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Android

The Verge Goes Hands-On With the 'Wildly Ambitious' RED Hydrogen One Smartphone (theverge.com) 53

It's been almost a year since RED, a company known for its high-end $10,000+ cameras, teased a smartphone called the RED Hydrogen One. Several months have passed since the phone was announced and we still don't know much about it, aside from it having a very industrial design and "Hydrogen holographic display." Earlier this week, AT&T and Verizon confirmed that they'll launch the device later this year. Now, The Verge's Dieter Bohn has shared his hands-on impressions with the device, which he claims to be "one of the most ambitious smartphones in years from a company not named Apple, Google, or Samsung." Here's an excerpt from the report: The company better known for high-end 4K cameras with names like "Weapon" and "Epic-w" isn't entering the smartphone game simply to sell you a better Android phone. No, this phone is meant to be one piece of a modular system of cameras and other media creation equipment -- the company claims it will be "the foundation of a future multi-dimensional media system." To that end, it has a big set of pogo-pins on the back to connect it to RED's other cameras also to allow users to attach (forthcoming) modules to it, including lens mounts. If it were just a modular smartphone, we'd be talking about whether we really expected the company to produce enough modules to support it.

RED is planning on starting with a module that is essentially a huge camera sensor -- the company is not ready to give exact details, but the plan is definitely more towards DSLR size than smartphone size. Then, according to CEO Jim Jannard, the company wants any traditional big camera lens to be attached to it. Answering a fan question, he joked that support for lenses will be "pretty limited," working "just" with Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Leica, and more. [...] The processor inside will be a slightly-out-of-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but it seemed fast enough in the few demos I was able to try. Honestly, though, if you're looking to get this thing just as a phone, you're probably making your decision based on the wrong metrics. It's probably going to be a perfectly capable phone, but at this price (starting at $1,195) what you're buying into is the module ecosystem.

Power

No Fossil Fuel-Based Generation Was Added To US Grid Last Month (arstechnica.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In the U.S., two types of electricity generation are on the rise: natural gas and renewables. If one of those is set to make a bigger mark than the other this year, it's natural gas: in 2018, natural gas-burning capacity is expected to outpace renewable capacity for the first time in five years, according to data from the Energy Information Agency. Although natural gas additions are expected to overtake renewable energy additions in 2018, forecasts for renewable energy additions to the grid roughly match what we saw in 2017. Natural gas is overtaking renewables not because renewable energy adoption is slowing, but more because natural gas facilities are seeing a considerable boom.

In fact, barring any changes in the EIA numbers, natural gas, wind, and solar generation are the only electricity generation sources that will be added to the U.S. grid in any consequential manner in 2018. Battery, hydroelectric, and biomass facilities make up the small percentage of "other" sources that are expected to come online this year. Renewable energy also started off the year strong. According to the EIA, "in February 2018, for the first time in decades, all of the new generating capacity coming online within a month were non-fossil-fueled. Of the 475 MW of capacity that came online in February, 81 percent was wind, 16 percent was solar photovoltaic, and the remaining 3 percent was hydro and biomass."

AI

Ask Slashdot: Could Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics Ensure Safe AI? (wikipedia.org) 235

"If science-fiction has already explored the issue of humans and intelligent robots or AI co-existing in various ways, isn't there a lot to be learned...?" asks Slashdot reader OpenSourceAllTheWay. There is much screaming lately about possible dangers to humanity posed by AI that gets smarter and smarter and more capable and might -- at some point -- even decide that humans are a problem for the planet. But some seminal science-fiction works mulled such scenarios long before even 8-bit home computers entered our lives.
The original submission cites Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics from the 1950 collection I, Robot.
  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The original submission asks, "If you programmed an AI not to be able to break an updated and extended version of Asimov's Laws, would you not have reasonable confidence that the AI won't go crazy and start harming humans? Or are Asimov and other writers who mulled these questions 'So 20th Century' that AI builders won't even consider learning from their work?"

Wolfrider (Slashdot reader #856) is an Asimov fan, and writes that "Eventually I came across an article with the critical observation that the '3 Laws' were used by Asimov to drive plot points and were not to be seriously considered as 'basics' for robot behavior. Additionally, Giskard comes up with a '4th Law' on his own and (as he is dying) passes it on to R. Daneel Olivaw."

And Slashdot reader Rick Schumann argues that Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics "would only ever apply to a synthetic mind that can actually think; nothing currently being produced is capable of any such thing, therefore it does not apply..."

But what are your own thoughts? Do you think Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics could ensure safe AI?


Digital

Rebuilding the PDP-11/70 with a Raspberry Pi (wixsite.com) 96

"You could look at this as a smallish PDP-11/70, built with modern parts," Oscar Vermeulen writes on his site. "Or alternatively, and equally valid, as a fancy front panel case for a Raspberry Pi."

Long-time Slashdot reader cptnapalm writes: Oscar Vermeulen's PiDP-11 front panel, modeling a PDP-11/70 in all its colorful glory, has been released to beta testers. This is Mr. Vermeulen's second DEC front panel; his PiDP-8 was released a few years ago. The PiDP-11 panel is designed to work with a Raspberry Pi running simh or, possibly, a FPGA implementation of the Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11... In addition to the front panel with its switches and blinkenlights, also included is a prototyping area for the possibility of adding new hardware...

UNIX and later BSD were developed on the PDP-11, including both the creation of the C language, the pipe concept and the text editor vi.

Software

In Virtual Reality, How Much Body Do You Need? (nytimes.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Will it soon be possible to simulate the feeling of a spirit not attached to any particular physical form using virtual or augmented reality? If so, a good place to start would be to figure out the minimal amount of body we need to feel a sense of self, especially in digital environments where more and more people may find themselves for work or play. It might be as little as a pair of hands and feet, report Dr. Michiteru Kitazaki and a Ph.D. student, Ryota Kondo. In a paper published Tuesday in Scientific Reports, they showed that animating virtual hands and feet alone is enough to make people feel their sense of body drift toward an invisible avatar (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). Their work fits into a corpus of research on illusory body ownership, which has challenged understandings of perception and contributed to therapies like treating pain for amputees who experience phantom limb.

Using an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and a motion sensor, Dr. Kitazaki's team performed a series of experiments in which volunteers watched disembodied hands and feet move two meters in front of them in a virtual room. In one experiment, when the hands and feet mirrored the participants' own movements, people reported feeling as if the space between the appendages were their own bodies. In another experiment, the scientists induced illusory ownership of an invisible body, then blacked out the headset display, effectively blindfolding the subjects. The researchers then pulled them a random distance back and asked them to return to their original position, still virtually blindfolded. Consistently, the participants overshot their starting point, suggesting that their sense of body had drifted or "projected" forward, toward the transparent avatar.

