Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
Earth

Floating Solar Device Boils Water Without Mirrors (arstechnica.com) 12

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Researchers from MIT and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, led by George Ni, describe a prototype design that boils water under ambient sunlight. Central to their floating solar device is a "selective absorber" -- a material that both absorbs the solar portion of the electromagnetic spectrum well and emits little back as infrared heat energy. For this, the researchers turn to a blue-black commercial coating commonly used in solar photovoltaic panels. The rest of the puzzle involves further minimizing heat loss from that absorber, either through convection of the air above it or conduction of heat into the water below the floating prototype. The construction of the device is surprisingly simple. At the bottom, there is a thick, 10-centimeter-diameter puck of polystyrene foam. That insulates the heating action from the water and makes the whole thing float. A cotton wick occupies a hole drilled through the foam, which is splayed and pinned down by a square of thin fabric on the top side. This ensures that the collected solar heat is being focused into a minute volume of water. The selective absorber coats a disc of copper that sits on top of the fabric. Slots cut in the copper allow water vapor from the wick to pass through. And the crowning piece of this technological achievement? Bubble wrap. It insulates the top side of the absorber, with slots cut through the plastic to let the water vapor out. Tests in the lab and on the MIT roof showed that, under ambient sunlight, the absorber warmed up to 100 degrees Celsius in about five minutes and started making steam. That's a first. The study has been published in two separate Nature articles: "Steam by thermal concentration" and "Steam generation under one sun enabled by a floating structure with thermal concentration."
Power

Dyson Will Spend $1.4 Billion, Enlist 3,000 Engineers To Build a Better Battery (digitaltrends.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Among the 100 new products the company founder James Dyson wants to invent by 2020, the greatest investment in people and money is to improve rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, as reported by Forbes (Warning: paywalled). And Dyson is not planning incremental improvements. His opinion is that current Li-ion batteries don't last long enough and aren't safe enough -- the latter as evidenced by their propensity to spontaneously catch on fire, which is rare but does happen. Dyson believes the answer lies in using ceramics to create solid-state lithium-ion batteries. Dyson says he intended to spend $1.4 billion in research and development and in building a battery factory over the next five years. Last year Dyson bought Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Sakti3, which focuses on creating advanced solid-state batteries, for $90 million. The global lithium-ion battery market accounts for $40 billion in annual sales, according to research firm Lux as cited by Forbes. Dyson's company (which is an accurate description since he has 100-percent ownership) currently employs 3,000 engineers worldwide. He intends to hire another 3,000 by 2020. Their average age is 26. Dyson values young engineers, saying, "The enthusiasm and lack of fear is important. Not taking notice of experts and plowing on because you believe in something is important. It's much easier to do when you're young."
United Kingdom

British Companies Are Selling Advanced Spy Tech To Authoritarian Regimes (vice.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas. Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology. In 2015, the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) started publishing basic data about the exportation of telecommunications interception devices. Through the Freedom of Information Act, Motherboard obtained the names of companies that have applied for exportation licenses, as well as details on the technologies being shipped, including, in some cases, individual product names. The companies include a subsidiary of defense giant BAE Systems, as well as Pro-Solve International, ComsTrac, CellXion, Cobham, and Domo Tactical Communications (DTC). Many of these companies sell IMSI-catchers. IMSI-catchers, sometimes known as "Stingrays" after a particularly popular brand, are fake cell phone towers which force devices in their proximity to connect. In the data obtained by Motherboard, 33 licenses are explicitly marked as being for IMSI-catchers, including for export to Turkey and Indonesia. Other listings heavily suggest the export of IMSI-catchers too: one granted application to export to Iraq is for a "Wideband Passive GSM Monitoring System," which is a more technical description of what many IMSI-catchers do. In all, Motherboard received entries for 148 export license applications, from February 2015 to April 2016. A small number of the named companies do not provide interception capabilities, but defensive measures, for example to monitor the radio spectrum.
Power

Alphabet's Nest Wants to Build a 'Citizen-Fueled' Power Plant (bloomberg.com) 145

