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Microsoft

Microsoft Details Its 24-Core 'Holographic Processor' Used In HoloLens (pcworld.com) 108

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."
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.
Power

New Mexico Nuclear Accident Ranks Among the Costliest In US History (latimes.com) 309

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."
Security

BHU's 'Tiger Will Power' Wi-Fi Router May Be The Most Insecure Router Ever Made (softpedia.com) 62

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: A Wi-Fi router manufactured and sold only in China can easily run for the title of "most insecure router ever made." The BHU router, whose name translates to "Tiger Will Power," has a long list of security problems that include: four authentication bypass flaws (one of which is just hilarious); a built-in backdoor root account that gets created on every boot-up sequence; the fact that it opens the SSH port for external connections after every boot (somebody has to use that root backdoor account right?); a built-in proxy server that re-routes all traffic; an ad injection system that adds adverts to all the sites you visit; and a backup JS file embedded in the router firmware if the ad script fails to load from its server. For techies, there's a long technical write-up, which gets funnier and scarier at the same time as you read through it. "An attacker authenticating on the router can use a hardcoded session ID (SID) value of 700000000000000 to gain admin privileges," reports Softpedia. "If he misspells the SID and drops a zero, that's no problem. The BHU router will accept any value and still grant the user admin rights."
Government

Nuclear Waste Accident 2 Years Ago May Cost More Than $2 Billion To Clean Up (arstechnica.com) 20

An anonymous reader writes: The Los Angeles Times is estimating that an explosion that occurred at a New Mexico nuclear waste dumping facility in 2014 could cost upwards of $2 billion to clean up. Construction began on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico's Carlsbad desert in the 1980s. The site was built to handle transuranic waste from the US' nuclear weapons program. The WIPP had been eyed to receive nuclear waste from commercial power-generating plants as well. According to the LA Times, the 2014 explosion at the WIPP was downplayed by the federal government, with the Department of Energy (DoE) putting out statements indicating that cleanup was progressing quickly. Indeed, a 2015 Recovery Plan insisted that "limited waste disposal operations" would resume in the first quarter of 2016. Instead, two years have passed since the incident without any indication that smaller nuclear waste cleanup programs around the US will be able to deliver their waste to the New Mexico facility any time soon. The 2014 explosion apparently occurred when engineers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were preparing a drum of plutonium and americium waste -- usually packed with kitty litter (yes, kitty litter) -- and decided to "substitute an organic material for a mineral one."
Piracy

India Threatens 3-Year Jail Sentences For Viewing Blocked Torrents (intoday.in) 95

"It is official now. The punishment for rape is actually less..." writes an anonymous Slashdot reader, who adds that "Some users think that this is all the fault of Bollywood/Hollywood movie studios. They are abusing power, court and money..." India Today reports: The Indian government, with the help of internet service providers, and presumably under directives of court, has banned thousands of websites and URLs in the last five odd years. But until now if you somehow visited these "blocked URLs" all was fine. However, now if you try to visit such URLs and view the information, you may get a three-year jail sentence as well as invite a fine...

This is just for viewing a torrent file, or downloading a file from a host that may have been banned in India, or even for viewing an image on a file host like Imagebam. You don't have to download a torrent file, and then the actual videos or other files, which might have copyright. Just accessing information under a blocked URL will land you in jail and leave your bank account poorer.

While it's not clear how this will be enforced, visiting a blocked URL in India now leads to a warning that "Viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating an illicit copy of the contents under this URL is punishable as an offence under the laws of India, including but not limited to under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957 which prescribe imprisonment for 3 years and also fine of up to Rs. 3,00,000..."
Biotech

Can Cow Backpacks Reduce Global Methane Emissions? (bloomberg.com) 189

Slashdot reader schwit1 shares an article from Bloomberg which argues "It's time to have a conversation about flatulent cows." "Enteric fermentation," or livestock's digestive process, accounts for 22 percent of all U.S. methane emissions, and the manure they produce makes up eight percent more, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency... Methane, like carbon, is a greenhouse gas, but methane's global warming impact per molecule is 25 times greater than carbon's, according to the EPA.
Cargill has tried capturing some of the methane released from cow manure by using domed lagoons, while researchers at Danone yogurt discovered they could reduce methane emissions up to 30% by feeding cows a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (mostly from flax seed). But now Argentina researchers are testing plastic "methane backpacks" which they strap on to the back of cows, and according to the article "have been able to extract 300 liters of methane a day, enough to power a car or refrigerator."
ISS

