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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Some Google One Plans Now Come With a Complimentary VPN
An anonymous reader shares a report: If you're a Google One subscriber, there's a new reason to consider the service's $10 per month 2TB plan. Google is adding built-in virtual private network (VPN) functionality to the Google One app, but you'll need to subscribe to the 2TB and above plans to access the perk. While the feature is built into Google One, the company says you can take advantage of it while using any other app on your Android phone to protect your online privacy. Moreover, with the family sharing feature that comes with Google One, five other people can get access to a VPN as well.

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TikTok-parent ByteDance Launches Its First Gadget, a Smart Lamp With Camera and Display
ByteDance on Thursday unveiled its first consumer hardware product, a smart light lamp with a display and camera, that it says is part of its education technology portfolio as the Chinese internet giant continues to expand to categories beyond social video. From a report: The Dali smart lamp features a display, camera, and a built-in digital assistant. The Dali smart lamp, which starts at $119, is aimed at school-going children who can use the device to finish their homework, ByteDance said at a press conference. The camera will enable parents to tutor their kids and check in remotely via a mobile app.

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World's First Ocean Hybrid Platform Converts Tidal Waves Into Energy
Qusi Alqarqaz writes via IEEE Spectrum: In August I spoke with Philipp Sinn, founder of Sinn Power, a German green-energy startup founded in 2014. This year he and his colleagues began building and testing the world's first ocean hybrid platform. The floating platform uses a combination of wave, wind, and solar energy to harness renewable energy on the open seas, Sinn says. The company has been testing the structure, which has attracted investors, energy experts, scientists, and government officials from all over the world to Heraklion, the largest city on the Greek Island of Crete. The wind, wave, and photovoltaic platform is scalable in capacity and can be designed to generate 80 kilowatts to power small houses by the coast and up to 2 megawatts to industrial buildings, Sinn says. The technology can be adapted to customers' needs and location requirements, he adds. He acknowledges that the maritime environment is challenging. All the energy systems on the platform contain sensitive components and power electronics that must not be exposed to any fluids, he says. To cope with such conditions, the company developed a product family consisting of electric machines, power electronics, and storage solutions, all of which comply with International Protection Code 68, which classifies and rates degrees of protection provided by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures against intrusion, dust, accidental contact, and immersion in deep water. "We see [our company's] technologies as a movement toward a sustainable future," Sinn says. "The goal is to provide people all over the world with clean, reliable, and affordable energy harnessed from the power of the ocean." "Development of ocean-energy production -- from concept to commercial release -- has been a slow, expensive process," writes Alqarqaz in closing. "For the industry to succeed, it is essential to get financial support from governments all over the world. It is also important to strengthen the cooperation between countries, especially with regard to joint projects and the exchange of technology."

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Apple's iPhone 12 Seems To Have a Secret Reverse Wireless Charging Feature
Apple's iPhone 12 lineup has the ability to wirelessly charge an external accessory, according to a series of newly unveiled FCC filings that just went public yesterday. The Verge reports: The documents first spotted by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz say the phone "supports a built-in inductive charging transmitter and receiver." Apple has not officially announced any such functionality that could be used to charge future AirPods or Apple's long rumored Tile-competitor dubbed "AirTags." "In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT [wireless power transfer] charger (puck), 2020 iPhone models ... also support WPT charging function at 360 kHz to charge accessories," one of the documents reads. It lists a series of FCC IDs of iPhones with the new feature, which include the the iPhone 12 mini (BCG-E3539A), iPhone 12 (BCG-E3542A), iPhone 12 Pro (BCG-E3545A), and iPhone 12 Pro Max (BCG-E3548A). The maximum reverse wireless charging speed is listed as 5W, if we're reading the documents correctly. It sounds like the iPhone 12's reverse wireless charging may be limited, at least at first. The documents say that "currently the only accessory that can be charged by iPhones is an external potential apple accessory in future" and that reverse charging currently "only occurs when the phone is connected to an AC power outlet." The FCC's testing appears to have been conducted using only a wall charger and USB-C cable, presumably the same USB-C to Lighting cable bundled with each iPhone 12. It's unclear why Apple did not officially reveal the functionality when it announced the phones themselves, though it could be because the accessory which works with the functionality isn't yet ready to be released. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman speculates that it might work with the company's upcoming AirPods revamp, whose existence was reported earlier this week.

