Today we're doing a live interview from 18:30 GMT until 20:30 GMT with long time contributor Luke Leighton of Rhombus Tech. An advocate of Free Software, he's been round the loop that many are now also exploring: looking for mass-volume Factories in China and ARM processor manufacturers that are truly friendly toward Free Software (clue: there aren't any). He's currently working on the first card for the EOMA-68 modular computer card specification based around the Allwinner A10, helping the KDE Plasma Active Team with their upcoming Vivaldi Tablet, and even working to build devices around a new embedded processor with the goal of gaining the FSF's Hardware Endorsement. Ask him anything. (It's no secret that he's a Slashdot reader, so expect answers from lkcl.)
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angry tapir writes "Researchers in the U.S. have developed integrated circuits that can stick to the skin like a child's tattoo and in some cases dissolve in water when they're no longer needed. The 'bio chips' can be worn comfortably on the body to help diagnose and treat illnesses. The circuits are so thin that when they're peeled away from the body they hang like a sliver of dead skin, with a tangle of fine wires visible under a microscope. Similar circuits could one day be wrapped around the heart like 'an electronic pericardium' to correct irregularities such as arrhythmia."
MrSeb writes with news on the happenings with next generation fabrication processes. From the article: "... Intel's 22nm SoC unveil is important for a host of reasons. As process nodes shrink and more components move on-die, the characteristics of each new node have become particularly important. 22nm isn't a new node for Intel; it debuted the technology last year with Ivy Bridge, but SoCs are more complex than CPU designs and create their own set of challenges. Like its 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs, the upcoming 22nm SoCs rely on Intel's Tri-Gate implementation of FinFET technology. According to Intel engineer Mark Bohr, the 3D transistor structure is the principle reason why the company's 22nm technology is as strong as it is. Earlier this year, we brought you news that Nvidia was deeply concerned about manufacturing economics and the relative strength of TSMC's sub-28nm planar roadmap. Morris Chang, TSMC's CEO, has since admitted that such concerns are valid, given that performance and power are only expected to increase by 20-25% as compared to 28nm. The challenge for both TSMC and GlobalFoundries is going to be how to match the performance of Intel's 22nm technology with their own 28nm products. 20nm looks like it won't be able to do so, which is why both companies are emphasizing their plans to move to 16nm/14nm ahead of schedule. There's some variation on which node comes next; both GlobalFoundries and Intel are talking up 14nm; TSMC is implying a quick jump to 16nm. Will it work? Unknown. TSMC and GlobalFoundries both have excellent engineers, but FinFET is a difficult technology to deploy. Ramping it up more quickly than expected while simultaneously bringing up a new process may be more difficult than either company anticipates."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Game developer David Bolton writes: 'For my development of Web games, I've hit a point where I need a Virtual Private Server. (For more on this see My Search for Game Hosting Begins.) I initially chose a Windows VPS because I know Windows best. A VPS is just an Internet-connected computer. "Virtual" means it may not be an actual physical computer, but a virtualized host, one of many, each running as if it were a real computer. Recently, though, I've run into a dead end, as it turns out that Couchbase doesn't support PHP on Windows. So I switched to a Linux VPS running Ubuntu server LTS 12-04. Since my main desktop PC runs Windows 7, the options to access the VPS are initially quite limited, and there's no remote desktop with a Linux server. My VPS is specified as 2 GB of ram, 2 CPUs and 80 GB of disk storage. The main problem with a VPS is that you have to self-manage it. It's maybe 90% set up for you, but you need the remaining 10%. You may have to install some software, edit a config file or two and occasionally bounce (stop then restart) daemons (Linux services), after editing their config files.'"
Hugh Pickens writes writes "AP reports that if disaster strikes a US nuclear power plant, the utility industry wants the ability to fly in heavy-duty equipment from regional hubs to stricken reactors to avert a meltdown providing another layer of defense in case a Fukushima-style disaster destroys a nuclear plant's multiple backup systems. 'It became very clear in Japan that utilities became quickly overwhelmed,' says Joe Pollock, vice president for nuclear operations at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobbying group that is spearheading the effort. US nuclear plants already have backup safety systems and are supposed to withstand the worst possible disasters in their regions, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. But planners can be wrong. The industry plan, called FLEX, is the nuclear industry's method for meeting new US Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules that will force 65 plants in the US to get extra emergency equipment on site and store it protectively. The FLEX program is supposed to help nuclear plants handle the biggest disasters. Under the plan, plant operators can summon help from the regional centers in Memphis and Phoenix. In addition to having several duplicate sets of plant emergency gear, industry officials say the centers will likely have heavier equipment that could include an emergency generator large enough to power a plant's emergency cooling systems, equipment to treat cooling water and extra radiation protection gear for workers. Federal regulators must still decide whether to approve the plans submitted by individual plants. 'They need to show us not just that they have the pump, but that they've done all the appropriate designing and engineering so that they have a hookup for that pump,' says NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said. 'They're not going to be trying to figure out, "Where are we going to plug this thing in?"'"