AI

Google's Duplex AI Robot Will Warn That Calls Are Recorded (bloomberg.com) 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: On Thursday, the Alphabet Inc. unit shared more details on how the Duplex robot-calling feature will operate when it's released publicly, according to people familiar with the discussion. Duplex is an extension of the company's voice-based digital assistant that automatically phones local businesses and speaks with workers there to book appointments. At Google's weekly TGIF staff meeting on Thursday, executives gave employees their first full Duplex demo and told them the bot would identify itself as the Google assistant. It will also inform people on the phone that the line is being recorded in certain jurisdictions, the people said.
Google

Google Is Making An AR Headset With New Qualcomm Chips (theverge.com) 11

Google is reportedly working on a standalone augmented reality headset that will use new Qualcomm chips. "It will be built by Taiwanese computer maker Quanta," reports The Verge. "The project is still in its early stages, according to documents obtained by WinFuture." From the report: The AR headset is supposed to be similar to Microsoft's HoloLens, a headset that came out in 2016 and is aimed at design, training, and industrial use. The Google AR headset that's in development will reportedly be self-contained and powered by a Qualcomm chip, rather than tethered to another device. It will also include cameras and microphones. The headset is currently going by the name "Google A65." There's no release date yet for the Google A65 as it's still in the prototype stage, according to WinFuture. The headset won't only operate like a HoloLens, but it will use the same chips. HoloLens is rumored to be getting an update this year, with a new ARM-powered design and an improved field of view. The Qualcomm chips that will reportedly be used in both the new HoloLens and the new Google headset are the Qualcomm QSC603 four-core chips, based on ARM architecture.
Android

With Steam Link App, Your Smartphone Can Be An Imperfect Gaming Monitor (arstechnica.com) 47

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland shares his experience with Valve's recently announced Steam Link app, which lets users play games running on a PC via a tablet, mobile phone, or Apple TV on the same network. The app launches today for Android 5.0+ devices; iOS support is "pending further review from Apple." From the report: Valve isn't kidding when it says a Wi-Fi router in the 5Ghz band is required for wireless streaming. I first tested iPad streaming on the low-end 2.4Ghz router provided with my Verizon FiOS subscription (an Actiontec MI424WR), with a wired Ethernet connection to my Windows gaming rig on the other end. The Steam Link network test warned me that "your network may not work well with Steam Link," thanks to 1- to 2-percent frame loss and about 15ms of "network variance," depending on when I tested. Even graphically simple games like The Binding of Isaac ran at an unplayably slowed-down rate on this connection, with frequent dropped inputs to boot.

Switching over to a 5GHz tri-band router (The Netgear Nighthawk X6, to be precise), the same network test reported a "fantastic" connection that "look[s] like it will work well with Steam." On this router, remotely played games ran incredibly smoothly at the iPad's full 1080p resolution, with total round-trip display latency ranging anywhere from 50 to 150ms, according to Steam Link's reports (and one-way "input lag" of less than 1ms). At that level of delay, playing felt practically indistinguishable from playing directly on the computer, with no noticeable gameplay impact even on quick-response titles like Cuphead.

XBox (Games)

Microsoft Announces Xbox Adaptive Controller For Players With Disabilities (theverge.com) 19

A new Xbox controller designed for people with disabilities has been announced by Microsoft today. The Xbox Adaptive Controller features two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. The Verge reports: "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," says Solomon Romney, a Microsoft Store learning specialist who was born without fingers on his left hand. "If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler."

The focus is on connectivity and customizability, with players able to build a setup that works for their capabilities and needs. It won't be an all-in-one solution for many games, but through the use of peripherals and the Xbox's system-level button remapping, the possibilities could be endless. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will cost $99.99 and goes on sale later this year.

Businesses

The Boston Restaurant Where Robots Have Replaced the Chefs (washingtonpost.com) 110

Started by a group of 20-something robotics engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology who partnered with Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, Spyce in downtown Boston is founded on the idea that a fulfilling meal can be more science than spontaneity [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. From a report: The restaurant's founders have replaced human chefs with seven automated cooking pots that simultaneously whip up meals in three minutes or less. A brief description of meal preparation -- courtesy of 26-year-old co-founder, Michael Farid -- can sound more like laboratory instructions than conventional cooking. "Once you place your order, we have an ingredient delivery system that collects them from the fridge," Farid said.

"The ingredients are portioned into the correct sizes and then delivered to a robotic wok, where they are tumbled at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The ingredients are cooked and seared. And once the process is complete, the woks tilt downward and put food into a bowl. And then they're ready to be garnished and served." Spyce bills itself as "the world's first restaurant featuring a robotic kitchen that cooks complex meals," a distinction that appears to reference burger-flipping robots like "Flippy," who plied his trade in a California fast food kitchen before being temporary suspended -- because he wasn't working fast enough.

Earth

A Fleet of Sailing Robots Sets Out To Quantify the Oceans (bloomberg.com) 76

pacopico writes: A start-up in California called Saildrone has built a fleet of robotic sailboats that are gathering tons of data about the oceans. The saildrones rely on a hard, carbon-fiber sail to catch wind, and solar panels to power all of their electronics and sensors. "Each drone carries at least $100,000 of electronics, batteries, and related gear," reports Businessweek. "Devices near the tip of the sail measure wind speed and direction, sunlight, air temperature and pressure, and humidity. Across the top of the drone's body, other electronics track wave height and period, carbon dioxide levels, and the strength of the Earth's magnetic field. Underwater, sensors monitor currents, dissolved oxygen levels, and water temperature, acidity, and salinity. Sonars and other acoustic instruments try to identify animal life." So far they've been used to find sharks, monitor fisheries, check on climate change and provide weather forecasts. Saildrone just raised $90 million to build a fleet of 1,000 drones, which it thinks will be enough to measure all of the world's oceans.
Android

OnePlus 6 Launched With 6.28-inch Display, Snapdragon 845 CPU, and Headphone Jack (phonedog.com) 109

OnePlus has launched their newest flagship smartphone today at an event in London. The OnePlus 6, as it is called, features a 6.28-inch 2280x1080 display with 19:9 aspect ratio and notch, Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor with up to 8GB of RAM, 16- and 20-megapixel rear-facing cameras, 3,330mAh battery, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Android 8.1 Oreo running out of the box with support for Android P coming soon. Strangely, the phone features a glass build construction but no support for wireless charging. OnePlus claims the glass back will be better for transmitting radio waves, but it's likely included in preparation for the OnePlus 6T, which will likely launch several months later and include wireless charging. PhoneDog reports: Around on the back of the OnePlus 6 is a vertically stacked dual rear camera setup that's now in the center of the phone for symmetry. There's a 16MP camera with Sony IMX 519 sensor, f/1.7 aperture, and support for optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization, as well as a 20MP camera with Sony IMD 376K sensor and f/1.7 aperture. Also included are portrait mode and slow-motion 480fps video capture features.

The body of the OnePlus 6 is made of Gorilla Glass 5, which OnePlus says will be better for transmitting radio waves. Rounding out the OP6's spec list is a 16MP front-facing camera, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, an alert slider, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the security side of things, there's a rear fingerprint reader and face unlock, and when it comes to wireless capabilities, the OnePlus 6 supports 40 global LTE bands as well as 4x4 MIMO for speeds up to 1Gbps.
The OnePlus 6 will be available on May 22 with the following prices: 6GB/64GB: $529; 8GB/128GB: $579; 8GB/256GB: $629.
Government

Cops Will Soon ID You Via Your Roof Rack (arstechnica.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Tuesday, one of the largest license plate reader (LPR) manufacturers, ELSAG, announced a major upgrade to "allow investigators to search by color, seven body types, 34 makes, and nine visual descriptors in addition to the standard plate number, location, and time." Such a vast expansion of the tech now means that evading such scans will be even more difficult.