Astronauts Successfully Install Parking Spot At ISS (phys.org) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: With more private spaceship traffic expected at the International Space Station in the coming years, two U.S. astronauts embarked on a spacewalk Friday to install a special parking spot for them. Americans Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins switched their spacesuits to internal battery power at 8:04 (1204 GMT) and floated outside the orbiting laboratory to begin the work of attaching the first of two international docking adaptors. The spacewalkers finished the task in just over two hours. "With that, we have a new port of call," said NASA commentator Rob Navias, as the space station flew over Singapore at 10:40 am (1440 GMT). NASA describes the docking adaptor as a "metaphorical gateway to a future" that will allow a new generation of U.S. spacecraft -- the first since the space shuttle program ended in 2011 -- to carry astronauts to the space station. The second docking adaptor is expected to be installed in 2018. Built by Boeing, the circular adaptor measures around 42 inches (one meter) tall and about 63 inches wide. The adaptors will work with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon, two spaceships under construction that are planned to ferry astronauts to the space station. The docking adaptor is more sophisticated than past equipment because it will allow automatic parking instead of the current grapple and berthing process, which is managed by astronauts.
Microsoft

Microsoft Wants To Pay You To Use Its Windows 10 Browser Edge (theguardian.com) 256

An anonymous reader shares a report by The Guardian: Microsoft has a new browser. It launched with Windows 10 and it's called Edge. The company says it's faster, more battery efficient and all-round better than Chrome or Firefox. You can even draw on websites with a stylus. Trouble is, not very many people are using it. So now Microsoft's trying to bribe you to switch. The newly rebranded Microsoft Rewards -- formerly Bing Rewards, which paid people for using Bing as their search engine (another product Microsoft says is better than a Google product but that very few people actually use) -- will now pay you for using Edge, shopping at the Microsoft store, or using Bing. Users of Edge who sign up to Microsoft Rewards, which is currently US-only, are then awarded points simply for using the browser. Microsoft actively monitors whether you're using Edge for up to 30 hours a month. It tracks mouse movements and other signs that you're not trying to game the system, and you must also have Bing set as your default search engine. Points can then be traded in for vouchers or credit for places such as Starbucks, Skype, Amazon and ad-free Outlook.com -- remember, if you're not paying for something, you are the product.
Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Businesses

SolarCity Plans To Release New 'Solar Roof' Product Next Year (computerworld.com) 160

An anonymous reader writes: SolarCity, the American provider of energy services recently purchased by Tesla Motors for $2.6 billion, is planning to produce a new "solar roof" product next year. Computerworld reports: "Five million roofs are replaced each year in the U.S., so instead of simply swapping out old shingles with new ones, why not turn the whole roof into a solar power generator that's integrated with your home's electrical utility? That is SolarCity's plan for a new product it expects to begin producing next year, according to statements made during the company's second-quarter earnings call last week. During the call, SolarCity Chief Technology Officer Peter Rive alluded to a new product that would be produced at the soon to open Buffalo, N.Y., solar panel manufacturing facility. Then SolarCity co-founder and Chairman Elon Musk interjected and said the product would be a solar roof, 'as opposed to a [solar] module on a roof.' The solar roof also has the advantage that it doesn't 'cannibalize' any existing SolarCity product, such as solar panels installed atop roofs, Musk said." "If your roof is nearing end of life, you definitely don't want to put solar panels on it because you're going to have to replace the roof," Musk said. "So there's a huge market segment that's kind of inaccessible to SolarCity. So, why not have a solar roof that's better in many other ways as well," he continued. "We don't want to turn over all our cards right now, but I think people are going to be really excited about what they'll see."
Power

America's First Offshore Wind Farm In Pictures (businessinsider.com) 220

Last week, an anonymous Slashdot reader submitted a story from the Associated Press, detailing the United States' first offshore wind farm that is set to open off the cost of Rhode Island this fall. Business Insider issued a report today with some additional specifications and stunning pictures of the Block Island Wind Farm: "GE and Deepwater Wind, a developer of offshore turbines, are installing five massive wind turbines in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They will make up the first offshore wind farm in North America, called the Block Island Wind Farm. Over the past several weeks, the teams have worked to install the turbines 30 miles off the cost of Rhode Island, and are expected to finish by the end of August 2016. The farm will be fully operational by November 2016." Fun fact: GE's offshore wind farm has turbines that are twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. You can view the slideshow of images here.
Botnet

