-Style Gesture Navigation In Android P (androidpolice.com) 18

A new screenshot that Google recently shared (and since deleted) is stirring up theories about a possible iPhone X-like gesture navigation interface for Android P. Android Police reports: What we see is a decidedly odd navigation layout, with this short little bar in place of the expected home button, a back arrow that's now hollowed-out, and an app-switcher that seems utterly absent. So how would Google's presumably screen-only implementation work? Well, not only does that home bar look like a narrower version of the bar you'll find on the iPhone X, but we hear that the Android version may function in a quite similar way, with users swiping up to access their home screens. While we still haven't heard any details about how app switching might work with this new regime, the back button will reportedly only appear when needed, disappearing on the home screen, for example. As to other controls we can only speculate, like how you would gesture to conjure up the Google Assistant.
Robotics

Tesla Relied On Too Many Robots To Build the Model 3, Elon Musk Says (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Tesla's critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018. Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3's batteries at the company's Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBS's Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Tesla's over-reliance on robots in the production. Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a "crazy, complex network of conveyor belts" the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasn't working.
Power

World's First Electrified Road For Charging Vehicles Opens In Sweden (theguardian.com) 102

A 1.2-mile stretch of road with electric rails has been installed in Stockholm, Sweden, allowing electric vehicles to charge up their batteries as they drive across it. "The technology behind the electrification of the road linking Stockholm Arlanda airport to a logistics site outside the capital city aims to solve the thorny problems of keeping electric vehicles charged, and the manufacture of their batteries affordable," reports The Guardian. From the report: Energy is transferred from two tracks of rail in the road via a movable arm attached to the bottom of a vehicle. The design is not dissimilar to that of a Scalextric track, although should the vehicle overtake, the arm is automatically disconnected. The electrified road is divided into 50m sections, with an individual section powered only when a vehicle is above it. When a vehicle stops, the current is disconnected. The system is able to calculate the vehicle's energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and user. The "dynamic charging" -- as opposed to the use of roadside charging posts -- means the vehicle's batteries can be smaller, along with their manufacturing costs. A former diesel-fuelled truck owned by the logistics firm, PostNord, is the first to use the road.
Software

Apple Starts Alerting Users That It Will End 32-Bit App Support On the Mac (techcrunch.com) 267

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Tomorrow at midnight PT, Apple will begin issuing an alert box when you open a 32-bit app in MacOS 10.13.4. It's a one-time (per app) alert, designed to help MacOS make the full transition to 64-bit. At some unspecified time in the future, the operating system will end its support for 32-bit technology meaning those apps that haven't been updated just won't work. That time, mind you, is not tomorrow, but the company's hoping that this messaging will help light a fire under users and developers to upgrade before that day comes. Says the company on its help page, "To ensure that the apps you purchase are as advanced as the Mac you run them on, all future Mac software will eventually be required to be 64-bit." As the company notes, the transition's been a long time coming. The company started making it 10 or so years ago with the Power Mac G5 desktop, so it hasn't exactly been an overnight ask for developers. Of course, if you've got older, non-supported software in your arsenal, the eventual end-of-lifing could put a severe damper on your workflow. For those users, there will no doubt be some shades of the transition from OS 9 to OS X in all of this.
AI

FDA Approves AI-Powered Software To Detect Diabetic Retinopathy (engadget.com) 34

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved an AI-powered device that can be used by non-specialists to detect diabetic retinopathy in adults with diabetes. Engadget reports: Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the high levels of blood sugar in the bloodstream cause damage to your retina's blood vessels. It's the most common cause of vision loss, according to the FDA. The approval comes for a device called IDx-DR, a software program that uses an AI algorithm to analyze images of the eye that can be taken in a regular doctor's office with a special camera, the Topcon NW400. The photos are then uploaded to a server that runs IDx-DR, which can then tell the doctor if there is a more than mild level of diabetic retinopathy present. If not, it will advise a re-screen in 12 months. The device and software can be used by health care providers who don't normally provide eye care services. The FDA warns that you shouldn't be screened with the device if you have had laser treatment, eye surgery or injections, as well as those with other conditions, like persistent vision loss, blurred vision, floaters, previously diagnosed macular edema and more.
Software

New Navigation App 'Live Roads' Promises 1.5m-Accuracy With Standard Cellphone Hardware (arstechnica.com) 80

Jonathan M. Gitlin from Ars Technica reviews a new navigation app called Live Roads, which promises 1.5m-accuracy via your current smartphone without the need of any extra hardware. In a nutshell, the app provides more accurate mapping/navigation than what's currently available via Google Maps or Apple Maps, but it's still not quite as accurate as a true "HD map." HD maps are accurate to within a centimeter or two and are usually made by a combination of traditional surveying and lidar scanning. Here's an excerpt from the report: A few weeks after talking with the company, I was delivered a Samsung S7 loaded with Live Roads. I'll be honest: I'm not that familiar with Android, and this isn't really a review of the app. I used it enough to check that it does what it claims, but I didn't use it as my sole method of navigation. However, this brief bit of user-testing did let me check out the claims in that email. I don't think I'd equate the app with the HD maps that autonomous vehicles will need. For one thing it's readable by a human being; for another it's not quite that accurate. But the spatial resolution was indeed better than it should be on a consumer phone, and Live Roads was able to locate me down to a specific lane on a multi-lane road. Various navigation apps give you lane-specific instructions -- for instance, telling you to stay in the middle two lanes if you're approaching a complicated intersection. Where Live Roads differs is that it can also tell which lane you're actually in. Whether this is enough of a feature to build a business model around is an open question; I'm quite happy using Google Maps on iOS, with occasional forays into Waze (running in the background to warn of speed traps) and Apple Maps (if I'm driving something with CarPlay and the infotainment's built-in navigation sucks).

