Japan

Tokyo Preparing For Floods 'Beyond Anything We've Seen' (tampabay.com) 98

In the face of an era of extreme weather brought on by climate change, global cities are working to improve their defenses. The New York Times reports (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source) of Tokyo's $2 billion underground anti-flood system that consists of tunnels that divert water away from the region's most vulnerable floodplains. The city is "preparing for flooding beyond anything we've seen," says Kuniharu Abe, head of the underground site. From the report: But even in Tokyo, the onset of more frequent and intense storms has forced officials to question whether the region's protections are strong enough, a concern that has become more urgent as the city prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Across Japan, rainfall measuring more than 2 inches an hour has increased 30 percent over the past three decades, the Japan Meteorological Agency estimates. The frequency of rainfall of more than 3 inches an hour has jumped 70 percent. The agency attributes the increase of these intense rains to global warming, heralding a new era in a country that is among the world's wettest, with a language that has dozens of words for rain. [...]

Experts have also questioned the wisdom of erecting more concrete defenses in a country that has dammed most of its major river systems and fortified entire shorelines with breakwaters and concrete blocks. Some of these protections, they say, only encourage development in regions that could still be vulnerable to future flooding. In eastern Saitama, where the Kasukabe facility has done the most to reduce floods, local industry has flourished; the region has successfully attracted several large e-commerce distribution centers and a new shopping mall. Still, the Kasukabe operation remains a critical part of Tokyo's defenses, say officials at Japan's Land Ministry, which runs the site. Five vertical, underground cisterns, almost 250 feet deep, take in stormwater from four rivers north of Tokyo. A series of tunnels connect the cisterns to a vast tank, larger than a soccer field, with ceilings held up by 60-foot pillars that give the space a temple-like feel. From that tank, industrial pumps discharge the floodwater at a controlled pace into the Edo river, a larger river system that flushes the water into Tokyo Bay.

Advertising

Alphabet's Waymo and Intel Are Launching Public Campaigns To Build Trust In Self-Driving Cars (theverge.com) 191

Alphabet's Waymo and Intel announced plans today to sponsor ads about self-driving cars. "Alphabet's Waymo is launching a public education campaign today called "Let's Talk Self-Driving" aimed at addressing the skepticism many people have about autonomous technology," reports The Verge. Meanwhile, "Intel said it would be airing its commercial starring LeBron James in the run-up to the NBA season opener on October 17th. From the report: The ad campaign will launch first in Arizona, before spreading to other states. Waymo is preparing to launch its first commercial ride-hailing service powered by its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, according to a recent report in The Information. This public education campaign would appear to be a prelude to inviting ordinary people to take a ride in a driverless vehicle. Both companies recognize that in order to make lots of money, there will need to be a robust effort to persuade people that autonomous vehicles are as safe, if not safer, than human-operated ones. Recent polls suggest that most people wouldn't take a ride in a driverless car, even if they like the idea surrounding the technology.
Iphone

Face ID Is Coming To the iPad Pro Next Year, Says Report (macrumors.com) 73

According to MacRumors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said iPad Pro models set to be released in 2018 will come equipped with a TrueDepth Camera and will support Face ID. Apple is believed to be adding TrueDepth cameras to the iPad Pro to introduce a user experience that's consistent with the iPhone X and boost competitiveness. From the report: According to Kuo, TrueDepth Cameras will be limited to the iPad Pro, which is Apple's main flagship tablet device. Kuo also predicts 2018 iPhone models will adopt the new camera technology coming in the iPhone X, as he has mentioned in a previous note: "We predict iOS devices to be equipped with TrueDepth Camera in 2018F will include iPhone X and 2018 new iPhone and iPad models. Because of this, we believe more developers will pay attention to TrueDepth Camera/ facial recognition related applications. We expect Apple's (U.S.) major promotion of facial recognition related applications will encourage the Android camp to also dedicate more resources to developing hardware and facial recognition applications."
Earth

EPA Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule (nytimes.com) 314

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source: The Trump administration announced Monday that it would take formal steps to repeal President Barack Obama's signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America's efforts to tackle global warming. At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions. The repeal proposal, which will be filed in the Federal Register on Tuesday, fulfills a promise President Trump made to eradicate his predecessor's environmental legacy. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likely the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions that are warming the planet and contributing to heat waves and sea-level rise. Mr. Trump has vowed to abandon that international accord.

