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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Raspberry Pi Suffers First Ever Price Increase
For the first time, the price of a Raspberry Pi single-board computer is increasing and we have the global supply chain shortages to thank for it. PCMag reports: Eben Upton, chief executive of Raspberry Pi Trading, made the announcement today, but also made it clear the price increase is only temporary and only impacts one model of the Raspberry Pi 4. In February last year, the price of the Raspberry Pi 4 2GB dropped from $45 to $35 "permanently" and the 1GB model was discontinued. The 2GB model is reverting back to $45 and the 1GB model is making a comeback for industrial customers at its previous $35 price. The reason for this is one of supply chain challenges, with Upton confirming they will only manage to match 2020's shipments of around seven million units this year. The main shortages have been for the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi 4 2GB. We don't know how long the price increase will last, but Upton was upbeat: "The good news is that we've been able to hold the line on pricing for all but one of our products; that we expect to have enough 28nm silicon over the next twelve months to support both our existing Raspberry Pi 4 and Compute Module 4 customers, and customers migrating from Raspberry Pi 3B+; and that we see early signs that the supply chain situation is starting to ease."

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Recycled Lithium Batteries As Good As Newly Mined, Study Finds
A new study by Wang and a team including researchers from the US Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), and battery company A123 Systems, [...] shows that batteries with recycled cathodes can be as good as, or even better than those using new state-of-the-art materials. The findings have been published in the journal Joule. IEEE Spectrum reports: The team tested batteries with recycled NMC111 cathodes, the most common flavor of cathode containing a third each of nickel, manganese, and cobalt. The cathodes were made using a patented recycling technique that Battery Resources, a startup Wang co-founded, is now commercializing. The recycled material showed a more porous microscopic structure that is better for lithium ions to slip in and out of. The result: batteries with an energy density similar to those made with commercial cathodes, but which also showed up to 53% longer cycle life. While the recycled batteries weren't tested in cars, tests were done at industrially relevant scales. The researchers made 11 Ampere-hour industry-standard pouch cells loaded with materials at the same density as EV batteries. Engineers at A123 Systems did most of the testing, Wang says, using a protocol devised by the USABC to meet commercial viability goals for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. He says the results prove that recycled cathode materials are a viable alternative to pristine materials.

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The New MacBook Pro Seems To Have an HDMI 2.0 Port, Not 2.1
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The newly announced 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models have HDMI ports, but they have a limitation that could be frustrating for many users over the long term, according to Apple's specs page for both machines and as noted by Paul Haddad on Twitter. The page says the HDMI port has "support for one display with up to 4K resolution at 60 Hz." That means users with 4K displays at 120 Hz (or less likely, 8K displays at 60 Hz) won't be able to tap the full capability of those displays through this port. It implies limited throughput associated with an HDMI 2.0 port instead of the most recent HDMI 2.1 standard, though there are other possible explanations for the limitation besides the port itself, and we don't yet know which best describes the situation.

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Google Revamps Its Smartphone Line With the Pixel 6
This morning, at the company's virtual hardware event, Google is finally showing us what it means to pick up and start over again. From a report: In many ways, the Pixel 6 marks the most radical departure in the history of Google's flagship devices -- and its most serious attempt to take the fight to Samsung and Apple. The company gave us our first glimpse of the device back in August. It was a surprisingly complete look at a device it would take another three and a half months to announce. Hardware head Rick Osterloh primarily focused on chips, design and the fact that Google was becoming the latest company to buck its reliance on Qualcomm by building its own in-house chip, Tensor. And now it is. The Tensor had landed, alongside the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro it powers. I have the latter in my possession, and it's immediately clear that this is a radically new direction for the Pixel line. Google's clearly gone in a premium direction with the new device, which shares more common DNA with the likes of Samsung's devices than any of the Pixels we've seen to date. The Pixel 6 sports a 6.4-inch FHD+ OLED at 411 ppi -- that bit, at least, is keeping with mid-range specs. The Pro bumps it up to a 6.7-inch QHD+ at 512 ppi. Those displays have refresh rates of 90 and 120 Hz, respectively, protected by a Gorilla Glass Victus cover, which curves on the edges. [...] The 6 supports two lenses: a 50-megapixel wide-angle camera and 12-megapixel on the 6, plus a 48 megapixel telephoto on the 6 Pro. That last one does 4x optical or up to 20x Super Res, though even with computational photography, things are going to degrade pretty quickly. The front-facing camera, meanwhile, is eight megapixels on the 6 and 11 megapixels on the 6 Pro, with 84- and 94-degree fields of view, respectively. [...] The company has addressed some of the battery issues that plagued earlier models. The 6 and 6 Pro feature 4,614 and 5,003mAh batteries, respectively -- that's a nice jump from the Pixel 5's 4,080mAh (which, in turn, was a nice jump from the Pixel 4). The Pixel 6 starts at $599 and the Pixel 6 Pro starts at $899.

