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Power

Scientists Turn Nuclear Waste Into Diamond Batteries (newatlas.com) 154

Scientists at the University of Bristol have found a way to convert thousands of tons of nuclear waste into man-made diamond batteries that can generate a small electric current for thousands of years. New Atlas reports: How to dispose of nuclear waste is one of the great technical challenges of the 21st century. The trouble is, it usually turns out not to be so much a question of disposal as long-term storage. Disposal, therefore is more often a matter of keeping waste safe, but being able to get at it later when needed. One unexpected example of this is the Bristol team's work on a major source of nuclear waste from Britain's aging Magnox reactors, which are now being decommissioned after over half a century of service. These first generation reactors used graphite blocks as moderators to slow down neutrons to keep the nuclear fission process running, but decades of exposure have left the UK with 104,720 tons of graphite blocks that are now classed as nuclear waste because the radiation in the reactors changes some of the inert carbon in the blocks into radioactive carbon-14. Carbon-14 is a low-yield beta particle emitter that can't penetrate even a few centimeters of air, but it's still too dangerous to allow into the environment. Instead of burying it, the Bristol team's solution is to remove most of the c-14 from the graphite blocks and turn it into electricity-generating diamonds. The nuclear diamond battery is based on the fact that when a man-made diamond is exposed to radiation, it produces a small electric current. According to the researchers, this makes it possible to build a battery that has no moving parts, gives off no emissions, and is maintenance-free. The Bristol researchers found that the carbon-14 wasn't uniformly distributed in the Magnox blocks, but is concentrated in the side closest to the uranium fuel rods. To produce the batteries, the blocks are heated to drive out the carbon-14 from the radioactive end, leaving the blocks much less radioactive than before. c-14 gas is then collected and using low pressures and high temperatures is turned into man-made diamonds. Once formed, the beta particles emitted by the c-14 interact with the diamond's crystal lattice, throwing off electrons and generating electricity. The diamonds themselves are radioactive, so they are given a second non-radioactive diamond coating to act as a radiation shield.
Google

Morgan Stanley: Pixel Phone Will Generate Google Almost $4 Billion In Revenue Next Year (9to5google.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Google: With initial Pixel pre-orders exceeding expectations and promising activation numbers from Verizon, Google is on track to sell three million phones with revenues of $2 billion in 2016. The Morgan Stanley estimate comes as the Pixel reportedly captured 10% of the premium smartphone market in India. Unsurprisingly, the 128GB Pixel XL has the largest gross profit margin at 25%, while the cheapest 32GB Pixel is at 22%. Morgan Stanley also estimates that, compared to the iPhone, the Pixel will be half as profitable. Morgan Stanley expects Google to sell 5-6 million Pixel and Pixel XL devices in 2017 to the tune of $3.8 billion in revenue. Google is also expected to make money from increased usage of services like Android Pay and mobile search. Google's big gains were possibly due in part to Samsung's Note 7 debacle, with the company's marketshare falling to 23%. Apple captured the number one position at 66%. Additionally, Google benefitted from running a number of promotions, including cashback and exchange programs. The company also heavily advertised in newspapers, with billboards, and for the first time displays in large retail stores.
Transportation

Self-Driving Trucks Begin Real-World Tests on Ohio's Highways (cbsnews.com) 177

An anonymous reader writes: "A vehicle from self-driving truck maker Otto will travel a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 on Monday in central Ohio..." reports the Associated Press. The truck "will travel in regular traffic, and a driver in the truck will be positioned to intervene should anything go awry, Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said Friday, adding that 'safety is obviously No. 1.'"

Ohio sees this route as "a corridor where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic, aided by a fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems slated for installation next year" -- although next week the truck will also start driving on the Ohio Turnpike.

