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Ask Slashdot: Is It Time To Shrink the Ethernet Connector? 566

New submitter jimwelch writes: HDMI has shrunk to mini, then micro. USB has shrunk to mini, then micro. The wired Ethernet connector has not changed since 1988! On the Raspberry PI, it is the largest of the standardized connectors. Is it time to come up with a new version? What if, anything, would you like to see replace that suddenly clunky RJ-45 port? I rather like that (in theory) RJ-45 cables can't be easily dislodged, but at the same time dislike that its locking mechanism can be awfully fragile. And for that matter, I'm glad that on most of my computers so far there's been full-sized USB ports as well as full-size ethernet jacks.

What Lies Beneath: The First Transatlantic Communications Cables ( 49

szczys writes: Our global information networks are connected by many many fibre optic cables sitting on the the ocean floor. The precursor to this technology goes all the way back to 1858 when the first telegraph cable connecting North America and Europe was laid. The story of efforts to lay transatlantic cables is fascinating. First attempts were met with many failures including broken cable in the first few miles of installation, and even frying the first successful connection with 2000 volts within a month of completion. But the technology improved quickly and just a century later we laid the first voice cables that used — get this — vacuum tubes in the signal repeaters. This seems a good time to link to one of my favorite-ever pieces in Wired, about a more modern but similarly impressive cable install, as told by Neal Stephenson.

Why Buses Need To Be More Dangerous 400 writes: Is there such a thing as being too safe? Jeff Kaufman writes that buses are much safer than cars, by about a factor of 67 but buses are not very popular and one of the main reasons is that if you look at situations where people who can afford private transit take mass transit instead, speed is the main factor. According to Kauffman, we should look at ways to make buses faster so more people will ride them, even if this means making them somewhat more dangerous. Kauffman presents some ideas, roughly in order from "we should definitely do this" to "this is crazy, but it would probably still reduce deaths overall when you take into account that more people would ride the bus": Suggestions include not to require buses to stop and open their doors at railroad crossings, allow the driver to start while someone is still at the front paying, allow buses to drive 25mph on the shoulder of the highway in traffic jams where the main lanes are averaging below 10mph, and leave (city) bus doors open, allowing people to get on and off any time at their own risk. "If we made buses more dangerous by the same percentage that motorcycles are more dangerous than cars," concludes Kauffman, "they would still be more than twice as safe as cars."

What's Frying the Electrical Systems On BART Trains? ( 250

Tekla Perry writes: Earlier this month, BART engineers shut down a substation in hopes that the closure would quiet the power surges that were frying the electrical propulsion equipment on BART cars -- a peak of 40 in just one day in February. The shutdown seemed to solve the problem, but BART officials weren't sure they'd really found the answer. Yesterday, the power surges popped up again, on an entirely different section of tracks, damaging 50 cars before BART closed off that section, rerouting passengers onto buses. Track inspections yesterday revealed nothing, and BART reports that it has reached out to experts around the country and asked them to fly in and help solve the mystery. Do you have a theory? Note: BART is the 5th-busiest heavy-rail rapid transit system in the U.S.
Hardware Hacking

Sony Outage Disables DASH Devices, No ETA On a Fix 116

New submitter Jack Greenbaum writes: In 2012 Sony closed the developer site for the DASH, their version of the Chumby platform. Sony never officially killed off the product, and they kept the back end servers on line, until recently at least. About two weeks ago DASH owners started seeing their devices fail with a cryptic error message "Unable to download the Control Panel (No download information available). Please restart your dash to try again." Sony acknowledges that the issue is at their end, but no ETA for a fix has been provided. The passionate DASH community is not pleased that Sony is being so quiet about a fix. One user even overslept for work because they depended on the alarm clock feature. Now every DASH is dead until Sony decides to not abandon its walled garden.

DC Metro Closes For Emergency Safety Inspection ( 110

McGruber writes with NBC's report that Washington, DC's Metrorail system has been completely shut down for at least 29 hours, so crews can check 600 underground jumper cables: A problem with those jumper cables caused a fire at the McPherson Square station early Monday and was also the cause of a fatal smoke incident in January, 2015, that killed one person and injured others. The safety checks could have been delayed until the weekend or conducted at night over about six days, officials said. But if the system were kept open, a public announcement about the risk would have to be made. That would have put passengers, and Metro, in the awkward position of publicly acknowledging that it was operating despite being aware of a potentially deadly safety problem. Metro also would have been liable in the case of any crashes or calamities. The shutdown prompted the Washington Post to publish an editorial titled It's official: Metro is a national embarrassment."

Stephen Elop New Chief Innovator For Australia's Telstra 110

Freshly Exhumed writes: The former Microsoft executive excoriated by some industry watchers for the collapse of Nokia Mobile Phones, Stephen Elop, has re-emerged down under. Telstra says Elop is being appointed to the new role of Group Executive Technology, Innovation and Strategy, "leading Telstra's strategy to become a world class technology company" (stop giggling, you in the back row). Telstra cites Elop's "deep technology experience" and "innate sense of customer expectations."

