An anonymous reader writes with this story from Wired: "When the African Robotics Network announced their $10 robot design challenge this summer, co-founder Ken Goldberg was careful not to share too many expectations, lest he influence contestants' designs. But he never imagined one of the winning entries would prominently feature a pair of Spanish lollipops. The challenge, hosted by AFRON co-founders Goldberg and Ayorkor Korsah, emphasized inexpensive designs to help bring robotics education to African classrooms." Winners include "the lollipop-laden Suckerbot and traditional (roaming) category first prize winner Kilobot, a Harvard-spawned three-legged, vibrating, swarming robot."
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mcpublic writes "For years the Computer History Museum has been quietly collecting and displaying the computational relics of yesteryear. Now, finally the New York Times Arts Section shines the spotlight on this most nerdy of museums. Speak Steampunk? You can find a working replica of Babbage's Difference Engine in the lobby of the museum's Mountain View, California home. Of course, the vast majority of the collection is electronic, and though 'big iron' is king, that hasn't stopped dedicated volunteers from bringing back to life pioneering 'mini' computers like the 1960 PDP-1 and the first video game software ever: Spacewar!"
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the Tokyo University of Science have developed a way to create sugar batteries that store 20% more energy than lithium-ion cells. Before it can be used as the anode in a sodium-ion battery, sucrose powder is turned into hard carbon powder by heating it to up to 1,500 degrees celsius in an oxygen-free oven." Except that swapping batteries might be a bit tricky, I can think of a perfect application for these.
An anonymous reader writes "Today, Intel is launching its next-generation Clover Trail platform. The new Intel Z2760 is a dual-core, quad-threaded device clocked at up to 1.8GHz, with support for up to 2GB of RAM and graphics provided courtesy of a single PowerVR SGX545 core. Chipzilla expects to see wide adoption from multiple partners, with a host of tablets expected to launch simultaneously with Windows 8. The new SoC is closely related to Medfield, Intel's 32nm smartphone platform that ExtremeTech reviewed earlier this year, but there are a few differences between the two."
eldavojohn writes "News outlets are reporting that AMD has partnered with BlueStacks to bring Android apps to AppZone Player, something that will apparently allow the more than 500,000 mobile apps to run on your PC. From their announcement: 'What's special about the player on AMD-based products? There are many challenges with running apps that were originally designed for phones or tablets on a PC that in most cases has a larger screen and higher resolution display. To solve this, BlueStacks has designed and optimized the player for AMD Radeon graphics and in particular, our OpenGL drivers found in our APUs and GPUs so you get a great 'big-screen' experience. Additionally, the apps are integrated into AppZone, our online showcase and one-stop-shop for apps accelerated by AMD technology.' Unfortunately this appears to only work on AMD-based PCs (although nowhere does it say that it won't work on Intel CPUs or non-Radeon GPUs). Also no word on how they overcame the difference between a mouse and touchscreen (think pinch to zoom)."
Barence writes "AMD's APUs combine processor and graphics core in the same chip. Its latest Trinity chips are more powerful than ever, thanks to current-generation Radeon graphics and the same processing cores as AMD's full-fat FX processors. They're designed to take down Intel's Core i3 chips, and the first application and gaming benchmarks are out. With a slight improvement in applications and much more so in games, they're a genuine alternative to the Core i3." MojoKid writes with Hot Hardware's review, which also says the new AMD systems "[look] solid in gaming and multimedia benchmarks, writing "the CPU cores clock in at 3.8GHz / 4.2GHz for the A10-5800K and 3.6GHz / 3.9GHz for A8-5600K, taking into account base and maximum turbo speeds, while the graphics cores scale up to 800MHz for the top A10 chip."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Sorry, everybody: terabit Ethernet looks like it will have to wait a while longer. The IEEE 802.3 Industry Connections Higher Speed Ethernet Consensus group met this week in Geneva, Switzerland, with attendees concluding—almost to a man—that 400 Gbits/s should be the next step in the evolution of Ethernet. A straw poll at its conclusion found that 61 of the 62 attendees that voted supported 400 Gbits/s as the basis for the near term 'call for interest,' or CFI. The bandwidth call to arms was sounded by a July report by the IEEE, which concluded that, if current trends continue, networks will need to support capacity requirements of 1 terabit per second in 2015 and 10 terabits per second by 2020. In 2015 there will be nearly 15 billion fixed and mobile-networked devices and machine-to-machine connections."