But it left me wondering: how does it work? Paul Konieczny, CEO of Live Roads, gave me an explanation -- up to a point. "Primarily it is based around sensor fusion and certain probabilistic models -- we call it the Black Box," he said. "The current release of the app that is available in the Play Store has an earlier revision of our Black Box. This initial version is missing some of the functionality of the full-fledged system and thus has a spatial resolution of ~2.5m. This compares favorably to standard GPS that has a resolution of 4.0 m+." By summer, Konieczny hopes that the system will be fully operational and that accuracy will be down to under 1.5m. Assuming a large enough user base, that should let it offer lane-specific traffic data, "as well as introducing an entire ecosystem of 3D objects that users will be able to interact with," he told me.

Cellphones

The Personality Traits That Put You At Risk For Smartphone Addiction (washingtonpost.com) 73

Zorro shares a report from The Washington Post: When the Trump-affiliated firm Cambridge Analytica obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users, it used the "Big 5" or "Five Factor Model" personality test to target them with ads designed to influence their votes in the 2016 election. The test scores people on five traits -- openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism -- and was used in the election to predict the way a voter would respond to an advertisement. But the Big 5 can predict a lot more -- including how likely you are to even use Facebook or any other social media (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source).

That's because the way you score on the test can tell you how likely you are to become addicted to your screen. Research shows that people who score high on neuroticism, low on conscientiousness, and low on agreeableness are more likely to become addicted to social media, video games, instant messaging, or other online stimuli. Studies have also found that extraverts are more likely to become addicted to cellphone use than introverts. Some of the correlations make sense. Less agreeable people may be more apt to immerse themselves in technology because it does not require the kind of friendly interactions that real life does. Neurotic people have been shown to spend more time online because it validates their desire to belong or be part of a group. Conscientious people are less impulsive and therefore more able to control and organize their time. But then it gets complicated. Because according to a new study out of the State University of New York at Binghamton, specific combinations of those personality traits can mitigate or exaggerate one's propensity to addiction.

AI

How Will Automation Affect Different US Cities? (northwestern.edu) 98

Casino dealers and fishermen are both likely to be replaced by machines in coming years. So which city will lose more of its human workforce -- Las Vegas, the country's gambling capital, or Boston, a major fishing hub? From a research: People tend to assume that automation will affect every locale in the same, homogeneous way, says Hyejin Youn, an assistant professor of management and organization at Kellogg. "They have never thought of how this is unequally distributed across cities, across regions in the U.S." It is a high-stakes question. The knowledge that certain places will lose more jobs could allow workers and industries to better prepare for the change and could help city leaders ensure their local economies are poised to rebound. In new research, Youn and colleagues seek to understand how machines will disrupt the economies of individual cities. By carefully analyzing the workforces of American metropolitan areas, the team calculated what portion of jobs in each area is likely to be automated in coming decades. You can run your city's name, and also the job position you're curious about here.
Graphics

Intel Reportedly Designing Arctic Sound Discrete GPU For Gaming, Pro Graphics (hothardware.com) 68

MojoKid shares a report from HotHardware: When AMD's former graphics boss Raja Koduri landed at Intel after taking a much-earned hiatus from the company, it was seen as a major coup for the Santa Clara chip outfit, one that seemed to signal that Intel might be targeting to compete in the discrete graphics card market. While nothing has been announced in that regard, some analysts are claiming that there will indeed be a gaming variant of Intel's upcoming discrete "Arctic Sound" GPU. According to reports, Intel originally planned to build Arctic Sound graphics chips mainly for video streaming chores and data center activities. However, claims are surfacing that the company has since decided to build out a gaming variant at the behest of Koduri, who wants to "enter the market with a bang." Certainly a gaming GPU that could compete with AMD and NVIDIA would accomplish that goal. Reportedly, Intel could pull together two different version of Arctic Sound. One would be an integrated chip package, like the Core i7-8809G (Kaby Lake-G) but with Intel's own discrete graphics, as well as a standalone chip that will end up in a traditional graphics cards. Likely both of those will have variants designed for gaming, just as AMD and NVIDIA build GPUs for professional use and gaming as well.
Android

LG's Upcoming 'G7 ThinQ' Smartphone To Feature Almost-Bezel-Less Display With Notch, Launch On May 2nd (9to5google.com) 51

Earlier this morning, LG announced in a blog post that it will be hosting an event on May 2nd in New York City, where it would unveil its upcoming "LG G7 ThinQ" Android smartphone, with a public event in Korea on May 3rd. While LG has yet to confirm any other details of the phone in this post, we do have a pretty good idea as to what this flagship smartphone will feature thanks to some recently-leaked renders courtesy of Android Headlines. 9to5Google reports: This latest shot of the phone gives us a clear look at the design on the front and back. Up front, there's the same notched display we saw at MWC with questionably thick bezels on the bottom and top. With those bezels and the notch, users are undoubtedly going to be questioning LG's design choices this time around. There's also a glass back that comes in several colors with a fingerprint sensor and vertically oriented camera in tow. According to the report, LG will be launching the phone in Aurora Black, Platinum Grey, Moroccan Blue, Moroccan Blue (Matte), and Raspberry Rose, but it's unclear which markets those colors will be available in.
Power

Your Future Home Might Be Powered By Car Batteries (bloomberg.com) 319

Increasingly utilities and automakers are wondering if they could use the batteries inside electric cars as storage for the entire public power grid. An anonymous reader shares a report: The idea, known as "vehicle-to-grid," is to someday have millions of drivers become mini electricity traders, charging up when rates are cheap and pumping energy back into the grid during peak hours or when the sun simply isn't shining. If it works -- and it's a big if -- renewable energy could get much cheaper and more widely used. "We really, really need storage in order to make better use of wind and solar power, and electric cars could provide it," said Daniel Brenden, an analyst who studies the electricity market at BMI Research in London. "The potential is so huge." Today, fewer than one percent of the world's vehicles are electric, but by 2040 more than half of all new cars will run on the same juice as televisions, computers and hair dryers, according to estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Once cars and everything else are fed from the same source, they can share the same plumbing.
IOS

Recent iOS Update Kills Functionality On iPhone 8s Repaired With Aftermarket Screens (vice.com) 229

