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Power

In Preparation For Model 3, Tesla Plans To Double the Size of Its Supercharger Network This Year (fortune.com) 10

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Tesla says it will double the number of electric vehicle chargers in its network this year as the automaker prepares for the production of its mass-market vehicle the Model 3. The plan, announced Monday in a blog post on the company's website, will grow its global network of Superchargers from more than 5,400 today to more than 10,000 by the end of the year. Tesla, which had previously announced in its annual shareholder letter plans to double the network in North America, did not disclose the cost of such an ambitious expansion. Many sites will soon enter construction to open in advance of the summer travel season, according to Tesla. The company says it will add charging locations within city centers as well as highway sites this year. The goal is to make "charging ubiquitous in urban centers," Tesla says in its blog post. The company says it will build larger sites along busy travel routes to accommodate several dozen Teslas simultaneously. These larger sites will also have customer service centers.
Operating Systems

NSA's DoublePulsar Kernel Exploit a 'Bloodbath' (threatpost.com) 100

msm1267 quotes a report from Threatpost: A little more than two weeks after the latest ShadowBrokers leak of NSA hacking tools, experts are certain that the DoublePulsar post-exploitation Windows kernel attack will have similar staying power to the Conficker bug, and that pen-testers will be finding servers exposed to the flaws patched in MS17-010 for years to come. MS17-010 was released in March and it closes a number of holes in Windows SMB Server exploited by the NSA. Exploits such as EternalBlue, EternalChampion, EternalSynergy and EternalRomance that are part of the Fuzzbunch exploit platform all drop DoublePulsar onto compromised hosts. DoublePulsar is a sophisticated memory-based kernel payload that hooks onto x86 and 64-bit systems and allows an attacker to execute any raw shellcode payload they wish. "This is a full ring0 payload that gives you full control over the system and you can do what you want to it," said Sean Dillon, senior security analyst at RiskSense. Dillon was the first to reverse-engineer a DoublePulsar payload, and published his analysis last Friday. "This is going to be on networks for years to come. The last major vulnerability of this class was MS08-067, and it's still found in a lot of places," Dillon said. "I find it everywhere. This is the most critical Windows patch since that vulnerability." Dan Tentler, founder and CEO of Phobos Group, said internet-net wide scans he's running have found about 3.1 percent of vulnerable machines are already infected (between 62,000 and 65,000 so far), and that percentage is likely to go up as scans continue. "This is easily describable as a bloodbath," Tentler said.
Bug

Linux 4.11 Delayed For a Week (theregister.co.uk) 40

Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds said over the weekend that v4.11 version of Linux has hit a speed bump in the form of "NVMe power management that apparently causes problems on some machines." The Register adds: "It's not entirely clear what caused the [NVMe] issue (it wasn't just limited to some NVMe hardware, but also particular platforms), but let's test it." Which sounds like a good idea, given that flash memory on the PCIe bus is increasingly mainstream. That problem and "a couple of really annoying" bugs mean that Torvalds has decided to do an eighth release candidate for Linux 4.11. "I did get fixes for the issues that popped up, so I could have released 4.11 as-is," Torvalds wrote, "but it just doesn't feel right."
Earth

'Detergent' Hydroxl Molecules May Affect Methane Levels In The Atmosphere (caltech.edu) 65

An anonymous reader quotes Caltech's announcement about the results of a study funded by NASA and the Department of Energy: During the early 2000s, environmental scientists studying methane emissions noticed something unexpected: the global concentrations of atmospheric methane -- which had increased for decades, driven by methane emissions from fossil fuels and agriculture -- inexplicably leveled off. The methane levels remained stable for a few years, then started rising again in 2007... New modeling by researchers at Caltech and Harvard University suggests that methane emissions might not have increased dramatically in 2007 after all. Instead, the most likely explanation has less to do with methane emissions and more to do with changes in the availability of the hydroxyl radical, which breaks down methane in the atmosphere... If global levels of hydroxyl decrease, global methane concentrations will increase -- even if methane emissions remain constant, the researchers say...

