Power

Giving Up Alternating Current 348

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday we discussed Soylent, the artificial food substitute created by Rob Rhinehart and his team. As it turns out, this isn't Rhinehart's only unusual sustainability project. In a new post, he explains how he gave up on alternating current — a tough proposition for anyone living in the U.S. and still interested in using all sorts of modern technology. Rhinehart says, "Most power in the US is generated by burning coal, immediately squandering 67% of its energy, then run through a steam turbine, losing another 50%, then sent across transmission lines, losing another 5%, then to charge a DC device like a cell phone another 50% is lost in conversion. This means for 100 watts of coal or oil burned my phone gets a mere 16."

The biggest hindrance was the kitchen. As you might expect for the creator of Soylent, he doesn't cook, and was able to get rid of almost all kitchen appliances because of that. He uses a butane stove for hot beverages. He powers a small computer off batteries, which get their energy from solar panels. For intensive tasks, he remotes to more powerful machines. He re-wired his apartment's LED lighting to run off direct current. Have any of you made similar changes? How much of an effect does this really have?
Printer

Epson Is Trying To Kill the Printer Ink Cartridge 194

An anonymous reader writes: Inkjet printer cartridges have been the bane of many small businesses and home offices for decades. It's interesting, then, that Epson is trying something new: next month, they're launching a new line of printers that come with small tanks of ink, instead of cartridges. The tanks will be refilled using bottles of ink. They're reversing the economics, here: the printer itself will be more expensive, but the refills will be much cheaper. Early reports claim you'll be spending a tenth as much on ink as you were before, but we'll see how that shakes out. The Bloomberg article makes a good point: it's never been easier to not print things. The printer industry needs to innovate if it wants us to keep churning out printed documents, and this may be the first big step.
Data Storage

Toshiba, SanDisk Piloting 3D NAND That Doubles Previous Capacity 56

Lucas123 writes: Under a joint development agreement, Toshiba and SanDisk have begun pilot production of a new 48-layer 256Gb NAND flash chip in a brand new fab in Mie prefecture, Japan. The new X3 chips, which double capacity from 16GB to 32GB over the previous product, are made with triple-level cell (TLC) flash compared with Toshiba's last multi-level cell (MLC) chip, which stored two-bits per transistor. The chips are expected to begin shipping in products next year. The companies plan to use the new memory in a wide number of products, including consumer SSDs, smartphones, tablets, memory cards, and enterprise SSDs for data centers, the companies said.
Robotics

Philadelphia Hackers and Others Offer Brotherly Love To Fallen Robot 134

An anonymous reader writes: Since a hitchhiking robot was destroyed in Philadelphia over the weekend, there has been an overwhelming show of support according to its co-creators Frauke Zeller and David Smith. Makers from all over Philly have reached out and offered to help rebuild the robot. "We'll say that at this moment, if we get the OK from the creators to repair or replace the needed parts for HitchBOT, we'll be happy to do so," wrote Georgia Guthrie, executive director for a local makerspace called The Hacktory. "If not, we understand and we may just build ourselves a HitchBot2 to send along on its journey. We feel it's the least we can do to let everyone, especially the Robot community, know that Philly isn't so bad."
United States

Obama Unveils Major Climate Change Proposal 371

An anonymous reader writes: Two years in the making, President Obama formally unveiled his plan to cut power plant emissions today, calling it the "single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change." The "Clean Power Plan" includes the first ever EPA standards on carbon pollution from power plants. CNN reports: "Under the plan, the administration will require states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards, based on their individual energy consumption. The plan also includes an incentive program for states to get a head start on meeting standards on early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency."
AI

Apple Testing Service That Allows Siri to Answer Calls and Transcribe Voicemail 70

An anonymous reader writes: Apple is reportedly testing a new feature which would allow Siri to answer your calls and then transcribe the voicemails as text messages. The iCloud service would then send users the text of that transcribed voicemail. Apple employees are testing a voicemail service currently and a public release isn't expected until sometime in 2016 in iOS10.
Earth

