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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Calpine's California Battery Plant Is Among World's Largest
Calpine's billion-dolllar Nova Power Bank near Los Angeles will be among the largest in the world when it comes online later this year. According to Reuters, the plant is built on the site of a failed gas-fired power plant and "will be able to power about 680,000 homes for up to four hours when charged." From the report: The 680-megawatt lithium-ion battery bank is big even for California, which boasts about 55% of the nation's power storage capacity, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Calpine will bring online 620 MW of the bank in two phases this year starting in the summer and open the remaining 60 MW in 2025. [...] Calpine, best known in the state for its fleet of gas plants, has about 2,000 MW of battery capacity under development. California was a pioneer in mandating that its utilities begin procuring energy storage more than a decade ago. The state is expected to need about 50 gigawatts of battery storage to meet its 2045 goal of getting all of its power from carbon-free sources, up from about 7 GW today.

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Huawei Building Vast Chip Equipment R&D Center In Shanghai
AmiMoJo writes: Huawei Technologies is building a massive semiconductor equipment research and development center in Shanghai as the Chinese tech titan continues to beef up its chip supply chain to counter a U.S. crackdown. The centre's mission includes building lithography machines, vital equipment for producing cutting-edge chips. To staff the new center, Huawei is offering salary packages worth up to twice as much as local chipmakers, industry executives and sources briefed on the matter told Nikkei Asia. The company has already hired numerous engineers who have worked with top global chip tool builders like Applied Materials, Lam Research, KLA and ASML, they said, adding that chip industry veterans with more than 15 years of experience at leading chipmakers like TSMC, Intel and Micron are also among recent and potential hires. The report says Huawei is investing about 12 billion yuan ($1.66 billion) for this R&D chip plant, making it one of Shanghai's top projects for 2024. Working for the company is no easy task, says one chip engineering: "Working with them is brutal. It's not 996 -- meaning working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. ... It will literally be 007 -- from midnight to midnight, seven days a week. No days off at all. The contract will be for three years, [but] the majority of people can't survive till renewal."

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Intel Axes 13th Gen Core i5, i7, i9 K-series CPUs
Tom's Hardware: Intel is discontinuing its boxed overclockable Core i5, i7, and i9 Raptor Lake CPUs. Every K-series chip in the lineup will be discontinued on May 24th, 2024, after which vendors will no longer be able to purchase them. Intel's product change document states that the last product discontinuance order date and non-cancelable/non-returnable cut-off points will start on May 24th, 2024, and final shipments will end on June 28th, 2024. We don't expect 13th Gen K-series CPU supply to evaporate instantly but expect availability to gradually dissipate, along with price increases as vendors move to sell off all remaining overclockable Raptor Lake CPU inventory. That said, most 12th-Gen Alder Lake CPUs are still priced very competitively, even to this day, so we could potentially see the same behavior with these discontinued Raptor Lake CPUs (until stock inevitably runs out).

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Walmart Will Deploy Robotic Forklifts in Its Distribution Centers
An anonymous reader shares a report: The story of warehouse robotics is a story of attempting to keep up with Amazon. It's been more than a decade since the online giant revolutionized its delivery services through its Kiva Systems acquisition. As Walmart works to remain competitive, it's taking a more piecemeal approach to automation, through partnerships with a range of different robotics firms. On Thursday, the mega-retailer announced a partnership with Fox Robotics, which brings 19 of the Austin-based startup's robotic forklifts to its distribution centers. Today's news follows a 16-month pilot, which found Walmart trialing the technology in Distribution Center 6020. That Florida distribution center is the first of what the company calls its "high-tech DC." These are warehouses where it trials automation and various other technologies, before rolling them out to its wider channel of distribution and fulfillment centers. DC 6020 is the place where Walmart began trials with Symbotic's package sortation and retrieval technologies.

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We Never Agreed To Only Buy HP Ink, Say Printer Owners
HP "sought to take advantage of customers' sunk costs," printer owners claimed this week in a class action lawsuit against the hardware giant. The Register: Lawyers representing the aggrieved were responding in an Illinois court to an earlier HP motion to dismiss a January lawsuit. Among other things, the plaintiffs' filing stated that the printer buyers "never entered into any contractual agreement to buy only HP-branded ink prior to receiving the firmware updates." They allege HP broke several anti-competitive statutes, which they claim: "bar tying schemes, and certain uses of software to accomplish that without permission, that would monopolize an aftermarket for replacement ink cartridges, when these results are achieved in a way that 'take[s] advantage of customers' sunk costs.'" In the case, which began in January, the plaintiffs are arguing that HP issued a firmware update between late 2022 and early 2023 that they allege disabled their printers if they installed a replacement cartridge that was not HP-branded. They are asking for damages that include the cost of now-useless third-party cartridges and an injunction to disable the part of the firmware updates that prevent the use of third-party ink.

