Power

Tesla Batteries Retain Over 90 Percent Charging Power After 160,000 Miles, Survey Finds (engadget.com) 175

According to a survey of over 350 Tesla owners, Tesla batteries retain over 90 percent of their charging power after 160,000 miles. The EVs dropped only 5 percent of their capacity after 50,000 miles, but lose it at a much slower rate after that. Most Tesla vehicles will have over 90 percent of their charging power after around 185,000 miles, and 80 percent capacity after 500,000. Engadget reports: Tesla has no battery degradation warranty on its Model S and X luxury EVs, but guarantees that the Model 3 will retain 70 percent battery capacity after 120,000 miles (long-range battery) and 100,000 miles (shorter-range battery). That's a bit more generous than the one Nissan offers on the Leaf (66 percent over 100,000 miles) for instance. According to the survey data, Tesla will easily be able to meet this mark.
Power

White House Reportedly Exploring Wartime Rule To Help Coal, Nuclear (arstechnica.com) 265

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: According to reports from Bloomberg and E&E News, the Trump Administration has been exploring another way to help coal and nuclear generators: the Defense Production Act of 1950. The Act was passed under President Truman. Motivated by the Korean War, it allows the president broad authority to boost U.S. industries that are considered a priority for national security. On Thursday, E&E News cited sources that said "an interagency process is underway" at the White House to examine possible application of the act to the energy industry. The goal would be to give some form of preference to coal and nuclear plants that are struggling to compete with cheap natural gas.

If the DOE decides not to invoke Section 202(c), the president may turn to the Defense Production Act. According to a 2014 summary report (PDF) from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the act would allow the president to "demand priority for defense-related products," "provide incentives to develop, modernize, and expand defense productive capacity," and establish "a voluntary reserve of trained private sector executives available for emergency federal employment," among other powers. (Some even more permissive applications of the Act were terminated in 1957.) Using the Act to protect coal and nuclear facilities would almost certainly be more controversial, as the link between national defense and keeping uneconomic coal generators running is not well-established.
The Administration could apply the Act to "provide or guarantee loans to industry" for material-specific deliveries and production. "The president may also authorize the purchase of 'industrial items or technologies for installation in government or private industrial facilities,'" reports Ars.
Power

Can Tesla's Batteries Power Puerto Rico? (electrek.co) 85

An anonymous reader quotes Electrek: Almost 1 million ratepayers of the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority on the island of Puerto Rico were reportedly without power Wednesday during an island-wide blackout. But a few hundred locations with Tesla Energy storage systems were able to keep the lights on, according to CEO Elon Musk... Some of those locations include very critical services. For example, Tesla deployed a series of Powerpack systems on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra for a sanitary sewer treatment plant, the Arcadia water pumping station, the Ciudad Dorada elderly community, the Susan Centeno hospital, and the Boys and Girls Club of Vieques. Furthermore, the automaker's energy division also deployed a solar+battery system at a hospital in Puerto Rico...

It was also reported that the Puerto Rican government was considering Tesla's plan for a series of microgrids to help bring back power on a larger scale. The government has confirmed that they "presented several projects in remote areas that would allow entire communities to be more independent" and they also "presented a proposal to the Authority for Public-Private Partnerships for the deployment of a large-scale battery system designed to help stabilize the entire Puerto Rico electricity network."

The proposal, involving de-centralized local solar farms, "should prove more resilient to natural disaster," Electrek reported earlier, adding " and of course, it would be a lot cleaner than their currently mostly fossil fuel-based power generation." Already Tesla batteries are "live and delivering power" at 662 locations, Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday.

Meanwhile, CNN reports that one Puerto Rico resident spent three weeks building his own solar power system using $7,500 in parts -- which will ultimately prove cheaper than the $350 a month he was spending to run a gas generator (and waiting as long as six hours in the long gas lines).