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple released iOS 11.3 at the end of March, and the update is killing touch functionality in iPhone 8s repaired with some aftermarket screens that worked prior to the update. That means people who broke their phone and had the audacity to get it repaired by anyone other than Apple is having a hard time using their phone. "This has caused my company over 2,000 reshipments," Aakshay Kripalani, CEO of Injured Gadgets, a Georgia-based retailer and repair shop, told me in a Facebook message. "Customers are annoyed and it seems like Apple is doing this to prevent customers from doing 3rd party repair." According to Michael Oberdick -- owner and operator of iOutlet, an Ohio-based pre-owned iPhone store and repair shop, every iPhone screen is powered by a small microchip, and that chip is what the repair community believes to be causing the issue. For the past six months, shops have been able to replace busted iPhone 8 screens with no problem, but something in the update killed touch functionality. According to several people I spoke to, third-party screen suppliers have already worked out the issue, but fixing the busted phones means re-opening up the phone and upgrading the chip. It remains to be seen whether Apple will issue a new software update that will suddenly fix these screens, but that is part of the problem: Many phones repaired by third parties are ticking timebombs; it's impossible for anyone to know if or when Apple will do something that breaks devices fixed with aftermarket parts. And every time a software update breaks repaired phones, Apple can say that third-party repair isn't safe, and the third-party repair world has to scramble for workarounds and fixes.
Power

All Apple Operations Now Run Off 100 Percent Renewable Energy (9to5mac.com) 116

According to a recently-shared press release, Apple has finally hit its goal of running its own operations off 100% renewable energy. "All Apple facilities, from Apple Park to its data centers to worldwide fleet of Apple retail stores, are now solely powered by green energy," reports 9to5Mac. From the report: This figure does not include Apple's third-party suppliers or manufacturers, although the company is convincing many of those to switch to 100% renewable sources too. Apple's environment VP Lisa Jackson discussed the news in an interview with Fast Company. Jackson highlights how Apple has not only focused on reducing emissions but also contributed to the availability of green energy on the grid. Apple has gone from 16% renewable energy to 100% in eight years, with CO2 emissions falling by 58%. The company has built numerous wind and solar farms in cooperation with local institutions, as well as intense focus on environmental sustainability during development of its new buildings like Apple Park. Its data centers are flanked by fields of solar panels. Filling out the last 4% required Apple to find renewable energy sources in some of its more remote retail stores and offices. It has signed power purchase agreements in Brazil, India, Israel, Mexico and Turkey.
Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: Do You Miss Windows Phone? (theverge.com) 284

An anonymous reader writes: After recently switching on an old Windows Phone to create a silly April Fools' joke, The Verge's Tom Warren discovered just how much he missed Microsoft's mobile OS. Two of the biggest features that are hard to find/replicate on iOS and Android are the Metro design and Live Tiles. "Android and iOS still don't have system-wide dark modes, nearly 8 years after Windows Phone first introduced it," notes Warren. "Live Tiles were one of Windows Phone's most unique features. They enabled apps to show information on the home screen, similar to the widgets found on Android and iOS. You could almost pin anything useful to the home screen, and Live Tiles animated beautifully to flip over and provide tiny nuggets of information that made your phone feel far more personal and alive."

Some other neat features include the software keyboard, which Warren argues "is still far better than the defaults on iOS and Android," especially with the recently-added tracing feature that lets you swipe to write words. "Microsoft also experimented with features that were different to other mobile platforms, and some of the concepts still haven't really made their way to iOS or Android: Kid's Corner; Dedicated search button; Browser address bar; People hub; Unified messaging..." Aside from the competition aspect with Google and Apple, do you miss Windows Phone? What are some specific features you miss about the old mobile operating system?

Bitcoin

GPU Prices Soar as Bitcoin Miners Buy Up Hardware To Build Rigs (computerworld.com) 157

"Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency miners have created a dearth of mid-range and high-end GPU cards that are selling for twice as much as suggested retail," reports Computerworld. "The reason: miners are setting up server farms with the cards." Lucas123 writes: GPU prices have more than doubled in some cases... Some of the most popular GPUs can't even be found anymore as they've sold out due to demand. Meanwhile, some retailers are pushing back against bitcoin miners by showing favoritism to their traditional gamer customers, allowing them to purchase GPUs at manufacturer's suggested retail price. Earlier this year, NVIDIA asked retailers of its hardware to prioritize sales to gamers over cryptocurrency miners.
Printer

Scientists Modify A 3D Printer To Print All-Liquid Structures (lbl.gov) 15

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have successfully printed three-dimensional structures composed entirely of liquids. A special nanoparticle-derived coating can lock water in place for several months in a solution of silicone oil. omaha393 writes: Using a modified 3D printer, the team demonstrated they can reliably print liquid tubes sheathed in surfactants with precision that allows spiral and branching shapes with diameters ranging from micrometers to millimetres. The technique offers a means to finely control small scale synthetic reactions but the team suggest it could lead to wearable, stretchable electronics. A brief video showing the technology is available and the full paper is available at Advanced Materials.
Businesses

Apple Tells the EPA Why Cutting the Clean Power Plan Is a Bad Move (theverge.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Apple is pushing back against the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan. The company filed a public comment with the EPA today arguing that scrapping the policy, which calls for cutting power plant pollution, would dull the United States' competitive edge in the clean energy economy. The Clean Power Plan (or CPP) was finalized by the Obama administration, and it takes aim at power plants -- the number one carbon polluters in the U.S., according to the Obama-era EPA website. Had the CPP ever taken effect, it would have given power plants until the year 2030 to curb their carbon emissions by about 30 percent, a move that the Obama administration said could protect the environment, public health, and consumer's pocketbooks.