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Amazon Owes $525 Million In Cloud-Storage Patent Fight, US Jury Says
A federal jury in Illinois on Wednesday said Amazon Web Services owes tech company Kove $525 million for violating three patents relating to its data-storage technology. From the report: The jury determined (PDF) that AWS infringed three Kove patents covering technology that Kove said had become "essential" to the ability of Amazon's cloud-computing arm to "store and retrieve massive amounts of data." An Amazon spokesperson said the company disagrees with the verdict and intends to appeal. Kove's lead attorney Courtland Reichman called the verdict "a testament to the power of innovation and the importance of protecting IP (intellectual property) rights for start-up companies against tech giants." Kove also sued Google last year for infringing the same three patents in a separate Illinois lawsuit that is still ongoing.

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Hackable Intel and Lenovo Hardware That Went Undetected For 5 Years Won't Ever Be Fixed
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Hardware sold for years by the likes of Intel and Lenovo contains a remotely exploitable vulnerability that will never be fixed. The cause: a supply chain snafu involving an open source software package and hardware from multiple manufacturers that directly or indirectly incorporated it into their products. Researchers from security firm Binarly have confirmed that the lapse has resulted in Intel, Lenovo, and Supermicro shipping server hardware that contains a vulnerability that can be exploited to reveal security-critical information. The researchers, however, went on to warn that any hardware that incorporates certain generations of baseboard management controllers made by Duluth, Georgia-based AMI or Taiwan-based AETN are also affected. BMCs are tiny computers soldered into the motherboard of servers that allow cloud centers, and sometimes their customers, to streamline the remote management of vast fleets of servers. They enable administrators to remotely reinstall OSes, install and uninstall apps, and control just about every other aspect of the system -- even when it's turned off. BMCs provide what's known in the industry as "lights-out" system management. AMI and AETN are two of several makers of BMCs. For years, BMCs from multiple manufacturers have incorporated vulnerable versions of open source software known as lighttpd. Lighttpd is a fast, lightweight web server that's compatible with various hardware and software platforms. It's used in all kinds of wares, including in embedded devices like BMCs, to allow remote administrators to control servers remotely with HTTP requests. [...] "All these years, [the lighttpd vulnerability] was present inside the firmware and nobody cared to update one of the third-party components used to build this firmware image," Binarly researchers wrote Thursday. "This is another perfect example of inconsistencies in the firmware supply chain. A very outdated third-party component present in the latest version of firmware, creating additional risk for end users. Are there more systems that use the vulnerable version of lighttpd across the industry?" The vulnerability makes it possible for hackers to identify memory addresses responsible for handling key functions. Operating systems take pains to randomize and conceal these locations so they can't be used in software exploits. By chaining an exploit for the lighttpd vulnerability with a separate vulnerability, hackers could defeat this standard protection, which is known as address space layout randomization. The chaining of two or more exploits has become a common feature of hacking attacks these days as software makers continue to add anti-exploitation protections to their code. Tracking the supply chain for multiple BMCs used in multiple server hardware is difficult. So far, Binarly has identified AMI's MegaRAC BMC as one of the vulnerable BMCs. The security firm has confirmed that the AMI BMC is contained in the Intel Server System M70KLP hardware. Information about BMCs from ATEN or hardware from Lenovo and Supermicro aren't available at the moment. The vulnerability is present in any hardware that uses lighttpd versions 1.4.35, 1.4.45, and 1.4.51. "A potential attacker can exploit this vulnerability in order to read memory of Lighttpd Web Server process," Binarly researchers wrote in an advisory. "This may lead to sensitive data exfiltration, such as memory addresses, which can be used to bypass security mechanisms such as ASLR." Advisories are available here, here, and here.

