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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Huawei Has Now Been Cut Off By the SD Association, Wi-Fi Alliance
Both the SD Association and Wi-Fi Alliance have cut ties with Huawei following President Trump's executive order barring companies from doing business with the Chinese company. PhoneDog reports: First up, Huawei has been removed the from the SD Association, a non-profit group that sets the standards for SD and microSD cards. Huawei's name has been removed from the organization's website, and the SD Association confirmed to Android Authority that it's complying with the recent executive order that placed Huawei on the Entity List. This news won't affect existing Huawei phones' ability to accept microSD cards, but the company declined to comment on the effect that it'll have on future models. It likely means that future Huawei devices won't be able to use microSD cards. Huawei does have its own Nano Memory Card format that it can use in its smartphones, though. Meanwhile, the Wi-Fi Alliance has confirmed to Nikkei that it's "temporarily restricted" Huawei's participation in its activities. "Huawei values its relationships with all partners and associations around the world and understands the difficult situation they are in," Huawei said in response to this news. "We are hopeful this situation will be resolved and are working to find the best solution." Google and ARM also recently stopped working with Huawei. Earlier this week, ARM told staff it must suspend business with the company. Google also suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware and software products, except those covered by open source licenses.

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Intel SVP Gregory Bryant Opens Up On Project Athena Laptop Initiative
MojoKid shares a report from HotHardware: Earlier this year, Intel revealed its Project Athena initiative and earlier this month gave us a broad overview on what to expect with future computing designs. Like Centrino (which brought laptops into the Wi-Fi age) and Ultrabooks (which touted the idea of thin and light premium laptops), Project Athena encompasses a collection of technologies and design goals that Intel hopes OEMs will employ when developing new products. At its heart, Intel is looking to help foster the introduction of premium laptops that adhere to specific key tenets, in an effort to enhance the PC user experience. "One of the things we've learned over the years is that a great PC experience means different things to different people, from gamers to content creators to office workers," said Gregory Bryant, Intel SVP of And GM of Intel's Client Computing Group. "This is where you see us focusing. We want to give our partners everything they need to create incredible and differentiated PCs, purpose-built to what real people want." Powering these systems will be Intel's new 10nm Sunny Cove processor platform. Additional details regarding the use of 5G and harnessing AI to optimize software on the fly for common use cases were also disclosed. Intel noted the first round of Project Athena devices will launch in the latter half of 2019 and we should expect to see production ramp in 2020.

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Phones Can Now Tell Who Is Carrying Them From Their Users' Gaits
PolygamousRanchKid shares an excerpt from a report via The Economist: Most online fraud involves identity theft, which is why businesses that operate on the web have a keen interest in distinguishing impersonators from genuine customers. Passwords help. But many can be guessed or are jotted down imprudently. Newer phones, tablets, and laptop and desktop computers often have beefed-up security with fingerprint and facial recognition. But these can be spoofed. To overcome these shortcomings the next level of security is likely to identify people using things which are harder to copy, such as the way they walk. Many online security services already use a system called device fingerprinting. This employs software to note things like the model type of a gadget employed by a particular user; its hardware configuration; its operating system; the apps which have been downloaded onto it; and other features, including sometimes the Wi-Fi networks it regularly connects through and devices like headsets it plugs into. LexisNexis Risk Solutions, an American analytics firm, has catalogued more than 4 billion phones, tablets and other computers in this way for banks and other clients. Roughly 7% of them have been used for shenanigans of some sort. But device fingerprinting is becoming less useful. Apple, Google and other makers of equipment and operating systems have been steadily restricting the range of attributes that can be observed remotely. That is why a new approach, behavioral biometrics, is gaining ground. It relies on the wealth of measurements made by today's devices. These include data from accelerometers and gyroscopic sensors, that reveal how people hold their phones when using them, how they carry them and even the way they walk. Touchscreens, keyboards and mice can be monitored to show the distinctive ways in which someone's fingers and hands move. Sensors can detect whether a phone has been set down on a hard surface such as a table or dropped lightly on a soft one such as a bed. If the hour is appropriate, this action could be used to assume when a user has retired for the night. These traits can then be used to determine whether someone attempting to make a transaction is likely to be the device's habitual user. If used wisely, the report says behavioral biometrics could be used to authenticate account-holders without badgering them for additional passwords or security questions; it could even be used for unlocking the doors of a vehicle once the gait of the driver, as measured by his phone, is recognized, for example. "Used unwisely, however, the system could become yet another electronic spy, permitting complete strangers to monitor your actions, from the moment you reach for your phone in the morning, to when you fling it on the floor at night," the report adds.

