Nerval's Lobster writes "For quite some time Mozilla has been working on Firefox OS, a lightweight mobile OS built in HTML5. Now it's whipped the curtain back from the first developer preview phones. The developer preview phones are unlocked, requiring the user insert their own SIM card. If those specs seem a little underpowered compared to other smartphones on the market, it's because Firefox OS is intended for lower-end smartphones; target markets include developing countries such as Brazil and China. (The first developer preview phones will be available in February.) The Firefox OS (once known as 'Boot to Gecko') is based on a handful of open APIs. The actual interface is highly reminiscent of Google Android and Apple iOS, with grids of icons linked to applications." The specs really aren't that bad; reader sfcrazy points out that they include the usual features baked into medium- and high-end phones these days: Wifi N, light and proximity sensors, and an accelerometer (though no mention of NFC).
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Nerval's Lobster writes "Last week, Facebook announced Graph Search, a system for searching the social network's vast collection of users, photos, and 'Liked' interests. But how will Facebook power it? The Disaggregated Rack, which will separate compute, RAM, storage, and caching functions in order to remain flexible in the face of Graph Search's changing needs. By breaking up resources and scaling them independently of each other, Facebook can scale without needing to constantly open up new servers and upgrade new hardware."
Will the Open Compute Project’s Common Slot specification and Facebook’s Group Hug board commoditize the data center hardware market even further? Analyst opinions vary widely, indicating that time and additional development work may be necessary before any sort of consensus is reached. At the Open Compute Summit last week, Frank Frankovsky, director of hardware design and supply chain operations at Facebook, announced both the Open Slot specification and Facebook’s prototype Open Slot board, known as “Group Hug.” Group Hug’s premise is simple: disaggregate the CPU in a way that allows virtually any processor to be linked to the motherboard. This has never been done before with a CPU, which has traditionally required its own socket, its own chipset, and thus its own motherboard. Group Hug is designed to accommodate CPUs from AMD, Intel, and even ARM vendors such as Applied Micro and Calxeda.
Zothecula writes "Scientists based at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have set a new efficiency record for thin-film copper indium gallium (di)selenid (or CIGS) based solar cells on flexible polymer foils, reaching an efficiency of 20.4 percent. This is an increase from a previous record of 18.7 percent set by the team back in 2011."
Kim Dotcom's new "Mega" cloud service appears to be a hit. According to Dotcom over 1 million have signed up for their free 50 gigabytes of storage. Although that is about 1% of the Dropbox user base, it's not a bad start. From the article: "Mega quickly jumped up to around 100,000 users within an hour or so of the site's official launch. A few hours after that, Mega had ballooned up to approximately a quarter of a million users. Demand was great enough to knock Mega offline for a number of users attempting to either connect up or sign up for new accounts, and Mega's availability remains spotty as of this articles' writing."
hypnosec writes "Stephen Hawking's ability to communicate has been deteriorating over the years and as it stands, he is only able to communicate at the rate of 1 word per minute. Intel CTO Justin Rattner has revealed that they are working on an interface that will boost the scientist's speech to up to 10 words per minute. Beyond twitching his cheek, Hawking is also capable of other voluntary facial expressions which can be tapped to achieve faster communications with the help of a better character interface and a better word predictor."
hydrofix writes "The Wikimedia Foundation is preparing for the transition of its main technical operations to a new data center in Ashburn, Virginia. This is intended to improve the technical performance and reliability of all Wikimedia sites, including Wikipedia. The current target windows for the migration are January 22nd, 23rd and 24th, 2013, from 17:00 to 01:00 UTC. Since 2004, Wikimedia sites have been hosted in the main data center in Tampa, Florida, a location chosen for its proximity to Jimmy Wales at the time. In 2009, the Wikimedia Foundation's Technical Operations team started to look for other locations with better network connectivity and more clement weather. Located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Ashburn offers faster and more reliable connectivity than Tampa, and usually fewer hurricanes."
