Robotics

Consumers Trust Robots For Surgery Over Savings, Research Finds (bloomberg.com) 16

An anonymous reader shares an article: Andy Maguire faces a challenge: tasked with upgrading HSBC's digital-banking systems, he has discovered that customers are twice as likely to trust a robot for heart surgery than for picking a savings account. "I do find it slightly odd," said the chief operating officer of Europe's largest bank, referring to its survey of more than 12,000 consumers in 11 countries published this week. Just 7 percent of respondents would trust a robot with their savings, versus the 14 percent willing to submit to a machine for heart surgery. "You think, gosh, one would've imagined the world had moved on further or was moving faster than that," Maguire said in an interview. While consumers tend naturally to trust medical professionals, the "bar is pretty high" for banks dealing with people's money, he said. Banks around the world are spending billions of dollars to bolster creaking computer systems in a push to ward off startup competitors and cut long-term operating expenses. But consumers and regulators are holding them to ever-higher standards of security and convenience, driving the cost of overhauls higher and potentially eroding any savings.
Intel

Intel Drops Thunderbolt 3 Royalty, Adds CPU Integration and Works Closely With Microsoft (windowscentral.com) 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Over the last few days, Thunderbolt 3 has been a hot topic amongst Windows users especially with its notable absence with the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop. Part of the problem is adoption, integration, cost, and consumer confusion according to Microsoft. Intel is aware of the current roadblocks to Thunderbolt 3 implementation, which adds 40Gbps data transfers along with charging and display support for USB Type-C. Today, the company announced numerous changes to its roadmap to speed up its adoption, including: Dropping royalty fees for the Thunderbolt protocol specification starting next year; Integrating Thunderbolt 3 into future Intel CPUs. The good news here is that Intel is dropping many of the roadblocks with today's announcement. By subtracting the licensing costs for Thunderbolt 3 and integrating into the CPU, Intel can finally push mass adoption. Getting back to Microsoft, Intel noted that the two companies are already working closely together with the latest Creators Update bringing more OS support for the protocol. Roanne Sones, general manager, Strategy, and Ecosystem for Windows and Devices at Microsoft added that such cooperation would continue with even more OS-level integration coming down the road.
Security

DEFCON Conference To Target Voting Machines (politico.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Politico: Hackers will target American voting machines -- as a public service, to prove how vulnerable they are. When over 25,000 of them descend on Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas at the end of July for DEFCON, the world's largest hacking conference, organizers are planning to have waiting what they call "a village" of different opportunities to test how easily voting machines can be manipulated. Some will let people go after the network software remotely, some will be broken apart to let people dig into the hardware, and some will be set up to see how a prepared hacker could fiddle with individual machines on site in a polling place through a combination of physical and virtual attacks. With all the attention on Russia's apparent attempts to meddle in American elections -- former President Barack Obama and aides have made many accusations toward Moscow, but insisted that there's no evidence of actual vote tampering -- voting machines were an obvious next target, said DEFCON founder Jeff Moss.
Businesses

Renewable Energy Powers Jobs For Almost 10 Million People (bloomberg.com) 116

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency's (IRENA) annual report, the renewable energy industry employed 9.8 million people last year, which is up 1.1 percent from 2015. The strongest growth was seen in the solar photovoltaic category with 3.09 million jobs. Bloomberg reports: Here are some of the highlights from the report: Global renewables employment has climbed every year since 2012, with solar photovoltaic becoming the largest segment by total jobs in 2016. Solar photovoltaic employed 3.09 million people, followed by liquid biofuels at 1.7 million. The wind industry had 1.2 million employees, a 7 percent increase from 2015. Employment in renewables, excluding large hydro power, increased 2.8 percent last year to 8.3 million people, with China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany the leading job markets. Asian countries accounted for 62 percent of total jobs in 2016 compared with 50 percent in 2013. Renewables jobs could total 24 million in 2030, as more countries take steps to combat climate change, IRENA said.
Businesses

Open19 Launches Open Hardware Project Targeting Edge Computing (datacenterfrontier.com) 14

miller60 writes: The Open19 Foundation launched today, positioning its open hardware designs as a platform for edge computing, and an alternative to the Open Compute Project and hyperscale designs. The Open19 designs were created by the data center team at LinkedIn, citing its focus on a 19-inch rack and licensing terms that it said allow participants better control over their intellectual property. Open Compute develops the 21-inch Open Rack but is also supporting several designs for 19-inch racks, including the Project Olympus concept contributed by Microsoft, LinkedIn's parent company. According to Fortune, the Open19 Foundation is a new group established by LinkedIn, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and General Electric. Its purpose is to make it easier for businesses to buy data center hardware and to encourage companies to build data center hardware more uniformly so that it fits in standardized data racks. The racks themselves are used by businesses to house their computing gear, such as servers and routers. The 19-inch rack is the most commonly used.
Software