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Crowdfunded Android Console Ouya Will Be Shut Down On June 25th
Razer, the gaming hardware manufacturing company that purchased Ouya's software assets in mid-2015, announced today that the crowdfunded Android console will cease functioning on June 25th. "That date will mark the unremarkable end of what began as a runaway Kickstarter success story: the inexpensive Ouya mini-console was powered by Android and introduced games such as TowerFall," reports The Verge. "But despite being positioned as the indie console, Ouya never quite took off after its $8.5 million crowdfunding campaign. The goal was to move Android's indie gaming scene to TV screens -- with exclusive Ouya-only titles mixed in -- but the execution didn't pan out." From the report: The hardware has been discontinued ever since Razer acquired Ouya's software assets in 2015. So it's somewhat surprising that the platform has continued to plod along for nearly four additional years. But that all ends next month. Accounts will be deactivated on June 25th. After that, Razer says "access to the Discover section will no longer be available. Games downloaded that appear in Play may still function if they do not require a purchase validation upon launch." But by and large, games on the Ouya platform will stop working after the cutoff date. Razer notes that some developers might choose to help their Ouya customers by activating the same game on some other platform (i.e., Google Play) where available following the shutdown. Razer's own Forge TV device will continue functioning as an Android TV set-top box, but the Forge TV games store is also going offline come the 25th. Part of Razer's thinking behind the Ouya acquisition was to propel its long-term Android TV gaming ambitions. The company has clearly shifted its priorities over the last few years, as indicated by the decision to finally shut down Ouya once and for all.

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How the World's First Digital Circuit Breaker Could Completely Change Our Powered World
This week the world's first and only digital circuit breaker was certified for commercial use. The technology, invented by Atom Power, has been listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the global standard for consumer safety. This new breaker makes power easier to manage and 3000 times faster than the fastest mechanical breaker, marking the most radical advancement in power distribution since Thomas Edison.From a report: Picture the fuse box in your basement, each switch assigned to different electrical components of your home. These switches are designed to break a circuit during an electrical overload to protect your lights and appliances. When this happens, you plod down to your mechanical room and flick the switches on again. Now multiply that simple system in your home to city high rises and industrial buildings, which might have 250 circuit breakers on any given floor, each one ranging from 15 to 4000 amps at higher voltages. At this scale, the limitations and dangers of a manually controlled power system become much more evident -- and costly. Ryan Kennedy, CEO of Atom Power, has been working to build a better electrical system since he began his career 25 years ago, first as an electrician and then as an engineer and project manager on large, high profile commercial electrical projects. His experienced based inquiry has revolved around a central assertion that analog infrastructure doesn't allow us to control our power the way we should be able to. That idea has led to some pretty critical questions: "What would it take to make power systems controllable?" and "Why shouldn't that control be built in to the circuit breaker itself?"

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Apple Updates Top-End MacBook Pros With Tweaked Keyboard and Faster Processors
Apple is refreshing its top laptops again by announcing newly updated specs for its 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pro models. It's bringing faster Intel processors and some slight changes to the much-maligned keyboard that Apple says should reduce issues. From a report: The biggest changes are coming to the 15-inch model, which is getting Intel's 9th Gen Core processors. The base model now starts with a 2.6GHz, 6-core i7 processor, which can turbo boost up to 4.5GHz. The next-step-up model is getting a 2.3GHz, 8-core i9 processor -- the first ever on a MacBook -- which can turbo boost up to 4.8GHz. And for those of you who want the most power possible, Apple will also offer a custom top configuration of an even more powerful 8-core i9 chip with a 2.4GHz base speed, which can boost all the way up to 5.0GHz for what Apple calls "the fastest Mac notebook ever." The 13-inch Touch Bar models are getting similar (albeit less exciting) processor refreshes: the base model now comes with a 2.4GHz 8th Gen quad-core i5 processor that can boost to 4.1GHz.

