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."
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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."
holy_calamity writes "MIT Technology Review looks at the small companies attempting to build dedicated chips for mining Bitcoins. Several are claiming they will start selling hardware based on their chips early in 2013, with the technology expected to force many small time miners to give up. However, as happened in the CPU industry, miners may soon be caught in an expensive arms race that pushes development of faster and faster chips."
New submitter Lonewolf666 writes "According to SemiAccurate, AMD is introducing new Opterons that are essentially 'Opteron-ized versions of Vishera.' TDPs are lower than in their desktop products, and some of these chips may be interesting for people who want a cool and quiet PC." And on the desktop side, ZDNet reports that AMD will remain committed to the hobbyist market with socketed CPUs.
hankwang writes "The European commission fined a number manufacturers for pricing fixing of cathode ray tubes in the period between 1996 and 2005. The total fine was EUR 1.47 billion (USD 1.92 billion), for Philips, LG Electronics, Samsung SDI, and three other firms. According to the European Commission: 'For almost 10 years, the cartelists carried out the most harmful anti-competitive practices including price fixing, market sharing, customer allocation, capacity and output coordination and exchanges of commercial sensitive information. The cartelists also monitored the implementation, including auditing compliance with the capacity restrictions by plant visits in the case of the computer monitor tubes cartel.'"
angry tapir writes "Hewlett-Packard has filed a complaint against display manufacturers Chunghwa Picture Tubes and Tatung Company of America, seeking to recover damages it claims it suffered as a result of their involvement in a price fixing scheme. In November 2008, Chunghwa pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy together with other display manufacturers, including LG Display and Sharp, to set the prices of Thin-Film Transistor-Liquid Crystal Display (TFT-LCD) panels to predetermined levels. The company agreed to pay a US$65 million criminal fine at the time. A jury found AU Optronics, another display manufacturer, guilty of participating in the same conspiracy and was fined US$500 million in September by a judge of the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California. In October last year, 10 LCD makers, including Chunghwa Picture Tubes, were fined $176 million in South Korea for allegedly holding secret meetings to keep the prices for flat screen displays artificially high."
lkcl writes about his effort to go further than others have, and actually have a processor designed for Free Software manufactured: "A new processor is being put together — one that is FSF Endorseable, contains no proprietary hardware engines, yet an 800MHz 8-core version would, at 38 GFLOPS, be powerful enough on raw GFLOPS performance figures to take on the 3ghz AMD Phenom II x4 940, the 3GHz Intel i7 920 and other respectable mid-range 100 Watt CPUs. The difference is: power consumption in 40nm for an 8-core version would be under 3 watts. The core design has been proven in 65nm, and is based on a hybrid approach, with its general-purpose instruction set being designed from the ground up to help accelerate 3D Graphics and Video Encode and Decode, an 8-core 800mhz version would be capable of 1080p30 H.264 decode, and have peak 3D rates of 320 million triangles/sec and a peak fill rate of 1600 million pixels/sec. The unusual step in the processor world is being taken to solicit input from the Free Software Community at large before going ahead with putting the chip together. So have at it: if given carte blanche, what interfaces and what features would you like an FSF-Endorseable mass-volume processor to have? (Please don't say 'DRM' or 'built-in spyware')." There's some discussion on arm-netbook. This is the guy behind the first EOMA-68 card (currently nearing production). As a heads ups, we'll be interviewing him in a live style similarly to Woz (although intentionally this time) next Tuesday.
MrSeb writes "In its continuing mission to build a 'Wiki Weapon,' Defense Distributed has 3D printed the lower receiver of an AR-15 and tested it to failure. The printed part only survives the firing of six shots, but for a first attempt that's quite impressive. And hey, it's a plastic gun. Slashdot first covered 3D-printed guns back in July. The Defense Distributed group sprung up soon after, with the purpose of creating an open-source gun — a Wiki Weapon — that can be downloaded from the internet and printed out. The Defense Distributed manifesto mainly quotes a bunch of historical figures who supported the right to bear arms. DefDist (its nickname) is seeking a gun manufacturing license from the ATF, but so far the feds haven't responded. Unperturbed, DefDist started down the road by renting an advanced 3D printing machine from Stratasys — but when the company found out what its machine was being used for, it was repossessed. DefDist has now obtained a 3D printer from Objet, which seemingly has a more libertarian mindset. The group then downloaded HaveBlue's original AR-15 lower receiver from Thingiverse, printed it out on the Objet printer using ABS-like Digital Material, screwed it into an AR-57 upper receiver, loaded up some FN 5.7x28mm ammo, and headed to the range. The DefDist team will now make various modifications to HaveBlue's design, such as making it more rugged and improving the trigger guard, and then upload the new design to Thingiverse." Sensible ammo choice; 5.7x28mm produces less recoil than the AR-15's conventional 5.56mm. I wonder how many of the upper's components, too, can one day be readily replaced with home-printable parts — for AR-15 style rifles, the upper assembly is where the gun's barrel lives, while the lower assembly (the part printed and tested here) is the legally controlled part of the firearm.