Apple's comment cites the economic advantages of supporting clean energy, including that it provides "corporate electricity buyers with a hedge against fuel price fluctuation." The price of solar and wind don't change like the price of oil, Apple's filing says. (It also notes that China is currently beating the U.S. in clean energy investments.) The company also says that regulating the grid's carbon emissions "power plant by power plant" won't work. It references its own experiences operating with 100 percent renewable energy here in the U.S. and the work of its subsidiary, Apple Energy LLC, which sells the excess electricity the company generates back to the grid. The electricity system is far too interconnected, the filing says, so "regulation should consider the dynamic and interconnected nature of how power is generated, sold and consumed." That's why it supports the clean power plan, which it says provides a nationwide framework for regulating electricity generation: "It is both needed and the smart thing to do."

Businesses

Motorola's Modular Smartphone Dream Is Too Young To Die (fastcompany.com) 52

harrymcc writes: Lots of people have fantasized about modular smartphones, but Motorola introduced one -- the Moto Z -- and actually created an ecosystem of useful add-ons. Now its parent company, Lenovo, has made major cuts at Moto headquarters in Chicago, throwing the future of Moto Mods into doubt. Over at Fast Company, Jared Newman talked to some of the people who have invested energy in this modular platform about why it would be such a shame if Lenovo gave up on the idea.
Operating Systems

Microsoft Will Bring 64-Bit App Support To ARM-Based PCs In May (engadget.com) 71

Microsoft's general manager for Windows, Erin Chappie, told Engadget today that an SDK for ARM64 apps will be announced at the upcoming Build developer's conference in May. From the report: With the new SDK, developers would be able to natively recompile their apps to run in 64-bit on ARM-based PCs like the ASUS NovaGo. This opens up app support for the platform, which previously only supported 32-bit apps. The potentially greater app compatibility is welcome, since this was one of the biggest drawbacks of Windows on Snapdragon devices. But whether you'll get the higher performance that you'd typically expect out of 64-bit apps will depend on the Snapdragon 835 CPU that powers the current generation of the PCs in question. Connected PCs ship with Windows 10 S, but Microsoft has been offering free upgrades to Windows 10 Pro through 2019, making the OS more familiar and versatile. The ARM 64 SDK will be available for both Store apps and desktop versions (.exes). Ultimately, it'll be up to developers to decide whether they want to go to the trouble of recompiling their apps for Windows on Snapdragon, but Microsoft at least appears to be making strides in creating as open and useful a platform as possible.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple's Redesigned Mac Pro is Coming in 2019 (theverge.com) 183

Apple's long-awaited update to the 2013 Mac Pro won't be released until sometime next year, the company told TechCrunch. From a report: We've known since a press roundtable in April 2017 that Apple was "completely rethinking" the Mac Pro, in the words of marketing chief Phil Schiller. Now, we have confirmation that the product is arriving next year after some speculation that it could make an appearance this year at a fall hardware event typically reserved for MacBook announcements.

"We want to be transparent and communicate openly with our pro community so we want them to know that the Mac Pro is a 2019 product. It's not something for this year," Tom Boger, Apple's senior director of Mac hardware product marketing, told TechCrunch. "In addition to transparency for pro customers on an individual basis, there's also a larger fiscal reasoning behind it."

Android

Slashdot Asks: Should Android OEMs Adopt the iPhone's Notch? 240

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Google was currently working on a "dramatic redesign" of its Android OS -- one that embraces the "notch" made popular by the iPhone X. A couple weeks after that report was published, Mobile World Congress was happening, and the biggest trend among Android OEMs was the introduction of a notch in their smartphones. The Verge's Vlad Savov argues that Android smartphone manufacturers are straight up copying the iPhone's design with "more speed and cynicism" than ever before.

Should Android original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) adopt the iPhone's display notch? A display notch can offer a greater screen-to-body ratio, for example, but lower overall aesthetic value. It can also create a headache for developers who need to update their apps to account for the notch that eats into the actual display area. What are your thoughts on display notches? Should Android OEMs adopt the iPhone X's display notch in their devices?

If you're not a fan of notches for aesthetic reasons, you may like the solution that OnePlus has come up with. The company will soon be launching their notch-equipped OnePlus 6 smartphone, but will allow OnePlus 6 owners to "hide" the device's notch via software. Users will have the option to black out the background of the notifications and status bar if they so desire.
Power

Google Now Purchases More Renewable Energy Than It Consumes As a Company (theverge.com) 95

In a blog post today, Google announced that it now purchases more renewable energy than it consumers as a company. "Google began these efforts in 2017, with the goal of purchasing as much renewable energy as it uses across its 13 data centers and all of its office complexes," reports The Verge. From the report: To be clear, Google is not powering all of its energy consumption with renewable energy. It's matching what it consumes with equal amounts of purchased renewable energy. For every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed, it buys a kilowatt-hour from a wind or solar farm built specifically for Google. The company says that its total purchase of energy from sources like wind and solar now exceeds the amount of electricity used by its operations. Google says it currently has contracts to purchase three gigawatts of output from renewable energy projects, and while it says "it's not yet possible to 'power' a company of our scale by 100 percent renewable energy," these purchases do have a positive impact. Google says it's helping spur development of clean energy projects, encouraging other companies to follow suit.
China

US' Proposed China Tariffs Would Target Robotics, Satellites (engadget.com) 208

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The U.S. Trade Representative has published the list of Chinese products that would be subject to its proposed tech tariffs, and there are a few clear themes. The move would hike the costs of about 1,300 products, including industrial robots, communication satellites, spacecraft and a slew of semiconductors.The aim, as before, is to punish China for allegedly goading American companies into transferring their patents and technology to Chinese firms for the sake of claiming economic superiority. The USTR claimed the proposed tariffs would stymie Chinese plans while "minimizing the impact" on the American economy. The tariffs are still subject to a 60-day notice process that would include public comments until May 11th and a public hearing on May 15th.
Displays