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Radiant Aims To Replace Diesel Generators With Small Nuclear Reactors
An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: California company Radiant has secured funding to develop a compact, portable, "low-cost" one-megawatt nuclear micro-reactor that fits in a shipping container, powers about 1,000 homes and uses a helium coolant instead of water. Founded by ex-SpaceX engineers, who decided the Mars colony power sources they were researching would make a bigger impact closer to home, Radiant has pulled in $1.2 million from angel investors to continue work on its reactors, which are specifically designed to be highly portable, quick to deploy and effective wherever they're deployed; remote communities and disaster areas are early targets. The military is another key market here; a few of these could power an entire military base in a remote area for four to eight years before expending its "advanced particle fuel," eliminating not just the emissions of the current diesel generators, but also the need to constantly bring in trucks full of fuel for this purpose. Those trucks will still have to run -- up until the point where the military ditches diesel in all its vehicles -- but they'll be much less frequent, reducing a significant risk for transport personnel. Radiant says its fuel "does not melt down, and withstands higher temperatures when compared to traditional nuclear fuels." Using helium as the coolant "greatly reduces corrosion, boiling and contamination risks," and the company says it's received provisional patents for ideas it's developed around refueling the reactors and efficiently transporting heat out of the reactor core.

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Apple's 3rd-Generation AirPods Arrives Next Week With a New Design, Spatial Audio
At its Fall Mac event today, Apple announced the new third-generation AirPods, featuring a slightly revamped design with shorter stems and touch-based "force sensor" and support for spatial audio. Ars Technica reports: The new AirPods retain their usual hard plastic finish and do not have in-ear tips like the AirPods Pro, though Apple says they are now officially IPX4-rated for sweat and water resistance. Apple says the earbuds have six hours of battery life and up to 30 hours when including the charging case. (That's compared to five and 24 hours, respectively, on the second-gen model.) The included case supports MagSafe and wireless charging, though the earbuds do not feature active noise cancellation or a transparency mode like their pricier siblings. Though the second-gen AirPods were renowned more for their ease of use than their audio quality, Apple says it has updated them with a redesigned driver and an adaptive EQ feature that automatically tunes your music based on the AirPods' fit in your ear. The earbuds will also use Apple's spatial audio tech, which makes audio sound like it is coming from around the user's head. To help with that, the new AirPods support dynamic head tracking like the AirPods Pro and the over-ear AirPods Max. The third-gen AirPods cost $179 and are available to order online today, with in-store availability starting October 26. Notably, Apple will continue to sell the existing second-gen AirPods for $129 alongside the new pair.

