Earthquake Retrofit writes "The Register reports that 'Facebook has sent out invitations to an event at its Menlo Park headquarters next week that many believe will see the launch of a new, Facebook-branded smartphone...' I have lately become disillusioned with Google having so much power over my phone and the usual privacy concerns, so this announcement means I now have a choice. Oh, wait..."
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Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft might want a piece of the mini-tablet market. The company has lowered the minimum screen resolution for Windows 8 tablets, from 1,366 x 768 pixels to 1024 x 768 pixels. "This doesn't imply that we're encouraging partners to regularly use a lower screen resolution," it wrote in an accompanying newsletter. "We understand that partners exploring designs for certain markets could find greater design flexibility helpful." As pointed out by ZDNet's Ed Bott—cited by other publications as the journalist who first noticed the altered guidelines—that lowered resolution "would allow manufacturers to introduce devices that are in line with the resolutions of the iPad Mini (1024 x 768) and the Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7 (both 1280 x 800)." Whatever the contours of the smaller-tablet market, it's certainly popular enough to tantalize any potential competitor. But if Microsoft plunges in, it will face the same challenges that confronted it in the larger-tablet arena: lots of solid competitors, and not a whole lot of time to make a winning impression. There are also not-inconsiderable hardware challenges to overcome, including processor selection and engineering for optimal battery life."
Electrons may not weigh anything, but it takes some heavy lifting, both literal and figurative, to point them in the right direction. Reader terrancem writes with this excerpt: "Energy efficiency gains are failing to keep pace with the Internet's rapid rate of expansion, says a new paper published in the journal Science. Noting that the world's data centers already consume 270 terawatt hours and Internet traffic volume is doubling every three years, Diego Reforgiato Recupero of the University of Catania argues for prioritizing energy efficiency in the design of devices, networks, data centers, and software development. Recupero highlights two approaches for improving efficiency: smart standby and dynamic frequency scaling or CPU throttling."
ceview writes "Researchers at Sheffield Centre for Robotics have demonstrated that a swarm of 40 robots can carry out simple fetching and carrying tasks. This is done by grouping around an object and working together to push it across a surface. They believe that this could provide opportunities for us mere humans to harness such power to do all sorts of things like safety — what like catching falling workers perhaps? Youtube action here."
sfcrazy writes "ZFS on Linux has reached what Brian Behlendorf calls an important milestone with the official 0.6.1 release. Version 0.6.1 not only brings the usual bug fixes but also introduces a new property called 'snapdev.' Brian explains, 'The snapdev property was introduced to control the visibility of zvol snapshot devices and may be set to either visible or hidden. When set to hidden, which is the default, zvol snapshot devices will not be created under /dev/. To gain access to these devices the property must be set to visible. This behavior is analogous to the existing snapdir property.'"
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, an anonymous reader writes in with news about a giant robot jellyfish. As if there weren't enough real jellyfish around to trigger our thalassophobia, researchers at Virginia Tech have created Cryo -- an eight-armed autonomous robot that mimics jelly movement with the help of a flexible silicone hat. The man-sized jellybot altogether dwarfs previous efforts, hence the upgrade from small tank to swimming pool for mock field tests. And unlike the passively propelled bots we've seen recently, Cryo runs on batteries, with the researchers hoping to better replicate the energy-efficient nature of jelly movement to eventually increase Cryo's charge cycle to months instead of hours. That's also the reason these robotic jellyfish are getting bigger -- because the larger they are, the further they can go."
First time accepted submitter markboyer writes "The Solar Impulse just landed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California to announce a journey that will take it from San Francisco to New York without using a single drop of fuel. The 'Across America' tour will kick off this May when founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg take off from San Francisco. From there the plane will visit four cities across the states before landing in New York."