'Smart' Electrical Socket Leaks Your Email Address, Can Launch DDoS Attacks (softpedia.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: There is an insecure IoT smart electrical socket on the market that leaks your Wi-Fi password, your email credentials (if configured), and is also poorly coded, allowing attackers to hijack the device via a simple command injection in the password field. Researchers say that because of the nature of the flaws, attackers can overwrite its firmware and add the device to a botnet, possibly using it for DDoS attacks, among other things. Bitdefender didn't reveal the device's manufacturer but said the vendor is working on a fix, which will be released in late Q3 2016. Problems with the device include a lack of encryption for device communications and the lack of any basic input sanitization for the password field. "Up until now most IoT vulnerabilities could be exploited only in the proximity of the smart home they were serving, however, this flaw allows hackers to control devices over the internet and bypass the limitations of the network address translation," says Alexandru Balan, Chief Security Researcher at Bitdefender. "This is a serious vulnerability, we could see botnets made up of these power outlets."
Businesses

Airbus Details Plan To Build Flying Taxis (autoblog.com) 70

CityAirbus is a new program from Airbus that aims to put commuters in the air to combat overcrowded cities. It sounds a lot like an airborne Uber, writes Brandon Turkus from Autoblog: "Passengers can use an app to book passage, head to their local helipad, climb aboard with a number of other passengers, and in the words of Airbus are 'whisked away to their destination.' Each ride would cost 'nearly the equivalent of a normal taxi ride for each passenger.' Beyond the advantages of avoiding traffic, Airbus claims its new conveyance will be faster, more sustainable, and, obviously, more exciting. Initially, the program would rely on a human pilot, but as with nearly every mode of modern transport, there would eventually be an autonomous version." The company has no timeline for when CityAirbuses will be ready for flight. They did note that the autonomous functionality will be the biggest challenge. "No country in the world today allows drones without remote pilots to fly over cities -- with or without passengers," writes Bruno Trabel from Airbus Helicopters. He leads the Skyways project, "which aims to help evolve current regulatory constraints." Project Vahana, a similar project that consists of an electric-powered, autonomous helicopter used for personal and cargo flights, will be tested in late 2017.
Programming

The $5 Onion Omega2 Gives Raspberry Pi a Run For Its Money (dailydot.com) 124

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Daily Dot: Onion's Omega2 computer may give the Raspberry Pi a run for its money if the success of the Kickstarter campaign is any indication. The Daily Dot reports: "With an initial goal of just $15,000, over 11,560 backers have pledged the company $446,792 in hopes of getting their hands on this little wonder board. So why are thousands of people losing their minds? Simple; the Omega2 packs a ton of power into a $5 package. Billed as the world's smallest Linux server, complete with built-in Wi-Fi, the Omega2 is perfect for building simple computers or the web connected project of your dreams. The tiny machine is roughly the size of a cherry, before expansions, and runs a full Linux operating system. For $5 you get a 580MHz CPU, 64MB memory, 16MB storage, built-in Wi-Fi and a USB 2.0 port. A $9 model is also available with 128MB of memory, 32MB of storage, and a MircoSD slot. The similarly priced Raspberry Pi Zero comes with a 1GHz Arm processor, 512MB of memory, a MicroSD slot, no onboard storage, and no built-in Wi-Fi. Omega2 supports the Ruby, C++, Python, PHP, Perl, JavaScript (Node.js), and Bash programming languages, so no matter your background in coding you should be able to figure something out." You can also add Bluetooth, GPS, and 2G/3G support via add-ons or expansions. It looks promising, though it is a Kickstarter campaign and the product may not come into fruition.
Power

Solid-State Battery Could Extinguish Fire Risks (thestack.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: "Researchers have designed a new type of battery that, unlike traditional models containing liquid or gel electrolytes, consists purely of solid chemical compounds and is non-flammable, representing a huge boost for improving battery safety," reports The Stack. "Responding to dangers linked to traditional lithium-ion batteries, the team based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, has built a solid alternative which contains only solid-state electrodes and electrolytes." The battery is constructed with a layer of highly conductive lithium garnet, which works as a solid electrolyte between two electrodes. The researchers applied the material of the negative pole in viscous form, which allowed it to seep through the porous electrolyte layer. The team was able to temper the battery at 100C. "With a liquid or gel electrolyte, it would never be possible to heat a battery to such high temperatures," the study claims.
Android

Companies Can't Legally Void the Warranty For Jailbreaking Or Rooting Your Phone (vice.com) 128

Reader Jason Koebler writes: Manufacturers that threaten to void the warranties of consumers who jailbreak or root their phones are violating federal law.
Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, manufacturers cannot legally void your hardware warranty simply because you altered the software of an electronic device. In order to void the warranty without violating federal law, the manufacturer must prove that the modifications you made directly led to a hardware malfunction.
"They have to show that the jailbreak caused the failure. If yes, they can void your claim (not your whole warranty—just the things which flowed from your mod)," Steve Lehto, a lemon law attorney in Michigan, wrote in an email. "If not, then they can't."

