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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Huawei Teases a Smartwatch With Built-In Wireless Earbuds
Huawei has confirmed the existence of a smartwatch it's working on featuring a pair of built-in wireless earbuds. "Huawei's account on Chinese Twitter-like site Weibo announced the existence of the device on Wednesday and promised all would be revealed on December 2," reports The Register. "But Huawei has since postponed its Winter 2022 consumer kit launch for unexplained reasons." You can view a teaser video on YouTube. The Verge adds: As the name suggests, the Huawei Watch Buds are a pair of earbuds concealed within a smartwatch that looks similar to the Huawei Watch 3. Details are a little sparse so there's no word yet on what kind of performance or battery life you can expect from either of the products, but the watch itself does appear to be running HarmonyOS. The earbuds don't seem to resemble any previous Huawei products, sporting a bare-bones black and silver design. While the concept feels more than a little gimmicky, it could be a neat solution for runners and other sporty folks who don't want to carry a separate earbud case during a workout. (If they don't mind the extra bulk on their wrists.) [...] Addressing the elephant in the room, it's unlikely that you'll be able to buy this wacky gadget in the US anyway, regardless of its legitimacy. Huawei products have been effectively banned in the country since the company was placed on the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security Entity list in 2019.

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PCI Standards Group Deflects, Assigns Blame for Melting GPU Power Connectors
An anonymous reader shares a report: Nvidia's new RTX 4090 and 4080 GPUs both use a new connector called 12VHPWR to deliver power as a way to satisfy ever-more power-hungry graphics cards without needing to set aside the physical space required for three or four 8-pin power connectors. But that power connector and its specifications weren't created by Nvidia alone -- to ensure interoperability, the spec was developed jointly by the PCI Express Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG), a body that includes Nvidia, AMD, Intel, Arm, IBM, Qualcomm, and others. But the overheating and melting issues experienced by some RTX 4090 owners recently have apparently prompted the PCI-SIG to clarify exactly which parts of the spec it is and is not responsible for. In a statement reported by Tom's Hardware, the group sent its members a reminder that they, not the PCI-SIG, were responsible for safety testing products using connector specs like 12VHPWR. "Members are reminded that PCI-SIG specifications provide necessary technical information for interoperability and do not attempt to address proper design, manufacturing methods, materials, safety testing, safety tolerances, or workmanship," the statement reads. "When implementing a PCI-SIG specification, Members are responsible for the design, manufacturing, and testing, including safety testing, of their products."

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Government Scientists 'Approaching What is Required for Fusion' in Breakthrough Energy Research
Scientists hoping to harness nuclear fusion -- the same energy source that powers the Sun and other stars -- have confirmed that magnetic fields can enhance the energy output of their experiments, reports a new study. The results suggest that magnets may play a key role in the development of this futuristic form of power, which could theoretically provide a virtually limitless supply of clean energy. Motherboard reports: Fusion power is generated by the immense energy released as atoms in extreme environments merge together to create new configurations. The Sun, and all the stars in the night sky, are fueled by this explosive process, which occurs in their cores at incredibly high temperatures and pressures. Scientists have spent roughly a century unraveling the mechanics of nuclear fusion in nature, and trying to artificially replicate this starry mojo in laboratories. Now, a team at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), which is a fusion experiment based at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has reported that the magnetic fields can boost the temperature of the fusion "hot spot" in experiments by 40 percent and more than triple its energy output, which is "approaching what is required for fusion ignition" according to a study published this month in Physical Review Letters. "The magnetic field comes in and acts kind of like an insulator," said John Moody, a senior scientist at the NIF who led the study, in a call with Motherboard. "You have what we call the hot spot. It's millions of degrees, and around it is just room temperature. All that heat wants to flow out because heat always goes from the hot to the cold and the magnetic field prevents that from happening." "When we go in and we put the magnetic field on this hotspot, and we insulate it, now that heat stays in there, and so we're able to get the hot spot to a higher temperature," he continued. "You get more [fusion] reactions as you go up in temperature, and that's why we see this improvement in the reactivity." The hot spots in the NIF's fusion experiments are created by shooting nearly 200 lasers at a tiny pellet of fuel made of heavier isotopes (or versions) of hydrogen, such as deuterium and tritium. These laser blasts generate X-rays that make the small capsule implode, producing the kinds of extreme pressures and temperatures that are necessary for the isotopes to fuse together and release their enormous stores of energy. NIF has already brought their experiments to the brink of ignition, which is the point at which fusion reactions become self-sustaining in plasmas. The energy yields created by these experiments are completely outweighed by the energy that it takes to make these self-sustaining reactions in the plasmas in the first place. Still, achieving ignition is an important step toward creating a possible "breakeven" system that produces more energy output than input. Moody and his colleagues developed their magnetized experiment at NIF by wrapping a coil around a version of the pellet made with specialized metals.