"Using advanced computer vision software, ELSAG ALPR data can now be processed to include the vehicle's make, type -- sedan, SUV, hatchback, pickup, minivan, van, box truck -- and general color -- red, blue, green, white and yellow," ELSAG continued. "The solution actively recognizes the 34 most-common vehicle brands on US roads." Plus, the company says, the software is now able to visually identity things like a "roof rack, spare tire, bumper sticker, or a ride-sharing company decal."

Bitcoin

Nobody Knows How Much Energy Bitcoin Is Using (vice.com) 161

dmoberhaus writes: A new report published in 'Joule' today claims Bitcoin may use up to 0.5% of the world's energy by the end of this year. We often hear about how bad Bitcoin is for the environment -- it already uses the same amount of energy as the country of Ireland -- but these numbers are usually just the /minimum/ amount of energy the network must be using. The actual amount of energy used by the Bitcoin network is likely substantially higher, but getting an accurate reading on that energy level is hard. The only researcher trying to quantify Bitcoin's energy use spoke to Motherboard about opening Bitcoin's 'black box.'
Microsoft

Microsoft To Launch a Line of Lower-Cost Surface Tablets With 10-inch Displays By Second Half of 2018, Report Says (bloomberg.com) 75

Microsoft plans to launch a line of lower-cost Surface tablets as soon as the second half of 2018, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. These devices should help Microsoft improve its market share in the iPad-led hybrid machines market, the outlet noted. From the report: Microsoft has tried this before. The software giant kicked off its consumer-oriented hardware push in 2012 with the launch of the original Surface RT. At the time, it was priced starting at $499. After the tablets didn't resonate with consumers and product reviewers, Microsoft pivoted to the more-expensive Surface Pro, a line which has gained steam and likely contributed to demand for a pro-oriented iPad, which Apple launched in 2015.

The new tablets will feature 10-inch screens -- around the same size as a standard iPad, but smaller than the 12-inch screens used on the Surface Pro laptop line. The new Surfaces, priced about $400, will have rounded edges like an iPad, differing from the squared off corners of current models. They'll also include USB-C connectivity, a first for Surface tablets, a new charging and syncing standard being used by some of the latest smartphones. The tablets are expected to be about 20 percent lighter than the high-end models, but will have around four hours fewer of battery life. (The current Surface Pro can last 13.5 hours on a single charge.)

Robotics

Researchers Create First Flying Wireless Robotic Insect (newatlas.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: You might remember RoboBee, an insect-sized robot that flies by flapping its wings. Unfortunately, though, it has to be hard-wired to a power source. Well, one of RoboBee's creators has now helped develop RoboFly, which flies without a tether. Slightly heavier than a toothpick, RoboFly was designed by a team at the University of Washington -- one member of that team, assistant professor Sawyer Fuller, was also part of the Harvard University team that first created RoboBee. That flying robot receives its power via a wire attached to an external power source, as an onboard battery would simply be too heavy to allow the tiny craft to fly. Instead of a wire or a battery, RoboFly is powered by a laser. That laser shines on a photovoltaic cell, which is mounted on top of the robot. On its own, that cell converts the laser light to just seven volts of electricity, so a built-in circuit boosts that to the 240 volts needed to flap the wings. That circuit also contains a microcontroller, which tells the robot when and how to flap its wings -- on RoboBee, that sort of "thinking" is handled via a tether-linked external controller. The robot can be seen in action here.
Power

Tesla Unveils New Large Powerpack Project For Grid Balancing In Europe (electrek.co) 99

Tesla has unveiled a new large Powerpack energy storage project to be used as a virtual power plant for grid balancing in Europe. It consists of 140 Powerpacks and several Tesla inverters for a total power output of 18.2 MW. Electrek reports: Tesla partnered with Restore, a demand response aggregator, to build the system and offer balancing services to European transmission system operators. Instead of using gas generators and steam turbines kicking to compensate for losses of power on the grid, Tesla's batteries are charged when there's excess power and then discharge when there's a need for more power.

Restore UK Vice President Louis Burford told The Energyst that they are bundling their assets like batteries as a "synthetic pool": "By creating synthetic pools or portfolios, you reduce the technical requirements on individual assets that otherwise would not be able to participate [in certain balancing services]. By doing so you create value where it does not ordinarily exist. That is only achievable through synthetic portfolios."
For those interested, Tesla has released promo video on YouTube about the project.
Crime

Suspect Identified In CIA 'Vault 7' Leak (nytimes.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: In weekly online posts last year, WikiLeaks released a stolen archive of secret documents about the Central Intelligence Agency's hacking operations, including software exploits designed to take over iPhones and turn smart television sets into surveillance devices. It was the largest loss of classified documents in the agency's history and a huge embarrassment for C.I.A. officials. Now, The New York Times has learned the identity of the prime suspect in the breach (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): a 29-year-old former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the computers of terrorism suspects and other targets.

F.B.I. agents searched the Manhattan apartment of the suspect, Joshua A. Schulte, one week after WikiLeaks released the first of the C.I.A. documents in March last year, and then stopped him from flying to Mexico on vacation, taking his passport, according to court records and family members. The search warrant application said Mr. Schulte was suspected of "distribution of national defense information," and agents told the court they had retrieved "N.S.A. and C.I.A. paperwork" in addition to a computer, tablet, phone and other electronics. But instead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault 7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with possessing child pornography, saying agents had found the material on a server he created as a business in 2009 while he was a student at the University of Texas.

Microsoft

Surface Hub 2 Coming in 2019, Looks Amazing (arstechnica.com) 62

Microsoft gave an early look at its next-generation Surface Hub 2 today. It will go on sale next year, with certain selected customers testing it this year. From a report: Microsoft's Surface Hub, its conference room computer, was something of a surprise hit. The system has been in short supply since its launch about three years ago, especially in its 84-inch version: its combination of video conferencing and whiteboarding makes it a collaborative tool with few direct competitors. The central feature of the new system is that it's a 50.5-inch 4K display with a rotating mount. Instead of the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, the Surface Hub 2 has the same 3:2 ratio of Microsoft's other Surface systems.
Intel

Intel's First 10nm Cannon Lake CPU Sees the Light of Day (anandtech.com) 184

Artem Tashkinov writes: A Chinese retailer has started selling a laptop featuring Intel's first 10nm CPU the Intel Core i3 8121U. Intel promised to start producing 10nm CPUs in 2016 but the rollout has been postponed almost until the second half of 2018. It's worth noting that this CPU does not have integrated graphics enabled and features only two cores.