Latest macOS Update Disables DisplayLink, Rendering Thousands of Monitors Dead (displaylink.com) 331

rh2600 writes: Four days ago, Apple's latest macOS 10.13.4 update broke DisplayLink protocol support (perhaps permanently), turning what may be hundreds of thousands of external monitors connected to MacBook Pros via DisplayLink into paperweights. Some days in, DisplayLink has yet to announce any solution, and most worryingly there are indications that this is a permanent change to macOS moving forward. Mac Rumors is reporting that "users of the popular Mac desktop extension app Duet Display are being advised not to update to macOS 10.13.4, due to 'critical bugs' that prevent the software from communicating with connected iOS devices used as extra displays." Users of other desktop extensions apps like Air Display and iDisplay are also reporting incompatibility with the latest version of macOS.
Education

Schools Won't Like How Difficult the New iPad Is To Repair (ifixit.com) 172

Last week, Apple introduced a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. iFixit has published its teardown of the device this morning, and as The Verge points out, schools won't like how difficult it is to repair. From the report: The takeaway from all this is that the new iPad isn't going to be any easier to repair than prior generations, which were already borderline unrepairable. If an iPad breaks, there's almost no chance that a district will be able to repair it in-house; whereas on cheaper Chromebooks, there's a possibility an IT team could open them up to make some basic fixes. It's a weak point that it's hard to see Apple ever addressing. And since schools aren't exactly forgiving environments for a lent-out device, how well the iPad holds up to drops and dings, and how expensive it is to fix, are bound to be factors in a school's decision on which devices to adopt. Mac Rumors highlights the key findings from iFixit's teardown: The new iPad's lack of waterproofing, non-replaceable charging port, zero upgradeability, and use of glue throughout the internals added up to a "repair nightmare." iFixit then pointed towards the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 tablet, which got a perfect repairability score of 10 out of 10, summarizing that "Apple's 'education' iPad is still a case of won't -- not can't." One of the iPad's advantages in terms of repairability comes in the form of its digitizer panel easily separating from the display. iFixit pointed out that in the event that either component should break, repair will be easier for schools and educators. The sixth-gen iPad has the same battery as the previous model, with 32.9 Wh capacity. iFixit noted that while this allows Apple to reuse existing manufacturing lines to reduce waste, the battery is still locked behind a "repair-impeding adhesive" that greatly reduced the iPad's repairability score. Apple has provided easy battery removal before, in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but iFixit hasn't seen anything like it since. Ultimately, iFixit gave the 2018 iPad a repairability score of 2 out of 10, favoring the fairly easy repair options of its air-gapped, non-fused display and digitizer glass, but taking marks off for its heavy use of adhesive and sticky tape.
Bug

Half of European Flights Delayed Due To System Failure (bbc.com) 12

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The organization responsible for co-ordinating European air traffic says it has fixed an earlier fault which led to widespread flight delays. Eurocontrol earlier said that delays could affect up to half of all flights in Europe -- about 15,000 trips. It said the faulty system was restarted at 19:00 GMT, and normal operations had resumed. Tuesday's fault was only the second failure in 20 years, Eurocontrol said -- the last happened in 2001. The unspecified problem was with the Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System, which helps to manage air traffic by comparing demand and capacity of different air traffic control sectors. It manages up to 36,000 flights a day. Some 29,500 were scheduled on Tuesday when the fault occurred. When the system failed, Eurocontrol's contingency plan for a failure in the system deliberately reduced the capacity of the entire European network by 10%. It also added what it calls "predetermined departure intervals" at major airports.
Intel

Intel Unveils New Coffee Lake 8th Gen Core Line-Up With First Core i9 Mobile CPU (hothardware.com) 73

MojoKid writes: Intel is announcing a big update to its processor families today, with new 8th Gen Coffee Lake-based Core chips for both mobile and desktop platforms. On the mobile side of the equation, the most interesting processors are no doubt Intel's new six-core Coffee Lake parts, starting with the Core i7-8750H. This processor comes with base/max single-core turbo boost clocks of 2.2GHz and 4.2GHz respectively, while the Core i7-8850H bumps those clocks to 2.6GHz and 4.3GHz respectively. Both processors have six cores (12 threads), a TDP of 45 watts and 9MB of shared Smart Cache.However, the new flagship processor is without question the Intel Core i9-8950HK, which is the first Core i9-branded mobile processor. It retains the 6/12 (core/thread) count of the lower-end parts, but features base and turbo clocks of 2.9GHz and 4.8GHz respectively. The chip also comes unlocked since it caters to gaming enthusiasts and bumps the amount of Smart Cache to 12MB. Intel is also announcing a number of lower powered Coffee Lake-U series chips for thin and light notebooks, some of which have on board Iris Plus integrated graphics with 128MB of on-chip eDRAM, along with some lower powered six-core and quad-core desktop chips that support the company's Optane memory in Intel's new 300 series chipset platform.
Transportation

Tesla Is Making Over 2,000 Model 3s a Week, Falling Just Short of Its Goal (theverge.com) 233

According to an email from Elon Musk, Tesla has increased its production of its mass-market electric Model 3 to over 2,000 units per week. "It's an impressive ramp up of production, but it still falls short of Musk's goal of 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of the first quarter of 2018," reports The Verge. From the report: In the companywide email (which was obtained by Jalopnik, Electrek, and Autonocast host Ed Niedermeyer), Musk sounds a celebratory note on the 2,000-vehicle per week benchmark, while ignoring the larger issue of missed deadlines: "It has been extremely difficult to pass the 2,000 cars per week rate for Model 3, but we are finally there. If things go as planned today, we will comfortably exceed that number over a seven-day period! Moreover, the whole Tesla production system is now on a firm foundation for that output, which means we should be able to exceed a combined Model S, X, and 3 production rate of 4,000 vehicles per week and climbing rapidly. This is already double the pace of 2017! By the end of this year, I believe we will be producing vehicles at least four times faster than last year." With Q1 now behind us, we can expect to see Tesla report its official production numbers to investors sometime this week.
Android

Google Is Considering Launching a Mid-Range Pixel Phone This Summer, Claims Report (arstechnica.com) 40

