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Power

Plunging Battery Prices Expected To Spur Renewable Energy Adoption 121

Lucas123 writes: Lithium-ion (Li-on) and flow battery prices are expected to drop by as much as 60% by 2020, making them far more affordable for storing power from distributed renewable energy systems, such as wind and solar, according to a recent report by Australia's Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The 130-page report (PDF) shows that Li-on batteries will drop from $550 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2014 to $200 per kWh by 2020; and flow battery prices will drop from $680 per kWh to $350 per kWh during the same time. Flow batteries and Li-ion batteries work well with intermittent energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines because of their ability to be idle for long periods without losing a charge. Both battery technologies offer unique advantages in that they can easily be scaled to suit many applications and have high cycle efficiency, the ARENA report noted. Li-ion batteries more easily suit consumer market. Flow batteries, which are less adaptable for consumer use because they're typically too large, scale more easily because all that's needed to grow storage capacity is more electrolyte liquid; the hardware remains the same.
Networking

OnHub Router -- Google's Smart Home Trojan Horse? 120

An anonymous reader writes: A couple weeks ago, Google surprised everybody by announcing a new piece of hardware: the OnHub Wi-Fi router. It packs a ton of processing power and a bunch of wireless radios into a glowy cylinder, and they're going to sell it for $200, which is on the high end for home networking equipment. Google sent out a number of units for testing, and the reviews are starting to come out. The device is truly Wi-Fi-centric, with only a single port for an ethernet cable. It runs on a Qualcomm IPQ8064 dual-core 1.4GHz SoC with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage. You can only access the router's admin settings by using the associated app on a mobile device.

OnHub's data transfer speeds couldn't compete with a similarly priced Asus router, but it had no problem blanketing the area with a strong signal. Ron Amadeo puts his conclusion simply: "To us, this looks like Google's smart home Trojan horse." The smartphone app that accompanies OnHub has branding for something called "Google On," which they speculate is Google's new hub for smart home products. "There are tons of competing smart home protocols out there, all of which are incompatible with one another—imagine HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray, but with about five different players. ... Other than Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, everything in OnHub is a Google/Nest/Alphabet protocol. And remember, the "Built for Google On" stamp on the bottom of the OnHub sure sounds like a third-party certification program."
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Suggestions For Taking a Business Out Into the Forest? 143

An anonymous reader writes: I'm a huge fan of primitive survival reality TV. I am also self-employed in web troubleshooting and hosting services. I have to be available 24/7, but a lot of my work is just being online for a few minutes at a time. I often think about taking my business 'outdoors', camping, 3-7 days or so at a time — but staying online. Has anyone had experience with this? How did you do it, in terms of internet connectivity and portable power? Satellite internet or long distance Wi-Fi antennaes and a very tall pole? I've looked at some portable power stations with solar attachments, but the idea of hand-cranking to recharge if it's overcast isn't fun, after all, the point is to relax. But I'm willing to manually recharge if it's realistic (would prefer pedaling though!) I happen to have a Toughbook CF-52 (I just thought it was cool) but I may need to replace that with a more eco-friendly laptop as well. Thanks!
AMD

AMD's R9 Fury On Open-Source: Prepare for Disappointment, For Now 43

An anonymous reader writes: With Linux 4.3 AMD is adding the initial open-source driver for the R9 Fury graphics cards. Unfortunate for Linux gamers, the R9 Fury isn't yet in good shape on the open-source driver and it's not good with the Catalyst Linux driver either as previously discussed. With the initial code going into Linux 4.3, the $550 R9 Fury runs slower than graphics cards like the lower-cost and older R7 370 and HD 7950 GPUs, since AMD's open-source developers haven't yet found the time to implement power management / re-clocking support. The R9 Fury also only advertises OpenGL 3.0 support while the hardware is GL4.5-capable and the other open-source AMD GCN driver ships OpenGL 4.1. It doesn't look like AMD has any near-term R9 Fury Linux fix for either driver, but at least their older hardware is performing well with the open-source code.
Graphics

MIAOW Open Source GPU Debuts At Hot Chips 44

alexvoica writes: The first general-purpose graphics processor (GPGPU) now available as open-source RTL was unveiled at the Hot Chips event. Although the GPGPU is in an early and relatively crude stage, it is another piece of an emerging open-source hardware platform, said Karu Sankaralingam, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sankaralingam led the team that designed the Many-core Integrated Accelerator of Wisconsin (MIAOW). A 12-person team developed the MIAOW core in 36 months. Their goal was simply to create a functional GPGPU without setting any specific area, frequency, power or performance goals. The resulting GPGPU uses just 95 instructions and 32 compute units in its current design. It only supports single-precision operations. Students are now adding a graphics pipeline to the design, a job expected to take about six months.
Science

How Close Are We, Really, To Nuclear Fusion? 391

StartsWithABang writes: The ultimate dream when it comes to clean, green, safe, abundant energy is nuclear fusion. The same process that powers the core of the Sun could also power everything on Earth millions of times over, if only we could figure out how to reach that breakeven point. Right now, we have three different candidates for doing so: inertial confinement, magnetic confinement, and magnetized target fusion. Recent advances have all three looking promising in various ways, making one wonder why we don't spend more resources towards achieving the holy grail of energy.
Microsoft