They're not revealing his name "because he's concerned someone may try to steal his new system."
AI

AI Will Wipe Out Half the Banking Jobs In a Decade, Experts Say 111

Experts in the industry say that current advances in artificial intelligence and automation could replace as many as half the nation's financial services workers over the next decade, though it will take a big investment to make that happen. The Mercury News reports: "Unless banks deal with the performance issues that AI will cause for ultra-large databases, they will not be able to take the money gained by eliminating positions and spend it on the new services and products they will need in order to stay competitive," James D'Arezzo, CEO of Glendale-based Condusiv Technologies, said. Intensive hardware upgrades are often cited as an answer to the problem, but D'Arezzo said that's prohibitively expensive.

Speaking to an audience last year in Frankfurt, Germany, Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan predicted a "bonfire" of industry jobs as automation moves forward. "In our bank we have people doing work like robots," he said. "Tomorrow we will have robots behaving like people. It doesn't matter if we as a bank will participate in these changes or not, it is going to happen." Increased processing power, cloud storage and other developments are making many tasks possible that once were considered too complex for automation, according to Cryan. D'Arezzo, whose company works to improve existing software performance, said the financial industry is being swamped by "a tsunami of data," including new compliance requirements for customer privacy and constantly changing bank regulations.
Bhagwan Chowdhry, a professor of finance and economics at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, offers a less bleak view of the future. "Technology will eliminate some jobs that are repetitive and require less human judgment," he said, "But I think they will get replaced by other jobs that humans are better at. Anything that requires judgment is something humans will continue to do. We are not good at multiplying 16-digit numbers, but we're good at judging people and detecting if someone is telling the truth."
AMD

AMD 2nd Gen Ryzen Processors Launched and Benchmarked (hothardware.com) 106

MojoKid writes: AMD launched its 2nd Generation Ryzen processors today, based on a refined update to the company's Zen architecture, dubbed Zen+. The chips offer higher clocks, lower latencies, and a more intelligent Precision Boost 2 algorithm that improves performance, system responsiveness, and power efficiency characteristics. These new CPUs still leverage the existing AM4 infrastructure and are compatible with the same socket, chipsets, and motherboards as AMD's first-generation products, with a BIOS/UEFI update.

There are four processors arriving today, AMD's Ryzen 7 2700X, the Ryzen 7 2700, the Ryzen 5 2600X, and the Ryzen 5 2600. Ryzen 7 chips are still 8-core CPUs with 20MB of cache but now top out at 4.3GHz, while Ryzen 5 chips offer 6 cores with 19MB of cache and peak at 4.2GHz. AMD claims 2nd Gen Ryzen processors offer reductions in L1, L2, and L3 cache latencies of approximately 13%, 34%, and 16%, respectively. Memory latency is reportedly reduced by about 11% and all of those improvements result in an approximate 3% increase in IPC (instructions per clock). The processors now also have official support for faster DDR4-2933 memory as well. In the benchmarks, 2nd Gen Ryzen CPUs outpaced AMD's first gen chips across the board with better single and multithreaded performance, closing the gap even further versus Intel, often with better or similar performance at lower price points. AMD 2nd Gen Ryzen processors, and new X470 chipset motherboards that support them, are available starting today and the CPUs range from $199 to $299.

Facebook

Facebook To Design Its Own Processors For Hardware Devices, AI Software, and Servers (bloomberg.com) 55

Facebook is the latest technology company to design its own semiconductors, reports Bloomberg. "The social media company is seeking to hire a manager to build an 'end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization,' according to a job listing on its corporate website, indicating the effort is still in its early stages." From the report: Facebook could use such chips to power hardware devices, artificial intelligence software and servers in its data centers. Next month, the company will launch the Oculus Go, a $200 standalone virtual-reality headset that runs on a Qualcomm processor. Facebook is also working on a slew of smart speakers. Future generations of those devices could be improved by custom chipsets. By using its own processors, the company would have finer control over product development and would be able to better tune its software and hardware together. The postings didn't make it clear what kind of use Facebook wants to put the chips to other than the broad umbrella of artificial intelligence. A job listing references "expertise to build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML," indicating that the chip work could focus on a processor for artificial intelligence tasks. Facebook AI researcher Yann LeCun tweeted about some of the job postings on Wednesday, asking for candidates interested in designing chips for AI.
Communications

