AMD

Chipmakers Nvidia, AMD Ride Cryptocurrency Wave -- For Now (bloomberg.com) 57

During California's Gold Rush, it was often the sellers of pickaxes and shovels who made the most money. In the frenzy to get rich quick from cryptocurrencies, some investors are calling computer chipmakers the modern-day equivalent. From a report: Shares of Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices have gained at least 14 percent since the beginning of June, spurred in part by about a 10-fold boom from April to June in a market, known as ethereum, for a currency that can be used to buy computing power over the internet. What's the link between ethereum and these Silicon Valley chipmakers? It lies in the really powerful graphics processors, designed to make computer games more realistic, that are also needed to gain access to encrypted digital currencies. Nvidia and AMD have rallied in the last month and a half even as investors have ignored chip stocks leaving the benchmark Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index up about 1 percent. Nvidia has gained 14 percent and AMD rallied 27 percent. While some of that has come from optimism around new products for other markets, analysts are projecting that sales related to cryptocurrencies will result in a spike in revenue for both companies. Even so, investors shouldn't bank on a lasting impact from the cryptocurrency boom, said Stacy Rasgon, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "This has happened before," Rasgon said. "It lasted about a quarter." [...] Like bitcoin, ethereum is an attempt by an online community to create an economy that doesn't rely on government-backed currencies. Unlike bitcoin, it's focused solely on offering decentralized computing and storage services. Those seeking to use these services -- and speculators looking for a quick profit by creating and then selling ether -- have seized on graphics cards, which excel at performing multiple simple calculations in parallel, as a faster way to claim the blocks of code that act as the currency of the ethereum market. Demand from ethereum miners has created temporary shortages of some of the graphics cards, according to analysts, who cite sold-out products at online retailers. Estimates of additional sales from this demand run as high as $875 million, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Mitch Steves. That would roughly equal AMD's total sales from graphics chips last year, or half of Nvidia's quarterly sales of those components. But Steves and other analysts are also quick to warn that the market opportunity could fizzle out.
Businesses

Atari Is Back In the Hardware Business, Unveils Ataribox (hothardware.com) 109

Reader MojoKid writes: Atari CEO Fred Chesnais confirmed the company was working on a brand new console back in June this year at E3, but today the company has officially unveiled the product. The new Ataribox console draws on some of the classic styling of the original Atari 2600 console but with a modernized flare, though still sporting that tasty wood grain front panel. Atari is also looking to make the Ataribox a bit more user-friendly and expandable than its Nintendo rivals through the addition of an SD card slot and four USB ports (in addition the requisite HDMI port). The new console will be based on PC component technologies but will be available with a number of classic games to let you bask in the early days of console gaming. However, Atari will also be bringing what is being billed as "current content" to the console as well. So, we can expect to see brand new licensed games for the Ataribox, although it's hard to say, given just its size to go on, what sort of horsepower is lurking under the Ataribox's hood. "We know you are hungry for more details; on specs, games, pricing, timing," said Atari in a statement sent via email. "We're not teasing you intentionally; we want to get this right, so we've opted to share things step by step as we bring this to life, and to listen closely to the Atari community feedback as we do so."
Government

Y Combinator Announces Funding For UBI-Supporting Political Candidates (latimes.com) 194

Most people "feel like they have great potential that is being wasted," argues Y Combinator president Sam Altman -- a Stanford dropout whose company's investments are now worth $65 billion, including Airbnb, Reddit, and Dropbox. Now an anonymous reader quote the Los Angeles Times: A wealthy young Silicon Valley venture capitalist hopes to recruit statewide and congressional candidates and launch an affordable-housing ballot measure in 2018 because he says California's leaders are failing to address flaws in the state's governance that are killing opportunities for future generations. Sam Altman, 32, will roll out an effort to enlist candidates around a shared set of policy priorities -- including tackling how automation is going to affect the economy and the cost of housing in California -- and is willing to put his own money behind the effort. "I think we have a fundamental breakdown of the American social contract and it's desperately important that we fix it," he said. "Even if we had a very well-functioning government, it would be a challenge, and our current government functions so badly it is an extra challenge..."