An anonymous reader writes "After more than a decade of research, and a proof of concept in 2010, IBM Research has finally cracked silicon nanophotonics (or CMOS-integrated nanophotonics, CINP, to give its full name). IBM has become the first company to integrate electrical and optical components on the same chip, using a standard 90nm semiconductor process. These integrated, monolithic chips will allow for cheap chip-to-chip and computer-to-computer interconnects that are thousands of times faster than current state-of-the-art copper and optical networks. Where current interconnects are generally measured in gigabits per second, IBM's new chip is already capable of shuttling data around at terabits per second, and should scale to peta- and exabit speeds."
dcblogs writes "Apple's planned investment of $100 million next year in a U.S. manufacturing facility is relatively small, but still important. A 2009 Apple video of its unibody manufacturing process has glimpses of highly automated robotic systems shaping the metal. In it, Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of design, described it. 'Machining enables a level of precision that is just completely unheard of in this industry,' he said. Apple has had three years to improve its manufacturing technology, and will likely rely heavily on automation to hold down labor costs, say analysts and manufacturers. Larry Sweet, the CTO of Symbotic, which makes autonomous mobile robots for use in warehouse distribution, described a possible scenario for Apple's U.S. factory. First, a robot loads the aluminum block into the robo-machine that has a range of tools for cutting and drilling shapes to produce the complex chassis as a single precision part. A robot then unloads the chassis and sends it down a production line where a series of small, high-precision, high-speed robots insert parts, secured either with snap fit, adhesive bonds, solder, and a few fasteners, such as screws. At the end, layers, such as the display and glass, are added on top and sealed in another automated operation. Finally, the product is packaged and packed into cases for shipping, again with robots. "One of the potentially significant things about the Apple announcement is it could send a message to American companies — you can do this — you can make this work here," said Robert Atkinson, president of The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation."
coop0030 writes "Ladyada and pt had an old NeXT keyboard with a strong desire to get it running on a modern computer. These keyboards are durable, super clicky, and very satisfying to use! However, they are very old designs, specifically made for NeXT hardware: pre PS/2 and definitely pre-USB. That means you can't just plug the keyboard into a PS/2 port (even though it looks similar). There is no existing adapters for sale, and no code out there for getting these working, so we spent a few days and with a little research we got it working perfectly using an Arduino Micro as the go between."
jcreus writes "After struggling for some years with Nvidia cards (the laptop from which I am writing this has two graphic cards, an Intel one and Nvidia one, and is a holy mess [I still haven't been able to use the Nvidia card]) and, encouraged by Torvalds' middle finger speech, I've decided to ditch Nvidia for something better. I am expecting to buy another laptop and, this time, I'd like to get it right from the start. It would be interesting if it had decent graphics support and, in general, were Linux friendly. While I know Dell has released a Ubuntu laptop, it's way off-budget. My plan is to install Ubuntu, Kubuntu (or even Debian), with dual boot unfortunately required." So: what's the state of the art for out-of-the-box support?
grrlscientist writes "Proving that robots aren't just for people any longer, an African grey parrot, Pepper, has learned to drive a robot that was specially designed for him. Pepper, whose wings are clipped to preventing him from flying around his humans' house and destroying their things, now manipulates the joystick on his riding robot to guide it to where ever he wishes to go. This robotic 'bird buggy' was the brainchild of his human companion, Andrew Gray, a 29-year-old electrical and computer engineering graduate student at the University of Florida."