DJI Threatens To 'Brick' Its Copters Unless Owners Agree To Share Their Details (thesun.co.uk) 186

schwit1 quotes a report from The Sun: A top drone manufacturer has warned that customers' expensive gadgets will be crippled if they don't register their details on its website. DJI drones -- which cost between $1,200 and $3,000 -- won't be able to fly to their full potential or beam back footage if their owners don't sign up next week, the company warned. Those who splashed out for the snazzy gadgets will find they are limited to a teensy 50m radius and it won't be flying higher than 30m if they don't play ball. The company said on its website: "DJI will soon introduce a new application activation process for international customers. This new step, to take effect at the end of next week, ensures you will use the correct set of geospatial information and flight functions for your aircraft, as determined by your geographical location and user profile. All existing flight safety limitations, such as geofencing boundaries and altitude limits, remain the same. Even if you have registered when activating your aircraft upon purchase, you will have to log in once when you update the new version of DJI GO or GO 4 App."
Sony

'Sony Needs a Fresh Hit' (bloomberg.com) 117

Even as Sony's CEO Kazuo Hirai has done a remarkable job over the past five years -- taking bold decisions on the areas the company should be focusing on, and cutting efforts on those that aren't working -- his company desperately needs a fresh hit to boost its revenue and to become relevant in the mind of most, writes columnist Tim Culpan for Bloomberg. An except from his article: According to a company statement Tuesday for investors' day, the key will be to "remain the 'last one inch' that delivers a sense of 'wow' to customers," expand recurring revenue, and pursue new businesses.Those three strategies are closely linked. With TV sales in decline, its Vaio PC business spun off, and its smartphones barely a blip on the radar, Sony's last inch is heavily dependent on the PlayStation. Sony's Game & Network Services business has grown at both the top and bottom lines over the past five years, but the games console business is stuck in time. [...] Sony needs to build a device that will be far more ubiquitous and can appeal to consumers beyond the current male-skewed slowly aging hard-core gamer base. Amazon and Alphabet, with Echo and Home, are two such examples, and Apple will probably follow suit. With its background in audio, video, sensors and entertainment, Sony has all the right parts to make it happen. For the company that invented the Walkman, dreaming up another hit shouldn't be so hard.
China

Chinese Giant Huawei Gets Serious About PC Business, Announces Plans For Global Expansion (reuters.com) 51

Speaking of new laptops, Chinese conglomerate Huawei plans a global expansion into computers, it said on Tuesday, posing a fresh challenge to established PC players in a market that has suffered two years of falling sales volumes and pressure on margins. From a report: At a news conference in Berlin, the Shenzhen-based company introduced its first line-up of three personal computer models, including a 15.6-inch screen notebook, a 2-in-1 tablet and notebook hybrid and an ultra slim, metallic 13-inch notebook. Initially, Huawei plans to target the premium-priced consumer market, competing with Lenovo, HP and Dell, which together sell more than 50 percent of all PCs. To a lesser extent, it will also go up against Apple's high-end, but shrinking, Mac computer business. Huawei's Matebook X is a fanless notebook with splash-proof screen and combined fingerprint sign-on and power button, priced between 1,399 and 1,699 euros ($1,570-$1,900). Its Matebook E 2-in-1 hybrid will run from 999 to 1,299 euros while the Matebook D with 15.6-inch display is priced at 799 to 999 euros, it said. Huawei said it aims to offer the new PCs in 12 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East in early June.
Microsoft

Microsoft's New Surface Pro Features Faster Intel Kaby Lake Processor, 13.5 Hours of Battery Life (thurrott.com) 64