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San Francisco Supervisors Vote To Allow Police To Use Robots To Kill
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 Tuesday night to approve a controversial policy that would allow police to deploy robots capable of using lethal force in extraordinary circumstances, according to multiple reports. From a report: The Washington Post reports the vote came after a heated debate on a policy that would allow officers to use ground-based robots to kill "when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and officers cannot subdue the threat after using alternative force options or de-escalation tactics." The Post says the measure still requires a second vote next week and the mayor's approval. "There could be an extraordinary circumstance where, in a virtually unimaginable emergency, they might want to deploy lethal force to render, in some horrific situation, somebody from being able to cause further harm," Supervisor Aaron Peskin said at the board meeting, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But Supervisors Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen and Shamann Walton voted against the policy, the Chronicle reported. "There is serious potential for misuse and abuse of this military-grade technology, and zero showing of necessity," Preston said at the meeting. Ultimately, the board adopted an amendment requiring one of two high-ranking San Francisco Police Department leaders to authorize any use of a robot for lethal force, according to the Chronicle.

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Dropbox Acquires Boxcryptor Assets To Bring Zero-Knowledge Encryption To File Storage
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Dropbox has announced plans to bring end-to-end encryption to its business users, and it's doing so through acquiring "key assets" from Germany-based cloud security company Boxcryptor. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Dropbox is well-known for its cloud-based file back-up and sharing services, and while it does offer encryption for files moving between its servers and the destination, Dropbox itself has access to the keys and can technically view any content passing through. What Boxcryptor brings to the table is an extra layer of security via so-called "zero knowledge" encryption on the client side, giving the user full control over who is allowed to decrypt their data. For many people, such as consumers storing family photos or music files, this level of privacy might not be a major priority. But for SMEs and enterprises, end-to-end encryption is a big deal as it ensures that no intermediary can access their confidential documents stored in the cloud -- it's encrypted before it even arrives. Moving forward, Dropbox said that it plans to bake Boxcryptor's features natively into Dropbox for business users. "In a blog post published today, Boxcryptor founders Andrea Pfundmeier and Robert Freudenreich say that their 'new mission' will be to embed Boxcryptor's technology into Dropbox," adds TechCrunch. "And after today, nobody will be able to create an account or buy any licenses from Boxcryptor -- it's effectively closing to new customers." "But there are reasons why the news is being packaged the way it has. The company is continuing to support existing customers through the duration of their current contracts."

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Dropbox Acquires Boxcryptor Assets To Bring Zero-Knowledge Encryption To File Storage
Dropbox has announced plans to bring end-to-end encryption to its business users, and it's doing so through acquiring "key assets" from Germany-based cloud security company Boxcryptor. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. From a report: Dropbox is well-known for its cloud-based file back-up and sharing services, and while it does offer encryption for files moving between its servers and the destination, Dropbox itself has access to the keys and can technically view any content passing through. What Boxcryptor brings to the table is an extra layer of security via so-called "zero knowledge" encryption on the client side, giving the user full control over who is allowed to decrypt their data. For many people, such as consumers storing family photos or music files, this level of privacy might not be a major priority. But for SMEs and enterprises, end-to-end encryption is a big deal as it ensures that no intermediary can access their confidential documents stored in the cloud -- it's encrypted before it even arrives. Moving forward, Dropbox said that it plans to bake Boxcryptor's features natively into Dropbox for business users.