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Folding@Home Exascale Supercomputer Finds Potential Targets For COVID-19 Cure
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: The Folding@home project has shared new results of its efforts to simulate proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus to better understand how they function and how to stop them. Folding@home is a distributed computing effort that uses small clients to run simulations for biomedical research when users' PCs are idle. The clients operate independently of each other to perform their own unique simulation and send in the results to the F@h servers. In its SARS-CoV-2 simulations, F@h first targeted the spike, the cone-shaped appendages on the surface of the virus consisting of three proteins. The spike must open to attach itself to a human cell to infiltrate and replicate. F@h's mission was to simulate this opening process to gain unique insight into what the open state looks like and find a way to inhibit the connection between the spike and human cells. And it did so. In a newly published paper, the Folding@home team said it was able to simulate an "unprecedented" 0.1 seconds of the viral proteome. They captured dramatic opening of the spike complex, as well as shape-shifting in other proteins that revealed more than 50 "cryptic" pockets that expand targeting options for the design of antivirals. [...] The model derived from the F@h simulations shows that the spike opens up and exposes buried surfaces. These surfaces are necessary for infecting a human cell and can also be targeted with antibodies or antivirals that bind to the surface to neutralize the virus and prevent it from infecting someone. "And the tech sector played a big role in helping the find," adds the anonymous Slashdot reader. "Microsoft, Nvidia, AMD, Intel, AWS, Oracle, and Cisco all helped with hardware and cloud services. Pure Storage donated a one petabyte all-flash storage array. Linus Tech Tips, a hobbyist YouTube channel for home system builders with 12 million followers, set up a 100TB server to take the load off."

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US Grid-Battery Costs Dropped 70% Over 3 Years
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In recent years, the cost of solar and wind energy has declined precipitously, which has accelerated the growth of these renewable energy technologies. Increasingly, utilities are now planning for a future grid dominated by solar and wind. That will require changes in grid management and transmission upgrades as well as the addition of storage to smooth out the supply from variable generators. Grid storage is still pretty early days, but we're already seeing huge cost reductions as the industry matures. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) highlighted this recently, showing that grid-scale battery-project costs in the United States dropped 70 percent in just a few years. Between 2015 and 2018, average project costs decreased from $2,152 per kilowatt-hour of storage to $625. Costs will need to drop much more for grid batteries to scale, but that's a huge improvement in a short period of time. By the end of 2018, the US had 869 megawatts of battery power capacity and 1,236 megawatt-hours of energy capacity. (Power is the rate at which the batteries can supply electricity, while energy is the total amount it can supply when going from full charge to empty.) EIA also has installation data for 2019, which saw the addition of another 150 megawatts/450 megawatt-hours. And in just the first seven months of 2020, yet another 300 megawatts of power capacity were installed. EIA doesn't see this slowing down. It expects installed battery storage to increase by 6,900 megawatts "in the next few years" -- a figure ambiguous enough to allow for a rapid spike in planned projects.

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Study Shows Which Messengers Leak Your Data, Drain Your Battery, and More
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Link previews are a ubiquitous feature found in just about every chat and messaging app, and with good reason. They make online conversations easier by providing images and text associated with the file that's being linked. Unfortunately, they can also leak our sensitive data, consume our limited bandwidth, drain our batteries, and, in one case, expose links in chats that are supposed to be end-to-end encrypted. Among the worst offenders, according to research published on Monday, were messengers from Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Line. More about that shortly. The researchers behind Monday's report, Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk, found that Facebook Messenger and Instagram were the worst offenders. As the chart below shows, both apps download and copy a linked file in its entirety -- even if it's gigabytes in size. Again, this may be a concern if the file is something the users want to keep private. It's also problematic because the apps can consume vast amounts of bandwidth and battery reserves. Both apps also run any JavaScript contained in the link. That's a problem because users have no way of vetting the security of JavaScript and can't expect messengers to have the same exploit protections modern browsers have. LinkedIn performed only slightly better. Its only difference was that, rather than copying files of any size, it copied only the first 50 megabytes. Haj Bakry and Mysk reported their findings to Facebook, and the company said that both apps work as intended. Meanwhile, when the Line app opens an encrypted message and finds a link, it appears to send the link to the Line server to generate a preview. "We believe that this defeats the purpose of end-to-end encryption, since LINE servers know all about the links that are being sent through the app, and who's sharing which links to whom," Haj Bakry and Mysk wrote. Discord, Google Hangouts, Slack, Twitter, and Zoom also copy files, but they cap the amount of data at anywhere from 15MB to 50MB. [This chart] provides a comparison of each app in the study.