Mark Chediak, reporting for Bloomberg:Alphabet Inc's Nest Labs is looking to enlist enough customers in California to free up as much power as a small natural gas-fired plant produces, helping alleviate potential energy shortages in the region following a massive gas leak that has restricted supplies. Nest, which supplies digital, wireless thermostats, is partnering with Edison International's Southern California Edison utility to get households enrolled in a state-established energy conservation program. The company wants to attract 50,000 customers through next summer that could shrink their total demand by as much as 50 megawatts when needed, Ben Bixby, Nest's director of energy businesses at Nest, said by phone. "We are building a citizen-fueled clean power plant," he said.
Australia

Robot Babies Not Effective Birth Control, Australian Study Finds (sky.com) 291

An anonymous reader writes: Girls given imitation babies to look after in an effort to deter teenage pregnancy could actually be more likely to get pregnant, according to a study. Researchers in Australia found 8% of girls who used the dolls were expecting by the age of 20, compared with 4% of those who did not. The number of girls having at least one abortion was also higher among girls given the dolls: 9% compared to 6%. 'Baby Think It Over' dolls were used in a Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) programme which began in 57 schools in Western Australia in 2003. During the three-year study, published in The Lancet, 1267 girls aged 13 to 15 used the simulators -- which need to be fed and changed, while 1567 learned the normal health curriculum. The idea originated in the United States and is used in 89 countries. Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia are now warning that such programmes may be a waste of public money.
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Use Optical Media? 338

The other day at an event, public relation officials were handing out press kit (it usually contains everything the company announced, photos from the event, and contact information of the company) to journalists. When I reached office and opened the kit, I found a CD in it. Which was weird because it's been two to three years since I had a computer with an optical drive. And all these years I didn't need one. Which brings up the question: Does your work require dealing with CDs and DVDs anymore? An anonymous reader asks the same question: I still use optical discs for various backup purposes, but recently I developed doubts as to the reliability of the media to last a reasonable amount of time. I have read a review on Amazon of the TDK DVDs, in which somebody described losing 8000 (sic!) DVDs of data after 4 years of storage. I promptly canceled my purchase of TDKs. So, do you still use opticals for back-up -- Blu-Rays, DVDs, CDs? -- and if so, how do you go about it?I do buy Blu-Ray discs of movies, though. So my life isn't optical disc free yet. What about yours?
Data Storage

Intel Launches Flurry of 3D NAND-Based SSDs For Consumer and Enterprise Markets (hothardware.com) 129

MojoKid writes: Intel launched a handful of new SSD products today that cover a broad spectrum of applications and employ 3D NAND technology. The SSD 600p Series is offered in four capacities ranging from 128GB, to 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. The drivers are targeted at consumer desktops and notebooks and are available in the M.2 form-factor. The entry-level 128GB model offers sequential reads and writes of up to 770 MB/sec and 450 MB/sec respectively. At higher densities, the multi-channel 1TB model offers sequential reads and writes that jump to 1,800 MB/sec and 560 MB/sec respectively. The 128GB SSD 600p weighs in at $69, while the 1TB model is priced at $359, or about .36 cents per GiB. For the data center, Intel has also introduced the DC P3520 and DC S3520 Series SSDs in 2.5-inch and PCIe half-height card form-factors. Available in 450GB to 2TB capacities, the range-topping 2TB model offers random reads/writes of 1,700 MB/sec and 1,350 MB/sec respectively. Finally, Intel launched the SSD E 6000p (PCIe M.2) and SSD E 5420s Series (SATA). The former supports Core vPro processors and is targeted at point-of-sale systems and digital signage. The latter is aimed at helping customers ease the transition from HDDs to SSDs in IoT applications.
Medicine

The Big Short: Security Flaws Fuel Bet Against St. Jude (securityledger.com) 74

chicksdaddy writes: "Call it The Big Short -- or maybe just the medical device industry's 'Shot Heard Round The World': a report from Muddy Waters Research recommends that its readers bet against (or 'short') St. Jude Medical after learning of serious security vulnerabilities in a range of the company's implantable cardiac devices," The Security Ledger reports. "The Muddy Waters report on St. Jude's set off a steep sell off in St. Jude Medical's stock, which finished the day down 5%, helping to push down medical stocks overall. The report cites the 'strong possibility that close to half of STJ's revenue is about to disappear for approximately two years' as a result of 'product safety' issues stemming from remotely exploitable vulnerabilities in STJ's pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. The vulnerabilities are linked to St. Jude's Merlin at home remote patient management platform, said Muddy Waters. The firm cited research by MedSec Holdings Ltd., a cybersecurity research firm that identified the vulnerabilities in St. Jude's ecosystem. Muddy Waters said that the affected products should be recalled until the vulnerabilities are fixed. In an e-mail statement to Security Ledger, St. Jude's Chief Technology Officer, Phil Ebeling, called the allegations 'absolutely untrue.' 'There are several layers of security measures in place. We conduct security assessments on an ongoing basis and work with external experts specifically on Merlin at home and on all our devices,' Ebeling said."

