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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Wind Replaces Coal As Main Source of Power In Germany
Qbertino writes: Heise.de, a German tech news publisher, reports that wind has replaced coal as the main source of power in Germany. From the report: "The share of renewable energies in the amount of electricity generated and fed into the grid domestically rose from 42.3 percent in 2019 to 47.0 percent last year. At 25.6 percent, wind power was the first renewable energy source to have the highest share of the amount of electricity fed into the grid in a given year, replacing coal as the most important energy source. In 2020, 5.4 percent more electricity was generated from wind power than in 2019, when the share had been 22.8 percent..." (Sidenote: Paragraph translated by deepL in seconds; [I] find it quite feasible as a German and English native speaker. Color me impressed.) This is not much to brag about yet because Coal is still buffering large parts of the nuclear fission exit Germany is doing, but it's a good milestone. By and large, the article concludes that Germany's exit from nuclear fission is going in the right direction.

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Sidewalk Robots Get Legal Rights As 'Pedestrians'
States like Pennsylvania, Virginia, Idaho, Florida and Wisconsin have granted sidewalk robots legal rights as "pedestrians." Axios reports: In Pennsylvania, robot "pedestrians" can weigh up to 550 pounds and drive up to 12 mph. "Opposition has largely come from pedestrian and accessibility advocates, as well as labor unions like the Teamsters," per the Pittsburgh City Paper. The laws are a boon to Amazon's Scout delivery robot and FedEx's Roxo, which are being tested in urban and suburban settings. "Backers say the laws will usher in a future where household items show up in a matter of hours, with fewer idling delivery vans blocking traffic and spewing emissions," per Wired. Some technology evangelists think these laws are a spectacularly bad idea. The National Association of City Transportation Officials -- NACTO -- says the robots "should be severely restricted if not banned outright." "Uncoordinated autonomous delivery services could flood sidewalks with bots, making walking increasingly difficult and unpleasant," NACTO says in a report. "Drone delivery could significantly increase noise pollution and add a new dimension of chaos to urban streets."

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Turntide Technologies Rethinks Electric Motors To Slash Energy Consumption In Buildings
FrankOVD shares a report from TechCrunch: [F]irms backed by Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Gates are joining investors like Amazon and iPod inventor Tony Fadell to pour money into a company called Turntide Technologies that believes it has the next great innovation in the world's efforts to slow global climate change -- a better electric motor. The operation of buildings is responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions worldwide, Turntide noted in a statement. And, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), one-third of energy used in commercial buildings is wasted. Smart building technology adds an intelligent layer to eliminate this waste and inefficiency by automatically controlling lighting, air conditioning, heating, ventilation and other essential systems and Turntide's electric motors can add additional savings. Turntide's basic innovation is a software-controlled motor, or switch reluctance motor, that uses precise pulses of energy instead of a constant flow of electricity. "In a conventional motor you are continuously driving current into the motor whatever speed you want to run it at," [CEO Ryan Morris] said. "We're pulsing in precise amounts of current just at the times when you need the torque... It's software-defined hardware." He estimates that the technology is applicable to 95% of where electric motors are used today, but the initial focus will be on smart buildings because it's the easiest place to start and can have some of the largest immediate impact on energy usage. "The carbon impact of what we're doing is pretty massive," Morris told me last year. "The average energy reduction [in buildings] has been a 64% reduction. If we can replace all the motors in buildings in the U.S. that's the carbon equivalent of adding over 300 million tons of carbon sequestration per year."

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Nintendo Plans Switch Model With Bigger Samsung OLED Display, 4K Output
According to Bloomberg, Nintendo is planning to unveil a model of its Switch gaming console equipped with a bigger Samsung OLED display and support for 4K. It's expected to arrive before Christmas. From the report: Samsung Display Co. will start mass production of 7-inch, 720p-resolution OLED panels as early as June with an initial monthly target of just under a million units. The displays are slated for shipment to assemblers around July. The gaming community has speculated online about the introduction of an OLED or organic light-emitting diode screen, but Nintendo has stayed mum and President Shuntaro Furukawa said in February his company has no plans to announce a new Switch "anytime soon." Samsung's involvement is the strongest indication that Nintendo is serious about updating the console, and on a large scale. Nintendo decided to go with rigid OLED panels for the new model, the people said, a cheaper but less flexible alternative to the type commonly used for high-end smartphones. The latest model will also come with 4K ultra-high definition graphics when paired with TVs, they said. That could intensify a longstanding complaint of developers, who have struggled with the difference in resolution between handheld and TV modes and now face a bigger gap between the two.