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Apple Introduces M1 Pro and M1 Max
Apple today announced M1 Pro and M1 Max, its new chips for the Mac. Apple: M1 Pro and M1 Max introduce a system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture to pro systems for the first time. The chips feature fast unified memory, industry-leading performance per watt, and incredible power efficiency, along with increased memory bandwidth and capacity. M1 Pro offers up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth with support for up to 32GB of unified memory. M1 Max delivers up to 400GB/s of memory bandwidth -- 2x that of M1 Pro and nearly 6x that of M1 -- and support for up to 64GB of unified memory. And while the latest PC laptops top out at 16GB of graphics memory, having this huge amount of memory enables graphics-intensive workflows previously unimaginable on a notebook. The efficient architecture of M1 Pro and M1 Max means they deliver the same level of performance whether MacBook Pro is plugged in or using the battery. M1 Pro and M1 Max also feature enhanced media engines with dedicated ProRes accelerators specifically for pro video processing. M1 Pro and M1 Max are by far the most powerful chips Apple has ever built. Utilizing the industry-leading 5-nanometer process technology, M1 Pro packs in 33.7 billion transistors, more than 2x the amount in M1. A new 10-core CPU, including eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores, is up to 70 percent faster than M1, resulting in unbelievable pro CPU performance. Compared with the latest 8-core PC laptop chip, M1 Pro delivers up to 1.7x more CPU performance at the same power level and achieves the PC chip's peak performance using up to 70 percent less power. Even the most demanding tasks, like high-resolution photo editing, are handled with ease by M1 Pro.M1 Pro has an up-to-16-core GPU that is up to 2x faster than M1 and up to 7x faster than the integrated graphics on the latest 8-core PC laptop chip.1 Compared to a powerful discrete GPU for PC notebooks, M1 Pro delivers more performance while using up to 70 percent less power. And M1 Pro can be configured with up to 32GB of fast unified memory, with up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth, enabling creatives like 3D artists and game developers to do more on the go than ever before. M1 Max features the same powerful 10-core CPU as M1 Pro and adds a massive 32-core GPU for up to 4x faster graphics performance than M1. With 57 billion transistors -- 70 percent more than M1 Pro and 3.5x more than M1 -- M1 Max is the largest chip Apple has ever built. In addition, the GPU delivers performance comparable to a high-end GPU in a compact pro PC laptop while consuming up to 40 percent less power, and performance similar to that of the highest-end GPU in the largest PC laptops while using up to 100 watts less power.2 This means less heat is generated, fans run quietly and less often, and battery life is amazing in the new MacBook Pro. M1 Max transforms graphics-intensive workflows, including up to 13x faster complex timeline rendering in Final Cut Pro compared to the previous-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro. M1 Max also offers a higher-bandwidth on-chip fabric, and doubles the memory interface compared with M1 Pro for up to 400GB/s, or nearly 6x the memory bandwidth of M1. This allows M1 Max to be configured with up to 64GB of fast unified memory. With its unparalleled performance, M1 Max is the most powerful chip ever built for a pro notebook.

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Canon Sued For $5 Million For Disabling Scanner When Printer Runs Out of Ink
couchslug writes: Canon, best nown for manufacturing camera equipment and printers for business and home users, is being sued for not allowing customers to use the scan or fax functions in multi-function devices if the ink runs out on numerous printer models. David Leacraft filed a class action lawsuit against Canon USA, alleging the company engaged in deceptive marketing and unjust enrichment practices.