Displays

Samsung Places A Big Bet on Quantum-Dot TV, Acquires QD Vision (zdnet.com) 46

Quantum-dot televisions promise "better picture quality and are also cheaper to manufacture than organic light-emitting diode sets," ZDNet reports. And now Samsung has confirmed their acquisition of Massachusetts-based QD Vision for $70 million, according to this article shared by Dthief: QD Vision, previously known as Color IQ, is a specialist in quantum dot display technology. Developed for displays including PC monitors and television sets, quantum-dot technology uses semiconductor nanoparticles to change the properties of quantum dots, improving color definition and sharpness... QD Vision will become part of Samsung's research and development unit in the hope of creating quantum-dot LED displays suitable for the consumer market which could, in turn, become a strong competitor against OLED displays... The agreement follows Samsung's pledge earlier this year to launch a total of 14 SUHD television models this year, all of which use quantum dot technology.
First Person Shooters (Games)

New 'Doom 3' Mod Successfully Ports It Into Virtual Reality (vice.com) 42

When it comes to VR ports of popular games, "Doom 3's fluid weapon handling, interactivity, and general creepiness put it in a different class entirely," writes Motherboard. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Using the graphically enhanced "BFG" version of 2004's Doom 3, the mod from "Codes4Fun" skillfully ports to game to the HTC Vive, generally making it look as though it was designed for the platform all along. Swedish YouTuber SweViver recently posted a video showing off his first spin with it... SweViver walks and runs about naturally using only the Vive controller's touchpad...the video shows him jumping and using the mod's impressive hand-tracking to handle his gun and flashlight separately as they float before him in place of the controllers in his hands. At one point, he even whips out virtual fists that let him pummel things with the controllers' left and right triggers.
His conclusion? "This is probably the first AAA game that actually works on the Vive."
Hardware Hacking

Own An Open Source RISC-V Microcontroller (crowdsupply.com) 101

"Did you ever think it would be great if hardware was open to the transistor level, not just the chip level?" writes hamster_nz, pointing to a new Crowd Supply campaign for the OnChip Open-V microcontroller, "a completely free (as in freedom) and open source 32-bit microcontroller based on the RISC-V architecture." hamster_nz writes: With a completely open instruction-set architecture and no license fees for the CPU design, the RISC-V architecture is well positioned to take the crown as the 'go to' design for anybody needing a 32-bit in their silicon, and Open-V are crowd-sourcing their funding for an initial manufacturing run of 70,000 chips, offering options from a single chip to a seat in the design review process. This project is shaping up to be a milestone for the coming Open Source Silicon revolution, and they are literally offering a seat at the table. Even if you don't end up backing the project, it makes for very interesting reading.
Their crowdfunding page argues "If you love hacking on embedded controllers, breaking down closed-source barriers, having the freedom to learn how things work even down to the transistor level, or have dreamed of spinning your own silicon, then this campaign is for you."
Open Source

Open-Source Hardware Makers Unite To Start Certifying Products (infoworld.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld on the new certifications from the Open Source Hardware Association: The goal of certification is to clearly identify open-source hardware separate from the mish-mash of other hardware products. The certification allows hardware designs to be replicated. For certification, OSHWA requires hardware creators to publish a bill-of-materials list, software, schematics, design files, and other documents required to make derivative products. Those requirements could apply to circuit boards, 3D printed cases, electronics, processors, and any other hardware that meets OSHWA's definition of open-source hardware...OSHWA will host a directory for all certified products, something that doesn't exist today because the community is so fragmented.
After signing a legally-binding agreement, hardware makers are allowed to use the Open Hardware mark, which one of their board members believes will help foster a stronger sense of community among hardware makers. "People want to be associated with open source."
Iphone

Apple Is Working With LG On Next-Gen 3D Camera For 2017 iPhone, Says Report (9to5mac.com) 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: A brief report in The Korea Economic Daily claims that Apple is working with LG on a new dual camera module "which enables 3D photographing." LG already supplies the dual-camera module used in the iPhone 7 Plus. The LG Innotek system is said to be destined for one or more of next year's iPhone models, but the report is unclear what 3D applications Apple might have in mind. Apple has patents for 3D object and gesture recognition going back many years. However, it is likely nothing more than the next generation of Portrait Mode, which uses parallax effect to create a 3D model of a scene in order to identify foreground and background in what is captured by the twin cameras. Apple may be aiming to bring Portrait Mode to all iPhone models next year, which would require a more compact dual-camera module.
Power