An anonymous reader writes "After months of hype riding the coattails of the MegaUpload controversy, Kim Dotcom's new cloud storage site, Mega, is finally going live. After being available to early adopters briefly, it's now open to the public with 50GB of free storage and end-to-end encryption. Several outlets have posted early hands-on reports for the service, including Ars Technica and The Next Web. In an interview, Dotcom spoke about how Mega's encryption scheme benefits both the users and the company: 'The Mega business plan will be a distributed model, with hundreds of companies large and small, around the world, hosting files. A hosting company can be huge or it can own just two or three servers Dotcom says—just as long as it's located outside the U.S. "Each file will be kept with at least two different hosters, [in] at least two different locations," said Dotcom. "That's a great added benefit for us because you can work with the smallest, most unreliable [hosting] companies. It doesn't matter because they can't do anything with that data." More than 1000 hosts answered a request for expressions of interest on the Mega home page. Dotcom says several hundred will be active partners within months.' On top of that, the way it's designed will protect Mega from legal problems: 'It's all about the plausible deniability. Mega doesn't know what you're uploading. ... Mega isn't so much securing your files for you as it is securing itself from your files. If Mega just takes down all the DMCAed links, it will have a 100 percent copyrighted material takedown record as far as its own knowledge is concerned. It literally can't know about cases that aren't actively pointed out to it, complete with file decryption keys.'"
New submitter Hesh writes "Ibex, the first cross-platform VR desktop of its kind, was previously released for Linux, and has finally been updated to work on Mac OS X Mountain Lion. Running at a silky smooth 60fps, it is nearing final release and awaiting delivery of the developer Oculus Rift kits for final integration testing. A Windows version may be released in time. The source can be found on bitbucket for the Linux version and iPhone orientation sensor client while the Mac source is to follow soon at the same location."
An anonymous reader writes "3D printing is on its way toward becoming ubiquitous. Of course, if you have such a printer and want to print something, you need raw materials — the plastic filament that's fed into the machine. It's also likely that while you're learning the ropes, you'll print a bunch of terrible attempts at objects, and end up having to throw them out. Now, Wired is reporting on a device aiming to solve both of those problems. Tyler McNaney's 'Filabot' will break down failed projects as well as many other plastic items from traditional manufacturers, turning them into a filament you can then feed through a 3D printer. 'So far the plastics that work are HDPE, LDPE, ABS, NYLON. More to come on the different types that work.' McNaney sees it as a 'closed-loop recycling system on your desk.' The Filabot's Kickstarter campaign succeeded easily in 2012, and now he and his team are getting ready to launch."
An anonymous reader writes "Wired reports on a research paper from Google employees about the future of authentication on the web. 'Along with many in the industry, we feel passwords and simple bearer tokens such as cookies are no longer sufficient to keep users safe,' the authors write. Their plan involves authenticating just once, to a single device, and then using that to unlock all of your other accounts. "We'd like your smartphone or smartcard-embedded finger ring to authorize a new computer via a tap on the computer, even in situations in which your phone might be without cellular connectivity." Recognizing that this isn't something they can accomplish on their own, they've gone ahead and created a device-based authentication protocol that is 'independent of Google, requires no special software to work — aside from a web browser that supports the login standard — and which prevents web sites from using this technology to track users.'"
bmcage writes "Belgium wants to build an artificial energy storage island within 5 years. The island will store excess energy produced at night from the offshore wind farms already present in the North-Sea. From the article: 'Belgium is planning to build a doughnut-shaped island in the North Sea that will store wind energy by pumping water out of a hollow in the middle, as it looks for ways to lessen its reliance on nuclear power. One of the biggest problems with electricity is that it is difficult to store and the issue is exaggerated in the case of renewable energy from wind or sun because it is intermittent depending on the weather. "We have a lot of energy from the wind mills and sometimes it just gets lost because there isn't enough demand for the electricity," said a spokeswoman for Belgium's North Sea minister Johan Vande Lanotte.'"
crookedvulture writes "AMD has begun addressing the Radeon frame latency spikes covered previously on Slashdot. A new beta driver is due out next week, and it dramatically smooths the uneven frame times exhibited by certain Radeon graphics processors. The driver only tackles performance issues in a few games, but more fixes are on the way. In the games that have been addressed, the new driver delivers more consistent frame times and smoother gameplay without having much of an impact on the minimum or average FPS numbers. Those traditional FPS metrics clearly do a poor job of quantifying the fluidity of in-game action. Surprisingly, it seems AMD was largely relying on those metrics when testing drivers internally. The company has now pledged to pay more attention to frame latencies to ensure that these kinds of issues don't crop up again."
