Cellphones

We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier (reason.com) 263

_Sharp'r_ writes: Professor Thomas Hazlett of Clemson University analyzed the history of wireless spectrum and concluded the technology was known and available for cellphones in the 40s, but there was no spectrum available. Based on assumptions cellphones would always be luxury goods without mass appeal, significant spectrum for divisible cellular networks wasn't legally usable until the early 80s. Instead, the unused spectrum was reserved for the future expansion of broadcast TV to channels 70-83. Here's an excerpt from the report: "When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not 'in the nature of convenience or luxury.' This view -- that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base -- persisted well into the 1980s. 'Land mobile,' the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC's list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter."
Power

Wind, Solar Surpassed 10 Percent of US Electricity In March, Says EIA (thehill.com) 179

According to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, wind and solar produced 10 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. for the first time in March. The Hill reports: The Energy Information Administration's (EIA) monthly power report for March found that wind produced 8 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. that month, with solar producing 2 percent. The two sources combined to have their best month ever in terms of percentage of overall electricity production, EIA said. The agency expects the two sources topped 10 percent again in April but forecasts that their generation will fall below that mark during the summer months. Due to the way geographic wind patterns affect the generation of electricity, the two sources typically combine for their best months in the spring and fall. Annually, wind and solar made up 7 percent of electric generation in 2016, EIA said.
Iphone

The Next iPhone Will Have Wireless Charging, Says Apple Supplier (9to5mac.com) 124

Robert Hwang, CEO of a large iPhone manufacturing company in India, has let slip that the upcoming iPhone will have wireless charging. Hwang told reporters after the company's shareholder's meeting: "Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit." 9to5Mac reports: Just this week, new glass panels purporting to be from the upcoming iPhones have given us another glimpse into the devices' designs. Showing off an iPhone 7s, 7s Plus, and iPhone 8, the images indicated that the glass back panels would open the door for wireless charging across all the devices. According to Hwang, Wistron's India facility is currently making "a small number" of handsets for Apple. He states the growth in manufacturing will hinge on relations between Apple and the Indian government.
Google

Google Drive Will Soon Back Up Your Entire Computer (theverge.com) 188

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google is turning Drive into a much more robust backup tool. Soon, instead of files having to live inside of the Drive folder, Google will be able to monitor and backup files inside of any folder you point it to. That can include your desktop, your entire documents folder, or other more specific locations. The backup feature will come out later this month, on June 28th, in the form of a new app called Backup and Sync. In some other news, Box announced on Wednesday desktop apps for its storage service.
Robotics

Roomba Inventor Launches 'Tertill', a Weed-Killing Robot For Your Garden 116

mcpublic writes: iRobot veteran and Roomba co-inventor, Joe Jones is a modest man with a big mission: to create robots that make agriculture more efficient, less tedious, and yes, maybe even one day feed the world. After a decade at Harvest Automation building greenhouse robots, his new team at Franklin Robotics has developed Tertill, an affordable, waterproof, solar-powered robot that continuously whacks weeds around your yard. MIT Technology Review calls Tertill "a Roomba for your garden." Today the Kickstarter campaign went live and already they are well on the way to their goal. According to the Kickstarter campaign, Tertill is solar powered, chemical free, waterproof and Bluetooth compatible. It doesn't actually pull the weeds from your garden, instead it uses a "spinning string trimmer" to trim the weeds down to ground level. Since Tertill will be trimming weeds daily, the company says the weeds will eventually run out of nutrients to continue growing, and therefore will die and decompose. How does it know what's a weed and what's a plant? "A plant tall enough to touch the front of Tertill's shell activates a sensor that makes the robot turn away. A plant short enough to pass under Tertill's shell, though, activates a different sensor that turns on the weed cutter. Because Tertill's approach is height-based, put one of the provided plant collars around short plants until they are tall enough for Tertill to recognize. When Tertill approaches the collar, it will recognize it and turn away."
Government

11 States Sue Trump Administration's Energy Department After Weeks of No Movement On Efficiency Standards (go.com) 219

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: New York, California and nine other states sued the Trump administration Tuesday over its failure to finalize energy-use limits for portable air conditioners and other products. The new standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save businesses and consumers billions of dollars, and conserve enough energy to power more than 19 million households for a year, but the U.S. Department of Energy has not met a requirement to publish them by now, according to attorneys general who filed the lawsuit (PDF) against the DOE in federal court in San Francisco. That means the standards are not legally enforceable. The other states in the lawsuit are: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Maryland. The City of New York is also a plaintiff. The energy efficiency standards at issue in the lawsuit also cover walk-in coolers and freezers, air compressors, commercial packaged boilers and uninterruptible power supplies. There is currently no federal energy standard for air compressors, uninterruptible power supplies or portable air conditioners, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the DOE to publish the new standards as final rules.
Google

Play Store Downloads Show Google Pixel Sales Limited To 1 Million Units (arstechnica.com) 70