AnandTech opines: "This machine listed online means that we can confirm that Intel is indeed shipping 10nm components into the consumer market. Shipping a low-end dual core processor with disabled graphics doesn't inspire confidence, especially as it is labelled under the 8th gen designation, and not something new and shiny under the 9th gen -- although Intel did state in a recent earnings call that serious 10nm volume and revenue is now a 2019 target. These parts are, for better or worse, helping Intel generate some systems with the new technology. We've never before seen Intel commercially use low-end processors to introduce a new manufacturing process, although this might be the norm from now on."

Cellphones

Lenovo Teases a True All-Screen Smartphone With No Notch (cnet.com) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Notches, it seems, are the new black. Originally seen -- and often criticized -- on the Essential PH-1 and iPhone X in 2017, the trend of adding notches to Android phones has only accelerated this year as phone makers look to maximize the screen size. But the Lenovo Z5 is going the other way: It's truly all-screen, and notch-free. At least, that's according to a sketch shared last Friday by Lenovo VP Chang Cheng on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China. Cheng's teaser post says (according to Google Translate) that the Lenovo Z5 is the company's new flagship phone. Besides that, the post leaves it pretty vague.

All-screen phones look cool, but they challenge the manufacturer to find a place to put front cameras, sensors and other hardware. That's why we see bezels on some phones and notches on others. It's not clear what Lenovo plans to do with the front camera on the Lenovo Z5. Cheng's post claims that "four technological breakthroughs" and "18 patented technologies" were made for the phone, but doesn't go into details.
One of the first smartphones to launch with an edge-to-edge display was the Xiaomi Mi Mix. It launched with next to no bezel or notch, leaving many to wonder where the earpiece would be. What Xiaomi managed to do was use what it calls "cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology." Basically, it's a component that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy to transfer to the phone's internal metal frame, which then vibrates to create sound. It's possible the Z5 relies on a similar technology, or bone conduction technology found in many headphones and some smartphones.

Aside from the front-facing camera and ambient light sensors, the other components that are typically found on the front of smartphones are relatively easy to drag-and-drop to different locations. For example, the speakers in the Z5 are likely bottom facing and the navigation controls are almost certainly software based. The question is whether or not it's worth having a true all-screen smartphone if it means there's no front-facing camera, ambient light sensors, or stereo speakers.
China

Chinese Scientists Develop Photonic Quantum Analog Computing Chip (sciencemag.org) 55

hackingbear writes from a report via Xinhua: Chinese scientists demonstrated the first two-dimensional quantum walks of single photons in real spatial space, which may provide a powerful platform to boost analog quantum computing. Scientists at Shanghai Jiaotong University reported in a paper published in the journal Science Advances a three-dimensional photonic chip with a scale up to 49x49 nodes, by using a technique called femtosecond direct writing. Universal quantum computers, under develop by IBM, Google, Alibaba and other American and Chinese rivals, are far from being feasible before error correction and full connections between the increasing numbers of qubits could be realized. In contrast, analog quantum computers, or quantum simulators, can be built in a straightforward way to solve practical problems directly without error correction, and potentially be able to beat the computational power of classical computers in the near future.
AMD

AMD Integrates Ryzen PRO and Radeon Vega Graphics In Next-Gen APUs (zdnet.com) 76

The three biggest PC OEMs -- Dell, HP, and Lenovo -- are now offering AMD Ryzen PRO mobile and desktop accelerated processing units (APUs) with built-in Radeon Vega graphics in a variety of commercial systems. There are a total of seven new APUs -- three for the mobile space and four for the desktop. As AMD notes in its press release, the first desktops to ship with these latest chips include: the HP Elitedesk G4 and 285 Desktop, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M715, and the Dell Optiplex 5055. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes writes about what makes Ryzen PRO so appealing: Ryzen PRO has been built from the ground up to focus on three pillars -- power, security and reliability. Built-in security means integrated GuardMI technology, an AES 128-bit encryption engine, Windows 10 Enterprise Security support, and support for fTPM/TPM 2.0 Trusted Platform Module. One of the features of Ryzen PRO that AMD hopes will appeal to commercial users is the enterprise-grade reliability that the chips come backed with, everything from 18-moths of planned software availability, 24-months processor availability, a commercial-grade QA process, 36-moth warranty, and enterprise-class manageability.

There are no worries on the performance front either, with the Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics being the world's fastest processor currently available for ultrathin commercial notebooks, with the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 2700U offering up to 22 percent more productivity performance than Intel's 8th-generation Core i7-8550U in testing carried out by AMD. AMD has also designed the Ryzen PRO processors to be energy-efficient, enabling up to 16 hours of battery life in devices, or 10.5 hours of video playback. The Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics desktop processors are also no slouches, opening up a significant performance gap when compared to Intel Core i5 8400 and Core i3 8100 parts.
AMD also announced that it is sampling its second-generation Threadripper 2900X, 2920X and 2950X products. "For Threadripper Gen2 you can expect a refresh of the current line-up; an 8-core Threadripper 2900X, a 12-core Threadripper 2920X and of course a 16-core Threadripper 2950X," reports Guru3D.com. "AMD will apply the same Zen+ tweaks to the processors; including memory latency optimizations and higher clock speeds."

AMD has something for the datacenter enthusiasts out there too. Epyc, AMD's x86 server processor line based on the company's Zen microarchitecture, has a new promo video, claiming more performance, more security features, and more value than Intel Xeon. The company plans to market Epyc in an aggressive head-to-head format similar to how T-Mobile campaigns against Verizon and AT&T. Given Intel Xeon's 99% market share, they sort of have to...
Google

Google Will Make Its Paid Storage Plans Cheaper (theverge.com) 69

An anonymous reader shares a report:Google is rolling out new changes to its storage plans that include a new, low-cost storage plan and half off the price of its 2TB storage option, the company announced today. It's also converting all Google Drive paid storage plans to Google One, perhaps in part because you'll now have one-tap access to Google's live customer service.

Google One will get a new $2.99 a month option that gets you 200GB of storage. The 2TB plan, which usually costs $19.99 per month, will now cost $9.99 a month. Finally, the 1TB plan that costs $9.99 a month is getting removed. The other plans for 10, 20, or 30TB won't see any changes.

Businesses

President Trump Pledges To Help China's ZTE, After Ban (usatoday.com) 230

President Trump said Sunday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are working to put the troubled Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE back in business. From a report: "President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast," Trump said in a message on Twitter. "Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!" ZTE, maker of Android phones popular with budget-minded consumers, said Wednesday that it would cease "major operating activities," raising questions not only about its survival, but the impact on U.S. consumers who have previously bought or were thinking of buying ZTE phones. The announcement followed a decision last month by the U.S. Commerce Department, which banned American companies from exporting products to the Shenzhen, China-based telecom firm for seven years.
Portables (Apple)

Class Action Suit Filed Against Apple Over the Keyboards in MacBook Pro and MacBook Laptops (theoutline.com) 219