First time accepted submitter szotz writes "The National Ignition Facility has one foot in national defense and another in the future of commercial energy generation. That makes understanding the basic justification for the facility, which boasts the world's most powerful laser system, more than a little tricky. This article in IEEE Spectrum looks at NIF's recent missed deadline, what scientists think it will take for the facility to live up to its middle name, and all of the controversy and uncertainty that comes from a project that aspires to jumpstart commercial fusion energy but that also does a lot of classified work. NIF's national defense work is often glossed over in the press. This article pulls in some more detail and, in some cases, some very serious criticism. Physicist Richard Garwin, one of the designers of the hydrogen bomb, doesn't mince words. When it comes to nuclear weapons, he says in the article, '[NIF] has no relevance at all to primaries. It doesn't do a good job of mimicking secondaries...it validates the codes in regions that are not relevant to nuclear weapons.'"
adeelarshad82 writes "After being tweaked and polished for months with the help of feedback from pro gamers and enthusiasts alike, Razer's Project Fiona has finally come of age. Re-named as Razer Edge Pro, this gaming tablet is way more than a mere plaything. Razer Edge Pro is a beast which packs a dual-core Intel Core i7-3517U Ivy Bridge processor with 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE graphics card with 2GB of dedicated memory. All this in a small 7 by 11 by 0.8 inches wide frame which weighs only 2.14 pounds. Comparing the Razer Edge to anything else is tough, considering that it doesn't necessarily have a true competitor. However in a series of performance comparisons with other powerful tablets and ultraportable gaming laptops, Razer Edge performed better than the tablets but wasn't at par with ultraportable gaming laptops. For instance when comparing scores from 3DMark 11, the Edge Pro scored 2,503 points at entry settings and 504 points in extreme mode putting it ahead of both competing tablets, the Microsoft Surface Pro (1,055 Entry, 206 Extreme) and Samsung ATIV SmartPC (1,044 Entry, couldn't run at Extreme mode), but behind the gaming-focused laptops, like the the Maingear Pulse 11 (3,868 Entry, 724 Extreme) and the Razer Blade (3,458 Entry, 716 Extreme). What's baffling is that with all accessories incuded (gamepad dock and the console dock) the final price of the tablet is a cool $1,870, which most expensive than not only the two tablets tested but also the two gaming gaming laptops compared. It remains to be seen whether the Razer Edge Pro is something special or just on the edge of it."
Yesterday, Sony gave a presentation explaining a bit about the new PS4 hardware, the development environment (Windows 7 based IDE), and the changes to the Dual Shock controller. From the article: "The system is also set up to run graphics and computational code synchronously, without suspending one to run the other. Norden says that Sony has worked to carefully balance the two processors to provide maximum graphics power of 1.843 teraFLOPS at an 800Mhz clock speed while still leaving enough room for computational tasks. The GPU will also be able to run arbitrary code, allowing developers to run hundreds or thousands of parallelized tasks with full access to the system's 8GB of unified memory. ... The DualShock 4 controller that's standard on the PS4 eliminates one feature that was seldom used on the PS3 —the analog face buttons..." The trackpad will support two touch points, the rumble motors can be controlled more finely, and the analog sticks were tweaked for "reduced dead zone and better feeling tension that grips your thumbs."
damitr writes "With a lot of fanfare the Indian Government had launched a $35 tablet named Aakash (The Sky). Despite skepticism, the government went ahead with the project. But delays in production and deployment of the tablet have left the project in risk of failure. The manufacturer has been unable to supply the required 100,000 units, and a deadline of March 31 has been set. The new minister Pallam Raju says: 'Aakash is only a tablet... there are other such devices as well. While work will continue to develop it and increase its productivity, manufacturing is obviously a problem.'" For what it's worth, they did manage to ship 17,000 of them. It looks like meeting the deadline is impossible and the $35 tablet is dead.
Nerval's Lobster writes "One could argue that the University of Illinois' "Blue Waters" supercomputer, scheduled to officially open for business March 28, is lucky to be alive. The 11.6 petaflop supercomputer, commissioned by the University and the National Science Foundation (NSF), will rank in the upper echelon of the world's fastest machines—its compute power would place it third on the current list, just above Japan's K Computer. However, the system will not be submitted to the TOP500 list because of concerns with the way the list is calculated, officials said. University officials and the NSF are lucky to have a machine at all. That's due in part to IBM, which reportedly backed out of the contract when the company determined that it couldn't make a profit. The university then turned to Cray, which would have had to replace what was presumably a POWER or Xeon installation with the current mix of AMD CPUs and Nvidia GPU coprocessors. Allen Blatecky, director of NSF's Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, told Fox that pulling the plug was a 'real possibility.' And Cray itself had to work to find the parts necessary for the supercomputer to begin at least trial operations in the fall of 2012."