While Google has yet to release official sales numbers for its flagship Google Pixel smartphone, a Play Store app may shed some light on roughly how many units are in circulation. The Pixel Launcher, which is installed by default on the Pixel and Pixel XL, just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier, leading us to assume that Google has finally sold 1,000,000 Google Pixel units. Ars Technica notes that "the Pixel is seen as Google's answer to the iPhone, but considering Apple sells 40 to 50 million iPhones in a quarter, Google has some catching up to do." From the report: This calculation is complicated by the fact that Google Play doesn't show exact install numbers; it shows installs in "tiers" like "100,000-500,000." So most of the time, we won't have an exact Pixel sales number -- except when the Pixel Launcher crosses from one download tier to another. So guess what just happened? The Pixel Launcher just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier (you can see some third-party tracking sites, like AppBrain, still have it listed at 500,000). So for this one moment in history, eight months after launch, we can say Google finally sold a million Pixel phones. The Play Store device targeting ensures no one other than Pixel owners can download the Pixel Launcher, and the install count doesn't include sideloading. The most popular sideloading site, APKMirror, has more than 1.3 million downloads on just a single version of the Pixel Launcher, so we know that sideloaders actually outnumber legitimate Pixel Launcher users. There are some statistically insignificant root shenanigans you could pull to download the Pixel Launcher from the Play Store on a non-Pixel device, but there is no way the number of sold Pixels is higher than 1 million units at this point in time.
Android

Google Hires Key Apple Chip Architect To Build Custom Chips For Pixel Phones (variety.com) 52

A recent hire at Google indicates big changes are coming for future versions of the Google's Pixel phone. Manu Gulati, an Apple micro-architect who worked on the company's chip development for nearly eight years, has just joined Google. From a report: Gulati started working at Apple in 2009, and was instrumental to the company's efforts to build custom chips for the iPad, the iPhone and Apple TV. Apple began using its own chips in 2010, starting with the introduction of the iPad in 2010, which was powered by the company's A4 chip. To this day, the company uses custom-designed microchips for each of their devices, which make it possible to optimize processors both for performance and energy consumption. In the industry, these integrated chips for mobile devices are also known as SoCs, or "systems on a chip." In contrast, Google relied on a chip designed and manufactured by Qualcomm when it introduced its first Pixel phones last fall. The same chip is being used by a number of other Android phone manufacturers, including HTC, LG, Lenovo and Asus -- all of which goes to say that these phones all offer very similar performance specs. Qualcomm has become the de facto-manufacturer for higher-end Android phone chips, making it harder for the companies to differentiate their devices from one another.
Intel

Intel Announces X299, Skylake-X, and Kaby Lake-X Release Schedule (anandtech.com) 55

Ian Cutress, writing for AnandTech: At Computex a couple of weeks ago, Intel announced its new Basin Falls platform, consisting of the X299 chipset with motherboards based on it, a pair of Kaby Lake-X processors, and a set of Skylake-X processors going all the way up to eighteen cores, denoting the first use of Intel's enterprise level high core-count silicon in a consumer product. As part of Intel's E3 press release, as well as their presentations at the show, the new Core i9 processors were discussed, along with Intel's continued commitment towards eSports. Intel gave the dates for the new platform as the following: 4, 6, 8 and 10-core parts available for pre-order from June 19th; 4, 6, 8 and 10-core parts shipping to consumers from June 26th; 12-core parts expected to ship in August; and 14, 16 and 18 core parts expected to ship in October.
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If You Were To Put a Computer Inside a Fridge? 181

dryriver writes: This is not asking what would happen if you were to place your iMac inside your kitchen fridge. Rather, what if a computer casing for a high-powered graphics workstation with multiple CPUs and GPUs, lets say, worked just like a small fridge or freezer, cooling your hardware down without using any CPU fans or liquid cooling and similar. How much would such a fridge-casing cost to make and buy, how much electricity would it consume, how much bigger would it be than a normal PC casing, and would it be a practical solution to the problem of keeping high-powered computer hardware cool for extended periods of time? Bonus question: Is such a thing as a fridge-casing or "Fridgeputer" sold anywhere on the world market right now? Linus Tech Tips tackled this question in a video a couple of years ago, titled "PC Build in a Fridge - Does it Work?"
The Almighty Buck

US Banks Launching Answer To Peer-To-Peer Payment App Venmo (reuters.com) 43

The U.S. banking industry is about to launch its answer to the popular mobile payments app Venmo. "Over the next week, five of the largest U.S. banks will light up their segments of a new payments network called Zelle, executives said in interviews," reports Reuters. "They plan to announce details of the launch on Monday, and expect another two dozen banks and credit unions to join over the next year." From the report: The long-awaited network will allow tens of millions of bank customers to send money to each other instantly - known as person-to-person payments - with a few taps on their smartphones. That is an improvement over Venmo, which immediately alerts users that a money transfer is in progress, but takes time to shift funds between bank accounts. Customers who use existing bank payment apps may not notice much of a change beyond marketing. Transfers will simply happen faster because the banks are finally linking to each other, executives said. JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, U.S. Bancorp and Capital One Financial Corp will be the first to plug into Zelle.
Power