On Friday, Apple was hit with a class action lawsuit over the butterfly-switch keyboards, found on the current generation MacBook Pro and MacBook lineups, that have plagued its customers since they were released in 2015. The suit, filed in the Northern District Court of California, alleges that Apple "promoted and sold laptops it knew were defective in that they contain a keyboard that is substantially certain to fail prematurely," The Outline reports, and that selling these computers not only directly to its customers but also to third party retailers constitutes a violation of good faith. From the report: The Outline was the first outlet to substantially cover the magnitude of the issue, writing that Apple Geniuses responsible for diagnosing and repairing these Apple computers would benevolently attribute dead keys and double-spacing spacebars to a "piece of dust" stuck under the keyboard. Under Apple's warranty, Geniuses might offer to replace the entire top case of the computer, a process that takes about a week. Out of warranty, it costs about $700 to replace this part on a MacBook Pro. Apple has declined repeatedly to comment on the issue, but directs sufferers to a support page that instructs users how to tilt the computer at an angle, blow canned air under the malfunctioning keys, light candles arranged in the shape of a pentagram, and recite an incantation to Gaia in hopes of fixing their machines. Earlier this month, users kickstarted a petition on Change.org that calls on Apple to recall MacBook Pro units released since late 2016 over the defective keyboard. The petition has garnered about 20,000 signatures. Widely respected iOS developer and Apple commentator Marco Arment tweeted on the news, "We can't know for sure that Apple knew the 2016 keyboards were defective and sold them anyway. But it's hard to see how they couldn't have known. They were released 18 months earlier in the 12" MacBook, and those had the same problems with high failure rates from the start."
Businesses

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini Robot Dog Will Go On Sale Next Year (cnet.com) 61

Almost two years ago, Boston Dynamics unveiled their SpotMini robot to the world. It's a four-legged machine that can open doors and power through disturbances. CNET reports that the SpotMini will go on sale next year "for companies that want a mechanical quadruped to get to places a wheeled device can't reach." From the report: Boston Dynamics has 10 SpotMini prototypes now and will work with manufacturing partners to build 100 this year, company co-founder and President Marc Raibert said at a TechCrunch robotics conference Friday. "That's a prelude to getting into a higher rate of production" in anticipation of sales next year, he said.

Raibert didn't reveal price plans, but said the SpotMini robots could be useful for security patrols or for helping construction companies keep tabs on what's happening at building sites. SpotMini can be customized with attachments and extra software for particular jobs, he said. Eventually, though, the company hopes to sell it for use in people's homes.

Displays

Microsoft To Replace Surface Pro 4 Tablets Affected By Screen Flickering (theverge.com) 41

Microsoft is unable to find a software or firmware fix for Surface Pro 4 tablets affected by screen flickering, so it's launching a replacement program for them. Any Surface Pro 4 units experiencing the problem will be covered for up to three years from the time of original purchase. The Verge reports: The annoying flickering has been well-documented on Microsoft's support forums, with some users taking drastic steps like putting their Surface Pro 4 in a freezer to temporarily fix the issue. Back in February, Microsoft said it was closely monitoring the situation, and the company came to the conclusion that there's no convenient fix. Some customers have already paid for a screen replacement to stop the flickering since the problem typically arises when a machine is out of warranty; Microsoft says they'll be "offered a refund." The company notes that this three-year coverage doesn't extend to other problems your Surface Pro might experience outside the warranty period; it only applies to the screen issue. Replacement devices are refurbished -- not brand new -- Surface Pro 4s.
The Almighty Buck

Tesla's Giant Battery In Australia Reduced Grid Service Cost By 90 Percent (electrek.co) 251

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Tesla's giant Powerpack battery in Australia has been in operation for about 6 months now and we are just starting to discover the magnitude of its impact on the local energy market. A new report now shows that it reduced the cost of the grid service that it performs by 90% and it has already taken a majority share of the market. It is so efficient that it reportedly should have made around $1 million in just a few days in January, but Tesla complained last month that they are not being paid correctly because the system doesn't account for how fast Tesla's Powerpacks start discharging their power into the grid.

The system is basically a victim of its own efficiency, which the Australian Energy Market Operator confirmed is much more rapid, accurate and valuable than a conventional steam turbine in a report published last month. Now McKinsey and Co partner Godart van Gendt presented new data at the Australian Energy Week conference in Melbourne this week and claimed that Tesla's battery has now taken over 55% of the frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) services and reduced cost by 90%.
"In the first four months of operations of the Hornsdale Power Reserve (the official name of the Tesla big battery, owned and operated by Neoen), the frequency ancillary services prices went down by 90 percent, so that's 9-0 per cent," said Gendt via Reneweconomy. "And the 100MW battery has achieved over 55 percent of the FCAS revenues in South Australia. So it's 2 percent of the capacity in South Australia achieving 55 percent of the revenues in South Australia."
Android

Google Is Building a Pixel-Branded Smartwatch, Says Report (venturebeat.com) 40

Prolific technology leaker Evan Blass received a tip yesterday that Google could unveil a Pixel watch at its annual hardware event later this year. Wear OS didn't get any serious stage time at Google I/O this week, so it's likely to be covered in more detail at the next event. Furthermore, Qualcomm revealed on Tuesday that they are launching a new smartwatch system on a chip (SoC) this fall too. VentureBeat reports: WinFuture concurs that a Google smartwatch is coming, and adds that it will be available in three models, codenamed Ling, Triton, and Sardine. The German publication does not know how the three Pixel watches might differ (presumably either size, connectivity, or finish -- and of course, price).

This is not the first time we've heard about a potential "Pixel-branded watch." Still, this time around is hard to ignore when it comes from Blass, and just two days after Pankaj Kedia, Qualcomm's senior director of wearables, told Wareable that Wear OS smartwatches from several partners would arrive by the holidays, preceded by new chips announced this fall "alongside a lead smartwatch." It all lines up.

Software

'Father of GPS' Receives the IEEE Medal of Honor (eetimes.com) 22

"A former paperboy from Wisconsin passionate about maps led the team in the Air Force responsible for designing the navigation system we use everyday," writes Slashdot reader dkatana. IoT Times reports: At the IEEE honors ceremony today in San Francisco, Bradford Parkinson, a retired Air Force colonel who spent his life between maps and navigation systems, will be awarded the 2018 IEEE Medal of Honor, "For fundamental contributions to and leadership in developing the design and driving the early applications of the Global Positioning System." The current Global Positioning System (GPS) did not exist until 1995, just 22 years ago, and the engineer who led the project for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) was Mr. Parkinson.

Parkinson, whose first job was delivering newspapers, had a passion for maps. He used those maps when canoeing to navigate the lakes and streams of Minnesota, aided by a hand compass. When he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, he joined the Air Force to study navigation systems. In 1960, when his superiors saw his engineering potential, they sent him to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue graduate studies. He became a protegee of Charles Stark (Doc) Draper, the father of inertial navigation, who was teaching at MIT at the time. Draper was the lead engineer developing the computer systems for NASA's Apollo program. [...] It was in 1972 when his path on inertial navigation collided with satellite systems. He had been recently promoted to colonel when he received a call from another colonel who was part of the Air Force inertial guidance "mafia." He moved to Los Angeles and joined the group, a bunch of Air Force engineers from MIT. Then Parkinson asked to work on the Air Force 621B program, the genesis of GPS.