More controversial: MedSec CEO Justine Bone acknowledged in an interview with Bloomberg that her company did not first reach out to St. Jude to provide them with information on the security holes before working with Muddy Waters. Information security experts who have worked with the medical device industry to improve security expressed confusion and dismay. "If safety was the goal then I think (MedSec's) execution was poor," said Joshua Corman of The Atlantic Institute and I Am The Cavalry. "And if profit was the goal it may come at the cost of safety. It seems like a high stakes game that people may live to regret."

Open Source

Princeton Researchers Announce Open Source 25-Core Processor (pcworld.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at Princeton announced at Hot Chips this week their 25-core Piton Processor. The processor was designed specifically to increase data center efficiency with novel architecture features enabling over 8,000 of these processors to be connected together to build a system with over 200,000 cores. Fabricated on IBM's 32nm process and with over 460 million transistors, Piton is one of the largest and most complex academic processors every built. The Princeton team has opened their design up and released all of the chip source code, tests, and infrastructure as open source in the OpenPiton project, enabling others to build scalable, manycore processors with potentially thousands of cores.
IOS

iPhones and iPads Fail More Often Than Android Smartphones (softpedia.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: The main question when picking a new phone is whether to choose an Android one or an iPhone. A new study coming from Blancco Technology Group sheds some light on which devices are the most reliable, based on reliability. The study entitled State of Mobile Device Performance and Health reveals the device failure rates by operating systems, manufacturers, models and regions, as well as the most common types of performance issues. The report reveals that in Q2 2016, iOS devices had a 58% failure rate, marking the first time that Apple's devices have a lower performance rate compared to Android. It seems that the iPhone 6 had the highest failure rate of 29%, followed by iPhone 6s and iPhone 6S Plus. Android smartphones had an overall failure rate of 35%, an improvement from 44% in Q1 2016. Samsung, Lenovo and LeTV were among the manufacturers with the weakest performance and higher failure rates. Samsung scored 26% in failure rate, while Motorola just 11%. The study also reveals that iOS devices fail more frequently in North America and Asia compared to Android. Specifically, the failure rate in North America is 59%, while in Asia 52%. The failures could be influenced by the fact that the quality of smartphones shipped around the world varies.
Businesses

Canon Unveils EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR (canonrumors.com) 157

It's been a little more than 4 year since Canon unveiled the EOS 5D Mark III. Today, Canon took the wraps off its successor -- the EOS 5D Mark IV. The Mark IV features a 34-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor and Digic 6+ processor with support for capturing 4K video at 23.98, 24, 25 and 30 fps. In addition, it features a 61-point autofocus system, built-in digital lens optimizer, NFC, Wi-Fi and an ISO range of 100-32,000. The continuous shooting mode is set at 7 fps, compared to 6 fps on the 5D Mark III. It will also take both CompactFlash and SD cards, and there is GPS included in the body for geotagging images. Canon is selling the Mark IV in early September for $3,499 for the body only. They're also selling two new L-series EF lenses -- the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens and EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Standard Zoom Lens. President and COO, Canon U.S.A., Inc, Yichi Ishizuka said in a statement: "Canon's EOS 5D series of DSLR cameras has a history of being at the forefront of still and video innovation. And today, we add to this family of cameras the EOS 5D Mark IV -- the first in our 5D series to offer 4K video and built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. In developing this new DSLR camera, we listened to the requests of current EOS users to create for them a modern, versatile camera designed to help them create and share beautiful still and video imagery." Here's a blast from the past: Canon's EOS 1Ds Mark II. Slashdot reader LoudMusic submitted this story back in 2004, highlighting the camera's "802.11a/g and wired networking capabilities."
Robotics