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The Explosive Problem of 'Zombie' Batteries
AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: The Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents waste firms like Biffa, Veolia and Suez, says too many batteries are going into either recycling bins or black rubbish bags, where they are easily damaged by sorting equipment and start to burn -- so-called "zombie" batteries. The ESA has launched a campaign called Take Charge which encourages people to dispose of batteries properly. "Unfortunately, the majority of batteries thrown away in the UK at the moment are not put in the proper recycling bins. Fires caused by carelessly discarded zombie batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage and disrupt waste services," says Jacob Hayler, executive director of ESA. Lithium-ion batteries, which power mobile phones, tablets and toothbrushes, can be extremely volatile if damaged. CCTV footage taken at several recycling centers shows explosions sending flames and debris shooting across sorting areas. And those sorts of batteries are a growing menace. Between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries were suspected to have caused around 250 fires at waste facilities. That is 38% of all fires, up from 25% compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from ESA. In many cases the precise cause of a fire is never established but ESA says it is likely that lithium-ion batteries account for an even bigger proportion of fires.

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Samsung, Stanford Make a 10,000 PPI Display That Could Lead To 'Flawless' VR
Samsung and Stanford University have developed OLED technology that supports resolutions up to 10,000 pixels per inch -- "well above what you see in virtually any existing display, let alone what you'd find in a modern VR headset like the Oculus Quest 2," reports Engadget. From the report: The newOLED tech uses films to emit white light between reflective layers, one silver and another made of reflective metal with nano-sized corrugations. This "optical metasurface" changes the reflective properties and allows specific colors to resonate through pixels. The design allows for much higher pixel densities than you see in the RGB OLEDs on phones, but doesn't hurt brightness to the degree you see with white OLEDs in some TVs. This would be ideal for VR and AR, creating a virtually 'flawless' image where you can't see the screen door effect or even individual pixels. This might take years to arrive when it would require much more computing power, but OLED tech would no longer be an obstacle.

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In World First, 100% of South Australia's Power Supplied By Solar Panels
1.76 million people live in the 983,482 square kilometer (379,725 square mile) state of South Australia. This weekend Australia's national broadcaster made a big announcement:South Australia's renewable energy boom has achieved a global milestone. The state once known for not having enough power has become the first major jurisdiction in the world to be powered entirely by solar energy. For just over an hour on Sunday, October 11, 100 percent of energy demand was met by solar panels alone. "This is truly a phenomenon in the global energy landscape," Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) chief executive Audrey Zibelman said. "Never before has a jurisdiction the size of South Australia been completely run by solar power, with consumers' rooftop solar systems contributing 77 per cent." Large-scale solar farms, like the ones operating at Tailem Bend and Port Augusta, provided the other 23 per cent. Any excess power generated by gas and wind farms on that day was stored in batteries or exported to Victoria via the interconnector. South Australia is where Elon Musk installed Tesla's giant Powerpack battery as part of a massive solar and wind farm.

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The Battle Over Chips is About to Get Uglier
"We're in a new world where governments are more concerned about the security of their digital infrastructure and the resiliency of their supply chains," Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of global policy with the Washington-based Semiconductor Industry Association, tells Bloomberg. "The techno-nationalist trends gaining traction in multiple capitals around the world are a challenge to the semiconductor industry."At once highly globalized and yet concentrated in the hands of a few countries, the industry has choke points that the U.S. under the presidency of Donald Trump has sought to exploit in order to thwart China's plans to become a world leader in chip production. Washington says Beijing can only achieve that goal through state subvention [funding] at the expense of U.S. industry, while furthering Communist Party access to high-tech tools for surveillance and repression. China rejects the allegations, accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy and acting out of political motivation. For both sides, Taiwan, which is responsible for some 70% of chips manufactured to order, is the new front line... Citing the need to promote "digital sovereignty," the European Commission is exploring a 30 billion-euro ($35 billion) drive to raise Europe's share of the world chip market to 20%, from less than 10% now. Japan is also looking to bolster its domestic capacity. At least one Japanese delegation traveled to Taiwan in May and June this year in the hope of convincing TSMC to invest in Japan, a person with knowledge of the visit said. But TSMC announced in May that it was building a $12 billion facility in Arizona, and the company declined to receive any foreign visitors seeking to woo it, said another person familiar with the company's thinking.... A focus of Beijing is to accelerate research into so-called third-generation semiconductors — circuits made of materials such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride, a fledgling technology where no country dominates. Yet without silicon capabilities it will be difficult for China to build a proper semiconductor industry, said a senior TSMC official. Another person from a company involved in third-generation chip production said designing them is an art, and even poaching a team of designers won't necessarily guarantee success. The consensus is it won't be easy for China to catch up, especially at the cutting-edge where TSMC and Samsung are producing chips whose circuits are measured in single-digit nanometers, or billionths of a meter. SMIC [a partially state-owned Chinese semiconductor foundry] would have to double annual research spending in the next two-to-three years just to prevent its technology gap with those companies widening, says Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Charles Shum. The tussle raises the prospect of a broader decoupling of the global industry with two distinct supply chains.