Power

Days After A Fiery Crash, a Tesla's Battery Keeps Reigniting (mercurynews.com) 302

An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News Six days after a fiery crash on Highway 101 involving a Tesla Model X took the life of a 38-year-old San Mateo man, the car's high-voltage lithium-ion battery re-ignited while sitting in a tow yard, according to the Mountain View Fire Department... The battery reignited twice in the storage yard within a day of the accident and again six days later on March 29. Two weeks later, in an effort to avoid more fires, the NTSB and Tesla performed a battery draw down to fully de-energize it...

On the company website, Tesla wrote "the reason this crash was so severe is that the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had either been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash"... Tesla also reported that the vehicle's autopilot function was active at the time of the crash...

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Highway 101 crash and three other accidents also involving Teslas, including a fiery 2014 Model S crash Tuesday in Florida that killed two teenagers. Also under investigation: A Model S crashed into a fire truck near Culver City in January, and the driver reportedly said Autopilot was engaged at the time. And it is looking into a battery fire of a Model X that drove into a home's garage in Lake Forest in August.

Two hours after that story was published, a Tesla smashed into a Starbucks in Los Gatos, California.
Power

Supercomputers Are Driving a Revolution In Hurricane Forecasting (arstechnica.com) 66

Ars Technica's Eric Berger reports of how dramatic increases in computer power have helped improve the accuracy of hurricane forecasts: Based upon new data from the National Hurricane Center for hurricanes based in the Atlantic basin, the average track error for a five-day forecast fell to 155 nautical miles in 2017. That is, the location predicted by the hurricane center for a given storm was just 155 nautical miles away from the actual position of the storm five days later. What is incredible about this is that, back in 1998, this was the average error for a two-day track forecast. In fact, the annual "verification" report released Wednesday shows that for the hyperactive 2017 Atlantic hurricane season -- which included the devastating hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria -- the National Hurricane Center set records for track forecasts at all time periods: 12-hour, 24-hour, and two-, three-, four- and five-day forecasts.
Google

Google Announces 8x Faster TPU 3.0 For AI, Machine Learning (extremetech.com) 27

At its developer conference yesterday, Google announced third-generation TPUs (Tensor Processing Units) for AI and machine learning, which are eight times more powerful than the Google TPU 2.0 pods with up to 100 petaflops in performance. They're so power-hungry that they require water cooling -- something previous TPUs haven't required. ExtremeTech reports: So what do we know about TPU 3.0? Not much -- but we can make a few educated guesses. According to Google's own documentation, TPU 1.0 was built on a 28nm process node at TSMC, clocked at 700MHz, and consumed 40W of power. Each TPU PCB connected via PCIe 3.0 x16. TPU 2.0 made some significant changes. Unlike TPU v1, which could only handle 8-bit integer operations, Google added support for single-precision floats in TPU v2 and added 8GB of HBM memory to each TPU to improve performance. A TPU cluster consists of 180 TFLOPS of total computational power, 64GB of HBM memory, and 2,400GB/s of memory bandwidth in total (the last thrown in purely of the purposes of making PC enthusiasts moan with envy).

No word yet on other advanced capabilities of the processors, and they are supposedly still for Google's own use, rather than wider adoption. Pichai claims TPU v3 can handle 100 PFLOPS, but that has to be the clustered variant, unless Google is also rolling out a new tentative project we'll call "Google Stellar-Equivalent Thermal Density." We would've expected to hear about it, if that was the case. As more companies flock to the AI / ML banner, expect to see more firms throwing their hats into this proverbial ring.

Hardware

System76 Oryx Pro Linux Laptop is Now Thinner and Faster (betanews.com) 115

An anonymous reader shares a report: Last week, System76 started to share details about its refreshed Linux-powered Oryx Pro laptop. It would be thinner and more powerful, while adding twice the battery life of its predecessor. Unfortunately, we did not yet know exactly what the laptop looked like. Today, we finally have official images. The new Oryx Pro is quite breathtaking, as it is a true Pro machine -- with the USB Type-A, Ethernet, and HDMI ports you expect -- while being just 19mm thin. It has the horsepower that power-users need, thanks to its 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10-Series GPU.
Crime

Police Drop Charges Filed Against 19-Year-Old Archivist For Downloading FOIA Releases (techdirt.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report form Techdirt: Last month, [...] an unnamed 19-year-old was facing criminal charges for downloading publicly-available documents from a government Freedom of Information portal. The teen had written a script to fetch all available documents from the Nova Scotia's government FOI site -- a script that did nothing more than increment digits at the end of the URL to find everything that had been uploaded by the government. The government screwed up. It uploaded documents to the publicly-accessible server that hadn't been redacted yet. It was a very small percentage of the total haul -- 250 of the 7,000 docs obtained -- but the government made a very big deal out of it after discovering they had been accessed.

Fortunately, Nova Scotia law enforcement has decided there's nothing to pursue in this case: "In an email to CBC News, Halifax police Supt. Jim Perrin did not mention what kind of information police were given from the province, but he said it was a 'high-profile case that potentially impacted many Nova Scotians.' 'As the investigation evolved, we have determined that the 19-year-old who was arrested on April 11 did not have intent to commit a criminal offense by accessing the information,' Perrin said in the email."

Cloud

Nintendo Switch Online Service Will Launch With 20 NES Games, Cloud Saves, More (polygon.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Polygon: Nintendo's online service for the Switch will include access to a selection of classic video games from the NES era as part of the subscription service. Today, Nintendo announced some of the games that will be included as part of the Nintendo Switch Online classic games selection. The 10 NES titles confirmed for the service, which Nintendo refers to as "Nintendo Entertainment System -- Nintendo Switch Online" in a press release, are: Soccer, Tennis, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, Dr. Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros. 3. Nintendo promises 20 NES games will be available when Nintendo Switch Online goes live in September, meaning 10 classic NES games are still to be announced. New games for the service will be added regularly, Nintendo says.

Those NES games will include some sort of online play as part of Nintendo Switch Online. That includes online competitive or cooperative multiplayer, or simply taking turns controlling the game. "Friends can even watch each other play single-player games online, and 'pass the controller' at any time," Nintendo said in a release. "Every classic NES game will support voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. It will also be possible to play these games offline."
Some other details of the service, as reported by Nintendo Life, include the option for cloud save data backups and a four tiered pricing plan. In the U.S., the pricing is as follows: one month is $3.99; three months is $7.99; twelve months is $19.99; twelve month family membership is $34.99 (with up to eight Nintendo accounts on different systems that will be able to use the service).
Cloud

Edge Computing: Explained (theverge.com) 159

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Verge, written by Paul Miller: In the beginning, there was One Big Computer. Then, in the Unix era, we learned how to connect to that computer using dumb (not a pejorative) terminals. Next we had personal computers, which was the first time regular people really owned the hardware that did the work. Right now, in 2018, we're firmly in the cloud computing era. Many of us still own personal computers, but we mostly use them to access centralized services like Dropbox, Gmail, Office 365, and Slack. Additionally, devices like Amazon Echo, Google Chromecast, and the Apple TV are powered by content and intelligence that's in the cloud -- as opposed to the DVD box set of Little House on the Prairie or CD-ROM copy of Encarta you might've enjoyed in the personal computing era. As centralized as this all sounds, the truly amazing thing about cloud computing is that a seriously large percentage of all companies in the world now rely on the infrastructure, hosting, machine learning, and compute power of a very select few cloud providers: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM.