Tracking decadal trends in both methane and hydroxyl, Christian Frankenberg and his colleagues noted that fluctuations in hydroxyl concentrations correlated strongly with fluctuations in methane... "Think of the atmosphere like a kitchen sink with the faucet running," Frankenberg explains. "When the water level inside the sink rises, that can mean that you've opened up the faucet more. Or it can mean that the drain is blocking up. You have to look at both."

So what's changing the level of hydroxl in the atmosphere? The researchers say they have no idea.
Databases

Microsoft Will Support Python In SQL Server 2017 (infoworld.com) 95

There was a surprise in the latest Community Technology Preview release of SQL Server 2017. An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Python can now be used within SQL Server to perform analytics, run machine learning models, or handle most any kind of data-powered work. This integration isn't limited to enterprise editions of SQL Server 2017, either -- it'll also be available in the free-to-use Express edition... Microsoft has also made it possible to embed Python code directly in SQL Server databases by including the code as a T-SQL stored procedure. This allows Python code to be deployed in production along with the data it'll be processing. These behaviors, and the RevoScalePy package, are essentially Python versions of features Microsoft built for SQL Server back when it integrated the R language into the database...

An existing Python installation isn't required. During the setup process, SQL Server 2017 can pull down and install its own edition of CPython 3.5, the stock Python interpreter available from the Python.org website. Users can install their own Python packages as well or use Cython to generate C code from Python modules for additional speed.

Except it's not yet available for Linux users, according to the article. "Microsoft has previously announced SQL Server would be available for Linux, but right now, only the Windows version of SQL Server 2017 supports Python."
United Kingdom

Britain Set For First Coal-Free Day Since Industrial Revolution (theguardian.com) 206

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The UK is set to have its first ever working day without coal power generation since the Industrial Revolution, according to the National Grid. The control room tweeted the predicted milestone on Friday, adding that it is also set to be the first 24-hour coal-free period in Britain. The UK has had shorter coal-free periods in 2016, as gas and renewables such as wind and solar play an increasing role in the power mix. The longest continuous period until now was 19 hours -- first achieved on a weekend last May, and matched on Thursday. Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said: "The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition. A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years' time our energy system will have radically transformed again." Britain became the first country to use coal for electricity when Thomas Edison opened the Holborn Viaduct power station in London in 1882. It was reported in the Observer at the time that "a hundred weight of coal properly used will yield 50 horse power for an hour." And that each horse power "will supply at least a light equivalent to 150 candles."
Power

All-Electric 'Flying Car' Takes Its First Test Flight In Germany (theverge.com) 170

Today, Munich-based Lilium Aviation conducted the first test flight of its all-electric, two-seater, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) prototype. "In a video provided by the Munich-based startup, the aircraft can be seen taking off vertically like a helicopter, and then accelerating into forward flight using wing-borne lift," reports The Verge. From the report: The craft is powered by 36 separate jet engines mounted on its 10-meter long wings via 12 movable flaps. At take-off, the flaps are pointed downwards to provide vertical lift. And once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, providing forward thrust. During the tests, the jet was piloted remotely, but its operators say their first manned flight is close-at-hand. And Lilium claims that its electric battery "consumes around 90 percent less energy than drone-style aircraft," enabling the aircraft to achieve a range of 300 kilometers (183 miles) with a maximum cruising speed of 300 kph (183 mph). "It's the same battery that you can find in any Tesla," Nathen told The Verge. "The concept is that we are lifting with our wings as soon as we progress into the air with velocity, which makes our airplane very efficient. Compared to other flights, we have extremely low power consumption." The plan is to eventually build a 5-passenger version of the jet.
Microsoft

Microsoft Improves Gmail Experience For Windows 10 Insiders, But There Are Privacy Concerns (betanews.com) 69

