theodp writes "Covered earlier on Slashdot, but lost in the buzz over the Google driverless car is Project Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), Europe's experiment with 'vehicle platooning,' which has successfully completed a 125 mile road test on a busy Spain motorway. Three Volvos drove themselves by automatically following a truck in the presence of other, normal road users. The Register reports that on-board cameras, radar and laser tracking allow each vehicle to monitor the one in front, and wirelessly streamed data from the lead vehicle tells each car when to accelerate, break and turn."
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angry tapir writes "A Japanese robotics lab has developed a new emergency response prototype that will soon be put to work at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan. The robot, called 'Rosemary,' is about the size of a lawn mower and has four extended treaded feet that swivel up and down to help it climb over obstacles."
jakooistra writes "My sister recently asked me for a laptop recommendation. I said, 'Sure, what are techie brothers for,' and diligently started my search for her perfect laptop. Two days later, I feel like I've aged two years. Every laptop vendor seems to want to sell a dozen different, poorly-differentiated models, with no real way of finding out what is customizable without following each model to its own customization page. And there are so many vendors! How am I, as a consumer, supposed to find what I need? Is there a website, hiding somewhere I just can't find, that tracks all the multivariate versions and upgrade choices in an easily searchable database?"
An anonymous reader sends this quote from a Reuters report: "German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour — equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity — through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said. The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022. ... The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed."
Barence writes "Is it even possible to buy technology with a clean conscience? With the vast majority of gadgets and components manufactured using low-paid labor in Asia, manufacturers unable to accurately plot their supply chains, and very few ethical codes of conduct, the article highlights the difficulty of trying to buy ethically-sound gadgets. It concludes, 'The answer would appear to be no. Too little information is available, and nobody we spoke to believed an entirely ethical technology company exists – at least, not among the household names.'"
An anonymous reader tips an article looking at the state of HDD pricing now that the market has had time to recover from the flooding in Thailand and a round of consolidation among manufacturers. Prices have certainly declined from the high they reached during the flooding, but they've stabilized a bit higher than they were beforehand. Quoting: "Are things going to change any time soon? We doubt it. WD and Seagate both reported record profits this past quarter. In Q1 2011, Western Digital reported net profit of $146M against sales of $2.3B while Seagate recorded $2.7B in revenue and $93 million in net income. That’s a net profit margin of 6% and 3%, respectively. For this past quarter, Western Digital reported sales of $3B (thanks in part to its acquisition of Hitachi) and a net income of $483 million, while Seagate hit $4.4B in revenue and $1.1B in profits. Net margin was 16% and 37% respectively. With profit margins like this, the hard drive manufacturers are going to be loath to cut prices. After years of barely making profits, the Thailand floods are the best excuse ever to drive record income for a few quarters. All of this means that while we expect prices to gradually decline, holding off on a necessary purchase doesn’t make much sense."
1sockchuck writes "Cloud provider Rackspace is looking to the emerging open source hardware ecosystem to transform its data centers. The cloud provider spends $200 million a year on servers and storage, and sees the Open Compute Project as the key to reducing its costs on hardware design and operations. Rackspace is keen on the potential of the new Open Rack program, and its buying power is motivating HP and Dell to develop for the new standard — partly because Rackspace has also been talking with original design manufacturers like Quantra and Wistron. It's an early look at how open source hardware could have a virtuous impact on the server economy. 'I think the OEMs were not very interested (in Open Compute) initially,' said Rackspace COO Mark Roenigk. 'But in the last six months they have become really focused.'"
michael_cain writes "I've been asked (by family, friends) to consider several small embedded controller projects. A good starting point for all of them would be a backlit LCD graphics module with touch screen pre-mounted in a plastic enclosure with enough room behind the display for a custom circuit board. 320-by-240 pixels, 3.5 to 4.5 inch diagonal measure, monochrome is sufficient (but color is always cool), easily driven by an AVR or PIC type microcontroller. And priced at a reasonable point for a hobbyist! Anyone seen anything like this?"
redletterdave writes "On Wednesday, Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz and his legal team visited the High Court in Auckland, New Zealand, to demand access to the data stored on his computers and hard drives that were confiscated during the police raid, and also requested a judicial review of the general legality of the search warrants police used to raid his mansion. Dotcom's lawyer, Paul Davison, argued that his client needs the data for a few reasons: To mount a 'proper defense' case, to fight possibly being extradited to the U.S., and also to show that 'excessive police action' was used during the raid. Dotcom could prove this in court because the entire raid was recorded by CCTV data, which is stored on Dotcom's confiscated computers. Even though the FBI demanded Dotcom turn over the passwords for Megaupload's encrypted data, he refuses to give up any passwords until he can regain access to his seized property."
bonch writes "Researches at Northwestern University have developed an inexpensive solar cell intended to solve the problems of current solar cell designs, such as high cost, low efficiency, and toxic production materials (abstract). Based on the Grätzel cell, the new cell uses millions of light-absorbing nanoparticles and delivers the highest conversion efficiency reported for a dye-sensitized solar cell."
sciencehabit writes "Peer inside an antique radio and you'll find what look like small light bulbs. They're actually vacuum tubes — the predecessors of the silicon transistor. Vacuum tubes went the way of the dinosaurs in the 1960s, but researchers have now brought them back to life, creating a nano-sized version that's faster and hardier than the transistor (abstract). It's even able to survive the harsh radiation of outer space."
pacopico writes "Businessweek reports that DARPA will pay for the creation of two new TechShops in Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh. The $3.5 million deal includes 2,000 TechShop memberships for military veterans and will have DARPA employees performing top secret work at night. 'The project is called iFab. For a month, a given factory might use dozens of machines to make parts for helicopters. Then you reboot the software controlling the machines, and out come the parts for the drive train system in a tank. The Darpa workers at TechShop will try to figure out which tools and methods can be used to rewire factories in this fashion.' Maker mayhem."
gbrumfiel writes "Two independent reports show that the public and most workers received only low doses of radiation following last year's meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Nature reports that the risks presented by the doses are small, even though some are above guidelines and limits set by the Japanese government. Few people will develop cancer as a result of the accident, and those that do may never be able to conclusively link their illness to the meltdowns. The greatest risk lies with the workers who struggled in the early days to bring the reactors under control. So far no ill-effects have been detected. At Chernobyl, by contrast, the highest exposed workers died quickly from radiation sickness."
An anonymous reader writes "You don't hear too much about biological computing but in research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists reveal they have devised the genetic equivalent of a binary digit (full article, freely available) — a 'bit' in data parlance. 'It took us three years and 750 tries to make it work, but we finally did it,' according to Jerome Bonnet, of research which describes, a method for repeatedly encoding, storing and erasing digital data within the DNA of living cells."
squiggleslash writes "CNN reports that IBM CEO Jeanette Horan has banned Siri, the iPhone voice recognition system. Why? According to Horan '(IBM) worries that the spoken queries might be stored somewhere.' Siri's backend is a set of Apple-owned servers in North Carolina, and all spoken queries are sent to those servers to be converted to text, parsed, and interpreted. While Siri wouldn't work unless that processing was done, the centralization and cloud based nature of Siri makes it an obvious security hole."