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China

Baidu Announces New Open Platform To Help Speed Up Development of Self-Driving Cars (theverge.com) 27

Chinese tech giant Baidu has announced a new autonomous vehicle platform called Project Apollo, which aims to help speed up the development of self-driving cars. "Baidu says the platform encompasses both hardware and software, providing partners with the tech and open-source code needed to help their own vehicles perceive obstacles, plan their routes, and otherwise move around our world," reports The Verge. From the report: Baidu says it will first open up Project Apollo for cars operating in restricted environments in July, before offering it to vehicles driving in simple urban road conditions later this year. That's ahead of a gradual rollout of self-driving features that should see cars operating fully autonomously on highways and regular roads by 2020. The release comes as Baidu moves to position itself at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle industry. The Chinese company has aimed for the ambitious goal of getting a self-driving car to market by 2018, and is challenging rivals such as Google on its home turf, building a team of engineers based in Silicon Valley and scoring relevant permits so it can test vehicles in California.
Power

Scientists Invent Ultrasonic Dryer That Uses Sound To Dry Your Clothes (yahoo.com) 440

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker. Called the ultrasonic dryer, it's expected to be up to five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers and able dry a large load of clothes in about half the time. Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations. Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines. The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibers off of clothing. Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colors will fade. While the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Energy explains in a published video that it has recently been "developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum -- setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances."
Android

Benchmarks Show Galaxy S8 With Snapdragon 835 Is a Much Faster Android Handset (hothardware.com) 82

MojoKid writes: Samsung recently launched the Galaxy S8 series of Android smartphones to much fanfare but only recently did the handsets begin to arrive in market for testing and review. Though the high-polish styling of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ may or may not appeal to you, few would argue with its claims of significant performance gains and improved battery life. As it turns out, in deep-dive testing and benchmarking, the Galaxy S8 series is significantly faster than any other Android handset on the market currently, especially when it comes to graphics and gaming workloads. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor on board the GS8 is currently a Samsung exclusive, though it's expected to arrive in other handsets later this year. The Adreno 540 graphics engine on board the new Snapdragon chip is roughly 25% faster than the previous generation 820/821 series, though the chip is only about 10 percent faster in standard CPU-intensive tasks. Regardless, these are appreciable gains, especially in light of the fact that the new Galaxy S8 also has much better battery life than the previous generation Galaxy S7 series. The Samsung Galaxy S8 (5.8-inch) and Galaxy S8+ (6.2-inch) are expected to arrive at retail this week and though pricing is carrier-dependent, list for roughly $720 and $850 respectively, off contract.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Cool Quantum Computing Plan Embraces Cryogenic Memory (pcworld.com) 39

An anonymous reader shares a PCWorld report: Microsoft has crazy quantum computing plans: first, it built hardware based on a particle that hasn't even been discovered. Now, it's hoping to co-design super-cool memory for quantum computers. The company is working with Rambus to develop and build prototype computers with memory subsystems that can be cooled at cryogenic temperatures, typically below minus 180 degrees Celsius or minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit. Cryogenics goes hand in hand with quantum computers, which promise to be significantly faster than today's PCs and servers and may even eventually replace them. But the systems are notoriously unstable and need to be stored in refrigerators for faster and secure operation. As an example, D-Wave's 2000Q quantum computer needs to be kept significantly cooler than supercomputers so operations don't break down.
Security

User-Made Patch Lets Owners of Next-Gen CPUs Install Updates On Windows 7 & 8.1 (bleepingcomputer.com) 218