According to a report from The Economic Times, Google is developing a new mid-range Pixel smartphone. "The paper claims that 'Google's top brass shared details of its consumer products expansion plans in trade meetings held in Malaysia, the UK, and the U.S. last month." The story cites "four senior industry executives" that were present at the talks. Ars Technica reports: The Economic Times pegs "around July-August" for the launch date of this mid-range device, which the publication says will have a focus on "price-sensitive markets such as India." The phone would be part of Google Hardware's first push into India, which would involve bringing the Pixelbook, Google Home, and Google Home Mini to the country. The Indian paper did not say if the phone would launch in other countries, but it did say the phone would be launched in addition to the regular Pixel 3 flagship, which the report says is still due around October. It's good to hear Google is considering expanding the Pixel line to more countries (even if it's just one more country) as distribution is currently one of Google Hardware's biggest weak points. The Pixel 2 XL is only available in eight countries; by comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is sold in 110 countries. If Google really wants to compete in the smartphone market, it will have to do a lot better than selling in eight countries.
Graphics

Ask Slashdot: Should CPU, GPU Name-Numbering Indicate Real World Performance? 184

dryriver writes: Anyone who has built a PC in recent years knows how confusing the letters and numbers that trail modern CPU and GPU names can be because they do not necessarily tell you how fast one electronic part is compared to another electronic part. A Zoomdaahl Core C-5 7780 is not necessarily faster than a Boomberg ElectronRipper V-6 6220 -- the number at the end, unlike a GFLOPS or TFLOPS number for example, tells you very little about the real-world performance of the part. It is not easy to create one unified, standardized performance benchmark that could change this. One part may be great for 3D gaming, a competing part may smoke the first part in a database server application, and a third part may compress 4K HEVC video 11% faster. So creating something like, say, a Standardized Real-World Application Performance Score (SRWAPS) and putting that score next to the part name, letters, or series number will probably never happen. A lot of competing companies would have to agree to a particular type of benchmark, make sure all benchmarking is done fairly and accurately, and so on and so forth.

But how are the average consumers just trying to buy the right home laptop or gaming PC for their kids supposed to cope with the "letters and numbers salad" that follows CPU, GPU and other computer part names? If you are computer literate, you can dive right into the different performance benchmarks for a certain part on a typical tech site that benchmarks parts. But what if you are "Computer Buyer Joe" or "Jane Average" and you just want to glean quickly which two products -- two budget priced laptops listed on Amazon.com for example -- have the better performance overall? Is there no way to create some kind of rough numeric indicator of real-world performance and put it into a product's specs for quick comparison?
Cloud

Move Over Moore's Law, Make Way For Huang's Law (ieee.org) 55

Tekla Perry writes: Are graphics processors a law unto themselves? Nvidia's Jensen Huang says a 25-times speedup over five years is evidence that they are. He calls this the 'supercharged law,' and says it's time to start counting advances on multiple fronts, including architecture, interconnects, memory technology, and algorithms, not just circuits on a chip.
Businesses

Open Source RISC V Processor Gets Support From Google, Samsung, Qualcomm, and Tesla (seekingalpha.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: Google, Qualcomm, and Samsung "are among 80 tech companies joining forces to develop a new open-source chip design for new technologies like self-driving vehicles," writes Seeking Alpha, citing a (pay-walled) report on The Information. "Western Digital and Nvidia also plan to use the new chip design for some of their products," while Tesla "has joined the RISC-V Foundation and is considering using the tech in its new chip efforts."

MIT Technology Review adds that while Arm had hoped to bring their low-power/high performance processors to AI and self-driving cars, "The company that masterminded the processor inside your smartphone may find that a set of free-to-use alternative designs erode some of its future success."

Google

Security Experts See Chromebooks as a Closed Ecosystem That Improves Security (cnet.com) 192

The founder of Rendition Security believes his daughter "is more safe on a Chromebook than a Windows laptop," and he's not the only one. CNET's staff reporter argues that Google's push for simplicity, speed, and security "ended up playing off each other." mspohr shared this article: Heading to my first security conference last year, I expected to see a tricked-out laptop running on a virtual machine with a private network and security USB keys sticking out -- perhaps something out of a scene from "Mr. Robot." That's not what I got. Everywhere I went I'd see small groups of people carrying Chromebooks, and they'd tell me that when heading into unknown territory it was their travel device... "If you want prehardened security, then Chromebooks are it," said Kenneth White, director of the Open Crypto Audit Project. "Not because they're Google, but because Chrome OS was developed for years and it explicitly had web security as a core design principle...." Drewry and Liu focused on four key features for the Chromebook that have been available ever since the first iteration in 2010: sandboxing, verified boots, power washing and quick updates. These provided security features that made it much harder for malware to pass through, while providing a quick fix-it button if it ever did.

That's not to say Chrome OS is impervious to malware. Cybercriminals have figured out loopholes through Chrome's extensions, like when 37,000 devices were hit by the fake version of AdBlock Plus. Malicious Android apps have also been able to sneak through the Play Store. But Chrome OS users mostly avoided massive cyberattack campaigns like getting locked up with ransomware or hijacked to become part of a botnet. Major security flaws for Chrome OS, like ones that would give an attacker complete control, are so rare that Google offers rewards up to $200,000 to anyone who can hack the system.

The article argues that "Fewer software choices mean limited options for hackers. Those are some of the benefits that have led security researchers to warm up to the laptops...