Puerto Rico is Experiencing an Island-Wide Blackout (engadget.com) 244

An anonymous reader shares a report: Seven months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, the power grid is still unstable. But progress was being made; according to CBS, less than 10 percent of the island was without power as of a month ago. But now, the Associated Press reports that the island is undergoing yet another full blackout. The power company is still investigating the cause and estimates it will take 24 to 36 hours for power to be restored. The saga of Puerto Rico's power grid has been an unhappy one. The US territory was already facing a financial crisis before the hurricane hit. The island only has one electric company, and prior to Maria, it was $9 billion in debt and utilizing outdated infrastructure and equipment.
Businesses

One Laptop Per Child's $100 Laptop Was Going To Change the World -- Then it All Went Wrong (theverge.com) 268

Adi Robertson, reporting for The Verge: In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte's new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), dubbed "the green machine" or simply "the $100 laptop." And it was like nothing that Negroponte's audience -- at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe -- had ever seen. After UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered a glowing introduction, Negroponte explained exactly why. The $100 laptop would have all the features of an ordinary computer but require so little electricity that a child could power it with a hand crank.

[...] But OLPC's overwhelming focus on high-tech hardware worried some skeptics, including participants in the Tunis summit. One attendee said she'd rather have "clean water and real schools" than laptops, and another saw OLPC as an American marketing ploy. "Under the guise of non-profitability, hundreds of millions of these laptops will be flogged off to our governments," he complained. In the tech world, people were skeptical of the laptop's design, too. Intel chairman Craig Barrett scathingly dubbed OLPC's toy-like prototype "the $100 gadget," and Bill Gates hated the screen in particular. "Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text," he told reporters.

[...] After announcing "the $100 Laptop," OLPC had one job to do: make a laptop that cost $100. As the team developed the XO-1, they slowly realized that this wasn't going to happen. According to Bender, OLPC pushed the laptop's cost to a low of $130, but only by cutting so many corners that the laptop barely worked. Its price rose to around $180, and even then, the design had major tradeoffs. [...]

Cloud

Microsoft Built Its Own Custom Linux Kernel For Its New IoT Service (techcrunch.com) 199

At a small press event in San Francisco, Microsoft today announced the launch of a secure end-to-end IoT product that focuses on microcontroller-based devices -- the kind of devices that use tiny and relatively low-powered microcontrollers (MCUs) for basic control or connectivity features. TechCrunch reports: At the core of Azure Sphere is a new class of certified MCUs. As Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith stressed in today's announcement, Microsoft will license these new Azure Sphere chips for free, in hopes to jump-start the Azure Sphere ecosystem. Because it's hard to secure a device you can't update or get telemetry from, it's no surprise that these devices will feature built-in connectivity. And with that connectivity, these devices can also connect to the Azure Sphere Security Service in the cloud. For the first time ever, Microsoft is launching a custom Linux kernel and distribution: the Azure Sphere OS. It's an update to the kind of real-time operating systems that today's MCUs often use.

Why use Linux? "With Azure Sphere, Microsoft is addressing an entirely new class of IoT devices, the MCU," Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's partner director for Windows enterprise and security told me at the event. "Windows IoT runs on microprocessor units (MPUs) which have at least 100x the power of the MCU. The Microsoft-secured Linux kernel used in the Azure Sphere IoT OS is shared under an OSS license so that silicon partners can rapidly enable new silicon innovations." And those partners are also very comfortable with taking an open-source release and integrating that with their products. To get the process started, MediaTek is producing the first set of these new MCUs. These are low-powered, single-core ARM-A7 systems that run at 500MHz and include WiFi connectivity as well as a number of other I/O options.