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Rolls-Royce Successfully Tests Hydrogen-Powered Jet Engine
Britain's Rolls-Royce said it has successfully run an aircraft engine on hydrogen, a world aviation first that marks a major step towards proving the gas could be key to decarbonizing air travel. Reuters reports: The ground test, using a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional aircraft engine, used green hydrogen created by wind and tidal power, the British company said on Monday. Rolls and its testing program partner easyJet are seeking to prove that hydrogen can safely and efficiently deliver power for civil aero engines. They said they were already planning a second set of tests, with a longer-term ambition to carry out flight tests. Hydrogen is one of a number of competing technologies that could help the aviation industry achieve its goal of becoming net zero by 2050.

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Epson To End the Sale and Distribution of Laser Printer
Japanese electronics and printer maker Epson announced this month that it will end the sale and distribution of laser printer hardware by 2026, citing sustainability issues. From a report: According to the company, inkjets have a "greater potential" than laser printers to make "meaningful advances" when it comes to the environment. The company already halted laser printer sales in many markets, but continued in Asia and Europe. Even though new hardware would be unavailable everywhere, Epson said it would continue to support consumers with consumables and spare parts. "As a company we're totally committed to sustainable innovation and action, and inkjets simply use less energy and fewer consumable parts," explained Epson sales and marketing manager Koichi Kubota in canned statement. "While laser printers work by heating and fusing toner to a page, Epson's Heat-Free inkjet technology consumes less electricity by using mechanical energy to fire ink onto the page."

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A Light-powered Catalyst Could Be Key For Hydrogen Economy
"Rice University researchers have engineered a key light-activated nanomaterial for the hydrogen economy," the University announced this week. "Using only inexpensive raw materials, a team from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics, Syzygy Plasmonics Inc. and Princeton University's Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment created a scalable catalyst that needs only the power of light to convert ammonia into clean-burning hydrogen fuel...."The research follows government and industry investment to create infrastructure and markets for carbon-free liquid ammonia fuel that will not contribute to greenhouse warming. Liquid ammonia is easy to transport and packs a lot of energy, with one nitrogen and three hydrogen atoms per molecule. The new catalyst breaks those molecules into hydrogen gas, a clean-burning fuel, and nitrogen gas, the largest component of Earth's atmosphere. And unlike traditional catalysts, it doesn't require heat. Instead, it harvests energy from light, either sunlight or energy-stingy LEDs.... "This discovery paves the way for sustainable, low-cost hydrogen that could be produced locally rather than in massive centralized plants," said Peter Nordlander, also a Rice co-author. Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot for submitting the story (via Phys.org.

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Europe's Biggest Battery Storage System Switched On
What is thought to be Europe's biggest battery energy storage system has begun operating near Hull. The BBC reports: The site, said to be able to store enough electricity to power 300,000 homes for two hours, went online at Pillswood, Cottingham, on Monday. Its launch was brought forward four months as the UK faces possible energy shortages this winter. The facility was developed by North Yorkshire renewable power firm Harmony Energy using technology made by Tesla. The Pillswood facility has the capacity to store up to 196 MWh energy in a single cycle. It has been built next to the National Grid's Creyke Beck substation, which will be connected to Dogger Bank, the world's largest offshore wind farm, when it launches in the North Sea later this decade. The system, which will use Tesla's AI software to match energy supply to demand, had been due to be switched on in two stages in December 2022 and March 2023. Peter Kavanagh, director of Harmony Energy, said: "Battery energy storage systems are essential to unlocking the full potential of renewable energy in the UK and we hope this particular one highlights Yorkshire as a leader in green energy solutions." "These projects are not supported by taxpayer subsidy and will play a major role in contributing to the Net Zero transition, as well as ensuring the future security of the UK's energy supply and reduced reliance on foreign gas imports."