'Octobot' Is The World's First Soft-Bodied Robot (sciencemag.org) 44

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Researchers have created the first completely soft-bodied robot, dubbed the 'octobot.' The palm-sized machine's exterior is made of silicone. And whereas other soft robots have had at least a few hard parts, such as batteries or wires, the octobot uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel. The basic design can be scaled up or down, increasing or decreasing fuel capacity depending on the robot's job. As the field of soft robotics advances, the scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance. The report adds: "When the hydrogen peroxide washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot's arms. As described online today in Nature, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot's eight arms; their flexing propels it through water."
HP

NASA's Outsourced Computer People Are Even Worse Than You Might Expect (arstechnica.com) 251

Eric berger, writing for ArsTechnica: As part of a plan to help NASA "modernize" its desktop and laptop computers, the space agency signed a $2.5 billion services contract with HP Enterprise Services in 2011. According to HP (now HPE), part of the Agency Consolidated End-User Service (ACES) program the computing company would "modernize NASA's entire end-user infrastructure by delivering a full range of personal computing services and devices to more than 60,000 users." HPE also said the program would "allow (NASA) employees to more easily collaborate in a secure computing environment." The services contract, alas, hasn't gone quite as well as one might have hoped. This week Federal News Radio reported that HPE is doing such a poor job that NASA's chief information officer, Renee Wynn, could no longer accept the security risks associated with the contract. Wynn, therefore, did not sign off on the authority to operate (ATO) for systems and tools.A spokesperson for NASA said: "NASA continues to work with HPE to remediate vulnerabilities. As required by NASA policy, system owners must accomplish this remediation within a specified period of time. For those vulnerabilities that cannot be fully remediated within the established time frame, a Plan of Actions and Milestones (POAM) must be developed, approved, and tracked to closure."
Microsoft

Microsoft Details Its 24-Core 'Holographic Processor' Used In HoloLens (pcworld.com) 113

The processor powering Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset has been a mystery -- until now. During the annual Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, California, Microsoft revealed some juicy details about the secretive chip. PCWorld reports: "The HoloLens' HPU is a custom 28nm coprocessor designed by TSMC, The Register reports. The chip packs 24 Tensilica digital signal processor (DSP) cores. As opposed to more general-purpose CPU cores, DSPs are a specialized technology designed for rapidly processing data flowing in from the world -- a no doubt invaluable asset while rendering augmented reality environments in real time. Microsoft's HPU also contains roughly 65 million logic gates, 8MB of SDRAM, and 1GB of traditional DDR3 RAM. It draws less than 10W of power, and features PCIe and standard serial interfaces. The HPU's dedicated hardware is up to 200 times faster than performing the same calculations via software on the less-specialized 14nm Intel Cherry Trail CPU. Microsoft added custom instructions to the DSP cores that allow the HPU to churn through HoloLens-specific tasks even faster, The Register reports. The HPU can perform roughly 1 trillion calculations per second, and the data it passes to the CPU requires little additional processing."
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Tries To Remove News Articles About PlayStation 4 Slim Leak From The Internet (techdirt.com) 85

Sony is expected to announce two new PlayStation 4 consoles at a scheduled event on September 7th in New York City, but as that date nears more leaks of the consoles have emerged. The most recent leak appears to show the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim, which Sony is trying to remove from the internet by taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted (Tweet no longer exists): "Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: https://t.co/fIjP0buTdY (Warning: may be paywalled)." Techdirt reports: "[The Forbes post] references the work Eurogamer did in visiting the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real (it is), as well as generating its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak. But if you go today to the Eurogamer post about the leak, the video has been replaced by the following update. UPDATE, 7.30pm: Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article. Left unsaid is whether or not any contact had been made by Sony with Eurogamer, thus prompting this 'legal advice,' but one can imagine that being the case, particularly given Sony's threats to social media users sharing images and reporting of Sony leaks and, more to the point, threats against any media that might report on those leaks."
Patents

US Trade Judge Clears Fitbit of Stealing Jawbone's Trade Secrets (reuters.com) 13