Businesses

Demand For Batteries Is Shrinking, Yet Prices Keep On Going and Going ... Up (wsj.com) 210

schwit1 shares a report: Batteries on average cost 8.2% more than a year ago, while prices in the overall household-care segment rose only 1.8%, according to Nielsen. At a time when prices are stagnating on everything from toilet paper to diapers, such pricing power for a product that is increasingly obsolete has confounded shoppers [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. "As far as the prices go, you don't have a choice," said Samuel Hurly, a contractor from Mount Vernon, N.Y., as he scanned a Home Depot display of AAA batteries to power flashlights he uses on the job. Batteries ordered online take too long to arrive, Mr. Hurly said, and he finds cheaper, private-label options lose power too quickly.

Battery prices were more likely to fluctuate a few years ago, when Duracell was owned by consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble Co. and Energizer was part of Edgewell Personal Care Co. Those companies were more focused on their bigger, more profitable razor businesses -- Edgewell with Schick and P&G with Gillette. They would invest less in batteries, or slash prices to drive up volume, to compensate for weak sales in other units, said SunTrust analyst Bill Chappell. Energizer Holdings Inc. spun off from Edgewell in 2015, and Duracell broke apart from P&G a year later when it was acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
schwit1 asks, "Both businesses have become more profit-focused since separating from their previous owners. Is the Energizer/Duracell duopoly ripe for disruption?"
Earth

Carbon Dioxide From Ships at Sea To Be Regulated For First Time (theguardian.com) 136

Carbon dioxide from ships at sea will be regulated for the first time following a historic agreement reached after two weeks of detailed talks in London. From a report: Shipping companies will halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 under the plan, brokered by the International Maritime Organization and binding across its 170 member states. The agreement will require a revolution among ships, which are overwhelmingly fuelled by heavy oils at present. In future, they will have to not only be more energy-efficient, but also make use of cleaner energy, in the form of batteries supplying electricity, solar and wind electricity generation, and perhaps even a return to sail in some cases, or more controversially to nuclear power, as some warships already use.

Environmental campaigners said the plan was not enough given the urgency of tackling climate change, though they welcomed the deal, which has taken decades of work. Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and aviation were omitted from the 1997 Kyoto protocol and have been excluded from regulations on carbon ever since, even though shipping is used for 80% of global trade. Although shipping accounts for only about 2% of global carbon emissions, it has been a cause of particular concern, both because of the increased need for transport under the globalising economy and because many ships use dirty, carbon-rich fuels such as heavy diesel, which would be banned in many countries from onshore transport.

Power

Ola Wants a Million Electric Rides on India's Roads by 2021 (bloomberg.com) 28

Ride-hailing company Ola, Uber's fiercest Indian competitor, wants to roll out 10,000 electric three-wheeled rickshaws within a year and a million battery-powered vehicles by 2021. From a report: The startup run by ANI Technologies said it's in policy discussions with several state governments, and is talking with potential partners from automakers to battery producers. It aims to build out an existing pilot project in the central Indian city of Nagpur, where Ola's first EVs have already traveled more than 4 million kilometers. Ola's ambitions dovetail with the Indian government's objectives. Prime Minster Narendra Modi plans to significantly increase the number of new energy vehicles on the road. The power ministry in March said Modi had directed senior ministers to ensure that by 2030 most vehicles in India would be powered by electricity.
Operating Systems

Linux 4.17 Kernel Offers Better Intel Power-Savings While Dropping Old CPUs (phoronix.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: Linus Torvalds has released Linux 4.17-rc1. This kernel comes with a significant amount of new capabilities as outlined by the Linux 4.17 feature overview. Among the new features are AMDGPU WattMan support, Intel HDCP support, Vega 12 GPU enablement, NVIDIA Xavier SoC support, removal of obsolete CPU architectures, and even better support for the original Macintosh PowerBook 100 series. Phoronix testing has also revealed measurable power savings improvements and better power efficiency on Intel hardware. The kernel is expected to be stabilized by June.
Businesses

Can We Build Indoor 'Vertical Farms' Near The World's Major Cities? (vox.com) 255