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Is It Time for Baseball to Adopt Robot Umpires?
The case for robot umpires in baseball got some new interest this week — especially for Silicon Valley's baseball fans. As America settled in to watch the final inning of this year's National League Division Series, the Washington Post reports that (human) viewers saw a (human) umpire "call a third strike on a checked swing by San Francisco Giants infielder Wilmer Flores...ending the night, and season, of MLB's best team of 2021." (Though instead of swinging "Flores clearly appeared to hold up.") But the backlash raises the question of whether a so-called robo-umpire — essentially, a set of highly placed and well-programmed cameras — could have automatically adjudicated the checked swing... It's not a hypothetical question: MLB is in the middle of a three-year partnership with the independent Atlantic League for just such a robo-umpire, a system called Automatic Balls and Strikes (ABS), that this past season rendered a home-plate umpire moot for his most important job. MLB hasn't given a timetable for when the system could reach the big leagues, but it's clearly a trial balloon. ABS is overseen by TrackMan, a Denmark-based start-up that began by helping golfers with their swing and then expanded to baseball before broadening again to auto-officiating responsibilities. Under their ABS system, players are measured for a strike zone before the season, with their info then fed into the machine. Then, during the game, the company's sensor in the stands behind home plate uses Doppler technology to determine where the ball is thrown and where it should have been thrown based on the player's strike zone. The sensor then relays the call to, well, whoever wants to hear it. In the case of the Atlantic League, this is an actual umpire behind the plate who, in an ironic reversal, is a human who simply does what the machine tells him to do and announces the call. The system is not being used for checked swings, but the technology is equally applicable; it makes little difference whether a ball is crossing the plate in one direction or a bat crosses it the other way... But accuracy is only part of the equation. Presumably TrackMan could have made the right call — but what effect would such automation have on us socially? An argument can be made that it would increase consumer confidence and eliminate discord; an equal argument could be made the other way, that subjectivity is what makes the public realm, or at least baseball, a dynamic and interesting place. The Flores checked swing, in other words, gets at the question that stretches across much of innovation: Just because we could, does that mean we should? "Some fans have questioned whether judgment calls are part of the fun of baseball and a legalistic rendering is contrary to the spirit of the game," the article points out. And another issue: currently catchers will sometimes even move their glove with the caught ball so it looks like it passed through the strike zone when it didn't. (Or, as Deadspin puts it, "It's lying about where the pitch came in to fool the umpire into giving your team a strike when he shouldn't have." Though they call it "a beautiful art that defines the catcher position... and it will be rendered useless by the emergence of robot umpires.") Deadspin tracked down the President of TrackMan Baseball, who said that after an entire season of use in the Atlantic league, "Our system was accurate to about a half-inch, and we do this at hundreds of baseball stadiums every single day." But Deadspin worries that if it's actually implemented in Major League Baseball stadium, then pitchers would be afraid to throw borderline pitches, and would be forced to throw more balls over the plate.While endless hits and home runs might sound exciting, it would only lengthen an already slow sport, and the high that comes from witnessing incredible offensive feats would slowly fade as they would become more commonplace.

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They're Putting Guns on Robot Dogs Now
Quadrupedal robots are one of the most interesting developments in robotics in recent years. They're small, nimble, and able to traverse environments that frustrate wheeled machines. So, of course, it was only a matter of time until someone put a gun on one. From a report: The image in the linked story shows a quadrupedal robot -- a Vision 60 unit built by US firm Ghost Robotics -- that's been equipped with a custom gun by small-arms specialists Sword International. It seems the gun itself (dubbed the SPUR or "special purpose unmanned rifle") is designed to be fitted onto a variety of robotic platforms. It has a 30x optical zoom, thermal camera for targeting in the dark, and an effective range of 1,200 meters. What's not clear is whether or not Sword International or Ghost Robotics are currently selling this combination of gun and robot. But if they're not, it seems they will be soon. As the marketing copy on Sword's website boasts: "The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now."

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Modular Framework Laptop Gets Marketplace For All Those Modules
Framework, makers of the modular 13.5-inch Framework laptop that's designed to be easily repaired and upgraded, has launched a dedicated marketplace filled with replacement parts and upgrades for its portable computer. The Verge reports: Writing in a blog post, the company said the marketplace is currently focused on replacement parts and expansion cards, but that it hopes to add more customization modules like additional language keyboards later this year, as well as third-party and community developed modules in 2022. The marketplace already includes a range of expansion cards for the laptop, which are designed to slot into its four modular compartments to add everything from extra storage to features like MicroSD card slots or more USB ports. There's also user upgradeable RAM and storage for sale. But the store is clearly a work in progress, and lists a host of other items like replacement CPU-equipped mainboards, keyboards, and spare parts like batteries and displays as "coming soon."