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Fitbit did not steal rival Jawbone's trade secrets, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled on Tuesday, dashing Jawbone's hopes of securing an import ban against Fitbit's wearable fitness tracking devices. The judge, Dee Lord, said that there had been no violation of the Tariff Act, which gives the commission the power to block products that infringe U.S. intellectual property, because "no party has been shown to have misappropriated any trade secret." The ruling means Jawbone comes away with nothing from a complaint it filed with the trade agency in July 2015, accusing Fitbit of infringing six patents and poaching employees who took with them confidential data about Jawbone's business, such as plans, supply chains and technical details. Jawbone first sued Fitbit last year over trade secret violations in California state court, where the case is still pending. The companies, both based in San Francisco, are also litigating over patents in federal court.
Cellphones

Samsung Plans To Sell Refurbished High-End Smartphones In 2017 (reuters.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd plans to launch a program to sell refurbished used versions of its premium smartphones as early as next year, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The world's top smartphone maker will refurbish high-end phones returned to the company by users who signed up for one-year upgrade programs in markets such as South Korea and the United States. Samsung would then re-sell these phones at a lower price, the person said, declining to be identified as the plan was not yet public. The person declined to say how big a discount the refurbished phones would be sold at, which markets the phones would be sold in or how many refurbished devices Samsung could sell. It was not clear to what extent the phones would be altered, but refurbished phones typically are fitted with parts such as a new casing or battery. Refurbished phones could help vendors such as Samsung boost their presence in emerging markets such as India, where high-end devices costing $800 or so are beyond most buyers. Samsung's refurbishment program, details of which the person said could be finalized as early as 2017, could help the firm generate revenue from dated high-end smartphones returned by users upgrading to newer versions.
Power

New Mexico Nuclear Accident Ranks Among the Costliest In US History (latimes.com) 318

mdsolar quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations. The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department's credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste. But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews. "The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion," reports Los Angeles Times. "The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned."
Television

North Korea Unveils Netflix-Like Streaming Service Called 'Manbang' (bbc.com) 162

North Korea has unveiled a set-top box that offers video-on demand services similar to Netflix. The service is called Manbang, which translates to "everywhere" in Korean, and allows consumers to stream documentaries about Kim Jong Un and other "educational" programs, as well as five live TV channels. "If a viewer wants to watch, for instance, an animal movie and sends a request to the equipment, it will show the relevant video to the viewer [...] this is two-way communications," according to NK News. It reportedly works by plugging the set-top box into an internet modem, then connecting an HDMI cable from the cable box to the TV. A very small number of North Koreans will actually be able to use the device as "only a few thousand [...] have access to the state-sanctioned internet, in a nation of 25 million people," reports New York Daily News.
Crime

Turkish Journalist Jailed For Terrorism Was Framed, Forensic Report Shows (vice.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Turkish investigative journalist Baris Pehlivan spent 19 months in jail, accused of terrorism based on documents found on his work computer. But when digital forensics experts examined his PC, they discovered that those files were put there by someone who removed the hard drive from the case, copied the documents, and then reinstalled the hard drive. The attackers also attempted to control the journalist's machine remotely, trying to infect it using malicious email attachments and thumb drives. Among the viruses detected in his computer was an extremely rare trojan called Ahtapot, in one of the only times it's been seen in the wild. Pehlivan went to jail in February of 2011, along with six of his colleagues, after electronic evidence seized during a police raid in 2011 appeared to connect all of them to Ergenekon, an alleged armed group accused of terrorism in Turkey. A paper recently published by computer expert Mark Spencer in Digital Forensics Magazine sheds light into the case after several other reports have acknowledged the presence of malware. Spencer said no other forensics expert noticed the Ahtapot trojan in the OdaTV case, nor has determined accurately how those documents showed up on the journalist's computer. However, almost all the reports have concluded that the incriminating files were planted. "We are not guilty," Baris Pehlivan told Andrada Fiscutean via Motherboard. "The files were put into our computers by a virus and by [attackers] entering the OdaTV office secretly. None of us has seen those documents before the prosecutor showed them to us." (OdaTV is the website Pehlivan works for and "has been critical of the government and the Gulen Movement, which was accused by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating the recent attempted coup.") In regard to the report, senior security consultant at F-Secure, Taneli Kaivola, says, "Yes, [the report] takes an impressive level of conviction to locally attack a computer four times, and remotely attack it seven times [between January 1, 2011, and February 11, 2011], as well as a certain level of technical skill to set up the infrastructure for those attacks, which included document forgery and date and time manipulation."

Slashdot Top Deals