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: GitHub user Zeffy has created a patch that removes a limitation that Microsoft imposed on users of 7th generation processors, a limit that prevents users from receiving Windows updates if they still use Windows 7 and 8.1. This limitation was delivered through Windows Update KB4012218 (March 2017 Patch Tuesday) and has made many owners of Intel Kaby Lake and AMD Bristol Ridge CPUs very angry last week, as they weren't able to install any Windows updates. Microsoft's move was controversial, but the company did its due diligence, and warned customers of its intention since January 2016, giving users enough time to update to Windows 10, move to a new OS, or downgrade their CPU, if they needed to remain on Windows 7 or 8.1 for various reasons. When the April 2017 Patch Tuesday came around last week, GitHub user Zeffy finally had the chance to test four batch scripts he created in March, after the release of KB4012218. His scripts worked as intended by patching Windows DLL files, skipping the CPU version check, and delivering updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 computers running 7th generation CPUs.
Iphone

Apple To Launch Three New iPhones This Year: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 96

Apple is reportedly building three new iPhones, though the one with the most new features might not launch until a couple of months after the others. According to a report on Bloomberg, Apple is testing three new phones that it plans to launch this fall, including two with the same screen sizes as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The third iPhone, which may be named to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone's launch, is said to pack a new design with a stainless steel frame and curved glass. It's said to feature an embedded fingerprint reader and use OLED panels from Samsung and may have a screen that takes up most of the front of the smartphone's face. From the article: Apple also tested a more ambitious prototype with the same slightly curved front and steel frame, but a glass back with more dramatic curves on the top and bottom like the original iPhone design from 2007, one of the people said.
AMD

AMD Launches Higher Performance Radeon RX 580 and RX 570 Polaris Graphics Cards (hothardware.com) 93

Reader MojoKid writes: In preparation for the impending launch of AMD's next-generation Vega GPU architecture, which will eventually reside at the top of the company's graphics product stack, the company unveiled a refresh of its mainstream graphics card line-up with more-powerful Polaris-based GPUs. The new AMD Radeon RX 580 and RX 570 are built around AMD's Polaris 20 GPU, which is an updated revision of Polaris 10. The Radeon RX 580 features 36 Compute Units, with a total of 2,304 shader processors and boost / base GPU clocks of 1340MHz and 1257MHz, respectively, along with 8GB of GDDR5 over a 256-bit interface. The Radeon RX 580 offers up a total of 6.17 TFLOPs of compute performance with up to 256GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. Though based on the same chip, the Radeon RX 570 has only 32 active CUs and 2048 shader processors. Boost and base reference clocks are 1244MHz and 1168MHz, respectively with 4GB of GDDR5 memory also connected over a 256-bit interface. At reference clocks, the peak compute performance of the Radeon RX 570 is 5.1TFLOPs with 224GB/s of memory bandwidth. In the benchmarks, the AMD Radeon RX 580 clearly outpaced AMD's previous gen Radeon RX 480, and was faster than an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Founder's Edition card more often than not. It was more evenly matched with factory-overclocked OEM GeForce GTX 1060 cards, however. Expected retail price points are around $245 and $175 for 8GB Radeon RX 580 and 4GB RX 570s cards, though more affordable options will also be available.
Transportation

Despite Well Known Risks, Survey Finds Most People Use Smartphones While Driving (cbslocal.com) 344

From a report: Everyone knows it's dangerous, but a lot of people are still doing it -- driving while distracted. In a survey of 3-million motorists, almost 9 out of 10 admitted to using their smartphone behind the wheel. According to a report by Zendrive, which studied device use among 3.1 million drivers over 5.6 billion miles of driving, in 88 percent of trips, drivers made at least some use of their phones. On average, they spent more than three-minute on the phone.
Software

New Approach To Virtual Reality Shocks You Into Believing Walls Are Real (vice.com) 59

A team of researchers from Germany's Hasso-Plattner Institute is trying to find an effective way to trick the mind into thinking a virtual object or wall is real. They have developed a new device that "sends little electric shocks to sensors on your arms that stimulate your muscles whenever you press against a wall or try to lift a heavy object in virtual reality," reports Motherboard. From the report: The team's main goal was to create this illusion as cheaply as possible. Their contraption, seen in the video above, consists of little more than an electric muscle stimulator stuffed in a backpack, the sensors, and a Samsung GearVR device accompanied by motion trackers. In other words, if you've been turned off by the clunky headsets of the contemporary VR experience, this probably won't do much to win you over.
China