Don't yet have one of those million Raspberry Pis, but you're in the market for a tiny, cheap ARM computer? An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from geek.com: "VIA has decided it's time to update the APC (ARM PC) board with new components and the choice of two configurations. The new systems are called APC Rock and APC Paper. The hardware spec for both boards is exactly the same except for the fact the Rock ships with a VGA port whereas the Paper doesn't. The Rock also costs $20 less at $79, whereas the Paper is $99. The reason for the price difference is the fact that the Paper ships with a rather novel case whereas the Rock is a bare board. The Paper's case is made from recycled cardboard attached to an aluminum chassis to help with strength, meaning it will keep the dust off the components and make it easier to carry while keeping weight to a minimum."
An anonymous reader writes "Kim Dotcom on Thursday used Twitter to reveal some interesting new tidbits in regards to his upcoming Mega service, which will be hosted at the New Zealand-based domain Mega.co.nz. Two days before the service is to go live, Doctom says he plans to offer 50GB of free storage to all members and is also working on bringing over users' Megaupload files and data, but has so far run into legal issues." To say that Kim Dotcom has "run into legal issues" is like saying that Julian Assange is having a sleepover at the Ecuadorian embassy.
YokimaSun writes to point out a Kickstarter project that may warm the cockles of your heart: "Fans of emulation and homebrew have not had much to cheer about over the years; the recent generation of consoles has pretty much killed off any hacking by constant firmware updates. The days of PSP homebrew have died a death and consoles like the Caanoo, GP2x and even the mighty Openpandora never really lived up to the massive expectation. There is a glimmer of hope from a team of homebrew developers who have developed a new console called the GCW-Zero, a new open source handheld system which uses the OpenDingux Linux OS. The specs are impressive, with a Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor, Vivante GC860, capable of OpenGL ES 2.0, 3.5 inch LCD with 320x240 pixels; 4:3 aspect ratio, 512 MB DDR2 and 16GB of internal memory which can via external memory card be extended by another 32GB. N64 and PS1 emulation and everything below should be at full speed in time."
fangmcgee writes "Rethink Robotics invented a $22,000 humanoid robot named "Baxter" that could give cheap offshore labor a run for its money and return manufacturing jobs to U.S. soil. Artificial intelligence expert Rodney Brooks is the brain behind Baxter. From the article: 'Brooks’s company, Rethink Robotics, says the robot will spark a “renaissance” in American manufacturing by helping small companies compete against low-wage offshore labor. Baxter will do that by accelerating a trend of factory efficiency that’s eliminated more jobs in the U.S. than overseas competition has. Of the approximately 5.8 million manufacturing jobs the U.S. lost between 2000 and 2010, according to McKinsey Global Institute, two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.'"
redletterdave writes "Dell is reportedly working on a project codenamed 'Ophelia,' a USB stick-sized self-contained computer that provides access to virtually every major operating system — from the Mac OS, to Windows, to Google's Chrome OS, to cloud-based solutions from Citrix and Dell — all via the cloud. Powered by Android, Ophelia works just like a USB stick: Just plug it into any flat panel monitor or TV, and boom, you have a computer. Ophelia connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi, and can connect to keyboards and other peripherals over Bluetooth. Not only is the computer portable and power-efficient, but to make it truly accessible, Dell plans to sell the device for just $50."
gbrumfiel writes "Experts believe that the many thousands who fled from the Fukushima nuclear disaster received very low doses of radiation. But that doesn't mean there won't be health consequences. Nature magazine traveled to Fukushima prefecture and found evidence of an enormous mental strain from the accident. Levels of anxiety and PTSD-like symptoms are high among evacuees. Researchers fear that, in the long run, the mental problems could lead to depression and substance abuse among those who lost their homes. In other words, even if no one develops cancer as a direct result of radiation, the health effects could still be very real."
Nerval's Lobster writes "AMD, Intel, ARM: for years, their respective CPU architectures required separate sockets, separate motherboards, and in effect, separate servers. But no longer: Facebook and the Open Compute Summit have announced a common daughtercard specification that can link virtually any processor to the motherboard. AMD, Applied Micro, Intel, and Calxeda have already embraced the new board, dubbed 'Group Hug.' Hardware designs based on the technology will reportedly appear at the show. The Group Hug card will be connected via a simple x8 PCI Express connector to the main motherboard. But Frank Frankovsky, director of hardware design and supply chain operations at Facebook, also told an audience at the Summit that, while a standard has been provided, it may be some time before the real-world appearance of servers built on the technology."