Vox reports on the hot new "vertical farming" startup Plenty: The company's goal is to build an indoor farm outside of every city in the world of more than 1 million residents -- around 500 in all. It claims it can build a farm in 30 days and pay investors back in three to five years (versus 20 to 40 for traditional farms). With scale, it says, it can get costs down to competitive with traditional produce (for a presumably more desirable product that could command a price premium)... It has enormous expansion plans and a bank account full of fresh investor funding, but most excitingly, it is building a 100,000 square foot vertical-farming warehouse in Kent, Washington, just outside of Seattle... It recently got a huge round of funding ($200 million in July, the largest ag-tech investment in history), including some through Jeff Bezos's investment firm, so it has the capital to scale...; heck, it even lured away the director of battery technology at Tesla, Kurt Kelty, to be executive of operations and development...

The plants receive no sunlight, just light from hanging LED lamps. There are thousands of infrared cameras and sensors covering everything, taking fine measurements of temperature, moisture, and plant growth; the data is used by agronomists and artificial intelligence nerds to fine-tune the system... There are virtually no pests in a controlled indoor environment, so Plenty doesn't have to use any pesticides or herbicides; it gets by with a few ladybugs... Relative to conventional agriculture, Plenty says that it can get as much as 350 times the produce out of a given acre of land, using 1 percent as much water.

Though it may use less water and power, to be competitive with traditional farms companies like Plenty will also have to be "even better at reducing the need for human planters and harvesters," the article warns.

"In other words, to compete, it's going to have to create as few jobs as possible."
Security

The Long, Slow Demise of Credit Card Signatures Starts Today (cnet.com) 114

Last year, all four major U.S. payment providers -- Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover -- announced plans to remove the requirement that merchants collect signatures for card transactions. Those plans officially go into effect today, or Saturday in the case of Visa. CNET reports: [D]on't despair if you actually like writing your signature at retail stores, because their ultimate demise will likely take a while. The change is only optional, with merchants, not customers, given the new power to decide whether to get rid of signatures. So, if asked to sign, please don't insist to your next cashier that you no longer need to -- it won't work. Also, plenty of retailers will likely want to keep signatures, particularly if their workers are paid based on a lot of tips, or they sell pricey items. Still, the change marks a clear awareness from payment providers that the signature doesn't really work as a strong protector against fraud.

The change is being handled a little differently by each payment provider. For instance, Mastercard, Discover and American Express said they'll let retailers make every kind of card payment optional for a signature, regardless of whether you've got a new chip card or you still swipe. Visa, meanwhile, isn't changing its requirements for payments using a swipe card, but it did relax its policy for chip card and contactless payments like Apple Pay. Visa noted that over 75 percent of face-to-face transactions using its cards in North America already don't require a signature, thanks to lower-value transactions.

China

Trade War Or Not, China is Closing the Gap on US in Technology IP Race (reuters.com) 149

China's rising investment in research and expansion of its higher education system mean that it is fast closing the gap with the United States in intellectual property and the struggle to be the No.1 global technology power, according to patent experts. From a report: While U.S. President Donald Trump's threat of punitive tariffs on high-tech U.S. exports could slow Beijing's momentum, it won't turn back the tide, they say. Washington's allegation that the Chinese have engaged in intellectual property theft over many years -- which is denied by Beijing -- is a central reason for the worsening trade conflict between the U.S. and China. Forecasts for how long it will take for Beijing to close the technological gap vary -- though several patent specialists say it could happen in the next decade.

And China is already leapfrogging ahead in a couple of areas. "With the number of scientists China is training every year it will eventually catch up, regardless of what the U.S. does," said David Shen, head of IP for China at global law firm Allen & Overy. Indeed, IP lawyers now see President Xi Jinping's pledge earlier this week to protect foreign IP rights as projecting confidence in China's position as a leading innovator in sectors such as telecommunications and online payments, as well as its ability to catch up in other areas.