6 Major Countries Have Recently Announced Plans To Phase-Out All Coal-Fired Power Plants (electrek.co) 275

At least 6 major countries, including Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland, have all recently -- several within the past few weeks -- announced the imminent phase-out of all coal-fired power plants. Electrek reports: Earlier this week, Canada, which has already significantly reduced its use of coal to about 7% of its energy generation, announced a phase of the resource by 2030. The country's strong hydropower should keep dominating its energy generation, but the country has also been investing in wind and solar to make up the difference. A week before Canada's announcement, France announced a more aggressive timeline of 2023 for its own phase-out of coal, but it should be more easily achievable since they have already reduced the use of coal to 3% of their electricity generation -- thanks to a strong local nuclear industry. Finland is the latest country to join the group, but it also announced a more aggressive solution of simply banning entirely the use of coal to produce energy by 2030. The country gets about 12% of its electricity from coal, which it has to import. Peter Lund, a researcher at Aalto University and chair of the energy program at the European Academies' Science Advisory Council, told New Scientist: "These moves are important forerunners to enforce the recent positive signals in coal use. The more countries join the coal phase-out club, the better for the climate as this would force the others to follow." As for the U.S., it gets about 33% of its total electricity generation from coal and will likely grow the coal industry rather than phase it out under President-elect Donald Trump.
Transportation

Consumer Reports: Tesla's Model X Is 'Fast and Flawed' (marketwatch.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MarketWatch: Tesla Motors Inc. was dealt a blow earlier this week as Consumer Reports magazine called the Model X, its much-awaited and much-feted SUV, a "flawed" vehicle. Beyond a "brag-worthy magic, the all-wheel drive Model X 90D largely disappoints," the magazine said, citing rear doors prone to pausing and stopping, second-row seats that can't be folded, and limiting cargo capacity. Even its panoramic, helicopter-like windshield won cranky-sounding disapproval from Consumer Reports: It's not tinted enough to offset the brightness of a sunny day, it said. Overall "the ride is too firm and choppy for a $110,000 car," Consumer Reports said. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports released its 2016 Car Reliability Survey and found that, while the Tesla Model S has become more reliable, the Tesla Model X has proved to be unreliable overall.
Japan

Japan Eyes World's Fastest-Known Supercomputer, To Spend Over $150M On It (reuters.com) 35

Japan plans to build the world's fastest-known supercomputer in a bid to arm the country's manufacturers with a platform for research that could help them develop and improve driverless cars, robotics and medical diagnostics. From a Reuters report: The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will spend 19.5 billion yen ($173 million) on the previously unreported project, a budget breakdown shows, as part of a government policy to get back Japan's mojo in the world of technology. The country has lost its edge in many electronic fields amid intensifying competition from South Korea and China, home to the world's current best-performing machine. In a move that is expected to vault Japan to the top of the supercomputing heap, its engineers will be tasked with building a machine that can make 130 quadrillion calculations per second -- or 130 petaflops in scientific parlance -- as early as next year, sources involved in the project told Reuters. At that speed, Japan's computer would be ahead of China's Sunway Taihulight that is capable of 93 petaflops. "As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast," said Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director general at Japan's âZNational Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, where the computer will be built.
Robotics

Slashdot Asks: Will Farming Be Fully Automated in the Future? (bbc.com) 278

BBC has a report today in which, citing several financial institutions and analysts, it claims that in the not-too-distant future, our fields could be tilled, sown, tended and harvested entirely by fleets of co-operating autonomous machines by land and air. An excerpt from the article: Driverless tractors that can follow pre-programmed routes are already being deployed at large farms around the world. Drones are buzzing over fields assessing crop health and soil conditions. Ground sensors are monitoring the amount of water and nutrients in the soil, triggering irrigation and fertilizer applications. And in Japan, the world's first entirely automated lettuce farm is due for launch next year. The future of farming is automated. The World Bank says we'll need to produce 50% more food by 2050 if the global population continues to rise at its current pace. But the effects of climate change could see crop yields falling by more than a quarter. So autonomous tractors, ground-based sensors, flying drones and enclosed hydroponic farms could all help farmers produce more food, more sustainably at lower cost.What are your thoughts on this?
Power

Finland Set To Become First Country To Ban Coal Use For Energy (newscientist.com) 248

Finland could become the first country to ditch coal for good. As part of a new energy and climate strategy due to be announced tomorrow, the government is considering banning the burning of coal for energy by 2030. From a New Scientist article: "Basically, coal would disappear from the Finnish market," says Peter Lund, a researcher at Aalto University, and chair of the energy programme at the European Academies' Science Advisory Council. The groundwork for the ban already seems to be in place. Coal use has been steadily declining in Finland since 2011, and the nation heavily invested in renewable energy in 2012, leading to a near doubling of wind power capacity the following year. It also poured a further $85 million into renewable power this past February. On top of this, Nordic energy prices, with the exception of coal, have been dropping since 2010. As a result of such changes, coal-fired power plants are being mothballed and shut all over Finland, leaving coal providing only 8 per cent of the nation's energy.
Music