On the sidelines of Windows 10 China Government Edition release, Microsoft also announced a new Surface two-in-one laptop. The latest addition to company's hybrid computing line up, the "new Surface Pro" sports an improved design, and houses a newer processor from Intel. From an article: The new Surface Pro features the same 3:2 12.3-inch PixelSense display as its predecessor, providing a resolution of 2736 x 1824 (267 ppi) and 10 point multi-touch capabilities. Surface Pro is based on faster and more reliable Intel "Kaby Lake" chipsets in Core m3-7Y30 with HD Graphics 615, Core i5-7300U with HD Graphics 620, and Core i7-7660U with Iris Plus Graphics 640 variants, which should make for a better experience. As with the previous version, the Core m3 version of the new Surface Pro is fanless and thus silent. But this is new: The Core i5 versions of the new Surface Pro are also fanless and silent. And a new thermal design helps Microsoft claim that the i7 versions are quieter than ever, too. The new Surface Pro is rated at 13.5 hours of battery life (for video playback), compared to just 9 hours for Surface Pro 4. That's a 50 percent improvement. urface Pro can be had with 4, 8, or 16 GB of 1866Mhz LPDDR3 RAM. The new Surface Pro is built around the USB 3-based Surface Connect connector and features one full-sized USB 3 port and one miniDisplayPort port. Microsoft also announced a new Surface Pen (sold separately), and claims that the new pen is twice as accurate (compared to the previous version). No word on the pricing but it will be available in all major global markets in the "coming weeks." The new Surface ships with Windows 10 Pro. (Side note: Earlier Microsoft used to market the Surface Pro devices as tablets that could also serve as laptops. The company is now calling the Surface Pro laptops that are also tablets.)
Cellphones

Samsung's Galaxy S8 Active Looks Like a Rugged LG G6 (theverge.com) 30

The Wireless Power Consortium has released a leaked image of the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 Active. While it's only one photo, the image shows a smartphone greatly resembling LG's G6. The Verge reports: First, the display: the S8 Active won't have curved edges, like the regular S8. The big question this year was what Samsung planned to do about the screen, since curved glass may be more susceptible to cracking, and Samsung seems to have decided the best option was to get rid of it altogether. Instead, the S8 Active has a flattened out look but retains the S8's rounded corners, making the front of the phone look a lot like LG's G6. Samsung seems to have made the bezels a little bit larger on the S8 Active, particularly on the sides. But overall, the front of the phone still seems to get fairly close to the nearly all-screen look of actual S8. The second thing this photo shows is that Samsung isn't putting buttons back on the front of the phone. That's not necessarily a huge surprise, but it'll make the device a bit harder to handle when wet, since owners will be relying on the touchscreen. And finally, this photo reveals a bit of what Samsung is doing to make the phone rugged. All four of its corners bump out, suggesting they've been reinforced to absorb shock should the phone get dropped; it looks a lot like what Samsung has done in the past.
Data Storage

Microsoft Wants To Use DNA For Cloud Data Storage (technologyreview.com) 48

Last July, researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington said that they had successfully encoded about 200 megabytes of data onto synthetic DNA molecules. The company is now planning to take the technology commercial. "Computer architects at Microsoft Research say the company has formalized a goal of having an operational storage system based on DNA working inside a data center toward the end of this decade," reports MIT Technology Review. "The aim is a 'proto-commercial system in three years storing some amount of data on DNA in one of our four centers for at least a boutique application,' says Doug Carmean, a partner architect at Microsoft Research." From the report: Internally, Microsoft harbors the even more ambitious goal of replacing tape drives, a common format used for archiving information. Major obstacles to a practical storage system remain. Converting digital bits into DNA code (made up of chains of nucleotides labeled A, G, C, and T) remains laborious and expensive because of the chemical process used to manufacture DNA strands. In its demonstration project, Microsoft used 13,448,372 unique pieces of DNA. Experts say buying that much material on the open market would cost $800,000. According to Microsoft, the cost of DNA storage needs to fall by a factor of 10,000 before it becomes widely adopted. While many experts say that's unlikely, Microsoft believes such advances could occur if the computer industry demands them.
Power

Switzerland Votes To Abandon Nuclear Power In Favor of Renewables (bbc.com) 375

Slashdot reader bsolar writes: Swiss voters approved a new energy strategy proposed by the government. Under this new policy no new nuclear power plant will be built and the five existing nuclear power plants will continue operating and will be shut down at the end of their operating life (expected to last about 20-30 years). The plan is to offset the missing nuclear energy production by renewables and lower energy consumption.
Though one-third of the country's power comes from nuclear energy, the BBC reports that more than 58% of the voters "backed the move towards greener power sources." One Swiss news site notes that "regions where the country's five nuclear reactors are situated rejected the reform with clear majorities."
The Internet

Vint Cerf Reflects On The Last 60 Years (computerworld.com) 66

Computerworld celebrated its 50th anniversary by interviewing Vinton Cerf. The 73-year-old "father of the internet" remembers reading the early issues of the magazine, and reflects on how much things have changed since he gained access to computers at UCLA in 1960, "the beginning of my love affair with computing." I worry 100 years from now our descendants may not know much about us or be able to read our emails or tweets or documents because nobody saved them or the software you need to read them won't exist anymore. It's a huge issue. I have files of text that were written 20 years ago in WordPerfect, except I don't have WordPerfect running anywhere...