Microsoft Builds Open-Source Browser Using HTML, JavaScript, and CSS 70

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft's new browser, Edge, has a new rendering engine, EdgeHTML. Like Edge, the new rendering engine is only available in Windows 10, but it does more than just power the company's new browser: It's also readily available to developers. To show off what EdgeHTML can do, Microsoft has built a browser using predominantly JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Next, the company released the browser on the Windows Store and the sample code on GitHub.
Canada

Canadian Nuclear Accident Study Puts Risks Into Perspective 165

An anonymous reader writes: A Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) study has concluded that there would be no detectable increase in cancer risk for most of the population from radiation released in a hypothetical severe nuclear accident. The CNSC's study is the result of a collaborative effort of research and analysis undertaken to address concerns raised during public hearings on the environmental assessment for the refurbishment of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) Darlington nuclear power plant in 2012. The draft study was released for public consultation in June 2014. Feedback from the Commission itself and comments from over 500 submissions from the public, government and other organizations have been incorporated in the final version. The study involved identifying and modelling a large atmospheric release of radionuclides from a hypothetical severe nuclear accident at the four-unit Darlington plant
Operating Systems

Contiki 3.0 Released, Retains Support For Apple II, C64 43

An anonymous reader writes that on Wednesday the Contiki team announced the release of Contiki 3.0, the latest version of the open source IoT operating system. The 3.0 release is a huge step up from the 2.x branch and brings support for new and exciting hardware, a set of new network protocols, a bunch of improvements in the low-power mesh networking protocols, along with a large number of general stability improvements. And, yes, the system still runs on the Commodore 64/128, Apple II, Atari.
Programming

In Praise of the Solo Programmer 112

HughPickens.com writes: Jean-Louis Gassée writes that once upon a time, we were awestruck by the solo programmer who could single-handedly write a magnum opus on a barebones machine like the Apple ][ with its 64 kilobytes of memory and an 8-bit processor running at 1MHz. Once such giant was Paul Lutus, known as the Oregon Hermit, who won a place next to Jobs and Wozniak in the Bandley Drive Hall of Fame for his Apple Writer word processor. "Those were the days Computers and their operating systems were simple and the P in Personal Computers applied to the programmer," writes Gassée. "There's no place for a 2015 Paul Lutus. But are things really that dire?"

As it turns out, the size and complexity of operating systems and development tools do not pose completely insurmountable obstacles; There are still programs of hefty import authored by one person. One such example is Preview, Mac's all-in-one file viewing and editing program. The many superpowers of Apple's Preview does justice to the app's power and flexibility authored by a solo, unnamed programmer who has been at it since the NeXT days. Newer than Preview but no less ambitious, is Gus Mueller's Acorn, an "Image Editor for Humans", now in version 5 at the Mac App Store. Mueller calls his Everett, WA company a mom and pop shop because his spouse Kristin does the documentation when she isn't working as a Physical Therapist. Gus recently released Acorn 5 fixing hundreds of minor bugs and annoyances. "It took months and months of work, it was super boring and mind numbing and it was really hard to justify, and it made Acorn 5 super late," writes Mueller. "But we did it anyway, because something in us felt that software quality has been going downhill in general, and we sure as heck weren't going to let that happen to Acorn."
Transportation

Many Drivers Never Use In-Vehicle Tech, Don't Want Apple Or Google In Next Car 413

Lucas123 writes: Many of the high-tech features automakers believe owners want in their vehicles are not only not being used by them, but they don't want them in their next vehicle, according to a new survey by J.D. Power. According to J.D. Power's 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of 33 of the latest technology features. The five features owners most commonly report that they "never use" are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); heads-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%). Additionally, there are 14 technology features that 20% or more of owners don't even want in their next vehicle. Those features include Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. When narrowed to just Gen Yers, the number of vehicle owners who don't want entertainment and connectivity systems increases to 23%.
Google

Why Modular Smartphones Are Such a Nightmare To Develop 111

itwbennett writes: Last week Google postponed tests of its Project Ara until next year. Mikael Ricknäs has written about why developing such devices is particularly difficult. The biggest challenge, writes Ricknäs, 'is the underlying architecture, the structural frame and data backbone of the device, which makes it possible for all the modules to communicate with each other. It has to be so efficient that the overall performance doesn't take a hit and still be cheap and frugal with power consumption.' For more on Project Ara and its challenges, watch this Slashdot interview with the project's firmware lead Marti Bolivar.
Transportation

When Should Cops Be Allowed To Take Control of Self-Driving Cars? 236

HughPickens.com writes: A police officer is directing traffic in the intersection when he sees a self-driving car barreling toward him and the occupant looking down at his smartphone. The officer gestures for the car to stop, and the self-driving vehicle rolls to a halt behind the crosswalk. This seems like a pretty plausible interaction. Human drivers are required to pull over when a police officer gestures for them to do so. It's reasonable to expect that self-driving cars would do the same. But Will Oremus writes that while it's clear that police officers should have some power over the movements of self-driving cars, what's less clear is where to draw the line. Should an officer be able to do the same if he suspects the passenger of a crime? And what if the passenger doesn't want the car to stop—can she override the command, or does the police officer have ultimate control?