Chinese Warehouse Cut Labor Costs In Half With a Fleet of Tiny Robots (qz.com) 130

Many people around the world fear their job will eventually be replaced by a machine, including many Slashdotters. But workers in China may be the most fearful as Asia produces more robots than the rest of the world combined. Last week, a Chinese shipping company, called Shentong Express, showed off a mildly-dystopian automated warehouse that reportedly cut its labor costs in half using a fleet of tiny robots, according to the South China Morning Post. Quartz reports: In a video, tiny orange robots made by Hikvision ferry packages around an eastern China warehouse, taking each parcel from a human worker, driving under a scanner, and then dumping the package down a specific chute for it to be shipped. The human's main job in the video appears to be picking up packages and placing them label-up on top of the robot, a task modern robotics is only just starting to put into warehouse production. A spokesperson told the Post that Shentong is using the robot in two of its warehouses, and hopes to expand use to the rest of the country.
Android

Samsung Blocks Ability To Remap Galaxy S8's Bixby Button (zdnet.com) 119

A Samsung representative confirmed today via Twitter that the company has blocked the ability for users to remap the Bixby hardware button on the Galaxy S8. For soon-to-be Galaxy S8 owners, the news will come as a disappointment, especially since the Bixby voice assistant in English has been delayed and will not be fully functional when units starting shipping later this week. ZDNet reports: XDA Developers first reported a Galaxy S8 firmware update blocked the ability to remap the button to perform a variety of tasks. Before, the button could even be remapped to launch Google Assistant. It's not clear if Samsung will ever support remapping the button. A representative for Samsung tweeted: "Can't say it will never happen, but we won't officially support."
Cloud

Microsoft's Rumored CloudBook Could Be Your Next Cheap Computer (venturebeat.com) 206

An anonymous reader shares a report: In a few weeks, at its education-oriented software and hardware event in New York, Microsoft could unveil a sub-premium laptop -- something more robust than a Surface but not as fancy as a Surface Book. And rather than run good old Windows 10, the new product could run something called Windows 10 Cloud, which reportedly will only be able to run apps that you can find in the Windows Store, unless you change a certain preference in Settings. The idea is that this will keep your device more secure. However, that does mean you won't be able to use certain apps that aren't in the Store -- like Steam -- on a Windows 10 Cloud device, such as the rumored CloudBook. Microsoft is going after Google's Chromebooks that are very popular in the education space -- so much so that they are playing an instrumental role in keeping the entire PC shipments up.
AI

Russia Wants To Send A Gun-Shooting Robot To The ISS (mashable.com) 141

"Just in time for the rise in global military tensions, Russian officials have released video that's sure to calm fears all around: a death dealing humanoid robot that shoots handguns." An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: Posted to Twitter on Friday by Russia's deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, the video shows the country's space robot FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) accurately shooting twin pistols in a scene chillingly similar to images from The Terminator. But rather than being displayed as a not-so-subtle warning to the entire human population of the planet, Rogozin instead claims via Facebook that it's just a demonstration of the robot's dexterity and use of algorithms to execute tasks.
CNET quotes Russia's deputy prime minister as saying "We are not creating a Terminator, but artificial intelligence that will be of great practical significance in a lot of spheres." Russia plans to deploy the robot on the International Space Station by 2021, Mashable reports, adding "Hopefully, the robot's arrival on the ISS will come sans life-snuffing weaponry, which is pretty much the opposite of the intent behind creating a peaceful international space station shared by the world's super powers in the first place."
NES (Games)

Geek Builds His Own NES Classic With A Raspberry Pi (arstechnica.com) 132

"It turns out that the NES Classic Edition is just a little Linux-powered board inside a cute case," writes Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica, "and it's totally possible to build your own tiny Linux-powered computer inside a cute case without spending much more than $60." An anonymous reader writes: Andrew used a $42 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B -- "it's relatively cheap and relatively powerful, and it can easily handle anything from the original PlayStation on down" -- plus an $8 case, and a microSD card. He also purchased a pair of gamepads -- there's several options -- and reports that "Putting our little box together is ridiculously easy, and you ought to have no problem with it even if you've never opened up a PC tower in your life."