Researchers Reveal Malware Designed To 'Power Down' Electric Grid (securityledger.com) 42

chicksdaddy writes: A sample of malicious software discovered at the site of a December, 2016 cyber attack on Ukraine's electrical grid is a previously unknown program that could be capable of causing physical damage to the electrical grid, according to reports by two security firms. The Security Ledger reports: "Experts at the firm ESET and Dragos Security said on Monday that the malicious software, dubbed CrashOverride (Dragos) or Industroyer (ESET) affected a 'single transmission level substation' in the Ukraine attack on December 17th, 2016 in what appears to have been a test run. Still, experts said that features in the malware show that adversaries are automating and standardizing what were previously manual attacks against critical infrastructure, while also adding features that could be used to physically disable or damage critical systems -- the first evidence of such activity since the identification of the Stuxnet malware in 2010. The Crash Override malware 'took an approach to understand and codify the knowledge of the industrial process to disrupt operations as STUXNET (sp) did,' wrote Dragos Security in a report. The malware improves on features seen in other malicious software that it knows to target industrial control systems. Specifically, the malware makes use of and manipulates industrial control system-specific communications protocols. That's similar to features in ICS malware known as Havex that targeted grid operators in Europe and the United States in 2014. The Crash Override malware also targeted the libraries and configuration files of so-called 'Human Machine Interfaces' (or HMIs) to understand the environment they have infected. It can use HMIs, which provide a graphical interface for managing industrial control system equipment, to connect spread to other Internet connected equipment and systems, Dragos said."
Wireless Networking

Logitech Reveals Mouse Mat That Is a Giant Wireless Charging Pad (theverge.com) 62

Logitech has just revealed a new Powerplay technology that builds wireless charging directly into its mouse pad, allowing compatible wireless mice to charge constantly while on the pad. The Verge reports: The wireless charging tech built inside the Powerplay mouse mat is proprietary to Logitech, and the company claims it took more than four years of research and development to make it a reality. I asked Logitech why it didn't go with something more ubiquitous like the Qi standard, and the answer I received was that it wouldn't have been possible to cover the whole surface (275mm x 320mm) of the pad with Qi. Alongside the Logitech G Powerplay, which is to be priced at $99.99 and released in August, Logitech has also announced the first two mice officially compatible with it: the G903 and G703. The G903 is a very modest upgrade from the G900 while the G703 is practically identical to the well liked G403; both of the two new models use the PMW3366 optical sensor and just add improved switches rated to last longer. The G903 will cost $149.99 and the G703 will be $99.99 when they go on sale later this month.
Toys

How Lego Clicked: The Super Brand That Reinvented Itself (theguardian.com) 191

managerialslime shared an article about how Lego executed "the greatest turnaround in corporate history." The Guardian reports: By 2003 Lego was in big trouble. Sales were down 30% year-on-year and it was $800m in debt. An internal report revealed it hadn't added anything of value to its portfolio for a decade... In 2015, the still privately owned, family controlled Lego Group overtook Ferrari to become the world's most powerful brand. It announced profits of £660m, making it the number one toy company in Europe and Asia, and number three in North America, where sales topped $1bn for the first time. From 2008 to 2010 its profits quadrupled, outstripping Apple's. Indeed, it has been called the Apple of toys: a profit-generating, design-driven miracle built around premium, intuitive, covetable hardware that fans can't get enough of. Last year Lego sold 75bn bricks. Lego people -- "Minifigures" -- the 4cm-tall yellow characters with dotty eyes, permanent grins, hooks for hands and pegs for legs -- outnumber humans. The British Toy Retailers Association voted Lego the toy of the century.
It's a good read. The article describes how CEO Vig Knudstorp curtailed the company's over-expansion -- at one point, Lego had "built its own video games company from scratch, the largest installation of Silicon Graphics supercomputers in northern Europe, despite having no experience in the field." And he also encouraged the company to interact with its fans on the internet -- for example, the crowdsourcing of Ninjago content -- while the company enjoyed new popularity with Mindstorms kits for building programmable Lego robots.
Programming

Developer Accidentally Deletes Production Database On Their First Day On The Job (qz.com) 418

An anonymous reader quotes Quartz: "How screwed am I?" asked a recent user on Reddit, before sharing a mortifying story. On the first day as a junior software developer at a first salaried job out of college, his or her copy-and-paste error inadvertently erased all data from the company's production database. Posting under the heartbreaking handle cscareerthrowaway567, the user wrote, "The CTO told me to leave and never come back. He also informed me that apparently legal would need to get involved due to severity of the data loss. I basically offered and pleaded to let me help in someway to redeem my self and i was told that I 'completely fucked everything up.'"
The company's backups weren't working, according to the post, so the company is in big trouble now. Though Qz adds that "the court of public opinion is on the new guy's side. In a poll on the tech site the Register, less than 1% of 5,400 respondents thought the new developer should be fired. Forty-five percent thought the CTO should go."

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