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, Microsoft announced a new Gmail experience for Windows 10. While only available for Windows Insiders as of today, it uses the same concept as the Outlook mobile app, but for the Mail and Calendar apps. Microsoft will provide you with an arguably improved experience as long as you are OK with storing all of your Gmail messages in Microsoft's cloud. What types of features will the new experience offer? Things such as tracking packages, getting updated on your favorite sports teams, and a focused inbox. "To power these new features, we'll ask your permission to sync a copy of your email, calendar and contacts to the Microsoft Cloud. This will allow new features to light up, and changes to update back and forth with Gmail -- such as creation, edit or deletion of emails, calendar events and contacts. But your experience in Gmail.com or apps from Google will not change in any way."
Transportation

Toyota Unveils Plan For Hydrogen Powered Semi Truck (rdmag.com) 152

New submitter omaha393 quotes a report from R&D Magazine: Toyota announced a new initiative on Wednesday aimed at advancing its work in vehicles powered by alternative energy sources. The automaker unveiled Project Portal, which is a novel hydrogen fuel cell system designed for heavy duty truck use at the Port of Los Angeles. A proof-of-concept truck powered by this fuel cell will be part of a feasibility study held at the Port this summer, with the goal of examining the potential of this technology in heavy-duty applications. The test vehicle will produce more than 670 horsepower and 1,325 pound feet of torque from two of these novel fuel cell stacks along with a 12kWh battery. Overall, the combined weight capacity is 80,000 pounds that will be carried over 200 miles.

omaha393 adds: "While hydrogen fuel has been criticized due to high cost of production and safety concerns, recent advances in catalysis and solid storage systems have made the prospect of hydrogen fuel an attractive commercial prospect for the future."

Power

Scientists Invent Ultrasonic Dryer That Uses Sound To Dry Your Clothes (yahoo.com) 435

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker. Called the ultrasonic dryer, it's expected to be up to five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers and able dry a large load of clothes in about half the time. Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations. Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines. The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibers off of clothing. Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colors will fade. While the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Energy explains in a published video that it has recently been "developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum -- setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances."
Canada

'Breakthrough' LI-RAM Material Can Store Data With Light (ctvnews.ca) 104

A Vancouver researcher has patented a new material that uses light instead of electricity to store data. An anonymous reader writes: LI-RAM -- that's light induced magnetoresistive random-access memory -- promises supercomputer speeds for your cellphones and laptops, according to Natia Frank, the materials scientist at the University of Victoria who developed the new material as part of an international effort to reduce the heat and power consumption of modern processors. She envisions a world of LI-RAM mobile devices which are faster, thinner, and able to hold much more data -- all while consuming less power and producing less heat.

And best of all, they'd last twice as long on a single charge (while producing almost no heat), according to a report on CTV News, which describes this as "a breakthrough material" that will not only make smartphones faster and more durable, but also more energy-efficient. The University of Victoria calculates that's 10% of the world's electricity is consumed by "information communications technology," so LI-RAM phones could conceivably cut that figure in half.

They also report that the researcher is "working with international electronics manufacturers to optimize and commercialize the technology, and says it could be available on the market in the next 10 years."
Displays

Religion Meets Virtual Reality: Christianity-Themed VR Demo Scheduled For Easter (nbcnews.com) 90

"Anyone looking to experience God in a brand new way will soon have his or her chance -- virtually," writes NBC News, reporting on "a new immersive faith-based virtual reality experience...part of a larger project created by L. Michelle Media called Mission VR." An anonymous reader writes: The company was founded "to create a signature virtual reality environment -- a faith world of sorts -- where dynamic, never before seen, Christian lifestyle stories and experiences could have a home." Demos have been timed to coincide with this weekend's Easter celebration, while the official launch happens later this spring. Viewers will apparently experience biographical stories combining VR applications and YouTube videos to showcase the power of belief. "Up until now, we've only been able to watch Christianity from a third person perspective -- preached sermons, music videos, interviews, even reality shows..." says the founder of Mission VR. "This is the future of Christian programming."
But one reverend told NBC that VR worlds could be dangerous because they "may take people from community and from the incarnational aspects of Christian life... [W]e always run a very serious risk that the medium overtakes the message... What we must do is guard against the use of technology through market logic where people become brands and all things spiritual become commoditized."
Power