The advent of edge computing as a buzzword you should perhaps pay attention to is the realization by these companies that there isn't much growth left in the cloud space. Almost everything that can be centralized has been centralized. Most of the new opportunities for the "cloud" lie at the "edge." The word edge in this context means literal geographic distribution. Edge computing is computing that's done at or near the source of the data, instead of relying on the cloud at one of a dozen data centers to do all the work. It doesn't mean the cloud will disappear. It means the cloud is coming to you.
Miller goes on to "examine what people mean practically when they extoll edge computing," focusing on latency, privacy and security, and bandwidth.
iMac

Apple's iMac Turns 20 Years Old (cnn.com) 127

Twenty years ago on May 6, 1998, Steve Jobs unveiled the iMac for the first time. Current CEO Tim Cook shared footage from the event on Twitter Sunday. It shows Jobs describing the $1,299 iMac as an impossibly futuristic device. CNNMoney reports: "The whole thing is translucent, you can see into it. It's so cool," Jobs gushes. He points to a handle that allows the computer's owner to easily lift the device, which is about the size of a modern microwave oven. He takes a jab at the competition: "The back of this thing looks better than the front of the other guy's, by the way." In January 1999, less than a year after the iMac's debut, Apple more than tripled its quarterly profit.

The San Francisco Chronicle declared Apple was "cashing in on insatiable demand for its new space-age iMac computer." For the next decade, Jobs kept the new "i" products coming. Today, the iMac is in its seventh generation and is virtually unrecognizable from its ancestor. An Apple spokesperson notes an "iMac today consumes up to 96% less energy in sleep mode than the first generation."
Some of the original iMac's tech specs include: PowerPC G3 processor clocked at 233MHz, 15-inch display with 1,024x768 resolution, two USB ports and Ethernet with a built-in software modem, 4GB hard drive, 32MB of RAM (expandable to 128MB), 24x CD-ROM drive, built-in stereo speakers with SRS sound, Apple-designed USB keyboard and mouse, and Mac OS 8.1.
Software

MIT Invented a Tool That Allows Driverless Cars To Navigate Rural Roads Without a Map (vice.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A student at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) is developing new technology, called MapLite, that eliminates the need for maps in self-driving car technology altogether. This could more easily enable a fleet-sharing model that connects carless rural residents and would facilitate intercity trips that run through rural areas. In a paper posted online on May 7 by CSAIL and project partner Toyota, 30-year-old PhD candidate Teddy Ort -- along with co-authors Liam Paull and Daniela Rus -- detail how using LIDAR (a radar-like sensor that uses lasers instead of radio waves to measure distances) and GPS together can enable self-driving cars to navigate on rural roads without having a detailed map to guide them. The team was able to drive down a number of unpaved roads in rural Massachusetts and reliably scan the road for curves and obstacles up to 100 feet ahead, according to the paper.
Cloud

Microsoft Is Moving Kinect to the Cloud (theverge.com) 37

At the annual Build conference, Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella announced that Kinect is moving to the cloud. "Kinect, when we first launched it in 2010, was a speech-first, gaze-first, vision-first device. It was used in gaming, and then, later on, it came to the PC, and it was used in many applications: medical, industrial, robotics, education," said Nadella. "We've been inspired by what developers have done, and since Kinect, we've made a tremendous amount of progress when it comes to some of the foundational technologies in HoloLens. So we're taking those advances and packaging them up as Project Kinect for Azure." The Verge reports: It's big news after the depth camera and microphone accessory that originally debuted on the Xbox 360 was basically declared dead last October when Microsoft stopped manufacturing it. Alex Kipman, a technical fellow at Microsoft, explained in a LinkedIn blog post that Project Kinect for Azure would combine the depth sensor with Azure AI services that could help developers make devices that will be more precise "with less power consumption." Kipman also notes that AI deep learning on depth images could lead to "cheaper-to-deploy AI algorithms" that require smaller networks to operate.
United Kingdom

UK Police Say 92 Percent False Positive Facial Recognition Is No Big Deal (arstechnica.com) 189

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A British police agency is defending its use of facial recognition technology at the June 2017 Champions League soccer final in Cardiff, Wales -- among several other instances -- saying that despite the system having a 92-percent false positive rate, "no one" has ever been arrested due to such an error. New data about the South Wales Police's use of the technology obtained by Wired UK and The Guardian through a public records request shows that of the 2,470 alerts from the facial recognition system, 2,297 were false positives. In other words, nine out of 10 times, the system erroneously flagged someone as being suspicious or worthy of arrest.

In a public statement, the SWP said that it has arrested "over 450" people as a result of its facial recognition efforts over the last nine months. "Of course, no facial recognition system is 100 percent accurate under all conditions. Technical issues are normal to all face recognition systems, which means false positives will continue to be a common problem for the foreseeable future," the police wrote. "However, since we introduced the facial recognition technology, no individual has been arrested where a false positive alert has led to an intervention and no members of the public have complained." The agency added that it is "very cognizant of concerns about privacy, and we have built in checks and balances into our methodology to make sure our approach is justified and balanced."

Software

Google Says Android Things is Finally Ready For Smart Devices (theverge.com) 34

Ahead of its developer conference I/O, Google said Monday Android Things, a platform for smart devices that the company announced in 2016, is ready for shipping with consumer devices. From a report: Android Things is hitting its 1.0 release today after launching to developers at the end of 2016. Google says the first devices -- which include speakers from LG and iHome, and smart displays from LG, Lenovo, and JBL -- will be released over the next several months. Android Things is a development platform that's meant to make it easier for hardware companies to start building a gadget. It lets Google handle some of the software and intelligence features, while allowing hardware companies to code for it using the Android tools they're likely already familiar with. It's not clear exactly how much easier this makes things, but it probably simplifies development particularly for gadgets that are going to end up with Google Assistant features or Cast capabilities in them.
Data Storage

Engineers Devise a Technique To Fight Counterfeit or Recycled Smartphone Memory (ieee.org) 52

Flash is designed to last a decade or more of use. A lot of the gadgets that rely on it, however, are not. Shady recyclers have spotted opportunity in that mismatch, stripping out used chips and selling them as new. But fret not, there is something that can be done to address the issue. From a report: Engineers at the University of Alabama have come up with a straightforward electronic examination that can tell if a flash chip is new or recycled, even if that chip has only seen 5 percent or less of its life. And the technique is so straightforward that a smartphone app could run it on its own memory. [...] A flash memory cell is like an ordinary transistor, it has a source and a drain and a channel through which current flows under the control of voltage on the gate electrode. The difference is that the gate is split into several layers -- the control gate, the blocking oxide, the floating gate, and the tunneling oxide.

[...] Voltage on the control gate causes electrons to tunnel through that bottom oxide and get stuck inside the floating gate. This charge or its absence is the stored bit. It alters how much voltage you need to turn the transistor on in a way that you can easily measure. Erasing the bit is done by reversing the voltage and driving the charge out of the floating gate. Ray and his team took advantage of the rather high voltages -- about plus or minus 20 volts -- needed to program and erase flash. The more you program and erase a cell, the more defects will accumulate in the oxide, he explains.