Graphics

NVIDIA Drops Pascal Desktop GPUs Into Laptops With Mobile GeForce GTX 10-Series (hothardware.com) 42

MojoKid writes: NVIDIA's new Pascal core graphics architecture is being driven throughout the company's entire product portfolio, as is typically the case. Today, NVIDIA brings Pascal to notebooks with the introduction of the NVIDIA Mobile GeForce GTX 10-Series. What's interesting is that the first laptop-targeted GPUs are actually quite similar to their desktop counterparts. In fact, all three of the Mobile GeForce GTX 10-Series graphics processors NVIDIA is announcing today come sans the traditional "M" tacked on the end of their model numbers. As it turns out, the migration to a 16nm manufacturing process with Pascal has been kind to NVIDIA and the Mobile GeForce GTX 1080 and Mobile GeForce GTX 1060 have nearly identical specs to their desktop counterparts, from CUDA core counts, to boost, and memory clock speeds. However, the Mobile GeForce GTX 1070 actually has a few more CUDA cores at 2048, versus 1920 for the desktop GTX 1070 (with slightly lower clocks). By tweaking boost clock peaks and MXM module power requirements, NVIDIA was able to get these new Pascal mobile GPUs into desktop replacement class machines and even 5-pound, 15-inch class standard notebook designs (for the 1060). In the benchmarks, the new Mobile GeForce GTX 10-Series blows pretty much any previous discrete notebook graphics chip out of the water and smooth 4K or 120Hz gaming is now possible on notebook platforms.
Windows

All Windows 10 PCs Will Support HoloLens Next Year (theverge.com) 86

Tech giants are betting on augmented reality and virtual reality as the "next big thing." However, both of these nascent technologies are seeing a slow adoption rate because a user needs high-end computing power at her disposal to experience most of them. Microsoft believes it has made enough software advancements to offset the hardware requirements. At Intel's annual developers conference, Microsoft's Windows chief Terry Myerson announced a partnership with the chip maker that will make all future Windows 10 PCs able to support mixed reality applications. From a report on The Verge:"All Windows 10 PCs next year will include a holographic shell," Myerson said, the same operating system that runs on the company's HoloLens headset. PCs will work with a head-mounted display, and run all Windows Holographic applications, Myerson said, allowing wearers to interact not just with 3D applications but also 2D apps. Microsoft will enable these apps through a future Windows update and the company's universal Windows app platform.TechCrunch has more details.
Transportation

Electric Vehicles Can Meet Drivers' Needs Enough To Replace 90 Percent of Vehicles Now On The Road (phys.org) 990

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Phys.Org: Researchers at MIT have just completed the most comprehensive study yet to address whether or not existing electric vehicles could bring about a meaningful reduction in the greenhouse-gas emissions that are causing global climate change. Yes, they can. The study was published today in the journal Nature Energy. Phys.Org reports: "'Roughly 90 percent of the personal vehicles on the road daily could be replaced by a low-cost electric vehicle available on the market today, even if the cars can only charge overnight,' Trancik says, 'which would more than meet near-term U.S. climate targets for personal vehicle travel.' Overall, when accounting for the emissions today from the power plants that provide the electricity, this would lead to an approximately 30 percent reduction in emissions from transportation. The team spent four years on the project, which included developing a way of integrating two huge datasets: one highly detailed set of second-by-second driving behavior based on GPS data, and another broader, more comprehensive set of national data based on travel surveys. Together, the two datasets encompass millions of trips made by drivers all around the country. By working out formulas to integrate the different sets of information and thereby track one-second-resolution drive cycles, the MIT researchers were able to demonstrate that the daily energy requirements of some 90 percent of personal cars on the road in the U.S. could be met by today's EVs, with their current ranges, at an overall cost to their owners -- including both purchase and operating costs -- that would be no greater than that of conventional internal-combustion vehicles."

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