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Palm Is Trying To Make a Comeback, Again
Palm probably wasn't a name you were expecting to hear from again, but to the surprise of many, the company recently posted some teasers on Twitter foreshadowing a new gadget coming out later this month. From a report: While Palm hasn't officially revealed detailed info about its upcoming release, the teaser pics in its tweets make it quite clear that Palm is prepping to release a new pair of wireless earbuds. And judging by the silhouette of the device in the background, it seems Palm has taken some inspiration from Apple's ubiquitous AirPods. For a company that's most well known for making phones and PDAs, the decision to move into the audio market might seem like a strange pivot, especially since the last time we saw something from Palm was in 2018 with the tiny Palm Phone. Unlike other smartphones, Palm basically bucked every modern phone trend when it made the Palm Phone, which was designed so that you would spend less time looking at your phone in order to focus more on the world around you, while still providing the essential smartphone functionality.

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The Mega65: A Modernization of the Canceled Commodore 65 Computer From 1991
Slashdot reader TommyROM writes: The Commodore 65 was a never-released computer slated to follow the fabled Commodore 64 from 1982. Developed between 1990 and 1991, it would have been the most powerful 8-bit computer on the market with 128K RAM, high-resolution graphics (up to 1280x400), and stereo sound. A few prototypes were made before Commodore canceled the project in 1991. Now an updated version of the Commodore 65 has been realized. Project founder Paul Gardner-Stephen began working on recreating the C65 in 2014, and eventually teamed up with the non-profit Museum of Electronic Games & Art to create the FPGA-based Mega65, a modernization of the original Commodore 65 featuring a custom main board, mechanical keyboard, and injection molded case. It uses the original C65 ROMs but improves on the design with SD card support, Ethernet, and HDMI output. It is about 40 times faster than a C64 and backwards compatible, including cartridge and joystick ports. The design is open-sourced for long-term compatibility. Additionally, there is a hand-held version in the works that is also a cellphone. They are currently taking pre-orders for the Mega65 at a price of 666.66 euros ($742 plus shipping). The Retro Hour podcast has an interview with founder Paul Gardner-Stephen where he discusses the impetus of the project and goes into more details of the design.

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Acer Launches Bacteria-Resistant PCs
During its next@Acer event today, the company announced three new PCs -- a laptop, a two-in-one, and a tablet -- that will be joining its antimicrobial lineup. Ars Technica reports: Something is considered antimicrobial if it's capable of "destroying or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, and especially pathogenic microorganisms." That means it fights disease-causing things you can't see. Acer claims its Antimicrobial 360 Design, as it brands the feature, fights germs in two ways. First, high-touch surfaces -- such as the chassis's exterior and hinge, the keyboard, the touchpad, and the fingerprint reader -- are coated with a silver-ion agent. For years, research has pointed to silver ions' ability to fight bacteria. As a more recent report published in ACS Applied Bio Materials explains, "They can readily adsorb to most biomolecules (DNA, membrane protein, enzymes, or intracellular cofactors) in bacteria to inactivate their functions." Acer's silver-ion agent is compliant with regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Biocidal Products Regulation; it can cut the bacteria count to 1,000 after a 99.9 percent reduction, based on the International Organization for Standardization 22196 test protocol. The 22196 standard specifies methods for testing the "antibacterial activity of antibacterial-treated plastics and other non-porous surfaces of products." The products also use Corning Gorilla Glass coated with the silver-ion product. "This is done via trace amounts of silver ions leaching to the glass surface to eliminate the surface bacteria, while still offering other benefits such as improved durability and improved scratch resistance," Acer said. Acer introduced new antimicrobial PCs to its lineup in 2020 but is still adding to the roster. The company sees its antimicrobial coating expanding even further "across multiple product lines," an Acer spokesperson told Ars.

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Biden Administration Plans For Massive Expansion of Wind Farms Off US Coasts
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: The Biden administration is planning to aggressively expand offshore wind energy capacity in the United States, potentially holding as many as seven new offshore lease sales by 2025. The move was announced Wednesday by US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and first reported by The New York Times. Haaland said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is exploring leasing sales along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, in the Gulf of Maine, New York Bight, central Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, as well as offshore the Carolinas, California and Oregon. As part of that initiative, which spans multiple government agencies, the Departments of the Interior, Energy and Commerce committed to a shared goal of generating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind in the US by 2030. The Interior Department estimates that reaching that goal would create nearly 80,000 jobs.

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