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Intel Performance Hit 5x Harder Than AMD After Spectre, Meltdown Patches
Phoronix has conducted a series of tests to show just how much the Spectre and Meltdown patches have impacted the raw performance of Intel and AMD CPUs. While the patches have resulted in performance decreases across the board, ranging from virtually nothing to significant depending on the application, it appears that Intel received the short end of the stick as its CPUs have been hit five times harder than AMD, according to ExtremeTech. From the report: The collective impact of enabling all patches is not a positive for Intel. While the impacts vary tremendously from virtually nothing to significant on an application-by-application level, the collective whack is about 15-16 percent on all Intel CPUs without Hyper-Threading disabled. Disabling increases the overall performance impact to 20 percent (for the 7980XE), 24.8 percent (8700K) and 20.5 percent (6800K). The AMD CPUs are not tested with HT disabled, because disabling SMT isn't a required fix for the situation on AMD chips, but the cumulative impact of the decline is much smaller. AMD loses ~3 percent with all fixes enabled. The impact of these changes is enough to change the relative performance weighting between the tested solutions. With no fixes applied, across its entire test suite, the CPU performance ranking is (from fastest to slowest): 7980XE (288), 8700K (271), 2990WX (245), 2700X (219), 6800K. (200). With the full suite of mitigations enabled, the CPU performance ranking is (from fastest to slowest): 2990WX (238), 7980XE (231), 2700X (213), 8700K (204), 6800K (159). In closing, ExtremeTech writes: "AMD, in other words, now leads the aggregate performance metrics, moving from 3rd and 4th to 1st and 3rd. This isn't the same as winning every test, and since the degree to which each test responds to these changes varies, you can't claim that the 2990WX is now across-the-board faster than the 7980XE in the Phoronix benchmark suite. It isn't. But the cumulative impact of these patches could result in more tests where Intel and AMD switch rankings as a result of performance impacts that only hit one vendor."

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3D-Printed Guns Are Back, and This Time They Are Unstoppable
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: A new network of 3D-printed gun advocates is growing in America -- and this time things are different. Unlike previous attempts to popularize 3D-printed guns, this operation is entirely decentralized. There's no headquarters, no trademarks, and no real leader. The people behind it reckon that this means they can't be stopped by governments. Known only by his online moniker, Ivan the Troll is the de facto spokesman of an underground wave of 3D-printing gunsmiths. Ivan says he knows of at least 100 people who are actively developing 3D-printed gun technology, and he claims there are thousands taking part in the network. This loose-knit community spans across the whole world. They communicate across several digital platforms, including Signal, Twitter, IRC, and Discord. They critique each other's work, exchange 3D gun CAD files, offer advice, talk theory, and collaborate on future blueprints. These 3D-printed gun enthusiasts -- who share similar ideas and political viewpoints on gun control -- mostly found each other online via gun control subreddits and forums. Ivan is just one small part of this network. He says he is from Illinois, and is of "college age," but otherwise he remains mostly anonymous, to lie low. At the same time though, he's launched bombastic PR videos demonstrating the new 3D-printed gun parts he's created in his garage, including a Glock 17 handgun frame. Ivan's group says the legal challenges around Defence Distributed and the company's founder Cody Wilson are irrelevant. According to the report, the group is uploading their files individually on services such as Spee.ch, a media-hosting site underpinned by the LBRY blockchain, "and they aren't waiting for anyone to give them permission." It adds: "They've made their own 3D-printed gun designs, modified old ones, and are keeping all the Defence Distributed ones available for free too."

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UN Chief Warns Nuclear Waste Could Be Leaking Into the Pacific
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: A UN chief is concerned that a Cold War-era nuclear 'coffin' could be leaking radioactive material into the Pacific. According to Phys.org, the structure in question is on Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands -- where the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1958. The tests included the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb, which was reportedly about 1,000 times bigger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In the late 70s, waste from those tests was dumped into a crater and capped with a concrete dome 18 inches thick. That was intended to be a temporary solution, so the bottom of the crater was never lined. Now, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine fear nuclear waste could be leaking from the pit. They're also concerned about cracks in the concrete, which they worry could break apart if hit by a tropical cyclone. Guterres says the Pacific's nuclear history needs to be addressed. Further reading: The Washington Post