Comcast Provides Uncapped 1 Gb Service To 1 Customer -- of 22.4 Million ( 134

McGruber writes: A month after it suffered a nationwide outage, Comcast announced that a Dunwoody, Georgia resident is the first customer in the nation to get Comcast's new $80/month uncapped 1-gigabit service. The service will only be available in select Atlanta neighborhoods. The company would not say how many people would be chosen for the initial roll out of its 1-gigabit service, but admitted the numbers would be small to 'ensure seamless deployment,' a spokesman said. The company claims that the service will roll out more broadly later in the year. Comcast has 22.4 million broadband customers.

US Projected To Lead the World In New Solar Installations This Year ( 314

Lucas123 writes: The U.S. solar market is expected to grow 120% this year, with 16GW of new solar power, more than double the record-breaking 7.3GW installed in 2015. The total operating solar PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to reach 25.6 gigawatts (billion watts or GW) of direct current (DC) by the end of the year, according to GTM Research's U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review. When accounting for all projects (both distributed and centralized), solar accounted for 29.4% of new electric generating capacity installed in the U.S. in 2015, exceeding the total for natural gas for the first time and it will put the U.S. ahead of all other nations with regard to new solar installations for 2016.
Data Storage

Facebook Preps Its Infrastructure For a Virtual Reality Future ( 53

1sockchuck writes: Facebook is building a new generation of open hardware, part of its vision for powerful data centers that will use artificial intelligence and virtual reality to deliver experiences over the Internet. At the Open Compute Summit, Facebook shared details of its work to integrate more SSDs, GPUs, NVM and a "Just a Bunch of Flash" storage sled to accelerate its infrastructure. The company's infrastructure ambitions are also powered by CEO Mark Zuckerberg's embrace of virtual reality, reflected in the $2 billion acquisition of VR pioneer Oculus. "Over the next decade, we're going to build experiences that rely more on technology like artificial intelligence and virtual reality," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "These will require a lot more computing power."

Ask Slashdot: Alternatives To "Atomic" Clocks? 291

Tony Isaac writes: "Atomic" clocks that you can buy in stores synchronize time using the WWVB shortwave band from NIST in Boulder. The problem is, this signal is notoriously weak, making these clocks very sensitive to interference by other RF or electronic devices, or less-than-ideal reception conditions. In many locations, these clocks are never able to receive a time signal, making them no better at timekeeping than a cheap quartz clock. There are other ways to synchronize clock time: NTP over WiFi, GPS, or cellular. The cheapest clocks that use NTP over Wi-Fi cost around $400. Really? And while there are plenty of GPS-enabled smartwatches in the $100 price range, there don't seem to be any similar wall clocks. Are there any reasonably-priced wall clock alternatives, that use something other than shortwave to set the time?

Dropbox Moves Users' Data Off Amazon S3 to Its Own Infrastructure 45

Reader Richard_at_work writes: Dropbox today announced that it has been working on a "top secret" project called Magic Pocket for the past two and a half years to get data of more than 500 million users from Amazon S3 to its own custom-built infrastructure. The company says that it has migrated over 90% of its users' data so far. Dropbox's relationship with AWS isn't completely over, however, as they will continue to use AWS for specific regional data stores where there is a requirement.

Obama Administration Supports Recycling Code and Open Source 100

jones_supa writes: The Obama administration is seeking public comments on its open source policy. They have released for public comment a draft Federal Source Code policy to support improved access to custom software code. From the policy document: "This policy requires that, among other things: (1) new custom code whose development is paid for by the Federal Government be made available for reuse across Federal agencies; and (2) a portion of that new custom code be released to the public as Open Source Software (OSS)." Tony Scott, Federal CIO of the US government, mentioned one of the strengths of open source – cost saving. Scott wrote on the White House blog that the U.S. government "can save taxpayer dollars by avoiding duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and collaboration across Federal agencies."
The Military

Microfluidic Cooling Turns Down the Heat On High-Tech Equipment 21

An anonymous reader writes with a snippet from HelpNet Security about a technology that sounds promising down the road for consumer equipment, but may land a lot sooner than that in high-end applications where cooling is critical: Thousands of electrical components make up today's most sophisticated systems – and without innovative cooling techniques, those systems get hot. Lockheed Martin is working with DARPA on its ICECool-Applications research program that could ultimately lead to a lighter, faster and cheaper way to cool high-powered microchips – by cooling the chips with microscopic drops of water. This technology has applications in electronic warfare, radars, high-performance computers and data servers. The micro-cooler is only 250 microns thick, and 5 millimeters long by 2.5 millimeters wide.

DARPA Wants Ideas On Weaponizing Off-the-Shelf Tech ( 173

An anonymous reader writes: The good news is that some of today's most advanced technologies are cheap and easy to find, both online and on the shelves of major chain stores. That's also the bad news, according to DARPA. The defense agency is nervous that criminals and terrorists will turn off-the-shelf products into tools and devices to harm citizens or disrupt American military operations. On Friday, DARPA announced a new project called 'Improv' that invites technologists to propose designs for military applications or weaponry built exclusively from commercial software, open source code, and readily available materials. The program's goal is to demonstrate how easy it is to transform everyday technology into a system or device that threatens national security. See also this story about transforming into weapons items commonly found in the purportedly secure area of U.S. airports.

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Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"