Bug

Eight New Meltdown-Like Flaws Found (reuters.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Researchers have found eight new flaws in computer central processing units that resemble the Meltdown and Spectre bugs revealed in January, a German computing magazine reported on Thursday. The magazine, called c't, said it was aware of Intel Corp's plans to patch the flaws, adding that some chips designed by ARM Holdings, a unit of Japan's Softbank, might be affected, while work was continuing to establish whether Advanced Micro Devices chips were vulnerable... The magazine said Google Project Zero, one of the original collective that exposed Meltdown and Spectre in January, had found one of the flaws and that a 90-day embargo on going public with its findings would end on May 7...

"Considering what we have seen with Meltdown and Spectre, we should expect a long and painful cycle of updates, possibly even performance or stability issues," said Yuriy Bulygin, chief executive officer of hardware security firm Eclypsium and a former Intel security researcher. "Hopefully, Meltdown and Spectre led to improvements to the complicated process of patching hardware."

Neowin now reports that Intel "is expected to release microcode updates in two waves; one in May, and the other in August."
Crime

70-Year-Old Former Volkswagen CEO Charged With Fraud Over Emissions Scandal (cnn.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The U.S.government has charged Martin Winterkorn, the former chief executive officer of Volkswagen, with fraud in the company's diesel emissions-cheating scandal. The indictment was unsealed in Detroit on Thursday, revealing that Winterkorn had been charged on March 14 with wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud Volkswagen's American customers and violate the Clean Air Act...

Volkswagen admitted in late 2015 that it fitted as many as 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with software that could cheat emissions tests... The indictment alleges that Winterkorn was made aware of emissions cheating in May 2014 and July 2015, and that he agreed with other senior executives to continue the practice... Winterkorn, 70, is believed to be a resident of Germany. He is the ninth person charged by the U.S. government over emissions cheating.

Graphics

Nvidia Shuts Down Its GeForce Partner Program, Citing Misinformation (theregister.co.uk) 82

In a blog post on Friday, Nvidia announced it is "pulling the plug" on the GeForce Partner Program (GPP) due to the company's unwillingness to combat "rumors" and "mistruths" about the platform. The GPP has only been active for a couple of months. It was launched as a way for gamers to know exactly what they're buying when shopping for a new gaming PC. "With this program, partners would provide full transparency regarding the installed hardware and software in their products," reports Digital Trends. From the report: Shortly after the launch, unnamed sources from add-in card and desktop/laptop manufacturers came forward to reveal that the program will likely hurt consumer choice. Even more, they worried that some of the agreement language may actually be illegal while the program itself could disrupt the current business they have with AMD and Intel. They also revealed one major requirement: The resulting product sports the label "[gaming brand] Aligned Exclusively with GeForce." As an example, if Asus wanted to add its Republic of Gamers (RoG) line to Nvidia's program, it wouldn't be allowed to sell RoG products with AMD-based graphics. Of course, manufacturers can choose whether or not to join Nvidia's program, but membership supposedly had its "perks" including access to early technology, sales rebate programs, game bundling, and more.

According to Nvidia, all it asked of its partners was to "brand their products in a way that would be crystal clear." The company says it didn't want "substitute GPUs hidden behind a pile of techno-jargon." Specifications for desktops and laptops tend to list their graphics components and PC gamers are generally intelligent shoppers that don't need any clarification. Regardless, Nvidia is pulling the controversial program because the "rumors, conjecture, and mistruths go far beyond" the program's intent.

Power

California To Become First US State Mandating Solar On New Homes (ocregister.com) 305

OCRegister reports that "The California Energy Commission is scheduled to vote Wednesday, May 9, on new energy standards mandating most new homes have solar panels starting in 2020." From the report: Just 15 percent to 20 percent of new single-family homes built include solar, according to Bob Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association. The proposed new rules would deviate slightly from another much-heralded objective: Requiring all new homes be "net-zero," meaning they would produce enough solar power to offset all electricity and natural gas consumed over the course of a year. New thinking has made that goal obsolete, state officials say. True "zero-net-energy" homes still rely on the electric power grid at night, they explained, a time when more generating plants come online using fossil fuels to generate power. In addition to widespread adoption of solar power, the new provisions include a push to increase battery storage and increase reliance on electricity over natural gas.
Transportation

Sorry Elon Musk, There's No Clear Evidence Autopilot Saves Lives (arstechnica.com) 128

Timothy B. Lee writes for Ars Technica: A few days after the Mountain View crash, Tesla published a blog post acknowledging that Autopilot was active at the time of the crash. But the company argued that the technology improved safety overall, pointing to a 2017 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "Over a year ago, our first iteration of Autopilot was found by the U.S. government to reduce crash rates by as much as 40 percent," the company wrote. It was the second time Tesla had cited that study in the context of the Mountain View crash -- another blog post three days earlier had made the same point. Unfortunately, there are some big problems with that finding. Indeed, the flaws are so significant that NHTSA put out a remarkable statement this week distancing itself from its own finding.

"NHTSA's safety defect investigation of MY2014-2016 Tesla Model S and Model X did not assess the effectiveness of this technology," the agency said in an email to Ars on Wednesday afternoon. "NHTSA performed this cursory comparison of the rates before and after installation of the feature to determine whether models equipped with Autosteer were associated with higher crash rates, which could have indicated that further investigation was necessary." Tesla has also claimed that its cars have a crash rate 3.7 times lower than average, but as we'll see there's little reason to think that has anything to do with Autopilot. This week, we've talked to several automotive safety experts, and none has been able to point us to clear evidence that Autopilot's semi-autonomous features improve safety. And that's why news sites like ours haven't written stories "about how autonomous cars are really safe." Maybe that will prove true in the future, but right now the data just isn't there. Musk has promised to publish regular safety reports in the future -- perhaps those will give us the data needed to establish whether Autopilot actually improves safety.

Communications

NASA Successfully Tests New Nuclear Reactor For Future Space Travelers (npr.org) 178

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy say they have successfully tested a new type of nuclear reactor that could one day provide juice to colonies on other worlds. The reactor can power several homes and appears able to operate in harsh environments. The new reactor uses more-conventional uranium fuel. Using a "core" about the size of a paper towel roll, the reactor can turn pistons that can run a generator. The generator can put out about 10 kilowatts of electrical power -- enough to run a few small homes. Scientists believe it could run continuously for a decade or so, making deep space travel a lot simpler. They also gave it a catchy acronym: KRUSTY, which stands for Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling TechnologY.

To see if it actually worked, scientists tested KRUSTY out in the Nevada desert on America's old nuclear test range. They put KRUSTY through its paces, culminating in a 28-hour test at full power. The team also simulated failures in KRUSTY's reactor components to show it wouldn't result in a meltdown on Mars. KRUSTY may find its way onto future space probes. Researchers say they might use an ensemble of four or five of the reactors to power colonies on the moon (which has 14-day nights, when the sun isn't available) or Mars.

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