MrSeb writes "An international team of engineers, physicists, and chemists have created the first fiber-optic solar cell. These fibers are thinner than human hair, flexible, and yet they produce electricity, just like a normal solar cell. The U.S. military is already interested in weaving these threads into clothing, to provide a wearable power source for soldiers. In essence, the research team started with optical fibers made from glass — and then, using high-pressure chemical vapor deposition, injected n-, i-, and p-type silicon into the fiber, turning it into a solar cell (abstract). Functionally, these silicon-doped fiber-optic threads are identical to conventional solar cells, generating electricity from the photovoltaic effect. Whereas almost every solar cell on the market is crafted out of 2D, planar amorphous silicon on a rigid/brittle glass substrate, though, these fiber-optic solar cells have a 3D cross-section and retain the glass fiber's intrinsic flexibility. The lead researcher, John Badding of Penn State University, says the team has already produced 'meters-long fiber,' and that their new technique could be used to create 'bendable silicon solar-cell fibers of over 10 meters in length.' From there, it's simply a matter of weaving the thread into a fabric."
Nerval's Lobster writes "When hurricane Sandy knocked out the electricity in lower Manhattan, data-center operator Peer1 took extreme measures to keep its servers humming, assembling a bucket brigade that carried diesel fuel up several flights of stairs. Ted Smith, senior vice president of operations for Peer1, talks about the decisions made as the floodwaters rose and the main generators went offline, as well as the changes his company has made in the aftermath of the storm. He said, 'When the water got to a point that it had flooded the infrastructure and the basement, we were then operating under the reserves the building had on the roof, and our own storage tanks. Literally, at that point we had to do calculations as to how long we could run. And we believed we had enough diesel fuel—between what is in the building, and in our tanks, to about 9 AM the following day. ... You know the bucket brigade—it’s something I’ve never asked the team to do. If you think about what that was at that time, you’re talking about carrying fuel up 17 flights, in total darkness, throughout a whole evening. We had informed our data center manager that we were shutting down, but he kind of took on it himself to say, ‘Not on my watch.’ And he organized himself, got a temporary solution and then more customers jumped in. And at peak I think we had about 30 people helping.'"
New submitter thereitis writes "Looking over my home computing setup, I see equipment ranging from 20 years old to several months old. What sorts of old and new equipment have you seen coexisting, and in what type of environment?" I regularly use keyboards from the mid 1980s, sometimes with stacked adapters to go from ATX to PS/2, and PS/2 to USB, and I'm sure that's not too unusual.
Nikola Tesla, and has been collecting antique electric devices of a particular kind: ones that send electricity through the human body to effect medical benefits, many of which do so with the aid of Tesla coils. Tesla's not the only inventor involved, of course, but his influence overlapped and widely influenced the golden age of electrotherapy. Behary's day job as a machinist means he has the skills to rehabilitate and restore these aging beasts, too, along with a growing family of related devices. He's assembled them now, in West Palm Beach, Florida, into the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum. This is a museum of my favorite kind: home-based and intimate, but with serious depth. Though it's open only by appointment, arranging a visit there is worth it, whether you're otherwise part of the Tesla community or not. Behary knows his collection inside and out, with the kind of deep knowledge it takes to fabricate replacement parts and revamp the internal wiring. The devices themselves are accessible, with original and restored pieces up close and personal — you need to be mindful about which ones are humming and crackling at any given moment. (There's also an archive with books, papers, and other effects relating to Tesla and other electric pioneers, not to mention glowing tubes that predate the modern vacuum tube, and the oldest known surviving Tesla coils, recovered from beneath their maker's Boston mansion. Electrotherapy is the organizing principle, but not the extent of this assembly.) And while Behary isn't fooled by all the therapeutic claims made by some machines' makers about running current through your limbs or around your body, he also doesn't discount them all, either, and points out that some of them really do affect the body as claimed. Yes, he's tried most of the machines himself, though he admits he's never dared taking the juice of his personal Tesla-powered electric chair. View the first video for a tour of part of this astounding collection; the second video is an interview with Jeff Behary.
curtwoodward writes "Advanced battery maker A123 Systems was supposed to be one of the marquee names of the U.S. cleantech manufacturing scene — it won hundreds of millions in federal grants, had operations around the globe, and supplied the luxury Fisker electric car. In 2009, as the economy sputtered, A123 registered the country's biggest IPO. Today, it's in bankruptcy court, with possible buyers submitting bids for its parts and pieces. How'd A123 fall so far, so fast? As losses mounted, its reliance on just two big customers came back to haunt the company — and a series of screwups at a Michigan plant delivered the final blow."