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Google Glass Gets a Surprise Upgrade and New Frames
Google just unveiled its newest version of Glass. It's not made to be a widespread consumer product, but there are business users who will care. And the latest Glass Enterprise Edition 2, with key upgraded specs, shows where most smartglasses are at. From a report: You might remember Glass as a strange 2013 footnote, but Glass has stuck around: it became an enterprise-targeted device in 2017, and has been used in a variety of other assistive ways. Plenty of other AR headsets have been moving into the enterprise space over the last couple of years too, from Microsoft HoloLens 2 to Vuzix' glasses. While the single-display design of Glass isn't going to allow 3D augmented reality like what you'd experience on HoloLens 2, there could be applications for other types of useful augmented reality via the improved built-in camera and upgraded onboard processor. Google's announcement touts the new onboard Qualcomm XR1 chip as enabling "support for computer vision and advanced machine learning capabilities." Google representatives refused to comment on whether that means the new Glass could possibly adopt some Google Lens-like features, and Google's VP of VR and AR, Clay Bavor, said in a statement that "Using technologies like computer vision and AR, our team's focus has been on building helpful experiences that provide useful information in context. Glass Enterprise Edition 2 does just that, and we're excited to give businesses and their employees tools to help them work better, smarter and faster."

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'I Oversaw America's Nuclear Power Industry. Now I Think It Should Be Banned.'
Friday the Washington Post published an essay by Gregory Jaczko, who served on America's Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2005 to 2009 and was its chairman from 2009 to 2012. He says he'd believed nuclear power was worth the reduction they produced in greenhouse emissions -- until Japan's 2011 nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant. "Despite working in the industry for more than a decade, I now believe that nuclear power's benefits are no longer enough to risk the welfare of people living near these plants..." [Non-paywalled version here]The current and potential costs -- personal and economic -- are just too high.... The technology and the safety needs are just too complex and demanding to translate into a facility that is simple to design and build. No matter your views on nuclear power in principle, no one can afford to pay this much for two electricity plants. New nuclear is simply off the table in the United States.... Fewer than 10 of Japan's 50 reactors have resumed operations, yet the country's carbon emissions have dropped below their levels before the accident. How? Japan has made significant gains in energy efficiency and solar power.... What about the United States? Nuclear accounts for about 19 percent of U.S. electricity production and most of our carbon-free electricity. Could reactors be phased out here without increasing carbon emissions? If it were completely up to the free market, the answer would be yes, because nuclear is more expensive than almost any other source of electricity today. Renewables such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power generate electricity for less than the nuclear plants under construction in Georgia, and in most places, they produce cheaper electricity than existing nuclear plants that have paid off all their construction costs... This tech is no longer a viable strategy for dealing with climate change, nor is it a competitive source of power. It is hazardous, expensive and unreliable, and abandoning it wouldn't bring on climate doom. The real choice now is between saving the planet or saving the dying nuclear industry. I vote for the planet.

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Tesla's Stock Falls After News About Autopilot Crashes and Battery Fires
CNBC reports:Tesla shares fell almost 8% on Friday to their lowest close since December 2016, after the National Transportation Safety Board said the company's Autopilot driver assistance system was engaged during a fatal crash in March... The accident was at least the third of its kind in the U.S. and raises concerns about Tesla's Autopilot technology. Thursday Elon Musk also told Tesla's employees that he and their CFO will now personally review all expenses going forward in a new "hardcore" attempt to control expenses, calling it "the only way for Tesla to become financially sustainable and succeed in our goal of helping make the world environmentally sustainable." And then there's the fires, reports CNBC:Recent reports of Tesla vehicles spontaneously catching fire could make potential customers wary at a time when virtually every automaker is getting ready to roll out battery-based vehicles, industry executives and analysts worry... Three of Tesla's sedans went up in flames without warning in recent months, one in Shanghai, another in Hong Kong, a third in San Francisco. Tesla has experienced at least 14 known battery fires in recent years... Of the 14 known fires involving Tesla vehicles, the majority occurred after a collision, but there have been a growing number of blazes in which its products appear to spontaneously ignite. That appeared to be the case when, on April 21, a security camera in a Shanghai garage captured images of a Model S sedan smoldering before suddenly bursting into flames. Another fire engulfed a Tesla sedan that appears to have been hooked up to one of the company's Superchargers in Hong Kong. Then, two weeks ago, firefighters in San Francisco tweeted that they had been called to a garage where another Tesla Model S was on fire. In an initial response, the automaker said it did not think the sedan itself was responsible for the California blaze. But it is investigating the two Chinese incidents, it said in a statement, and "out of an abundance of caution, we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity..." "As the face of the emerging battery-car market, Tesla's troubles have been widely reported, but it is by no means the only manufacturer to have experienced unexpected fires..." reports CNBC. "Fires have been reported with Chevrolet Volts, Fisker Karmas, Mitsubishi iMiEVs and other electric vehicles."