First time accepted submitter bobthesungeek76036 writes "On March 26th, Larry Ellison and always with fashionable haircut John Fowler announced the new line of SPARC servers from Oracle. Touted as the fastest microprocessor in the world, they put up some impressive SPEC numbers against much more expensive (and older) IBM hardware. Is the industry still interested in SPARC or is it too late for Larry to regain the server market that Sun Microsystems had many moons ago?" El Reg has a pretty good overview of the new hardware; the T5 certainly looks interesting for highly threaded work loads (there's some massive SMT going on with 16 threads per core), but with Intel dominating for single-threaded performance and ARM-based servers becoming available squeezing them for massive multi-threading, is there really any hope in Oracle's efforts to stay in the hardware game?
Lucas123 writes "It may be a movie about a stone age family, but DreamWorks said its latest 3D animated movie The Croods took more compute cycles to create than any other movie they've made. The movie required a whopping 80 million compute hours to render, 15 million more hours than DreamWorks' last record holder, The Rise of the Guardians. The production studio said between 300 and 400 animators worked on The Croods over the past three years. The images they created, from raw sketches to stereoscopic high-definition shots, required about 250TB of data storage capacity. When the movie industry moved from producing 2D to 3D high-definition movies over the past decade, the data required to produce the films increased tremendously. For DreamWorks, the amount of data needed to create a stereoscopic film leaped by 30%."
sl4shd0rk writes "Hispalinux, which represents Spanish Open Source developers and users, has filed a complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission. 14 pages of grief cited Windows 8 as an 'obstruction mechanism' calling UEFI Secure Boot a 'de facto technological jail for computer booting systems... making Microsoft's Windows platform less neutral than ever.' On March 6 of 2012 the Commission fined Microsoft 561 million Euros for failing to offer users a choice of web browser, and there was also a 2004 ruling which found the company had abused its market position by tying Windows Media Player to Windows itself. Relations appear to remain more tense towards Windows in Europe, so there may be some hope of making UEFI more Linux-friendly. UEFI has been implicated in the death of Samsung laptops running Linux."
theodp writes "GeekWire reports on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' pending patent on remote displays that communicate with base stations and operate on wireless power. Reducing devices to mere screens with minimal storage that receive pre-rendered content (e.g., bitmap images), the patent application explains, eliminates the need for bulky batteries or processors, and employing techniques like electromagnetic or electrostatic induction allows one to cut the cord completely. Such remote displays, Amazon suggests, could find a home on college campuses (tablets), in your car (windshield displays or DVD players), and even on your face (eyeglasses)." There's already a (not wirelessly powered) device similar to the one described in the patent.
garymortimer writes "As a harbinger for the Paramount film 'Star Trek — Into Darkness', starting in May in Europe's cinemas, last night a swarm of 30 mini-helicopters equipped with the LED lights drew the Star Trek logo into the skies over London. The choreography for the show was developed by Ars Electronica Futurelab from Linz (Austria). Quadrocopter maker Ascending Technologies GmbH from Munich (Germany) provided the aircrafts."
derekmead writes "3D-printing gun parts has taken off, thanks to the likes of Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed. While the technology adds a rather interesting wrinkle to the gun control debate, the ATF currently is pretty hands-off, ... 'We are aware of all the 3D printing of firearms and have been tracking it for quite a while,' Earl Woodham, spokesperson for the ATF field office in Charlotte, said. 'Our firearms technology people have looked at it, and we have not yet seen a consistently reliable firearm made with 3D printing.' A reporter called the ATF's Washington headquarters to get a better idea of what it took to make a gun 'consistently reliable,' and program manager George Semonick said the guns should be 'made to last years or generations.' In other words, because 3D-printed guns aren't yet as durable as their metal counterparts, the ATF doesn't yet consider them as much of a concern."
gramophone records (the black vinyl discs in Grandma's attic) were made by cutting grooves directly into an acetate disc, then making a mold from that "master" and "pressing records." Nowadays, of course, we use digital recording software on our computers or even on our mobile phones. Vinyl? Strictly for fogies and maybe a few audiophiles who think analog recordings have a depth and warmth that CDs and MP3s lack. Naturally, SXSW is a haven for these folks, and among them Tim Lord found Wesley Wolfe and two German compatriots from vinylrecording.com, busily demonstrating their vinyl recording system, which is sort of the gramophone record equivalent of print on demand. Lots of background music in the video makes the voices a bit hard to hear; some might prefer the transcription -- although those who do will lose out on watching the vinyl recording machine in action. Either way. Or both. Up to you.