Security Researchers Can Turn Headphones Into Microphones (techcrunch.com) 121

As if we don't already have enough devices that can listen in on our conversations, security researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University have created malware that will turn your headphones into microphones that can slyly record your conversations. TechCrunch reports: The proof-of-concept, called "Speake(a)r," first turned headphones connected to a PC into microphones and then tested the quality of sound recorded by a microphone vs. headphones on a target PC. In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. It essentially "retasks" the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in. This isn't a driver fix, either. The embedded chip does not allow users to properly prevent this hack which means your earbuds or nice cans could start picking up conversations instantly. In fact, even if you disable your microphone, a computer with a RealTek chip could still be hacked and exploited without your knowledge. The sound quality, as shown by this chart, is pretty much the same for a dedicated microphone and headphones. The researchers have published a video on YouTube demonstrating how this malware works.
Privacy

Nearly 40% of Americans Would Give Up Sex For Better Online Security, Survey Finds (huffingtonpost.com) 228

A recent survey of over 2,000 adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Dashlane, a "leader in online identity and password management," found that nearly 40 percent of Americans would give up sex for an entire year if it meant they'd never have to worry about being hacked. Huffington Post reports: 40 percent of people also said they'd give up their favorite food for one month in the name of peace of mind online. If all of this sounds drastic, the truth is that it probably is. The single biggest thing people can do to help keep their online identity safe is probably the easiest -- a solid password. 10 years ago, anti-virus was the primary method of online security. But since the Internet has left the desktop and is on laptops, tablets, and cell phones, and since so many people now use the cloud for backing up their sensitive data, following proper password protocol is critical. Of course, having a solid password doesn't do a lot of good if you're giving it out to people. And nearly 50% of people have shared a password to an e-mail account or to an account like Netflix with a friend or had a friend share theirs (which is a surprisingly high number when you consider that 4 out of 10 people said that sharing an online social media password was more intimate than sex). A look at the password habits of Americans showed that about 30% have used a pet's name, almost 25% have used a family member's name, 21% a birthday, and 10% each have used an anniversary, a sports team, an address, or a phone number. So if you just know a few basic, personal details about someone, you've got a decent chance at cracking their password. The study also revealed some interesting data in that younger Americans (those age 18 to 34) who grew up online are far more trusting with passwords than older generations, and married people are less likely to part with passwords than single people.
Power

Scientists Create Battery That Charges In Seconds and Lasts For Days (telegraph.co.uk) 230

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Telegraph: A new type of battery that lasts for days with only a few seconds' charge has been created by researchers at the University of Central Florida. The high-powered battery is packed with supercapacitors that can store a large amount of energy. It looks like a thin piece of flexible metal that is about the size of a finger nail and could be used in phones, electric vehicles and wearables, according to the researchers. As well as storing a lot of energy rapidly, the small battery can be recharged more than 30,000 times. Normal lithium-ion batteries begin to tire within a few hundred charges. They typically last between 300 to 500 full charge and drain cycles before dropping to 70 per cent of their original capacity. To date supercapacitors weren't used to make batteries as they'd have to be much larger than those currently available. But the Florida researchers have overcome this hurdle by making their supercapacitors with tiny wires that are a nanometer thick. Coated with a high energy shell, the core of the wires is highly conductive to allow for super fast charging. The battery isn't yet ready to be used in consumer devices, the researchers said, but it shows a significant step forward in a tired technology.
Windows

Microsoft Solitaire Collection From Windows 10 Now Available For Android and iOS (betanews.com) 50