Q: Do you think [creating the internet] was your greatest accomplishment?

No. Getting it turned on was a big deal. Keeping it running for the last some odd years was an even bigger deal. Protecting it from hostile governments that want to shut it down and supporting new applications at a higher capacity are all evolutions. The evolution continues... I don't know if I can point to anything and say that's the biggest accomplishment. It's one big climb up the mountain.

Looking ahead to a future filled with AI, Cerf says "I worry about turning over too much autonomous authority to a piece of software," though he's not overly concerned, "not like Stephen Hawking or Elon Musk, who are alarmists about artificial intelligence. Every time you use Google search or self-driving cars, you're using A.I. These are all assistive technologies and I suspect this is how it will be used."

He also acknowledges that "I probably don't have another 50 years left, unless Ray Kurzweil's predictions come true, and I can upload my consciousness into a computer."
Biotech

New Battery Technology Draws Energy Directly From The Human Body (bleepingcomputer.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: A team of eleven scientists from UCLA and the University of Connecticut has created a new energy-storing device that can draw electrical power from the human body. What researchers created is a biological supercapacitor, a protein-based battery-like device that extracts energy from the human body and then releases it inside an electrical circuit â" the implantable medical device. According to a research paper published earlier this month, the supercapacitor is made up by a device called a "harvester" that operates by using the body's heat and movements to extract electrical charges from ions found in human body fluids, such as blood, serum, or urine.

As electrodes, the harvester uses a carbon nanomaterial called graphene, layered with modified human proteins. The electrodes collect energy from the human body, relay it to the harvester, which then stores it for later use. Because graphene sheets can be drawn in sheets as thin as a few atoms, this allows for the creation of utra-thin supercapacitors that could be used as alternatives to classic batteries. For example, the bio-friendly supercapacitors researchers created are thinner than a human hair, and are also flexible, moving and twisting with the human body.

Data Storage

Endless OS Now Ships With Steam And Slack FlatPak Applications (endlessos.com) 93

An anonymous reader writes: Steam and Slack are now both included as Flatpak applications on the Endless OS, a free Linux distribution built upon the decades of evolution of the Linux operating system and the contributions of thousands of volunteers on the GNOME project. The beauty of Flatpak is the ability to bridge app creators and Linux distributions using a universal framework, making it possible to bring this kind of software to operating systems that encourage open collaboration...

As an open-source deployment mechanism, Flatpak was developed by an independent cohort made up of volunteers and contributors from supporting organizations in the open-source community. Alexander Larsson, lead developer of Flatpak and principal engineer at Red Hat, provided comment saying, "We're particularly excited about the opportunity Endless affords to advance the benefits of open-source environments to entirely new audiences."

Power

Possible Radioactive Leak Investigated At Washington Nuclear Site (upi.com) 93

Authorities are investigating radioactive material found on a worker's clothing one week after a tunnel collapse at the waste nuclear waste site in the state of Washington. Around 7 p.m. Thursday, Washington River Protection Solutions, a government contractor contractor in charge of all 177 underground storage tanks at the nuclear site. detected high radiation readings on a robotic device that seven workers were pulling out of a tank. Then, contamination was also discovered on the clothing of one worker -- on one shoe, on his shirt and on his pants in the knee area.

"Radiological monitoring showed contamination on the unit that was three times the planned limit. Workers immediately stopped working and exited the area according to procedure," said Rob Roxburgh, deputy manager of WRPS Communications & Public Relations said to KING-TV. Using leak-detection instruments, WRPS said it did not find liquid escaping the tank. "Everybody was freaked, shocked, surprised," said a veteran worker, who was in direct contact with crew members. "[The contamination] was not expected. They're not supposed to find contamination in the annulus [safety perimeter] of the double shell tanks."