Portland Commits To 100 Percent Renewable Energy By 2050 (cnbc.com) 88

City of Portland and Multnomah County officials have announced this week that they are committed to 100 percent clean energy by the year 2050. "Getting our community to 100 percent renewable energy is a big goal," Ted Wheeler, City of Portland Mayor, said in a statement. "And while it is absolutely ambitious, it is a goal that we share with Nike, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Google, GM, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart. We have a responsibility to lead this effort in Oregon." CNBC reports: Multnomah County is the most populous county in Oregon. Its Chair, Deborah Kafoury, welcomed the news. "This is a pledge to our children's future,'' she said. "100 percent renewables means a future with cleaner air, a stable climate and more jobs and economic opportunity.'' Portland is among a number of U.S. cities looking to embrace renewables. Wheeler noted that tackling climate change would need to be a collaborative effort. "We don't succeed addressing climate change by government action alone,'' he said. "We need our whole community: government, businesses, organizations and households to work together to make a just transition to a 100 percent renewable future.''
Chrome

Microsoft Edge Beats Chrome By Over Three Hours In New Battery Usage Test (bleepingcomputer.com) 236

An anonymous reader writes: With the launch of the Windows 10 Creators Update and Edge 40 (EdgeHTML 15), Microsoft has released a new battery usage test that, naturally, trashes the company's competition. This new test shows that Edge uses less power than both Chrome 57 and Firefox 52, and is bound to draw a response from its competition, especially Google, who doesn't like it when Microsoft takes a jab at Chrome's efficiency. The same thing happened last year, in June, when a similar test showcasing Edge's longer battery life was met with responses from both Google and Opera.

The most recent tests were performed for the launch of Windows 10 Creators Update. Two tests were carried out until a laptop's battery gave out. For each browser, a minimum of 16 iterations were recorded per test. The first test measured normal browsing performance and the second ran a looped Vimeo fullscreen video. In the normal browsing performance test, Microsoft claims Edge used 31% less power than Chrome 57, and 44% less power than Firefox 52. In the second test, Edge played a looped Vimeo video in fullscreen for 751 minutes (12:31:08), while Chrome lasted 557 minutes (9:17:03) and Firefox for only 424 minutes (7:04:19). That's a whopping three hours over Chrome, and five hours above Firefox.

Space

The First Manned Space Flight Was the Rocket Designer's Victory as Much as Yuri Gagarin's (smithsonianmag.com) 78

From an article on the Smithsonian magazine: On this day in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. And given the risks inherent to early spaceflight, he certainly deserves his place in history. But what about the man who designed the rocket that got Gagarin there? His name was Sergei Korolev, and his influence on the Soviet space program stretched much farther than Gagarin's 108 minutes of fame -- the time it took to make a single orbit of Earth. The flight of Vostok 1, Gagarin's craft, "was a defining moment of the 20th century and opened up the prospect of interplanetary travel for our species," writes Robin McKie for The Guardian. For Gagarin, it was the moment that made him a famous figurehead for the Soviet Union. As Gagarin toured the globe, the space program's chief designer remained at home and unknown. That Sergei Korolev ran the Soviet Union's rocket program wasn't revealed until after his death. "Gagarin became the face of Soviet space supremacy," McKie writes, "while Korolev was the brains. The pair made a potent team and their success brought fame to one and immense power to the other. Neither lived long enough to enjoy those rewards, however."
The Internet