"Making retro game consoles is a fairly common use case for the Pi, so there are a few different operating system choices out there," Andrew reports, and he ultimately chose the Linux-based RetroPie OS, which includes a number of emulators. Basically the process boils down to dropping a RetroPie boot image onto the SD card, putting it into the Pi, and then plugging it into your display and connecting your controllers -- plus configuring some menus. "The default quality of the emulation looks just as good as it does on the NES Classic Edition," and "the emulators for these older systems are all advanced enough that things should mostly run just like they did on the original hardware... I've been having a ton of fun with mine now that it's all set up, and its flexibility (plus the quality of those USB gamepads) has made it my favorite way to play old games, outpacing my Apple TV, the pretty but not-living-room-friendly OpenEmu, and the old hacked Wii I still have sitting around."

The hardest part may just be finding a PC with an SD card slot -- and of course, the resulting system gives you lots of flexibility. "By using the Raspberry Pi and freely available software, you can build something capable of doing a whole heck of a lot more than playing the same 30 NES games over and over again."
Displays

Religion Meets Virtual Reality: Christianity-Themed VR Demo Scheduled For Easter (nbcnews.com) 90

"Anyone looking to experience God in a brand new way will soon have his or her chance -- virtually," writes NBC News, reporting on "a new immersive faith-based virtual reality experience...part of a larger project created by L. Michelle Media called Mission VR." An anonymous reader writes: The company was founded "to create a signature virtual reality environment -- a faith world of sorts -- where dynamic, never before seen, Christian lifestyle stories and experiences could have a home." Demos have been timed to coincide with this weekend's Easter celebration, while the official launch happens later this spring. Viewers will apparently experience biographical stories combining VR applications and YouTube videos to showcase the power of belief. "Up until now, we've only been able to watch Christianity from a third person perspective -- preached sermons, music videos, interviews, even reality shows..." says the founder of Mission VR. "This is the future of Christian programming."
But one reverend told NBC that VR worlds could be dangerous because they "may take people from community and from the incarnational aspects of Christian life... [W]e always run a very serious risk that the medium overtakes the message... What we must do is guard against the use of technology through market logic where people become brands and all things spiritual become commoditized."
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: What Was Your First Home Computer? 857

We've recently seen stories about old computers and sys-ops resurrecting 1980s BBS's, but now an anonymous reader has a question for all Slashdot readers: Whenever I meet geeks, there's one question that always gets a reaction: Do you remember your first home computer? This usually provokes a flood of fond memories about primitive specs -- limited RAM, bad graphics, and early versions of long-since-abandoned operating systems. Now I'd like to pose the same question to Slashdot's readers.

Use the comments to share details about your own first home computer. Was it a back-to-school present from your parents? Did it come with a modem? Did you lovingly upgrade its hardware for years to come? Was it a Commodore 64 or a BeBox?

It seems like there should be some good stories, so leave your best answers in the comments. What was your first home computer?
Input Devices

RIP, Robert Taylor, The Innovator Who Shaped Modern Computing (sfgate.com) 37

"Any way you look at it, from kick-starting the Internet to launching the personal computer revolution, Bob Taylor was a key architect of our modern world," says a historian at Stanford's Silicon Valley Archives. An anonymous reader quotes the New York Times: The Internet, like many inventions, was the work of many inventors. But perhaps no one deserves more credit for that world-changing technological leap than Mr. Taylor. The seminal moment of his work came in 1966. He had just taken a new position at the Pentagon -- director of the Information Processing Techniques Office, part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as Arpa -- and on his first day on the job it became immediately obvious to him what the office lacked and what it needed. At the time, Arpa was funding three separate computer research projects and using three separate computer terminals to communicate with them. Mr. Taylor said, No, we need a single computer research network, to connect each project with the others, to enable each to communicate with the others... His idea led to the Arpanet, the forerunner of the Internet.