Washington's attorney general, urging a federal clean-up of the site, insists "This isn't the first potential leak and it won't be the last."
Displays

New Evidence of a Decline In Electricity Use By U.S. Households (wordpress.com) 318

There's some surprising news from the Energy Institute at the University of California's business school. America's households are using less electricity than they did five years ago. So what is different? Energy-efficient lighting. Over 450 million LEDs have been installed to date in the United States, up from less than half a million in 2009, and nearly 70% of Americans have purchased at least one LED bulb. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are even more common, with 70%+ of households owning some CFLs. All told, energy-efficient lighting now accounts for 80% of all U.S. lighting sales.

It is no surprise that LEDs have become so popular. LED prices have fallen 94% since 2008, and a 60-watt equivalent LED lightbulb can now be purchased for about $2. LEDs use 85% less electricity than incandescent bulbs, are much more durable, and work in a wide-range of indoor and outdoor settings.

"I would add LED TVs replacing LCD, Plasma and CRTs," writes Slashdot reader schwit1.
Robotics

Robots Could Wipe Out Another 6 Million Retail Jobs (cnn.com) 280

According to a new study this week from financial services firm Cornerstone Capital Group, between 6 million and 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being replaced over the course of the next 10 years by some form of automation. "That represents at least 38% of the current retail work force, which consists of 16 million workers," reports CNN. "Retail could actually lose a greater proportion of jobs to automation than manufacturing has, according to the study." From the report: That doesn't mean that robots will be roving the aisles of your local department store chatting with customers. Instead, expect to see more automated checkout lines instead of cashiers. This shift alone will likely eliminate millions of jobs. "Cashiers are considered one of the most easily automatable jobs in the economy," said the report. And these job losses will hit women particularly hard, since about 73% of cashiers are women. There will also be fewer sales jobs, as more and more consumers use in-store smartphones and touchscreen computers to find what they need, said John Wilson, head of research at Cornerstone. There will still be some sales people on the floor, but just not as many of them. Rising wages are also helping to drive automation, as state and city governments hike their minimum wages. Additionally, several major retailers including Walmart, the nation's largest employer, have increased wages in order to find and retain the workers they need. The increased competition from e-commerce is also a factor, since it requires retailers to be as efficient as possible in order to compete.
China

China Successfully Mines Gas From Methane Hydrate In Production Run (oilprice.com) 132

hackingbear writes from a report via OilPrice.com: In a world's first, China has successfully extracted gas from gas hydrates in production run in the northern part of the South China Sea. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), global estimates vary, but the energy content of methane in hydrates, also known as "fire ice" or "flammable ice," is "immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels." But no methane production other than small-scale field experiments has been documented so far. The China Geographical Survey said that it managed to collect samples from the Shenhu area in the South China Sea in a test that started last Wednesday. Every day some 16,000 cubic meters (565,000 cubic feet) of gas, almost all of which was methane, were extracted from the test field, exceeding goals for production mining. This is expected to help cut down China's coal-induced pollution greatly and reduce reliance on politically sensitive petroleum imports controlled by the US. "The production of gas hydrate will play a significant role in upgrading China's energy mixture and securing its energy security," Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming said on Thursday.
Government

Apple Is Lobbying Against Your Right To Repair iPhones, New York State Records Confirm (vice.com) 235

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Lobbying records in New York state show that Apple, Verizon, and the tech industry's largest trade organizations are opposing a bill that would make it easier for consumers and independent companies to repair your electronics. The bill, called the "Fair Repair Act," would require electronics companies to sell replacement parts and tools to the general public, would prohibit "software locks" that restrict repairs, and in many cases would require companies to make repair guides available to the public. Apple and other tech giants have been suspected of opposing the legislation in many of the 11 states where similar bills have been introduced, but New York's robust lobbying disclosure laws have made information about which companies are hiring lobbyists and what bills they're spending money on public record. According to New York State's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Apple, Verizon, Toyota, the printer company Lexmark, heavy machinery company Caterpillar, phone insurance company Asurion, and medical device company Medtronic have spent money lobbying against the Fair Repair Act this year. The Consumer Technology Association, which represents thousands of electronics manufacturers, is also lobbying against the bill. The records show that companies and organizations lobbying against right to repair legislation spent $366,634 to retain lobbyists in the state between January and April of this year. Thus far, the Digital Right to Repair Coalition -- which is generally made up of independent repair shops with several employees -- is the only organization publicly lobbying for the legislation. It has spent $5,042 on the effort, according to the records.

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