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Frederick P. Brooks Jr., Computer Design Innovator, Dies at 91
Frederick P. Brooks Jr., whose innovative work in computer design and software engineering helped shape the field of computer science, died on Thursday at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 91. His death was confirmed by his son, Roger, who said Dr. Brooks had been in declining health since having a stroke two years ago. The New York Times reports: Dr. Brooks had a wide-ranging career that included creating the computer science department at the University of North Carolina and leading influential research in computer graphics and virtual reality. But he is best known for being one of the technical leaders of IBM's 360 computer project in the 1960s. At a time when smaller rivals like Burroughs, Univac and NCR were making inroads, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking. Fortune magazine, in an article with the headline "IBM's $5,000,000,000 Gamble," described it as a "bet the company" venture. Until the 360, each model of computer had its own bespoke hardware design. That required engineers to overhaul their software programs to run on every new machine that was introduced. But IBM promised to eliminate that costly, repetitive labor with an approach championed by Dr. Brooks, a young engineering star at the company, and a few colleagues. In April 1964, IBM announced the 360 as a family of six compatible computers. Programs written for one 360 model could run on the others, without the need to rewrite software, as customers moved from smaller to larger computers. The shared design across several machines was described in a paper, written by Dr. Brooks and his colleagues Gene Amdahl and Gerrit Blaauw, titled "Architecture of the IBM System/360.""That was a breakthrough in computer architecture that Fred Brooks led," Richard Sites, a computer designer who studied under Dr. Brooks, said in an interview. But there was a problem. The software needed to deliver on the IBM promise of compatibility across machines and the capability to run multiple programs at once was not ready, as it proved to be a far more daunting challenge than anticipated. Operating system software is often described as the command and control system of a computer. The OS/360 was a forerunner of Microsoft's Windows, Apple's iOS and Google's Android. At the time IBM made the 360 announcement, Dr. Brooks was just 33 and headed for academia. He had agreed to return to North Carolina, where he grew up, and start a computer science department at Chapel Hill. But Thomas Watson Jr., the president of IBM, asked him to stay on for another year to tackle the company's software troubles. Dr. Brooks agreed, and eventually the OS/360 problems were sorted out. The 360 project turned out to be an enormous success, cementing the company's dominance of the computer market into the 1980s. "Fred Brooks was a brilliant scientist who changed computing," Arvind Krishna, IBM's chief executive and himself a computer scientist, said in a statement. "We are indebted to him for his pioneering contributions to the industry." Dr. Brooks published a book in 1975 titled, "The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering." It was "a quirky classic, selling briskly year after year and routinely cited as gospel by computer scientists," reports the Times.

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San Francisco Police Seek Permission For Its Robots To Use Deadly Force
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The San Francisco Police Department is currently petitioning the city's Board of Supervisors for permission to deploy robots to kill suspects that law enforcement deems a sufficient threat that the "risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD." The draft policy, which was written by the SFPD itself, also seeks to exclude "hundreds of assault rifles from its inventory of military-style weapons and for not include personnel costs in the price of its weapons," according to a report from Mission Local. As Mission Local notes, this proposal has already seen significant opposition from both within and without the Board. Supervisor Aaron Peskin, initially pushed back against the use of force requirements, inserting "Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person," into the policy language. The SFPD removed that wording in a subsequent draft, which I as a lifelong San Francisco resident did not know was something that they could just do. The three-member Rules Committee, which Peskin chairs, then unanimously approved that draft and advanced it to the full Board of Supervisors for a vote on November 29th. Peskin excused his decision by claiming that "there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option." The police force currently maintains a dozen fully-functional remote-controlled robots, which are typically used for area inspections and bomb disposal. However, as the Dallas PD showed in 2016, they make excellent bomb delivery platforms as well. Bomb disposal units are often equipped with blank shotgun shells used to forcibly disrupt an explosive device's internal workings, though there is nothing stopping police from using live rounds if they needed, as Oakland police recently acknowledged to that city's civilian oversight board.