A half-decade later, at Xerox's storied Palo Alto Research Center, Mr. Taylor was instrumental in another technological breakthrough: funding the design of the Alto computer, which is widely viewed as the forerunner of the modern personal computer. Mr. Taylor even had a vital role in the invention of the computer mouse. In 1961, at the dawn of the Space Age, he was about a year into his job as a project manager at NASA in Washington when he learned about the work of a young computer scientist at Stanford Research Institute, later called SRI International... Mr. Taylor decided to pump more money into the work, and the financial infusion led directly to Engelbart's invention of the mouse, a computer control technology that would be instrumental in the design of both Macintosh and Microsoft Windows-based computers.

Taylor had become fascinated with human-computer interactions in the 1950s during his graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, and was "appalled" that performing data calculations required submitting his punch cards to a technician running the school's mainframe computers. Years later, it was Taylor's group at PARC that Steve Jobs visited in 1979, which inspired the "desktop" metaphor for the Macintosh's graphical user interface. And Charles Simonyi eventually left PARC to join Microsoft, where he developed the Office suite of applications.

Taylor died Thursday at his home in Woodside, California, from complications of Parkinson's disease, at the age of 85.
AMD

G.SKILL Hits 4500MHz With All-New Trident Z DDR4-4333MHz 16GB Memory Kit (betanews.com) 72

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: G.SKILL is a respected RAM maker, and the company is constantly pushing the envelope. Today, it announced a new DDR4-4333MHz 16GB Memory Kit (2x8GB) -- the first ever. While that alone is very cool, the company is bragging about what it accomplished with it -- an overclock that hit 4500MHz using an Intel Core i5-7600K processor paired with an ASUS ROG Maximus IX Apex motherboard. Pricing and availability for this kit is unknown at this time. With that said, it will probably be quite expensive. What we do know, however, its that the insane overclock to 4500MHz is for real. This was achieved using timings of CL19-19-19-39 in dual channel, which resulted in read/write of 55/65GB/s and copy speed of 52GB/s.
Medicine

Scientists Win $2.6 Million For Star Trek Tricorder Device (vocativ.com) 44

The Qualcomm Foundation, along with the XPRIZE Foundation, "announced the winning team of its nearly four-year-long global competition to develop a functional, easily usable tricorder," reports Vocativ. The Pennsylvania-based Final Frontier Medical Devices team was the first place winner, receiving the top prize of $2.6 million, while Boston-based Dynamical Biomarkers nabbed $1 million. From the report: Led by Dr. Basil Harris, a Philadelphia emergency room physician, the team was mostly made out of family and friends Harris coaxed into volunteering their free time on the weekend. By contrast, Dynamical Biomarkers had 50 scientists and programmers, mostly paid, and was sponsored by the Taiwanese government and Taiwan-based cellphone company HTC. The device kit developed by Final Frontier, called DxtER, uses non-invasive sensors that collect data from the user and combines that with an AI frontloaded with information in the field of clinical emergency medicine to come with a diagnosis. The device currently operates on an iPad tablet, but future versions should work equally fine on a smartphone as well. The device, ideally, would allow patients to then send their readings to their doctors so they could collaborate on their health care. According to an interview Harris held with the Washington Post, DxtER can diagnose up to 34 medical conditions in its present design. The device developed by Dynamical Biomarkers could reach up to 50, team leader and Harvard Medical School professor Chung-Kang Peng, told the Post, given it surpasses the five-pound weight limit imposed by the competition guidelines.
Cellphones

Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time (independent.co.uk) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."

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