Clinton Plan To Power Every US Home With Renewables By 2027 Is Achievable 504

Lucas123 writes: As part of her campaign pledge, Hillary Clinton has said she would make it a priority in her first term to increase the number of solar panels by 500M and U.S. installed solar capacity from 21 gigawatts (GW) today to 140GW by the end of 2020. Her plan, is to increase solar, wind and other renewables so that they'd provide 33% of America's electricity by 2027, enough to power every home. While the plan may sound overly ambitious, experts say, it's not. Today, renewables provide about 15% of America's power. Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM Research, said the Clinton's renewable energy goal is doable, but with caveats. In order to achieve the goal, current programs, such as federal tax breaks for solar installations (set to expire next year), must continue and future initiatives, such as Obama's Clean Power Plan that will begin in 2018, must not be curtailed. Considering that if elected, Clinton wouldn't take office until 2017, the her campaign goals could be more bravado than reality. Clinton, however, is not alone. While most candidates have yet to announce their clean energy plans, Clinton's Democratic contender, Martin O'Malley, also came out with strong support for the end of fossil fuel use and a full clean energy economy by 2050, and creating a national goal of doubling energy efficiency within 15 years.
Hardware Hacking

Leading the Computer Revolution In a Totalitarian State 75

szczys writes: How do you enter the information age when computers, and the components that go into them, are embargoed by other countries and imports of any value are restricted by your own? This and a myriad of other barriers didn't stop Voja Antonic from building his own computers and teaching others how to do so during the 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond.

He managed to get a TRS-80 into Yugoslavia by having a friend cut the cables between the two boards and send them separately to avoid getting caught in customs. He bootstrapped his own personal computer and published the plans in the country's first computer magazine. It was built by over 8000 people. Check out these stories and his experience of living in the Eastern Bloc and through the war in '90s, all while continuing to build and promote computers in what is now Serbia.
Robotics

Hitchhiking Robot's Cross-Country Trip Ends In Philadelphia 224

An anonymous reader writes: A hitchhiking robot that successfully traveled across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe, has met its demise in Philly. Created as a "social experiment," hitchBOT started its journey in the U.S. in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on July 17 with its thumb raised up and tape wrapped around its head that read "San Francisco or bust." After about two weeks in the U.S., someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair. "Sadly, sadly it's come to an end," said Frauke Zeller, one of its co-creators. The Independent reports: "The robot was designed to be a talking travel companion and could toss out factoids and carry limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location, and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels."
Power

Solar-Powered Flight For 81 Hours: a New Endurance World Record 34

Hallie Siegel writes: A team of researchers from ETH Zurich have just set a new endurance record for solar powered flight of an unmanned autonomous aircraft, achieving over four days of solar-powered flight in a range of weather conditions. Being able to demonstrate more than 24 hours of endurance is important because overcast skies can inhibit recharging and poor weather or high winds can effect power consumption. Nice achievement for this class of aircraft.
AI

Answering Elon Musk On the Dangers of Artificial Intelligence 240

Lasrick points out a rebuttal by Stanford's Edward Moore Geist of claims that have led the recent panic over superintelligent machines. From the linked piece: Superintelligence is propounding a solution that will not work to a problem that probably does not exist, but Bostrom and Musk are right that now is the time to take the ethical and policy implications of artificial intelligence seriously. The extraordinary claim that machines can become so intelligent as to gain demonic powers requires extraordinary evidence, particularly since artificial intelligence (AI) researchers have struggled to create machines that show much evidence of intelligence at all.
Intel

10 Years of Intel Processors Compared 98

jjslash writes to Techspot's interesting look back at the evolution of Intel CPUs since the original Core 2 Duo E6600 and Core 2 Quad processors were introduced. The test pits the eight-year-old CPUs against their successors in the Nehalem, Sandy Bridge and Haswell families, including today's Celeron and Pentium parts which fare comparably well. A great reference just days before Intel's new Skylake processor debuts.
Networking

$340 Audiophile Ethernet Cable Tested 377

An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica has posted a series of articles attempting to verify whether there's any difference between a $340 "audiophile" Ethernet cable and a $2.50 generic one. In addition to doing a quick teardown, they took the cables to Las Vegas and asked a bunch of test subjects to evaluate the cables in a blind test. Surprise, surprise: the expensive cables weren't any better. The subjects weren't even asked to say which one was better, just whether they could tell there was a difference. But for the sake of completeness, Ars also passed the cables through a battery of electrical tests. The expensive cable met specs — barely, in some cases — while the cheap one didn't. The cheap one passed data, but with a ton of noise. "And listeners still failed to hear any difference."
Cellphones

Samsung Wants To Bring Back the Flip Phone With Bendable Screens 59

redletterdave writes: A new patent filed last April but published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month suggests Samsung might be working on a smartphone that can bend in half like a flip phone. The biggest problem, according to the patent, is all the strain that accumulates by continually folding the display, or keeping the display folded for a long period of time, which can result in deformations and imperfections, Samsung notes. But Samsung's patent also describes how the phone could keep track of how long it's been in the folded and unfolded states, so as to alert the user of any strain that needs to be relieved. This could help extend the lifetime of the phone and its display.
NASA