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Greenpeace Claims Fukushima Water Release Could Change Human DNA
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:Contaminated water that could soon be released into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contains radioactive carbon with the potential to damage human DNA, environmental rights organization Greenpeace has warned. The environmental group claims that the 1.23 million metric tons of water stored at the plant — scene of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster — contains "dangerous" levels of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 and other "hazardous" radionuclides, which it says will have "serious long-term consequences for communities and the environment" if the water is released into the Pacific Ocean. To cool fuel cores at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has pumped in tens of thousands of tons of water over the years. Once used, the water is put into storage. But nine years on from Japan's worst nuclear disaster, storage space is running out, and the government is still deciding what to do with the water. Authorities, including the country's environment minister, have indicated the only solution is to release it into the ocean — a plan facing opposition from environmental campaigners and fishing industry representatives. On Friday, the Japanese government postponed a decision on what to do with the water.

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NVIDIA Cancels GeForce RTX 3080 20GB and RTX 3070 16GB: Report
VideoCardz reports: NVIDIA has just told its board partners that it will not launch GeForce RTX 3080 20GB and RTX 3070 16GB cards as planned. NVIDIA allegedly cancels its December launch of GeForce RTX 3080 20GB and RTX 3070 16GB. This still very fresh information comes from two independent sources. Technically GeForce RTX 3080 20GB and RTX 3070 16GB could launch at a later time, but the information that we have clearly stated that those SKUs have been canceled, not postponed. NVIDIA has already canceled its RTX 3070 Ti model (PG141 SKU 0), so the RTX 3070 16GB (PG141 SKU5) and RTX 3080 20GB (PG132 SKU20) will be joining the list. The GeForce RTX 3080 20GB was expected to be a response to AMD Radeon RX 6900/6800 series featuring Navi 21 GPU. All three AMD SKUs will feature 16GB of memory, leaving NVIDIA with a smaller frame buffer to compete with. We do not know the official reason for the cancellation. The RTX 3080 20GB might have been scrapped due to low GDDR6X yield issues, one source claims. The reason behind RTX 3070 16GB cancellation is unknown (this SKU uses GDDR6 memory). The plans for GeForce RTX 3060 Ti remain unchanged. The PG190 SKU 10 remains on track for mid-November launch.

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GM Sells Out First Year of Electric Hummer Production
General Motors said it has sold out the first year's worth of its hulking GMC Hummer EV electric pickup truck after a splashy video reveal on Tuesday. Reuters reports: The GMC website showed a "reservations full" banner over the Hummer EV "Edition 1," due to start production in the fall of 2021. The next version of the truck, the $99,995 Hummer EV 3X, is not scheduled to begin production until the fall of 2022. The least expensive Hummer EV, starting at $79,995, is scheduled to go into production in the spring of 2024, GM said. The Hummer EV was designed and engineered in 18 months, GM officials said during a presentation on Wednesday. The brawny truck can "crab walk" sideways on rough terrain using its four-wheel steering system, and has a "Watts to Freedom" mode that accelerates the truck to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) in 3 seconds. The Hummer EV is in part a response to Tesla's Cybertruck, which has a very different but equally eye-grabbing design and a bevy of extreme performance features. [...] Startups Rivian, Nikola Corp and Lordstown Motors are among other companies that have electric pickups in development. Further reading: GMC Hummer EV vs. Tesla Cybertruck, Bollinger and Rivian

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It's Official: Solar Is the Cheapest Electricity In History
An anonymous reader writes: In a new report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says solar is now the cheapest form of electricity for utility companies to build. That's thanks to risk-reducing financial policies around the world, the agency says, and it applies to locations with both the most favorable policies and the easiest access to financing. The report underlines how important these policies are to encouraging development of renewables and other environmentally forward technologies. Carbon Brief (CB) summarizes the annual report with a lot of key details. The World Energy Outlook 2020 "offers four 'pathways' to 2040, all of which see a major rise in renewables," CB says. "The IEA's main scenario has 43 [percent] more solar output by 2040 than it expected in 2018, partly due to detailed new analysis showing that solar power is 20 [to] 50 [percent] cheaper than thought." The calculation depends on financing figures compared with the amount of output for solar projects. That means that at the same time panel technology gets more efficient and prices for basic panels continue to fall, investors are getting better and better financing deals. "Previously the IEA assumed a range of 7 [to] 8 [percent] for all technologies, varying according to each country's stage of development," explains CB. "Now, the IEA has reviewed the evidence internationally and finds that for solar, the cost of capital is much lower, at 2.6 [to] 5.0 [percent] in Europe and the US, 4.4 [to] 5.5 [percent] in China and 8.8 [to] 10.0 [percent] in India."

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