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AI Hardware Company From Jone Ive, Sam Altman Seeks $1 Billion In Funding
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Former Apple design lead Jony Ive and current OpenAI CEO Sam Altman are seeking funding for a new company that will produce an "artificial intelligence-powered personal device," according to The Information's sources, who are said to be familiar with the plans. The exact nature of the device is unknown, but it will not look anything like a smartphone, according to the sources. We first heard tell of this venture in the fall of 2023, but The Information's story reveals that talks are moving forward to get the company off the ground. Ive and Altman hope to raise at least $1 billion for the new company. The complete list of potential funding sources they've spoken with is unknown, but The Information's sources say they are in talks with frequent OpenAI investor Thrive Capital as well as Emerson Collective, a venture capital firm founded by Laurene Powell Jobs. SoftBank CEO and super-investor Masayoshi Son is also said to have spoken with Altman and Ive about the venture. Financial Times previously reported that Son wanted Arm (another company he has backed) to be involved in the project. [...] Altman already has his hands in several other AI ventures besides OpenAI. The Information reports that there is no indication yet that OpenAI would be directly involved in the new hardware company.

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Intel Says New Gaudi 3 AI Chips Top Nvidia H100s in Speed and Cost
Intel on Tuesday unveiled its new "Gaudi 3" AI chip that the company claims is over twice as power-efficient and can run AI models one-and-a-half times faster than Nvidia's H100 GPU. "It also comes in different configurations like a bundle of eight Gaudi 3 chips on one motherboard or a card that can slot into existing systems," adds CNBC. From the report: Intel tested the chip on models like Meta's open-source Llama and the Abu Dhabi-backed Falcon. It said Gaudi 3 can help train or deploy models, including Stable Diffusion or OpenAI's Whisper model for speech recognition. Intel says its chips use less power than Nvidia's. Intel said that the new Gaudi 3 chips would be available to customers in the third quarter, and companies including Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Supermicro will build systems with the chips. Intel didn't provide a price range for Gaudi 3. Gaudi 3 is built on a five nanometer process, a relatively recent manufacturing technique, suggesting that the company is using an outside foundry to manufacture the chips. In addition to designing Gaudi 3, Intel also plans to manufacture AI chips, potentially for outside companies, at a new Ohio factory expected to open in 2027 or 2028, CEO Patrick Gelsinger told reporters last month. "We do expect it to be highly competitive" with Nvidia's latest chips, said Das Kamhout, vice president of Xeon software at Intel, on a call with reporters. "From our competitive pricing, our distinctive open integrated network on chip, we're using industry-standard Ethernet. We believe it's a strong offering."

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Intel Investigating Games Crashing On 13th and 14th Gen Core i9 Processors
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Owners of Intel's latest 13th and 14th Gen Core i9 desktop processors have been noticing an increase in game crashes in recent months. It's happening in games like The Finals, Fortnite, and Tekken 8, and has even led Epic Games to issue a support notice to encourage Intel Core i9 13900K and 14900K owners to adjust BIOS settings. Now, Intel says it's investigating the reports. "Intel is aware of problems that occur when executing certain tasks on 13th and 14th generation core processors for desktop PCs, and is analyzing them with major affiliates," says an Intel spokesperson in a statement to ZDNet Korea. The crashes vary in severity depending on the game, with some titles producing an "out of memory" error, others simply exiting out to the desktop, and some locking up a machine entirely. Most of the games affected seem to be based on the Unreal Engine, which could point to a stability issue that Intel needs to address. The only workarounds that seem to improve stability involve manually downclocking or undervolting Intel's processors. Epic Games has suggested changing the SVID behavior to Intel Fail Safe in the BIOS settings of Asus, Gigabyte, or MSI motherboards. Custom PC builders Power GPU recommend reducing the performance core ratio limit, which seems to help with stability in certain games.

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Google Announces Axion, Its First Custom Arm-based Data Center Processor
Google Cloud on Tuesday joined AWS and Azure in announcing its first custom-built Arm processor, dubbed Axion. From a report: Based on Arm's Neoverse 2 designs, Google says its Axion instances offer 30% better performance than other Arm-based instances from competitors like AWS and Microsoft and up to 50% better performance and 60% better energy efficiency than comparable X86-based instances. [...] "Technical documentation, including benchmarking and architecture details, will be available later this year," Google spokesperson Amanda Lam said. Maybe the chips aren't even ready yet? After all, it took Google a while to announce Arm-chips in the cloud, especially considering that Google has long built its in-house TPU AI chips and, more recently, custom Arm-based mobile chips for its Pixel phones. AWS launched its Graviton chips back in 2018.