Altman lays out 10 principles including lowering the cost of housing, creating single-payer healthcare, increasing clean energy use, improving education, reforming taxes and rebuilding infrastructure. He has few specific policy edicts, and floats proposals that will generate controversy, such as creating a universal basic income for all Americans in an effort to equalize opportunity, public funding for the media and increasing taxes on property that is owned by foreigners, is unoccupied or has been "flipped" by investors seeking a quick return on an investment.

Altman argues that he wants to "ensure that everyone benefits from the coming changes," and specifically highlights the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Altman writes that "If it turns out to be a good policy, I could imagine passing a law that puts it into effect when the GDP per capita doubles. This could help cushion the transition to a post-automation world."
Windows

Ask Slashdot: What Software (Or Hardware) Glitch Makes You Angry? 482

This question was inspired when Slashdot reader TheRealHocusLocus found their laptop "in the throes of a Windows 10 Update," where "progress has rolled past 100% several times and started over." I pushed the re-schedule dialogue to the rear and left it waiting. But my application did not count as activity and I left for a few moments, so Windows decided to answer its own question and restart (breaking a persistent Internet connection)... I've had it. Upon due consideration I now conclude I have been personally f*ck'd with. Driver availability, my apps and WINE permitting, this machine is getting Linux or pre-Windows-8...

That's mine, now let's hear about the things that are pushing you over the edge this very minute. Phones, software, power windows, anything.

There's a longer version of this story in the original submission -- but what's bugging you today? Leave your best answers in the comments. What software (or hardware glitch) makes you angry?
Power

Microsoft 'Cuts The Cord' With A Local Power Utility To Pursue Greener Energy (seattletimes.com) 62

Frosty Piss summarizes the Seattle Times: Microsoft will bypass Puget Sound Energy to secure carbon-free power on wholesale markets under an agreement with state regulators. In 2015, 60 percent of PSE electricity came from coal and natural-gas plants, according to company statistics. The agreement calls for Microsoft to pay a $23.6 million transition fee to Puget Sound Energy, which the utility will pass on to its Western Washington customers... But the settlement does not address one major financial issue that hangs over PSE and its customers -- how to handle the costs of shutting down coal-fired units in the Colstrip, Montana, power station... State regulators and Puget Sound Energy determined that Microsoft is legally responsible for a share of the Colstrip, Montana coal-fired generating plant costs.
NASA

Scrap Dealer Finds Apollo-Era NASA Computers In Dead Engineer's Basement (arstechnica.com) 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Joe_NoOne quotes Ars Technica: A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer's basement in Pittsburgh... Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA's fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn... At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers -- and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased's electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers. The devices were clearly labelled "NASA PROPERTY," so the dealer called NASA to report the find. "Please tell NASA these items were not stolen," the engineer's heir told the scrap dealer, according to the report. "They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212. During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [redacted engineer] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them."
"NASA told the family of the deceased that it was not in the junk removal business," Ars Technica reports, adding "The two computers are so heavy that a crane was likely used to move the machines." A NASA archivist concluded there's no evidence the tapes contained anything of historic significance.
Movies

Biologists Use Gene Editing To Store Movies In DNA (scientificamerican.com) 87

New submitter elmohound writes: A recent paper in Nature describes how gene editing was used to store a digital movie into a bacterial population. The choice of subject is a nice hommage to Muybridge's 1887 photos. From a report via Scientific American: "The technical achievement, reported on July 12 in Nature, is a step towards creating cellular recording systems that are capable of encoding a series of events, says Seth Shipman, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. To develop such a system, however, his team would need to establish a method for recording hundreds of events in a cell. Shipman and his colleagues, including Harvard geneticist George Church, harnessed the CRISPR-Cas immune system best known for enabling researchers to alter genomes with relative ease and accuracy. Shipman's team exploited the ability to capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and store them in an organized array in the host genome. In nature, those snippets then target an enzyme to slice up the invader's DNA. The team designed its system so that these snippets corresponded to pixels in an image. The researchers encoded the shading of each pixel -- along with a barcode that indicated its position in the image -- into 33 DNA letters. Each frame of the movie consisted of 104 of these DNA fragments." You can view the movie here, which consists of five frames adapted from Muybridge's Human and Animal Locomotion series.
China