In announcing the repeal, Mr. Pruitt made many of the same arguments that he had made for years to Congress and in lawsuits: that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (Last year, the Supreme Court blocked the rule from taking effect while courts assessed those lawsuits.) A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save $33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule.

Microsoft

Microsoft Exec Says Windows 10 Mobile is No Longer a 'Focus' (engadget.com) 135

From a report: Microsoft's Joe Belfiore informed Twitter users that new features and hardware for Windows 10 Mobile "aren't the focus" any more. There will be fixes and security patches, of course, but you shouldn't expect more than that. As for why the platform has been all but dropped? The executive boils it down to one main reason: the difficulty of getting developers to write apps. Microsoft tried paying companies to produce apps and even wrote them itself when creators couldn't or wouldn't get involved, but the number of users was "too low for most companies to invest." Why build an app for a relatively small bunch of Windows phone owners when there are many more Android and iOS users? Belfiore himself switched to Android for the "app/[hardware] diversity." It's a bit more complicated than that, of course. You can point to a few other factors in Windows' fate on phones, such as slowness in responding to Apple and Google as well as an inconsistent hardware strategy (you could rarely count on getting a timely sequel to a handset you liked). Whatever the reason, it's safe to say that Microsoft isn't just acknowledging that Android and iOS hold a clear lead -- it's quashing any hopes for a comeback, at least for the foreseeable future.
Open Source

Linux Now Has its First Open Source RISC-V Processor (designnews.com) 160

"SiFive has declared that 2018 will be the year of RISC V Linux processors," writes Design News. An anonymous reader quotes their report: When it released its first open-source system on a chip, the Freeform Everywhere 310, last year, Silicon Valley startup SiFive was aiming to push the RISC-V architecture to transform the hardware industry in the way that Linux transformed the software industry. Now the company has delivered further on that promise with the release of the U54-MC Coreplex, the first RISC-V-based chip that supports Linux, Unix, and FreeBSD... This latest development has RISC-V enthusiasts particularly excited because now it opens up a whole new world of use cases for the architecture and paves the way for RISC-V processors to compete with ARM cores and similar offerings in the enterprise and consumer space...

"The U54 Coreplexes are great for companies looking to build SoC's around RISC-V," Andrew Waterman co-founder and chief engineer at SiFive, as well as the one of the co-creators of RISC-V, told Design News. "The forthcoming silicon is going to enable much better software development for RISC-V." Waterman said that, while SiFive had developed low-level software such as compilers for RISC-V the company really hopes that the open-source community will be taking a much broader role going forward and really pushing the technology forward. "No matter how big of a role we would want to have we can't make a dent," Waterman said. "But what we can do is make sure the army of engineers out there are empowered."

Transportation

42 Solar-Powered Cars Race in 31st Annual 'Solar Challenge' Race (engadget.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: It's a special moment in the history of clean energy: the 30th anniversary World Solar Challenge has begun. A total of 42 solar-powered cars (the largest field to date) left Darwin, Australia on October 8th to travel roughly 1,880 miles to Adelaide. The race officially lasts a week, but it's likely going to end considerably sooner for the front-runners -- the world record holders, Tokai University, took just under 30 hours in 2009...

This year, the race regulations are a clear sign of how rapidly solar technology is changing. Teams have to use a smaller solar collector than before: cars in the Challenger class can have no more than 43 square feet of solar cells versus nearly 65 square feet for the previous race, in 2015. That's half the area allowed on cars from the original 1987 race. In other words, technology is advanced enough now (both in solar cells and the underlying vehicle designs) that you don't need a sea of panels to keep a car running.

Power

CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises' (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises."

But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun.

CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."
Google

Clever Hack Fakes A Sleep Timer For Google Home (vortex.com) 50

Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: I've long been bitching about Google Home's lack of a basic function that clock radios have had since at least the middle of the last century -- the classic "sleep timer" for playing music until a specified time or until a specific interval has passed... Originally, sleep timer type commands weren't recognized at all by GH, but eventually it started admitting that the concept at least exists... Officially, GH still responds with "Sleep timer is not yet supported" when you give commands like "Stop playing in an hour"... A somewhat inconvenient but seemingly serviceable way to fake a sleep timer is now possible with Google Home. I plead guilty, it's a hack. But here we go.
The hack exploits the new "Night Mode" in the firmware, which lets you set a maximum volume for specific hours of the day, creating silent (but still-active) music streaming. "Yep, a hack, but it works," writes Lauren. "And it's the closest we've gotten to a real sleep timer on Google Home so far."

Any other Slashdot readers have their own favorite personal assistant tricks?
Earth

100K Lose Power As America Faces Its Third Hurricane In Three Weeks (go.com) 119

An anonymous reader writes: The good news: Hurricane Nate was eventually downgraded to "a tropical storm" at 4:30 Sunday morning (EST), moving north-northeast with maximum winds of 70 mph. The bad news: 100,000 people don't have power in Mississippi and Alabama, and a tornado watch is in effect until 11 a.m. "Even though Nate has made landfall and will weaken today, we are still forecasting heavy rain from Nate to spread well inland towards the Tennessee Valley and Appalachian mountains," ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo said Sunday morning. Saturday the Gulf Coast near Biloxi, Mississippi was hit with 85 mph winds and a storm surge of between four to five feet. "Gulf Coast residents are waking up to a wet, windy -- and in some cases, powerless -- Sunday morning," reports ABC News, "but it's still not as devastating as they expected."
Displays

Anticipating Samsung's AMOLED Mixed Reality Headset (windowscentral.com) 36

Eloking quotes Windows Central: At an event in San Francisco, HoloLens inventor Alex Kipman outlined the future of Windows Mixed Reality, which Redmond seems to believe is the future of computing. Whether or not it is remains to be seen, but either way, there will be no shortage of Windows Mixed Reality headsets this holiday season, with perhaps the most compelling option coming from Samsung.

The $500 Samsung HMD Odyssey sports dual AMOLED eye displays, complete with a 110-degree field of view. This could potentially make a huge difference in the quality of the Windows Mixed Reality experience for two reasons. First, AMOLED displays can generate deeper blacks and more vibrant colors than your average OLED or LCD screen. Second, all other Windows Mixed Reality headsets we've seen have a 95-degree FoV. The Samsung headset will be more immersive because there will be less dead space in your peripheral vision.

The headset -- which comes with motion controllers -- is expected to launch in one month.
Printer

New Open Source 3D Printer Can Print Without Human Intervention (autodrop3d.com) 49

Slashdot reader mmiscool shares some videos about "the next step in 3D printing": Autodrop3d is an open source system that solves the problem of needing a human to remove a 3D print from its print bed. Implemented as an open source hardware and software system, it allows for web based, multi-user print queue, automatic notifications, and web-based CAD design tools to all be integrated in one open source system. There's a video that shows the hardware in operation and a link to the web site with a Git repository for the software and hardware components.
Autodrop3D is now raising money on Kickstarter, promising to show their support for open source innovation by "releasing all of our documentation, design files, and software prior to the end of this Kickstarter campaign."

And for $75 pledges, "we will 3D print an object of your choice and mail it to you.... You will also receive our heartfelt thanks."
Iphone

Apple Doesn't Deliberately Slow Down Older Devices According To Benchmark Analysis (macrumors.com) 163

According to software company Futuremark, Apple doesn't intentionally slow down older iPhones when it releases new software updates as a way to encourage its customers to buy new devices. MacRumors reports: Starting in 2016, Futuremark collected over 100,000 benchmark results for seven different iPhone models across three versions of iOS, using that data to create performance comparison charts to determine whether there have been performance drops in iOS 9, iOS 10, and iOS 11. The first device tested was the iPhone 5s, as it's the oldest device capable of running iOS 11. iPhone 5s, released in 2013, was the first iPhone to get a 64-bit A7 chip, and iOS 11 is limited to 64-bit devices. Futuremark used the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Graphics test and calculated all benchmark scores from the iPhone 5s across a given month to make its comparison. The higher the bar, the better the performance, and based on the testing, GPU performance on the iPhone 5s has remained constant from iOS 9 to iOS 11 with just minor variations that Futuremark says "fall well within normal levels." iPhone 5s CPU performance over time was measured using the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Physics test, and again, results were largely consistent. CPU performance across those three devices has dropped slightly, something Futuremark attributes to "minor iOS updates or other factors."
Power