"Chrome OS takes an approach to security that's similar to the one Apple takes with iOS and its closed ecosystem."
Intel

Intel Files Patent For Energy-Efficient Bitcoin Mining Hardware (crn.com) 48

Intel is exploring the creation of specialty hardware for mining the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin, according to a U.S. patent application released Thursday. From a report: The patent, filed on Sept. 23, 2016, describes a Bitcoin mining hardware accelerator that may include a processor core with a hardware accelerator coupled with it. Bitcoin mining is the process of using powerful computer processors to record Bitcoin transactions on a public ledger, which is done by attempting to solve cryptographic puzzles. If the miner becomes the first to solve the puzzle and record the next transaction, it is rewarded with newly released Bitcoin. The high energy and equipment costs associated with mining have brought into question whether the activity can be profitable, especially as the price of Bitcoin has nose-dived in the past few months, as noted by Forbes. But that hasn't stopped people from hoarding equipment -- one report from Coherent Market Insights pegged the cryptocurrency mining market at $610 million in 2016 and expects it to grow to $38 billion by 2025. The current issues faced by miners also has propelled companies and individuals to find new technologies and methods for making mining more efficient.
Operating Systems

macOS 10.13.4 Enables Support for External GPU (engadget.com) 53

With the latest release of macOS High Sierra, Apple has officially delivered on a couple of items in the works since WWDC 2017 last June. macOS 10.13.4 brings the external GPU (eGPU) support that lets developers, VR users gamers and anyone else in need of some extra oomph to plug in a more powerful graphics card via Thunderbolt 3. From a report: While that may not make every underpowered laptop VR ready, it certainly makes staying macOS-only more palatable for some power users. Another notable addition is Business Chat in Messages for users in the US. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and others have tweaked their services to enable customer service linkups and now Apple has its version available on the desktop. With it, you can interact with business representatives or even make purchases. Other tweaks include waiting for the user to select login fields before autofilling password information in Safari, a smoke cloud wallpaper that had previously been restricted to the iMac Pro and a Safari shortcut for jumping to the rightmost tab by pressing Command-9. Further reading: Gizmodo.
Transportation

Tesla Issues Its Largest Recall Ever Voluntarily Over Faulty Model S Steering (theverge.com) 131

Tesla announced today that it is recalling 123,000 Model S vehicles around the world over a power steering issue. The company said via an email that it was a proactive move and none of the company's other vehicles are affected. The Verge reports: The automaker said 123,000 Model S vehicles built before April 2016 were affected. No injuries or crashes have been reported in connection with the problem. In the email, Tesla said it had, "observed excessive corrosion in the power steering bolts," but that the problem was most prevalent in colder climates where road salt is used. "If the bolts fail, the driver is still able to steer the car, but increased force is required due to loss or reduction of power assist," Tesla wrote in the email to customers. "This primarily makes the car harder to drive at low speeds and for parallel parking, but does not materially affect control at high speed, where only small steering wheel force is needed." Tesla said owners do not need to stop driving their cars if they haven't experienced any problems. The company said it would inform Model S owners when a retrofit, which is estimated to take an hour to install, is ready in their area.
Security

Boeing Hit By WannaCry Virus, Fears It Could Cripple Some Jet Production (seattletimes.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Seattle Times: Boeing was hit Wednesday by the WannaCry computer virus, raising fears within the company that it could cripple some vital airplane production equipment. Mike VanderWel, chief engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplane production engineering, sent out an alarming memo calling for "All hands on deck." "It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down," VanderWel wrote, adding that he's concerned the virus will hit equipment used in functional tests of airplanes ready to roll out and potentially "spread to airplane software." Indicating widespread alarm within the company at the potential impact, VanderWel said the attack required "a battery-like response," a reference to the 787 in-flight battery fires in 2013 that grounded the world's fleet of Dreamliners and led to an extraordinary three-month-long engineering effort to find a fix.
Privacy

Ask Slashdot: Why Are There No True Dual-System Laptops Or Tablet Computers? 378

dryriver writes: This is not a question about dual-booting OSs -- having 2 or more different OSs installed on the same machine. Rather, imagine that I'm a business person or product engineer or management consultant with a Windows 10 laptop that has confidential client emails, word documents, financial spreadsheets, product CAD files or similar on it. Business stuff that needs to stay confidential per my employment contract or NDAs or any other agreement I may have signed. When I have to access the internet from an untrusted internet access point that somebody else controls -- free WiFi in a restaurant, cafe or airport lounge in a foreign country for example -- I do not want my main Win 10 OS, Intel/AMD laptop hardware or other software exposed to this untrusted internet connection at all. Rather, I want to use a 2nd and completely separate System On Chip or SOC inside my Laptop running Linux or Android to do my internet accessing. In other words, I want to be able to switch to a small 2nd standalone Android/Linux computer inside my Windows 10 laptop, so that I can do my emailing and internet browsing just about anywhere without any worries at all, because in that mode, only the small SOC hardware and its RAM is exposed to the internet, not any of the rest of my laptop or tablet. A hardware switch on the laptop casing would let me turn the 2nd SOC computer on when I need to use it, and it would take over the screen, trackpad and keyboard when used. But the SOC computer would have no physical connection at all to my main OS, BIOS, CPU, RAM, SSD, USB ports and so on. Does something like this exist at all (if so, I've never seen it...)? And if not, isn't this a major oversight? Wouldn't it be worth sticking a 200 Dollar Android or Linux SOC computer into a laptop computer if that enables you access internet anywhere, without any worries that your main OS and hardware can be compromised by 3rd parties while you do this?
AI

NVIDIA Unveils 2 Petaflop DGX-2 AI Supercomputer With 32GB Tesla V100, NVSwitch Tech 41

bigwophh writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang took to the stage at GTC today to unveil a number of GPU-powered innovations for machine learning, including a new AI supercomputer and an updated version of the company's powerful Tesla V100 GPU that now sports a hefty 32GB of on-board HBM2 memory. A follow-on to last year's DGX-1 AI supercomputer, the new NVIDIA DGX-2 can be equipped with double the number of Tesla V100 processing modules for double the GPU horsepower. The DGX-2 can also have four times the available memory space, thanks to the updated Tesla V100's larger 32GB of memory. NVIDIA's new NVSwitch technology is a fully crossbar GPU interconnect fabric that allows NVIDIA's platform to scale to up to 16 GPUs and utilize their memory space contiguously, where the previous DGX-1 NVIDIA platform was limited to 8 total GPU complexes and associated memory. NVIDIA claims NVSwitch is five times faster than the fastest PCI Express switch and offers an aggregate 2.4TB per second of bandwidth. A new Quadro card was also announced. Called the Quadro GV100, it too is being powered by Volta. The Quadro GV100 packs 32GB of memory and supports NVIDIA's recently announced RTX real-time ray tracing technology.
Education