Automakers Are Asking China To Slow Down Electric Car Quotas (electrek.co) 304

New submitter Kant shares a report from Electrek: The auto industry is once again attempting to slow down the rollout of electric vehicles. Virtually all automakers, except for Tesla of course, have sent a letter to the Chinese government in an attempt to have them drastically weaken their zero-emission vehicle mandate. As we previously reported, China, the world's biggest car market, has somewhat of an aggressive ZEV mandate that would force automakers to have zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) represent 8% of new car sales as soon as 2018 and quickly ramp up to 12% by 2020. Now Germany's WirtschaftsWoche magazine (via Auto News) reports that the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), which represents Chrysler/Fiat, Ford, and GM, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), which represents all major European automakers, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), have all sent a joint letter to China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology to ask for several significant changes to the mandate.

The "six recommended modifications" include slowing the rollout of the mandate by 1 to 3 years, reconsidering the penalty system if they don't meet the quota, having credits not only for all-electric cars but also plug-in hybrid cars, and basically making the whole mandate weaker so that they don't have to produce as many electric cars.

Cloud

Border Patrol Says It's Barred From Searching Cloud Data On Phones (nbcnews.com) 74

According to a letter obtained by NBC News, U.S. border officers aren't allowed to look at any data stored only in the "cloud" -- including social media data -- when they search U.S. travelers' phones. "The letter (PDF), sent in response to inquiries by Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), and verified by Wyden's office, not only states that CBP doesn't search data stored only with remote cloud services, but also -- apparently for the first time -- declares that it doesn't have that authority in the first place." From the report: In April, Wyden and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced legislation to make it illegal for border officers to search or seize cellphones without probable cause. Privacy advocates and former Homeland Security lawyers have said they are alarmed by how many phones are being searched. The CBP letter, which is attributed to Kevin McAleenan, the agency's acting commissioner, is dated June 20, four months after Wyden asked the Department of Homeland Security (PDF), CBP's parent agency, to clarify what he called the "deeply troubling" practice of border agents' pressuring Americans into providing passwords and access to their social media accounts. McAleenan's letter says officers can search a phone without consent and, except in very limited cases, without a warrant or even suspicion -- but only for content that is saved directly to the device, like call histories, text messages, contacts, photos and videos.
Businesses

PC Shipments Hit the Lowest Level In a Decade (cnbc.com) 202

PC shipments are at the lowest levels since 2007. From a report: Gartner said this week that the PC market declined 4.3 percent during the second quarter. The research company said that shipments were at the "lowest quarter volume since 2007," noting the market dropped for the 11th quarter in a row. The report is in stark contrast to another from IDC in April which said that the PC market grew for the first time in five years. Gartner said HP has the largest global market share with 20.8 percent of the market. HP is trailed by Lenovo which has a 19.9 percent share, with shipments down a substantial 8.4 percent since last year. Dell, Apple and Asus finish out the top five players. In the U.S., Gartner suggests Apple's shipments were down 9.6 percent from last year. The research firm didn't give an explanation for why that might have occurred, though Apple was late to refresh its computers with the latest Intel processors. Upgraded Macs just hit the market last month.
AMD

AMD Unveils Ryzen Threadripper 1950X 16-Core and 1920X 12-Core Specs and Pricing (hothardware.com) 85

MojoKid writes: AMD first teased its Ryzen Threadripper series of high-end desktop (HEDT) processors back in mid-May, but is now sharing additional details on the first two products in the family. Both processors are based on the 14nm Zen core, make use of AMD's new Socket TR4 interface, support quad-channel DDR memory, and feature a total of 64 PCIe lanes. In addition, both processors will come from the factory unlocked. Ryzen Threadripper 1920X will have 12 Cores, 24 Threads, and 3.5/4.0 GHz (Base Clock/Precision Boost) clock speeds. Ryzen Threadripper 1950X will have 16 Cores, 32 Threads, and 3.4/4.0 GHz (Base Clock/Precision Boost) clock speeds. Pricing is set at $799 and $999, respectively, with availability in early August, though Dell's Alienware gaming PC division will have systems shipping with the new chip starting this month. AMD also put the new chips up against Intel's Core i7-7900X 10-core CPU in a Cinebench benchmark run in a video demo, and the 12-core Threadripper chip beats Intel's currently available Skylake-X chip handily, while the 16-core Threadripper outpaces it even further.
Privacy