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Remembering Radio Shack's 1983 Training Film For the TRS-80 Model 100
Fast Company's technology editor Harry McCracken is also Slashdot reader #1,641,347. He contacted us Thursday with a story about Radio Shack's Model 100 -- and a rare training film from 36 years ago:Radio Shack's Model 100 wasn't the first laptop -- but it was the first popular one, and an innovative machine on multiple fronts. It was also the last computer to ship with Microsoft software personally coded by Bill Gates. I recently came across an internal training film intended to help Radio Shack staffers explain the Model 100's benefits to potential customers. I've shared it -- and some thoughts on the system's importance -- over at Fast Company. The article calls it "an even more important computer than it generally gets credit for," noting portable computers at the time weighed a whopping 24 pounds -- and required a wall outlet to run. So a four-pound PC that ran off batteries and could fit in a briefcase "introduced people to mind-bending ideas such as using a PC on an airplane" -- even if it only had 8K of memory.

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Bankrupt US Coal Producer Was Funding Climate Change Denial
The bankruptcy of one of America's largest coal producers revealed that the company was helping to fund "think tanks that have attacked the link between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change, as well as to several conservative advocacy groups that have attempted to undermine policies intended to shift the economy toward renewable energy," reports the Intercept.The document shows that Cloud Peak Energy helped fund the Institute of Energy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based group that has dismissed the "so-called scientific consensus" on climate change and regularly criticizes investments in renewable energy as a "waste" of resources. Several of the groups that receive funding from Cloud Peak Energy have used aggressive tactics to attempt to discredit environmentalists. The Center for Consumer Freedom, one of the groups listed in the coal company's filing, is part of a sprawling network of front groups set up by a lobbyist named Rick Berman geared toward attacking green groups such as the Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch as dangerous radicals. Other organizations quietly bankrolled by Cloud Peak Energy have directly shaped state policy... The Montana Policy Institute -- a local libertarian think tank that promotes a discredited claim that world temperatures are falling, not rising, and questions whether humans cause climate change -- also received funding from the firm.... Four years ago, falling coal prices led to a series of bankruptcies of the largest coal companies in America. The filings, first reported by The Intercept, similarly revealed that the coal industry had financed a range of activists and organizations dedicated to spreading doubt about the science underpinning climate change... In 2016, Greg Zimmerman, an environmental activist, stumbled upon a presentation titled "Survival Is Victory: Lessons From the Tobacco Wars." The slide deck was the creation of Richard Reavey, a vice president for government and public affairs at Cloud Peak Energy, and a former executive at Phillip Morris. Reavey argued that fossil fuel firms, particularly coal, should emulate the tactics of big tobacco, which similarly spent decades battling scientists and regulators over claims that its product harmed public health. In the New York Times coverage of the episode, Reavey told the paper that his firm "has never fought climate change -- never fought it, never denied it or funded anyone who does." The bankruptcy filing from last week, however, suggests otherwise.

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Ask Slashdot: Are the Big Players In Tech Even Competing With Each Other?
dryriver writes: For capitalism to work for consumers in a beneficial way, the big players have to compete hard against each other and innovate courageously. What appears to be happening instead, however, is that every year almost everybody is making roughly the same product at roughly the same price point. Most 4K TVs at the same price point have the same features -- there is little to distinguish manufacturer A from manufacturer B. Ditto for smartphones -- nobody suddenly puts a 3D scanning capable lightfield camera, shake-the-phone-to-charge-it or something similarly innovative into their next phone. Ditto for game consoles -- Xbox and Playstation are not very different from each other at all. Nintendo does "different," but underpowers its hardware. Ditto for laptops -- the only major difference I see in laptops is the quality of the screen panel used and of the cooling system. The last laptop with an auto stereoscopic 3D screen I have seen is the long-discontinued Toshiba Satellite 3D. Ditto for CPUs and GPUs -- it doesn't really matter whether you buy Intel, AMD, or Nvidia. There is nothing so "different" or "distinct" in any of the electronics they make that it makes you go "wow, that is truly groundbreaking." Ditto for sports action cameras, DSLRs, portable storage and just about everything else "tech." So where precisely -- besides pricing and build-quality differences -- is the competition in what these companies are doing? Shouldn't somebody be trying to "pull far ahead of the pack" or "ahead of the curve" with some crazy new feature that nobody else has? Or is true innovation in tech simply dead now?

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