Apple Announces New $299 iPad With Pencil Support For Schools (theverge.com) 141

At its education event in Chicago today, Apple introduced a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. "The updated iPad will be available in Apple stores today, in silver, space gray, and a new gold finish," reports The Verge. "The tablet will include Touch ID, an HD FaceTime camera, 10 hours of battery life, an 8-megapixel rear camera, LTE option, and Apple's A10 Fusion chip." From the report: Apple previously lowered the price of its 9.7-inch iPad last year, with a base model starting at $329, but today it's going a step further for students. Apple is offering the new iPad to schools priced at $299 and to consumers for $329. The optional Apple Pencil will be priced at $89 for schools and the regular $99 price for consumers. This is obviously not the $259 budget iPad pricing that was rumored, but it does make it a little more affordable to students and teachers. This new iPad will be a key addition to Apple's lineup as it seeks to fight back against Google's Chromebooks. Apple's iPads and Mac laptops reigned supreme in U.S. classrooms only five years ago, accounting for half of all mobile devices shipped to schools in 2013. Apple has now slipped behind both Google and Microsoft in U.S. schools, and Chromebooks are dominating classrooms with nearly 60 percent of shipments in the U.S. Apple had some other non-hardware, education-themed announcements at its event today. "Apple demonstrated Smart Annotation, which allows teachers to mark up reports in Pages directly, and the company promised new versions of its iWork apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that support the Apple Pencil," reports The Verge. "Teachers will also be able to use Macs to create digital books for their classrooms, and Apple is building a books creator into the Pages app." The company also announced a new augmented reality app called Froggipedia that lets students virtually dissect frogs using an Apple Pencil. The free iCloud offering for students has also been bumped up from 5GB to 200GB.
Businesses

Foxconn Announces Purchase of Belkin, Wemo, and Linksys (androidpolice.com) 80

Foxconn, the Taiwan-based company best-known for manufacturing Apple products announced that one of its subsidiaries (Foxconn Interconnect Technology) is purchasing U.S.-based Belkin for $866 million in cash. "Belkin owns a number of major brands, including Linksys and Wemo," notes Android Police. From the report: The buyout would make Foxconn a major player in consumer electronics, instead of just a contract manufacturing company. Belkin primarily sells phone/tablet accessories, but also manufactures networking equipment like routers and Wi-Fi range extenders. The company also sells a range of smart home products under the Wemo brand. According to The Financial Times, the purchase is subject to approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment. In other words, there is a very real chance the acquisition could be blocked. President Trump blocked Broadcom's acquisition of Qualcomm earlier this month, based on advice from the committee.
Data Storage

Wind and Solar Can Power Most of the United States, Says Study (theguardian.com) 417

An anonymous reader writes: The Guardian reports of a recent paper, published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, that helps explain how wind and solar energy can power most of the United States: "The authors analyzed 36 years of hourly weather data (1980-2015) in the U.S. They calculated the available wind and solar power over this time period and also included the electrical demand in the U.S. and its variation throughout the year. With this information, the researchers considered two scenarios. In scenario 1, they imagined wind and solar installations that would be sufficient to supply 100% of the U.S. electrical needs. In the second scenario, the installations would be over-designed; capable of providing 150% of the total U.S. electrical need. But the authors recognize that just because a solar panel or a wind turbine can provide all our energy, it doesn't mean that will happen in reality. It goes back to the prior discussion that sometimes the wind just doesn't blow, and sometimes the sun isn't shining. With these two scenarios, the authors then considered different mixes of power, from all solar to all wind. They also included the effect of aggregation area, that is, what sized regions are used to generate power. Is your power coming from wind and solar in your neighborhood, your city, your state or your region?

The authors found that with 100% power capacity and no mechanism to store energy, a wind-heavy portfolio is best (about 75% wind, 25% solar) and using large aggregate regions is optimal. It is possible to supply about 75-80% of U.S. electrical needs. If the system were designed with excess capacity (the 150% case), the U.S. could meet about 90% of its needs with wind and solar power. The authors modified their study to allow up to 12 hours of US energy storage. They then found that the 100% capacity system fared even better (about 90% of the country's energy) and the optimal balance was now more solar (approximately 70% solar and 30% wind). For the over-capacity system, the authors found that virtually all the country's power needs could be met with wind, solar, and storage."

Graphics

Ask Slashdot: How Did Real-Time Ray Tracing Become Possible With Today's Technology? 145

dryriver writes: There are occasions where multiple big tech manufacturers all announce the exact same innovation at the same time -- e.g. 4K UHD TVs. Everybody in broadcasting and audiovisual content creation knew that 4K/8K UHD and high dynamic range (HDR) were coming years in advance, and that all the big TV and screen manufacturers were preparing 4K UHD HDR product lines because FHD was beginning to bore consumers. It came as no surprise when everybody had a 4K UHD product announcement and demo ready at the same time. Something very unusual happened this year at GDC 2018 however. Multiple graphics and GPU companies, like Microsoft, Nvidia, and AMD, as well as other game developers and game engine makers, all announced that real-time ray tracing is coming to their mass-market products, and by extension, to computer games, VR content and other realtime 3D applications.

Why is this odd? Because for many years any mention of 30+ FPS real-time ray tracing was thought to be utterly impossible with today's hardware technology. It was deemed far too computationally intensive for today's GPU technology and far too expensive for anything mass market. Gamers weren't screaming for the technology. Technologists didn't think it was doable at this point in time. Raster 3D graphics -- what we have in DirectX, OpenGL and game consoles today -- was very, very profitable and could easily have evolved further the way it has for another 7 to 8 years. And suddenly there it was: everybody announced at the same time that real-time ray tracing is not only technically possible, but also coming to your home gaming PC much sooner than anybody thought. Working tech demos were shown. What happened? How did real-time ray tracing, which only a few 3D graphics nerds and researchers in the field talked about until recently, suddenly become so technically possible, economically feasible, and so guaranteed-to-be-profitable that everybody announced this year that they are doing it?

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