Tennessee Could Give Taxpayers America's Fastest Internet For Free, But It Gave Comcast and AT&T $45 Million Instead (vice.com) 341

Chattanooga, Tennessee is home to some of the fastest internet speeds in the United States, offering city dwellers Gbps and 10 Gpbs connections. Instead of voting to expand those connections to the rural areas surrounding the city, which have dial up, satellite, or no internet whatsoever, Tennessee's legislature voted to give Comcast and AT&T a $45 million taxpayer handout. Motherboard reports: The situation is slightly convoluted and thoroughly infuriating. EPB -- a power and communications company owned by the Chattanooga government -- offers 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, and 10 Gpbs internet connections. A Tennessee law that was lobbied for by the telecom industry makes it illegal for EPB to expand out into surrounding areas, which are unserved or underserved by current broadband providers. For the last several years, EPB has been fighting to repeal that state law, and even petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to try to get the law overturned. This year, the Tennessee state legislature was finally considering a bill that would have let EPB expand its coverage (without providing it any special tax breaks or grants; EPB is profitable and doesn't rely on taxpayer money). Rather than pass that bill, Tennessee has just passed the "Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017," which gives private telecom companies -- in this case, probably AT&T and Comcast -- $45 million of taxpayer money over the next three years to build internet infrastructure to rural areas.
Network

Americans Support Letting Cities Build Their Own Broadband Networks, Pew Finds (theverge.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Most Americans want to let local governments build out internet service if the internet providers in their area aren't any good, according to the Pew Research Center. In a phone survey of over 4,000 people last month, Pew found that 70 percent of respondents agreed that local governments should have the power to start their own high-speed networks if current offerings are "too expensive or not good enough." The results show an overwhelming support for municipal broadband -- networks that are at least somewhat run by local governments -- at a time when encouraging broadband buildout is a top federal priority. But despite the support, in much of the US, building out municipal networks just isn't possible. More than 20 states have passed laws banning local governments from starting their own broadband service, largely at the behest of internet providers that want to avoid competition at all cost. Though Pew's survey found some positive results for municipal broadband, it found less support for broadband subsidies for low-income homes. Under half of all Americans, 44 percent, said they supported subsidies, while nearly everyone else surveyed said they felt internet service "is affordable enough" that most households should be able to pay for it. (At the same time, nearly half of all people surveyed said they didn't know what speed of internet they received.)
AI

The Dark Secret At the Heart of AI (technologyreview.com) 19

schwit1 shares an excerpt from a report via MIT Technology Review: No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem. Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn't look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn't follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it. Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it's also a bit unsettling, since it isn't completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle's sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you'd expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected -- crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can't ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did. The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car's underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries. But this won't happen -- or shouldn't happen -- unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur -- and it's inevitable they will. That's one reason Nvidia's car is still experimental.

schwit1 adds: "To be fair, we don't really understand how natural intelligence works, either."

Transportation

Electric Vertical Take-Off Aircraft Successfully Tested By DARPA (newatlas.com) 86

Slashdot reader drunkdrone tipped us off to some big aviation news: After several years of development DARPA has successfully completed flight-testing of one of the most novel, and odd-looking, aircraft designs we've seen in some time -- the sub-scale electric X-Plane. After calling for an innovative new approach to an aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, DARPA awarded its Phase 2 contract to Aurora Flight Sciences in early 2016. Aurora's design includes 24 electric ducted fans, 18 on the main wings and six on the smaller front canards. Both the main wings and the canards are designed to tilt upwards for vertical takeoff before rotating to the horizontal for regular flight... The prototype was also used to trial a number of other technologies DARPA has been developing, such as 3D-printed plastics for flight structures and aerodynamic surfaces.
The article includes video of the test flight, and reportedly the aircraft also successfully tested "sustained hovering." DARPA will now begin officially developing a full-scale aircraft, which has been designated "the XV-24A."

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