Elon Musk Says Tesla Could Rebuild Puerto Rico's Power Grid With Batteries, Solar (electrek.co) 337

After Puerto Rico was hit by hurricane Maria, Tesla quickly started shipping hundreds of its Powerwall batteries there to try and get power back on to some houses with solar arrays. Now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to say that Tesla could rebuild Puerto Rico's power grid with batteries and solar on a bigger scale. Electrek reports: Puerto Rico's electricity rates were already quite high at around $0.20 per kWh and reliant on fossil fuels. After it was pointed out that Puerto Rico's destroyed grid is an opportunity to build a better one, Musk wrote on Twitter: "The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the Puerto Rico government, PUC (Public Utilities Commission), any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of Puerto Rico."

Musk is referring to solar and battery projects that Tesla recently deployed on other islands, like Tesla's visually stunning Powerpack and solar project in Kauai. Those projects power grids for much smaller populations, but Musk has always said that it's scalable to support much larger islands, like Puerto Rico, and ultimately entire continents, which are just like big islands to a certain degree. The thing is that those systems are still reliant on power lines for larger communities and devices, like solar panels and wind turbines, that are still subject to problems with natural disasters. The advantage of Tesla's solution is that it has the potential to be distributed, which increases the odds of at least some systems staying online or bringing some back online quicker.

Facebook

Facebook To Build $1 Billion Data Center In Virginia (cnn.com) 44

It's official: Facebook will be investing $1 billion in a new data center in Henrico County, which is just outside Richmond, Virginia. According to CNNMoney, Facebook is putting $750 million into construction and $250 million to multiple solar facilities that will power the data center. From the report: The investment is expected to create 100 full-time jobs. Facebook will receive about $19 million in state tax exemptions through 2035, according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Facebook already has data centers in Oregon, North Carolina and Iowa. Centers in Fort Worth, Texas; Los Lunas, New Mexico; and New Albany, Ohio are currently under construction. "One of the many important factors in our search for a new data center location is being able to source clean and renewable energy. We also look for great partnerships within the local community, robust infrastructure ... and a strong pool of local talent," Rachel Peterson, Facebook's director of data center strategy, said in a statement.
Power

Tesla Still On Top In US Electric Vehicle Sales, GM Close Behind (arstechnica.com) 105

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Americans bought more electric vehicles in September than any other month this year. According to Inside EV's monthly sales report, 21,325 battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs found homes last month. That's 20 percent more than this time last year and the second highest number ever. 2017 looks like it will be a record year; a total of 159,614 EVs were sold, a figure that should easily be eclipsed by the end of October. Tesla leads the pack, thanks to healthy increases in both Model S and Model X sales this month. Tesla may suffer some good-natured teasing about frequently missed deadlines, but you could set your watch by the regularity of its quarter-ending jump in deliveries. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the Model S will remain the best-selling EV for the third year running. Like the overall trend, sales for the startup EV maker are up compared to last year, and even if the Model 3 continues to frustrate, we expect it to break the 50,000 car barrier by year-end.

General Motors is the only other company within reach of Tesla, whether we're talking about range or sales volume. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is now on sale in all 50 states and finding traction -- 2,632 sold in September and more than 14,000 on the road in 2017 so far. That still only gets it to fifth overall on the score chart, and there are three months left to go. The Chevy Volt, the Bolt's plug-in hybrid EV stablemate, is still the second-most popular EV among American buyers, but its sales have leveled off for the last few months. Toyota is the only other OEM to make the top five, less than 300 units behind the Volt.