NASA's Drone For Other Worlds 30

An anonymous reader writes: A group of engineers is building a new drone. What sets this apart from the hundreds of other drone development projects going on around the world? Well, these engineers are at the Kennedy Space Center, and the drone will be used to gather samples on other worlds. The drone is specifically designed to be able to fly in low- or no-atmosphere situations. Senior technologist Rob Mueller describes it as a "prospecting robot." He says, "The first step in being able to use resources on Mars or an asteroid is to find out where the resources are. They are most likely in hard-to-access areas where there is permanent shadow. Some of the crater walls are angled 30 degrees or more, and that's far too steep for a traditional rover to navigate and climb." They face major challenges with rotor and gas-jet design, they have to figure out navigation without GPS, and the whole system needs to be largely autonomous — you can't really steer a drone yourself with a latency of several minutes (or more).
Portables

NVIDIA Recalls Shield Tablets Over Heat Risk 27

An anonymous reader writes: NVIDIA has issued a recall for 88,000 units of its 8-inch Shield tablet sold in the past year. Predictably, it's because of the battery. There have been reports of overheating, including two reports that the tablet got so hot it damaged the floor it was resting on. Oddly, the company is requiring anyone returning the tablet to update its OS to the latest release.
Robotics

A Robot That Can Walk and Jump On Water 39

Taco Cowboy writes: Researchers from Seoul University and Harvard have constructed tiny robots that can walk across the surface of standing water, and even jump into the air. The robots were designed to imitate the way pond-skimmer insects take advantage of surface tension to maneuver on top of still bodies of water. After studying the insects, the researchers found their legs started with a small amount of movement before gradually accelerating downward into a jump. The insects also sweep their legs inward during the jump to maximize the amount of time they stay in contact with the surface (abstract). "Using these principles, the researchers developed an ultra light robot made out of nickel titanium with a 2 centimeter long body inspired by origami. Its 5 centimeter long wire legs are curved at the tips like a real water strider's and coated with a material that repels water." Pictures of the robots are available here and here, as well as this animated gif.
Intel

Why Micron/Intel's New Cross Point Memory Could Virtually Last Forever 178

Lucas123 writes: As they announced their new 3D XPoint memory this week, Micron and Intel talked a lot about its performance being 1,000X that of NAND flash, but what they talked less about was how it also has the potential to have 1,000X the endurance of today's most popular non-volatile memories. NAND flash typically can sustain from 3,000 to 10,000 erase-write cycles — more with wear-leveling and ECC. If Micron and Intel's numbers are to be believed, 3D XPoint could exceed one million write cycles. The reason for that endurance involves the material used to create the XPoint architecture, which neither company will disclose. Unlike NAND flash, cross point resistive memory does not use charge trap technology that wears silicon oxide over time or a typical resistive memory filamentary architecture, which creates a statistical variation in how the filaments form each time you program them; that can slow ReRAM's performance and make it harder to scale. Russ Meyer, Micron's director of process integration, said 3D XPoint's architecture doesn't store electrons or use filaments. "The memory element itself is simply moving between two different resistance states," which means there's virtually no wear.
Robotics

Robots Must Be Designed To Be Compassionate, Says SoftBank CEO 112

An anonymous reader writes: At the SoftBank World conference in Tokyo, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has made a case for robots to be developed so as to form empathic and emotional relationships with people. "I'm sure that most people would rather have the warm-hearted person as a friendSomeday robots will be more intelligent than human beings, and [such robots] must also be pure, nice, and compassionate toward people," SoftBank's Aldebaran tech group will make its empathic "Pepper" robot available for companies to rent in Japan from October at a rate of $442 per month.
Transportation

Hacker's Device Can Intercept OnStar's Mobile App and Unlock, Start GM Cars 54

Lucas123 writes: Security researcher Samy Kamkar posted a video today demonstrating a device he created that he calls OwnStar that can intercept communications between GM's RemoteLink mobile app and the OnStar cloud service in order to unlock and start an OnStar equipped car. Kamkar said that after a user opens the OnStar Remote Link app on his or her mobile phone "near the OwnStar device," OwnStar intercepts the communication and sends "data packets to the mobile device to acquire additional credentials. The OwnStar device then notifies the attacker about the new vehicle that the hacker has access to for an indefinite period of time, including its location, make and model. And at that point, the hacker can use the Remote Link app to control the vehicle. Kamkar said GM is aware of the security hole and is working on a fix.