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Back in the the mid-1990's, everyone thought they needed a computer. After all, Windows 95 made using one particularly easy, and the internet was a very attractive thing. Unfortunately, once some people got their first-ever PC set up in their homes, they didn't really know what to do with it. In the end, it would turn out that some consumers spent thousands of dollars for a machine dedicated to one thing -- playing Solitaire! Yes, this fun Windows game is responsible for much wasted time, but not just at home -- at businesses too. The card game has historically been viewed as a negative for productivity. Fast forward to 2016 and fewer people are sitting in front of large desktop computers at home -- people are increasingly turning to tablets and smartphones for entertainment. Today, just in time for Thanksgiving, Microsoft Solitaire Collection comes to both Android and iOS. "Microsoft Solitaire continues to be one of the most-played games of all time on Windows for more than 25 years. What's more, the version of Solitaire you know and love on Windows 10 and Windows 8 PC and mobile devices, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, has reached more than 119 million unique players in the last four years alone! And now, those on iPhone, iPad and Android devices can play the popular card game for free," says Paul Jensen, Studio Manager of Microsoft Casual Games. "[...] with Xbox Live integration, you can sign in with your Xbox Live gamertag or Microsoft account to earn Xbox Live achievements and Gamerscore, compete with friends, and continue playing on any Windows 10, iPhone, iPad, or Android device while on the go since your progress and game data are saved in the cloud. If you're not an Xbox Live member, signing up for a free membership through the game is easy and totally worth it." It's worth noting that the "freemium" model features advertisements, but players can go "Premium" to remove those ads for $2 per month and receive other perks. You can download Microsoft Solitaire Collection from the App Store, Google Play, and Windows Store.
Republicans

Trump Says He's Going To 'Get Apple To Build a Big Plant In the United States' (arstechnica.com) 471

In a Tuesday interview with The New York Times, President-elect Donald Trump said that he would incentivize Apple to "build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States." Ars Technica reports: Trump indicated to columnist Thomas Friedman that he is going to double-down on bringing factory jobs back to America, especially in the Rust Belt from Michigan to Pennsylvania.

FRIEDMAN: Are you worried, though, that those companies will keep their factories here, but the jobs will be replaced by robots?
TRUMP: They will, and we'll make the robots, too. [laughter]
TRUMP: It's a big thing, we'll make the robots, too. Right now we don't make the robots. We don't make anything. But we're going to. I mean, look, robotics is becoming very big and we're going to do that. We're going to have more factories. We can't lose 70,000 factories. Just can't do it. We're going to start making things.

Trump continued, saying that he had received a call from Apple CEO Tim Cook. As the president-elect recounted: "...and I said, 'Tim, you know, one of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States, where instead of going to China, and going to Vietnam, and going to the places that you go to, you're making your product right here.' He said, 'I understand that.' I said: 'I think we'll create the incentives for you, and I think you're going to do it. We're going for a very large tax cut for corporations, which you'll be happy about.' But we're going for big tax cuts, we have to get rid of regulations, regulations are making it impossible. Whether you're liberal or conservative, I mean, I could sit down and show you regulations that anybody would agree are ridiculous. It's gotten to be a free-for-all. And companies can't, they can't even start up, they can't expand, they're choking."
A report from Nikkei last week said that Apple is exploring the idea of making iPhones in the United States, but the company has realized that it will cost more than double to make the shiny new gadgets at home.
Businesses

Google Quietly Phases Out 'Google Cast' Branding for TVs, Speakers (variety.com) 9

Google can't seem to settle for a good name for its media-streaming device. The company is changing Google Cast branding to Chromecast, it subtly announced this week on Twitter. The tech giant has been jumping around on its branding for Cast, most recently switching from Google Cast to Google Home with the release of the company's smart speaker. From a report on Variety:Google has been phasing put the 'Google Cast' branding for TVs and internet-connected loudspeakers that are compatible with Google's own Chromecast streaming adapters. Instead, the company and its partners have switched to describing these products as having "Chromecast built-in."
Sony

Sony Accused of Censoring Negative Feedback On Its Bravia TVs Ahead of Black Fri (ibtimes.co.uk) 40

An anonymous reader writes: Disgruntled owners of Sony's Bravia televisions have accused the company of "censoring" its community forums by preventing users from reporting technical issues. Several users say the company has locked threads containing complaints about its 4K televisions to suppress negative feedback in the run-up to the high-spending season. One of the threads removed by Sony contained 90 pages-worth of reports of input lag issues affecting its 2016 line of ultra-high definition (UHD) Bravia sets. The thread is titled, "Buyers beware, it looks almost the entire 4K 'HDR capable' TV line up from Sony are trash for 4K and HDR gaming" and clicking on the link now brings up an empty page with the error message: "the topic you are trying to access is not available."

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