DeviceGuru writes "Suitable Technologies today unveiled a telepresence robot based on technology from Willow Garage, a robotics research lab. Beam (as in 'Beam me up, Scotty' — no, really!) implements a video chat function on a computer you can remotely drive around via Internet-based control. Beam, which stands 62 inches tall and weighs 95 pounds, adheres to four operational imperatives, which are intended to mimic human interaction and behavior: reciprocity of vision (if I see you, you must see me); ensuring private communication (no recordings of what goes on); transparency of technology (keeping the interaction natural); and respect social norms (don't push or shove Beam!). But the big question is: Does Beam also adhere to Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics? Let's hope so!"
crookedvulture writes "High-PPI displays are becoming increasingly popular on tablets and notebooks, but Windows 8 may not be ready for them. On a 13" notebook display with a 1080p resolution, the RTM version of Win8 scales up some desktop UI elements nicely. However, there are serious issues with Metro, which produces tiles and text that are either too small or too large depending on the PPI setting used. That setting, by the way, is a simple on/off switch that tells the OS to 'make everything bigger.' Web browsing is particularly problematic, with Internet Explorer 10 introducing ugly rendering artifacts when scaling pages in both Metro and desktop modes. Clearly, there's work to be done on the OS side to properly support higher pixel densities."
Nerval's Lobster writes "It's proven a busy month for mobile-device releases. First Nokia whipped back the curtain from the Lumia 820 and 920, its first Windows Phone 8 devices. The very next day, Amazon unveiled its new line of Kindle devices, including the Kindle Fire HD. Not to be outdone, Apple executives took to a stage in San Francisco the next week to show off the iPhone 5, complete with a larger screen and faster processor. But September's not over yet, and the releases keep coming: Barnes & Noble has launched a pair of HD tablets, the Nook HD and Nook HD+, designed to maintain the bookseller's toehold in the tablet space. The question is whether the Nook, even with upgraded hardware and new services, can successfully punch above its weight against the iPad and Kindle Fire, which are widely perceived as the dominant devices in the tablet market." Nook HD specs (Android 4.0, Dual 1.3Ghz Cortex-A9, 1G RAM), and HD+ specs (1.5GHz Coretex-A9 and a larger screen). Nate the greatest writes with a job posting that may indicate B&N is defecting to Windows 8, or at least hedging their bets.
MrSeb writes "Reverse engineering company Chipworks has completed its initial microscopic analysis of Apple's new A6 SoC (found in the iPhone 5), and there are some rather interesting findings. First, there's a tri-core GPU — and then there's a custom, hand-made dual-core ARM CPU. Hand-made chips are very rare nowadays, with Chipworks reporting that it hasn't seen a non-Intel hand-made chip for 'years.' The advantage of hand-drawn chips is that they can be more efficient and capable of higher clock speeds — but they take a lot longer (and cost a lot more) to design. Perhaps this is finally the answer to what PA Semi's engineers have been doing at Apple since the company was acquired back in 2008..." Pretty picture of the chip after using an Ion Beam to remove the casing. The question I have is how it's less expensive (in the long run) to lay a chip out by hand once instead of improving your VLSI layout software forever. NP classification notwithstanding.
An anonymous reader writes "Raspberry Pi was designed for education. As any popular product is bound to, Raspberry Pi has been criticized a lot for things like lack of a box, absence of supplied charger or even WiFi. Raspberry Pi has a much more fundamental flaw, which directly conflicts with its original goal: it is a black box tightly sealed with patents and protected by corporations. It isn't even remotely an open platform." The author thinks that patents on ARM are a serious threat to the openness of the platform (among other things like the proprietary GPU blob needed to boot). But even the FSF doesn't go that far. Wired had an editorial with the foundation justifying "selling out a little to sell a lot" that has a lot of info on the choices they had to make to hit their cost target.
guttentag writes "Hitachi has announced (original press release in Japanese, translated to English) a new storage medium that uses a laser to imprint dots on a piece of quartz glass that correspond to binary code. The dots can be read with an optical microscope and appropriate software. The company says this medium is resistant to extreme heat, radiation, radio waves and should still be readable after a few hundred million years. It's intended as an archival format with data density similar to a music CD (40MB per square inch with 4 layers)."
Six years after being conceived, and after three years of regulatory review, the NRC has issued the operating license for the first commercial SILEX facility. This is just the final step in the multi-year approval process. There is still, however, a chance that the tech won't make it far: concerns over proliferation (due to the much smaller waste stream vs other enrichment processes) may lead to the NRC exercising its right to mothball further commercialization of the technology. Anyone interested in the long approval process should check out the NRC licensing page.