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San Francisco's Light Rail To Upgrade From Floppy Disks
Those taking public transport in the tech hub of San Francisco may be reassured to know that their rides will soon no longer be dependent on floppy disks. From a report: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's director of transportation Jeffrey Tumlin told ABC that the city's automatic light-rail control system is running on outdated tech and "relies on three five-inch floppy disks" to boot up. The reporter was holding a 3.5-inch disk in the broadcast, so may have just skipped the word "point." "It's a question of risk," Tumlin explained in a three-minute segment about the floppy replacement project. "The system is currently working just fine, but we know that with each increasing year the risk of data degradation on the floppy disks increases and that at some point there will be a catastrophic failure." The agency noted that its system was installed in 1998, when floppies were still in common use and, er, "computers didn't have hard drives."

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One of Disneyland's Longest-Running Attractions is Ditching Fossil Fuels
When Disneyland opened in 1955, its car-themed attraction Autopia "represented the future of what would become America's multilane limited-access highways," according to Wikipedia, " which were still being developed. President Eisenhower had yet to sign the Interstate Highway legislation..." Wikipedia adds that the cars "generate a moderate level of exhaust from the Honda GX gasoline engines that propel the cars." But that may change, according to a climate-oriented newsletter from the Los Angeles Times:If anyone could get away with defending the toxic odor, it might be Bob Gurr. He designed the original Autopia cars in the mid-1950s, working closely with Walt himself. He's proud of what they built together. But today the 92-year-old Disney legend says the polluting motors need to go. "Get rid of those God-awful gasoline fumes," he told me. Disney is finally preparing to do just that. In news shared exclusively with The Times ahead of this column's publication — after several weeks of my prodding the company for answers on the future of Autopia — Disney officials revealed that pure gasoline engines are on their way out... "As the industry moves toward alternative fuel sources, we have developed a roadmap to electrify this attraction and are evaluating technology that will enable us to convert from gas engines in the next few years," spokesperson Jessica Good said in an email. Good wouldn't confirm whether that means electric vehicles, or if hybrids are a possibility... [Gurr] also expressed a grander vision for Tomorrowland as a hub for stories about renewable energy, public transit and other sustainable technologies that will help us create a better tomorrow... [H]ow about using the former Innoventions building, which once displayed futuristic technologies but is now closed to most guests, to showcase solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and other clean energy devices that guests might want in their homes...? Why not switch to electric cooking at the Alien Pizza Planet restaurant, and offer induction stove demos for diners? Maybe start screening some National Geographic films (Disney owns NatGeo) at the largely unused Magic Eye Theater...? Add some infotainment-style signs and voice-overs about the wonders of clean energy and public transit, and boom, you've got a Tomorrowland that should leave kids and their parents excited to help build a safer, happier, more sustainable world... [Gurr] told me that if he could, he'd tear out everything in Tomorrowland except the Monorail and rebuild it as a version of the public transit-oriented futuristic city that Walt once planned for Florida — only with clean energy at the core of its storytelling... At the very least, he said it's time for an Autopia where guests "don't smell the fumes, don't hear that racket of the little motor going putt-putt-putt." The newsletter agrees electric vehicles for Autopia are "the obvious starting point" for remodeling Tomorrowland with "a buzz of optimism and futuristic energy." ("Solar-panel shade structures over the line would be great too.") They even add that "it's not that it's my job to make money for Disney, but I'm sure the company could find sponsors for this vision of Tomorrowland. There are plenty of renewable energy companies, electric utilities and environmental groups eager to tout their causes and their credentials." And it shares this observation from climate scientist and communicator Katharine Hayhoe (paraphrasing another scientist who studies climate communications): "Showing people what climate solutions look like is one of the most effective ways to get them to support action." The newsletter's conclusion? "This is where Tomorrowland could prove especially valuable in the fight to save the planet." Some additional context... Disney's current CEO once said he was "particuarly proud" of the 270-acre, 50+-megawatt solar facility the company brought online in Orlando." And the Washington Post reports that Disney's plans to electrify Autopia "comes as the park is taking steps to decarbonize as part of an effort to reach a goal of net-zero emissions by 2030."