Intel

Intel's Just Launched 8th Gen 'Coffee Lake' Processors Bring the Heat To AMD's Ryzen 137

bigwophh writes: The upheaval of the high-end desktop processor segment continues today with the official release of Intel's latest Coffee Lake-based 8th Generation Core processors. The flagship in the new lineup is the Core i7-8700K. It is a 6C/12T beast, with a base clock of 3.7GHz, a boost clock of 4.7GHz, and 12MB of Intel Smart Cache. The Core i5-8400 features the same physical die, but has only 9MB of Smart Cache, no Hyper-Threading, and base and boost clocks of 2.8GHz and 4GHz, respectively. The entire line-up features more cores, support for faster memory speeds, and leverages a fresh platform that's been tweaked for more robust power delivery and, ultimately, more performance. The Core i7-8700K proved to be an excellent performer, besting every other processor in single-threaded workloads and competing favorably with 8C/16T Ryzen 7 processors. The affordably-priced 6-core Core i5-8400 even managed to pull ahead of the quad-core Core i7-7700K in some tests. Overall, performance is strong, especially for games, and the processors seem to be solid values in their segment.
Power

Boeing-Backed, Hybrid-Electric Commuter Plane To Hit Market In 2022 (reuters.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A Seattle-area startup, backed by the venture capital arms of Boeing and JetBlue announced plans on Thursday to bring a small hybrid-electric commuter aircraft to market by 2022. The small airliner is the first of several planes planned by Zunum Aero, which said it would seat up to 12 passengers and be powered by two electric motors, dramatically reducing the travel time and cost of trips under 1,000 miles (1,600 km). Zunum's plans and timetable underscore a rush to develop small electric aircraft based on rapidly evolving battery technology and artificial intelligence systems that avoid obstacles on a road or in the sky. In a separate but related development, Boeing said on Thursday it plans to acquire a company that specializes in electric and autonomous flight to help its own efforts to develop such aircraft. Zunum's planes would fly from thousands of small airports around big cities to cut regional travel times and costs.
AI

Toymaker Mattel Cancels AI Babysitter After Privacy Complaints (theverge.com) 45

An anonymous reader shares a report: Toymaker Mattel has shelved plans to build an "all-in-one voice-controlled smart baby monitor," after complaints about the device were raised by privacy advocates and child psychologists. According to a report from The Washington Post, the company said in a statement that the device, named Aristotle, did not "fully align with Mattel's new technology strategy" and would not be "[brought] to the marketplace." Aristotle was unveiled back in January this year by Mattel's Nabi brand. It combined the smart speaker and digital assistant functionality of Amazon's Echo with a connected camera that acted as a baby monitor. But the Aristotle was intended to be a much more active presence in children's lives than an Echo speaker, with Mattel claiming it would read them bedtime stories, soothe them if they cried in the night, and even teach them their ABCs. A petition asking Mattel not to release the Aristotle gained more than 15,000 signatories.
AI

Mattel's New Baby Monitor Uses AI To Soothe Babies and Lawmakers Aren't Happy About It (washingtonpost.com) 131

Mattel has a new kid-focused smart hub called Aristotle, which can switch on a night light if it hears a baby crying to soothe the child (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The device is also designed to keep changing its activities, even to the point where it can help a preteen with homework, learning about the child along the way. Given the privacy concerns, lawmakers are worried that the always-on device could build an "in-depth profile of children and their family." Jezebel reports: The $299 Aristotle is similar in spirit to the Amazon Echo, only the scope of its features is much broader -- and scarier. Last week, Senator Ed Markey and Representative Joe Barton sent a letter to Mattel CEO Margaret Giorgiadis about their issues with the tablet, which tracks things like kids' eating and sleeping habits when they're young, and adapts to answering their questions about long division and sex or whatever as they grow up. According to nabi, the Mattel brand that developed the device, the Aristotle is meant to "provide parents with a platform that simplifies parenting, while helping them nurture, teach, and protect their young ones." Not everyone is on board. But Markey and Barton aren't the only ones squicked by Aristotle's capabilities. Buzzfeed reports that privacy experts, parents and child psychologists are also concerned that the device "encourages babies to form bonds with inanimate objects and use information it collects for targeted advertising," so much so that a petition has been launched to prevent it from going to market.

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