Nerval's Lobster writes "A physical teardown of the iPhone 5 by IHS iSuppli reveals that Apple has managed to keep its materials and manufacturing costs roughly in line with that of the iPhone 4S. The firm estimated the Bill of Materials for the iPhone 5's low-end variant at $199.00, rising to $207.00 once manufacturing costs are entered into the equation. It tallied the BOM for the 32GB version at $209.00 (or $217 with manufacturing) and the 64GB one at $230.00 (rising slightly to $238 with those manufacturing costs). Compare that to the BOM for the iPhone 4S, which IHS iSuppli estimated at $188 for the 16GB version (rising to $196 with manufacturing costs added in), $207 for the 32GB version ($215 with manufacturing) and $245 for the 64GB version ($254 with manufacturing)." Reader redkemper writes with another kind of comparison of the newest iPhone to its predecessor: "Apple didn't spend too much time talking about the iSight camera at the iPhone 5s unveil event because it's mostly the same as the one found in the iPhone 4S. Thankfully, iMore grabbed an iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S and did a fantastic shoot-out between the two device's rear cameras. [The new camera] just barely edges out the iPhone 4S's year-old camera."
locallyunscene writes "Tesla has created the first solar charging stations for its Model S and plans to offer free charging. Is free fuel enough to for the electric car to finally gain traction? 'The technology at the heart of the Supercharger was developed internally and leverages the economies of scale of existing charging technology already used by the Model S, enabling Tesla to create the Supercharger device at minimal cost. The electricity used by the Supercharger comes from a solar carport system provided by SolarCity, which results in almost zero marginal energy cost after installation. Combining these two factors, Tesla is able to provide Model S owners free long distance travel indefinitely." The "free charging" part applies at least to Model S owners, and will be available first from a network of charging stations in California, Arizona, and Nevada, to be expanded nationwide over the next 2 to 4 years; Engadget features a video of the announcement.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that on a robot snake that, guided by a skilled surgeon and designed to get to places doctors are unable to reach without opening a patient up, could help spot and remove tumors more effectively. Robot snakes could be as minimally invasive using body orifices or local incisions as points of entry. 'Surgery is a cornerstone treatment for cancer so new technologies making it even more precise and effective are crucial,' says Safia Danovi from Cancer Research UK. 'Thanks to research, innovations such as keyhole surgery and robotics are transforming the treatment landscape for cancer patients and this trend needs to continue.' Robot snakes could complement a robotic surgical system that has been used for the past decade — the Da Vinci surgical system — that is controlled by a surgeon sitting in a nearby chair and looking at a screen displaying the area of the body where the surgery is taking place. The surgeon manipulates the robot by pressing pedals and moving levers. Natural orifice surgery (warning: pictures of the inside of a person) has the potential to revolutionize surgery in the same way that laparoscopic surgery replaced open surgery. The objective is to enter the abdomen through an internal organ rather than through the skin — e.g. access via the mouth, esophagus and stomach, and then through the stomach wall. 'We are at the earliest stage of establishing the problems and proposing solutions,' says Rob Buckingham of OC Robotics, developer of the robot snake (video). 'Our prototype signals a direction of travel and is a milestone towards exploring a new surgical paradigm.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "The New York Times' latest expose takes on data centers, but the Gray Lady's investigation has prompted its own criticism. While the paper correctly noted that there's a backend cost attached to the storage of photos, cat videos, and old shopping lists, many critics are taking issue with how the Times addresses the issue of those data centers' power consumption. While the Times' contention that the majority of data-center operators prefer secrecy is probably accurate, this industry is public enough that the paper's approach to the article exposes a few puzzling choices. Here are five trouble areas."
Meshach writes "There is an article in the Globe and Mail that says that the user base for Blackberry has stopped growing for the first time in the company's history, and speculates that this is the beginning of the end of RIM. The main problem seems to be that RIM's new Blackberry models like the Bold and Torch are selling poorly, and their production costs are much higher than other products manufactured in China. A recent research report says that after BB10 the company will need to sell or drastically change its business model."
Rick Zeman writes "The New York Times has extensively surveyed and analyzed data center power usage and patterns. At their behest, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average they were using only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations. 'Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants.' In other words, 'A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.' This is the price being paid to ensure everyone has instant access to every email they've ever received, or for their instant Facebook status update. Data Center providers are finding that they can't rack servers fast enough to provide for users' needs: A few companies say they are using extensively re-engineered software and cooling systems to decrease wasted power. Among them are Facebook and Google, which also have redesigned their hardware. Still, according to recent disclosures, Google's data centers consume nearly 300 million watts and Facebook's about 60 million watts. Many of these solutions are readily available, but in a risk-averse industry, most companies have been reluctant to make wholesale change, according to industry experts."