Bitcoin

A Coal Power Plant is Being Reopened For Blockchain Mining (cnet.com) 225

An anonymous reader shares a report: Sure, you could mine bitcoin on that old PC in your garage, or you could use a whole power station to do it. That's the idea behind the Blockchain Application Centre -- an Aussie tech initiative that will see one of the country's now-shuttered coal-fired power plants reopened to provide cheap power for blockchain applications. It's the work of Australian tech company IOT Group, which has partnered with local power company Hunter Energy on the project. According to The Age, Hunter Energy will recommission the Redbank power station in the Hunter Valley, two hours drive north of Sydney. Once the power plant is reopened (expected to be completed within 12 months), it will offer wholesale or "pre-grid" power prices to blockchain companies, allowing them to do things like mining cryptocurrencies, without having to pay retail power prices.
Power

World's First Electrified Road For Charging Vehicles Opens In Sweden (theguardian.com) 102

A 1.2-mile stretch of road with electric rails has been installed in Stockholm, Sweden, allowing electric vehicles to charge up their batteries as they drive across it. "The technology behind the electrification of the road linking Stockholm Arlanda airport to a logistics site outside the capital city aims to solve the thorny problems of keeping electric vehicles charged, and the manufacture of their batteries affordable," reports The Guardian. From the report: Energy is transferred from two tracks of rail in the road via a movable arm attached to the bottom of a vehicle. The design is not dissimilar to that of a Scalextric track, although should the vehicle overtake, the arm is automatically disconnected. The electrified road is divided into 50m sections, with an individual section powered only when a vehicle is above it. When a vehicle stops, the current is disconnected. The system is able to calculate the vehicle's energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and user. The "dynamic charging" -- as opposed to the use of roadside charging posts -- means the vehicle's batteries can be smaller, along with their manufacturing costs. A former diesel-fuelled truck owned by the logistics firm, PostNord, is the first to use the road.
Earth

XPRIZE Projects Aim To Convert CO2 Emissions, But Skepticism Remains (scientificamerican.com) 83

The XPRIZE foundation exists to encourage particular innovations that might be useful but from which conventional financial backers are likely to shy away. Previous X Prizes have been awarded for feats such as flying a reusable spacecraft to the edge of space, and designing cheap sensors to measure oceanic acidity. This week, the foundation announced a new prize. From a report: One pioneering team hopes to use carbon dioxide to make a stronger form of cement. Another wants to use carbon to make bioplastic. Still another is planning to transform CO2 into solid carbonates that can be used as building materials. The XPRIZE Foundation unveiled 10 teams yesterday as finalists in its $20 million contest to find a solution to carbon emissions.

Its carbon competition is meant to find an economic use for planet-warming emissions. The basic idea: If emissions can be turned into a product, power companies will have an incentive to capture and sell carbon instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. A group of 47 teams from across the world initially submitted proposals. The remaining 10 teams will compete in two groups. One will test their technologies at a coal-fired power plant in Gillette, Wyo. The other will compete at a natural gas plant in Calgary, Alberta. Winners will be announced in 2020. They will split the $20 million purse.

[...] Significant skepticism over carbon utilization's effectiveness persists, however. The chief concern is that global carbon emissions outweigh the market for carbon products. "There is no question you can do it. The question is whether it can be a meaningful contribution to climate mitigation," said Edward Rubin, a professor of environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Security

Data Exfiltrators Send Info Over PCs' Power Supply Cables (theregister.co.uk) 131

From a report on The Register: If you want your computer to be really secure, disconnect its power cable. So says Mordechai Guri and his team of side-channel sleuths at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The crew have penned a paper titled PowerHammer: Exfiltrating Data from Air-Gapped Computers through Power Lines that explains how attackers could install malware that regulates CPU utilisation and creates fluctuations in the current flow that could modulate and encode data. The variations would be "propagated through the power lines" to the outside world.

Depending on the attacker's approach, data could be exfiltrated at between 10 and 1,000 bits-per-second. The higher speed would work if attackers can get at the cable connected to the computer's power supply. The slower speed works if attackers can only access a building's electrical services panel. The PowerHammer malware spikes the CPU utilisation by choosing cores that aren't currently in use by user operations (to make it less noticeable). Guri and his pals use frequency shift keying to encode data onto the line.

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