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GPU Market Nosedives, Sales Lowest In a Decade
Shipments of integrated and discrete graphics processing units dropped to a 10-year low in the third quarter as PC OEMs reduced procurements of CPUs, and gamers lowered their purchases of existing graphics cards while waiting for next-generation products. From a report: In contrast, miners ceased to buy graphics boards due to changes that happened to Ethereum. In general, sales of standalone graphics cards for desktops hit a multi-year low. Usually, PC makers increase procurement of PC hardware components in the third quarter as they assemble computers to sell them in back-to-school and holiday seasons when sales are high. But as demand for PCs softened recently, manufacturers initiated inventory corrections and lowered their components buying to sell off what they already have. As a result, sales of integrated and discrete GPU dropped to 75.5 million units in Q3 2022, down 10.5% sequentially and 25.1% year-over-year, according to Jon Peddie Research. In addition, shipments of desktop GPUs fell by 15.43%, and notebook GPUs decreased by 30%, which is the most significant drop since the 2009 recession, JPR notes.

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Android TV Will Require App Bundles In 2023, Should Reduce App Size By 20%
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google announced that Android's space-saving app file format, Android App Bundles (AABs), will finally be the standard on Android TV. By May 2023 -- that's in six months -- Google will require all Android TV apps to switch to the new file format, which can cut down on app storage requirements by 20 percent. Android App Bundles were announced with Android 9 in 2018 as a way to save device storage by breaking an app up into modules, rather than one big monolithic APK (the old Android app format) with every possible piece of data. Android apps support a ton of different languages, display resolutions, and CPU architectures, but each individual device only needs to cherry-pick a few of those options to work. Android App Bundles integrate with the Play Store to create a dynamic delivery system for each module. Your phone communicates which modules it needs to the Play Store, and Google's servers bundled up an appropriate package and sent it to your device. It's even possible for developers to move some lesser-used app functionality into a bundle that can be downloaded on the fly if a user needs it. [...] Google says Android App Bundles average around a 20 percent space savings compared to a monolithic APK, which will be a huge help for these storage-starved devices. Since 2021, they have been the required standard for phones and tablets, and in six months, TV apps will be required to use them, too. Developers who don't switch in time will have their TV apps hidden from search, so they'd better get to work! Google estimates that "in most cases it will take one engineer about three days to migrate."

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US Grants $1.1 Billion To Keep Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Open
The Biden administration said on Monday it has approved conditional funding of up to $1.1 billion to prevent the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California, as part of its effort to fight climate change. Reuters reports: The Pacific Gas & Electric plant, which was set to fully shut in 2025, applied for funding in the initial phase of the Department of Energy's (DOE) $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit program meant to help keep struggling nuclear power reactors open. Diablo is the last operating nuclear plant in California. The Biden administration believes nuclear power is critical in curbing climate change and wants to keep plants open ahead of the development of next-generation reactors. President Joe Biden wants to decarbonize the power grid by 2035. The U.S. nuclear power industry's 92 reactors generate more than half of the country's virtually carbon-free electricity. But about a dozen reactors have closed since 2013 in the face of competition from renewable energy and plants that burn plentiful natural gas. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said the grant was a "critical step toward ensuring that our domestic nuclear fleet will continue providing reliable and affordable power to Americans as the nation's largest source of clean electricity." Further reading: Debate at COP27: Nuclear Energy, Climate Friend or Foe?

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