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US Energy Department Announces 'Blueprint' for Slashing Emissions From Buildings and Reducing Energy Use
This week America's Department of Energy announced "a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from buildings by 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050."The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) led the Blueprint's development in collaboration with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies. The Blueprint is the first sector-wide strategy for building decarbonization developed by the federal government... "America's building sector accounts for more than a third of the harmful emissions jeopardizing our air and health..." said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. "As part of a whole-of-government approach, the Department of Energy is outlining for the first time ever a comprehensive federal plan to reduce energy in our homes, schools, and workplaces — lowering utility bills and creating healthier communities while combating the climate crisis." Buildings account for more than one third of domestic climate pollution and $370 billion in annual energy costs... The Blueprint projects reductions of 90% of total greenhouse gas emissions from the buildings sector, which will save consumers more than $100 billion in annual energy costs and avoid $17 billion in annual health costs. Just for example, the Department of Energy's Affordable Home Energy Shot program "aims to reduce the upfront cost of upgrading a home by at least 50% and reduce energy bills by 20% within a decade." (Meanwhile, the federal government's role in making more change happen faster includes financing, funding R&D on lower-cost technologies, expanding markets, and "supporting the development and implementation of emissions-reducing building codes and appliance standards.") Besides the national blueprint, the Department also announced an expansion of its Better Buildings Commercial Building Heat Pump Accelerator initiative. In this program, "manufacturers will produce higher efficiency and life cycle cost-effective heat pump rooftop units and commercial organizations will evaluate and adopt next-generation heat pump technology." U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said the program "builds on more than a decade of public-private partnerships to get cutting edge clean technologies from lab to market, helping to slash harmful carbon emissions throughout our economy."On average, between 20% and 30% of the nation's energy is wasted, presenting a significant opportunity to increase energy efficiency. Through the Better Buildings Initiative, DOE partners with public and private sector stakeholders to pursue ambitious portfolio-wide energy, waste, water, and/or emissions reduction goals and publicly share solutions. By improving building design, materials, equipment, and operations, energy efficiency gains can be achieved across broad segments of the nation's economy. The Accelerator initiative was developed with commercial end users like Amazon, IKEA, and Target, and already includes manufacturers AAON, Carrier Global Corp., Lennox International, Rheem Manufacturing Co., Trane Technologies, and York International Corp. The Accelerator aims to bring more efficient, affordable next-generation heat pump rooftop units to market as soon as 2027 — which will slash both emissions and energy costs in half compared to natural gas-fueled heat pumps. If deployed at scale, they could save American businesses and commercial entities $5 billion on utility bills every year.

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US Invests $20 Billion More to Finance Clean-Energy Projects
Thursday America's Environmental Protection Agency "awarded $20 billion to help finance clean-energy projects across the country," reports the Washington Post.The money comes from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund established by President Biden's signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act. The fund seeks to leverage public and private dollars to invest in clean-energy technologies such as solar panels, heat pumps and more. The program is potentially one of the most consequential — yet least understood — parts of the climate law... Simply put, the program allows people to access low-interest loans for clean-energy projects that they might not otherwise have received. Imagine a community group that wants to install electric vehicle charging stations at its neighborhood recreation center but can't get a loan from a bank or a lender. As is often the case, potential lenders say they're hesitant to support a novel green technology or a business without a track record of success. Low-income and minority communities have long encountered such obstacles in trying to attract private capital. The program aims to overcome this problem by providing a huge influx of federal cash — $27 billion in total — for nonprofit organizations to dole out to clean-energy projects nationwide. Each nonprofit will serve as a "green bank" that offers more favorable lending rates than commercial banks. "It's just really hard to get banks to bring capital into low-income communities, especially for these new projects that they're not used to financing," said Adrian Deveny, the founder of the firm Climate Vision and the former director of energy and environmental policy for Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a key architect of the Inflation Reduction Act.... The EPA is awarding money to eight nonprofits, which have committed to leverage nearly $7 in private capital for every $1 of federal investment. The nonprofits have also pledged to ensure that at least 70 percent of the funds will benefit disadvantaged communities, and that the financed projects will reduce up to 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year — equivalent to the annual emissions of nearly 9 million gasoline-powered cars... [The nonprofit] Coalition for Green Capital, will use a $5 billion award to establish a "national green bank," co-founder and CEO Reed Hundt said. "We're going to be able to cause about $100 billion of total additional investment over a seven-year time period with that number, because we can leverage it," Hundt said.

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