Amazon May Give Developers Your Private Alexa Transcripts (engadget.com) 166

According to The Information, Amazon may give developers access to your private Alexa audio recordings. Until now, Amazon has not given third-party developers access to what you say to the voice assistant, while Google has with its Google Home speaker. Engadget reports: So far, Alexa developers can only see non-identifying information, like the number of times you use a specific skill, how many times you talk to your Echo device and your location data. The Information reports that some developers have heard from Amazon representatives about more access to actual transcripts, though how and how much wasn't discovered. If developers knew what exactly is being said to their skills, they could make adjustments based on specific information.
AI

'World's First Robot Lawyer' Now Available In All 50 States (theverge.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A chatbot that provides free legal counsel using AI is now available in all 50 states starting today. This is following its success in New York, Seattle, and the UK, where it was invented by British entrepreneur Joshua Browder. Browder, who calls his invention "the world's first robot lawyer," estimates the bot has helped defeat 375,000 parking tickets in a span of two years. Browder, a junior at Stanford University, tells The Verge via Twitter that his chatbot could potentially experience legal repercussions from the government, but he is more concerned with competing with lawyers.

"The legal industry is more than a 200 billion dollar industry, but I am excited to make the law free," says Browder. "Some of the biggest law firms can't be happy!" Browder believes that his chatbot could also save government officials time and money. "Everybody can win," he says, "I think governments waste a huge amount of money employing people to read parking ticket appeals. DoNotPay sends it to them in a clear and easy to read format."

Education

Students Are Better Off Without a Laptop In the Classroom (scientificamerican.com) 247

Cindi May writes via Scientific American about new research that "suggests that laptops do not enhance classroom learning, and in fact students would be better off leaving their laptops in the dorm during class." From the report: Although computer use during class may create the illusion of enhanced engagement with course content, it more often reflects engagement with social media, YouTube videos, instant messaging, and other nonacademic content. This self-inflicted distraction comes at a cost, as students are spending up to one-third of valuable (and costly) class time zoned out, and the longer they are online the more their grades tend to suffer. To understand how students are using computers during class and the impact it has on learning, Susan Ravizza and colleagues took the unique approach of asking students to voluntarily login to a proxy server at the start of each class, with the understanding that their internet use (including the sites they visited) would be tracked. Participants were required to login for at least half of the 15 class periods, though they were not required to use the internet in any way once they logged in to the server. Researchers were able to track the internet use and academic performance of 84 students across the semester.

participants spent almost 40 minutes out of every 100-minute class period using the internet for nonacademic purposes, including social media, checking email, shopping, reading the news, chatting, watching videos, and playing games. This nonacademic use was negatively associated with final exam scores, such that students with higher use tended to score lower on the exam. Social media sites were the most-frequently visited sites during class, and importantly these sites, along with online video sites, proved to be the most disruptive with respect to academic outcomes. In contrast with their heavy nonacademic internet use, students spent less than 5 minutes on average using the internet for class-related purposes (e.g., accessing the syllabus, reviewing course-related slides or supplemental materials, searching for content related to the lecture). Given the relatively small amount of time students spent on academic internet use, it is not surprising that academic internet use was unrelated to course performance. Thus students who brought their laptops to class to view online course-related materials did not actually spend much time doing so, and furthermore showed no benefit of having access to those materials in class.

Data Storage

Western Digital Gets US Court Order To Access Toshiba Databases, Chip Samples (reuters.com) 12

Western Digital won a temporary U.S. court order on Tuesday saying that Toshiba must allow Western Digital's employees to access databases and chip samples as part of a joint venture with Toshiba around flash memory chip plants in Japan. Reuters reports: Toshiba is scrambling to sell its flash memory business and Western Digital is among the bidders. In a sign of high tensions around the deal, Toshiba threatened to lock Western Digital out of shared databases and quit sending chip samples. Western Digital sued Toshiba in San Francisco County Superior Court saying that its joint venture with Toshiba means Toshiba must get its consent for a sale. It asked the court for two separate orders: An injunction to stop the sale, and a temporary restraining order forcing Toshiba to give its workers access to shared databases. A judge granted the temporary order for access to the shared databases Tuesday and set a further hearing on July 28.

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