According to a RAND Corp. report on the future of technology and law enforcement "the dark side to all of the emerging access and interconnectivity (PDF) is the risk to the public's civil rights, privacy rights, and security." It added, "One can readily imagine abuses that might occur if, for example, capabilities to control automated vehicles and the disclosure of detailed personal information about their occupants were not tightly controlled and secured."
Power

Fusion Progress: Superheated Gas Kept Stable For 5 Milliseconds 96

An anonymous reader writes: A company called Tri Alpha has successfully kept a ball of superheated gas stable for a record time, 5 milliseconds, putting them closer to producing fusion power. "'They've succeeded finally in achieving a lifetime limited only by the power available to the system,' says particle physicist Burton Richter of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who sits on a board of advisers to Tri Alpha. If the company's scientists can scale the technique up to longer times and higher temperatures, they will reach a stage at which atomic nuclei in the gas collide forcefully enough to fuse together, releasing energy.

Importantly, the Tri Alpha machine may be able to operate with a different fuel than most other fusion reactors. This fuel-a mix of hydrogen and boron-is harder to react, but Tri Alpha researchers say it avoids many of the problems likely to confront conventional fusion power plants." The article does not say how much this success cost the privately-funded Tri Alpha, but it certainly wasn't in the billions of dollars.
Businesses

Next Texas Energy Boom: Solar 315

Layzej writes: The Wall Street Journal reports: "Solar power has gotten so cheap to produce—and so competitively priced in the electricity market—that it is taking hold even in a state that, unlike California, doesn't offer incentives to utilities to buy or build sun-powered generation." Falling cost is one factor driving investment. "Another reason for the boom: Texas recently wrapped up construction of $6.9 billion worth of new transmission lines, many connecting West Texas to the state's large cities. These massive power lines enabled Texas to become, by far, the largest U.S. wind producer. Solar developers plan to move electricity on the same lines, taking advantage of a lull in wind generation during the heat of the day when solar output is at its highest."
Power

South Africans Revolutionize Concentrated Solar Power With Mini Heliostats 106

Taffykay writes: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) offers significant benefits, but it's often prohibitively expensive. Paul Gauché from Stellenbosch University in South Africa hopes to change that with Helio 100, a series of 'plonkable' miniature heliostats that require no installation or concrete, and offer solar energy that's cheaper than diesel. The Guardian reports: "Helio100 is a pilot project with over 100 heliostats of 2.2 sq meters each, generating 150 Kilowatts (kW) of power in total – enough to power about 10 households. According to Gauché, the array is already cheaper than using diesel, the go-to fuel for most companies and businesses during regular power outages in the country.
Transportation

Tesla Partners With Airbnb, Subsidizes Chargers 59

Fortune reports that Tesla and Airbnb have teamed up; certain Airbnb properties will get Tesla chargers as a perk. There are 12 locations already equippped with chargers, but expect to see more soon, because Tesla is willing to pay for some of them, at least in California. To get on the list from which Tesla is drawing takes more than an air mattress in a spare room: An existing Airbnb host who lists an entire home, has had more than more than five bookings, and has an average overall star rating of 4+ is eligible to receive a free Tesla charger, which cost $750. The host must pay for the installation, which costs between $200 and $900 depending on the layout of the home.
Software

Ask Slashdot: Maintaining Continuity In Your Creative Works? 95

imac.usr writes: I recently rewatched the Stonecutters episode of The Simpsons and laughed as always at the scene where Homer pulls into his parking space — right next to his house. It's such a great little comic moment. This time, though, it occurred to me that someone probably wrote in to complain that the power plant was normally in a completely different part of town, no doubt adding "I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder." And that got me to wondering: how do creators of serial media — books, web comics, TV shows, even movie serials — record their various continuities? Is there a story bible with the information, or a database of people/places/things, or even something scribbled on a 3x5 card. I know Slashdot is full of artists who must deal with this issue on a regular basis, so I'd be interested in hearing any perspectives on how (or even if) you manage it.
Earth

NASA's Hurricane Model Resolution Increases Nearly 10-Fold Since Katrina 89

zdburke writes: Thanks to improvements in satellites and on-the-ground computing power, NASA's ability to model hurricane data has come a long way in the ten years since Katrina devastated New Orleans. Their blog notes, "Today's models have up to ten times the resolution than those during Hurricane Katrina and allow for a more accurate look inside the hurricane. Imagine going from video game figures made of large chunky blocks to detailed human characters that visibly show beads of sweat on their forehead." Gizmodo covered the post too and added some technical details, noting that, "the supercomputer has more than 45,000 processor cores and runs at 1.995 petfalops."