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Biden Pushes EV Chargers As Six Utilities Plan a Unified Network
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: US President Joe Biden has made the shift to electric vehicles an early focus of his administration. Days after his inauguration, he vowed to replace hundreds of thousands of federal civilian vehicles with electric versions. On Tuesday, Biden held a virtual meeting with CEOs from companies building charging infrastructure. The administration has set a goal to build more than 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations by 2030. Also on Tuesday, a coalition of six electric utilities announced a new initiative that will help Biden achieve his goal. The companies are planning to build a "seamless network of charging stations" in and around the American South. The group plans to build chargers near major highways in every southern state, stretching as far west as Texas and as far north as Indiana, Ohio, and Virginia. This is not a joint venture. Each utility will build and run its own charging stations. But the goal is to make them appear to the customer as a unified network.

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Volvo To Go All Electric By 2030
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Volvo's entire car lineup will be fully electric by 2030, the Chinese-owned company said on Tuesday, joining a growing number of automakers planning to phase out fossil-fuel engines by the end of this decade. "I am totally convinced there will be no customers who really want to stay with a petrol engine," Volvo Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson told reporters when asked about future demand for electric vehicles. "We are convinced that an electric car is more attractive for customers." The Swedish-based carmaker said 50% of its global sales should be fully-electric cars by 2025 and the other half hybrid models. Owned by Hangzhou-based Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Volvo will launch a new family of electric cars in the next few years, all of which will be sold online only. On Tuesday it unveiled the first of those models, the C40, a fully electric SUV, which will have an initial battery range of around 420 kilometers (261 miles). Volvo will include wireless upgrades and fixes for its new electric models -- an approach originally pioneered by electric carmaker Tesla Inc. This means the C40's range will be extended over time with software upgrades, Chief Technology Officer Henrik Green said. Volvo said it will "radically reduce" the complexity of its model line-up and provide customers with transparent pricing. The carmaker's global network of 2,400 traditional bricks-and-mortar dealers will remain open to service vehicles and to help customers make online orders.

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Scientists Have Invented Light-Up OLED Tattoos
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Tattoos are usually considered a form of personal expression, but a team of researchers in Europe have created what they're calling the world's first light-emitting tattoo based on OLED screen technology that, besides presumably looking kind of cool, could also serve as a visible warning about potential health concerns. In a recently published paper in the Advanced Electronic Materials journal, "Ultrathin, UltraConformable, and FreeStanding Tattooable Organic LightEmitting Diodes," scientists from the University College London in the UK and the Italian Institute of Technology detail how their new approach to tattoos relies on the same organic light-emitting diode technology featured in devices like more recent iPhones, as well as the recent crop of mobile devices featuring folding screens. The flexibility of an OLED display is important for this application given human skin is so pliable and flexes and folds as the body moves. The actual electronics of the light-emitting tattoos, made from an extremely thin layer of an electroluminescent polymer that glows when a charge is applied, measure in at just 2.3-micrometers thick, which, according to the researchers, is about one-third the diameter of a red blood cell. The polymer layer is then sandwiched between a pair of electrodes and sits atop an insulating layer, which is bonded to temporary tattoo paper through a printing process that isn't prohibitively expensive. The tattoos can be easily applied to surfaces using the same wet transfer process that temporary tattoos designed for kids use, and can be easily washed off when no longer needed or wanted using soap and water. With a current applied the OLED tattoos in their current form simply glow green, but eventually could produce any color using the same RGB approach that OLED screens use. However, while the researchers acknowledge that the potential for glowing tattoos is there, taking that art in a whole new direction, they also see even more potential for them as a medical tool. When combined with other wearable technologies the light-emitting tattoos could start flashing when an athlete needs to rehydrate, or change color when applied to foods providing obvious warnings when expiration dates have passed. The researchers note that the OLEDs polymers can quickly degrade when exposed to the air, and "there's an even bigger issue of finding a way to power them using tiny batteries or supercapacitors, as so far in the lab they've been wired to an external power source," adds Gizmodo.

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Boston Dynamics Is Selling its 70-Pound Robot Dog To Police Departments
The New York Times reports on what the city's police department calls Digidog, "a 70-pound robotic dog with a loping gait, cameras and lights affixed to its frame, and a two-way communication system that allows the officer maneuvering it remotely to see and hear what is happening."Police said the robot can see in the dark and assess how safe it is for officers to enter an apartment or building where there may be a threat. "The NYPD has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents," the department said on Twitter. "This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our emergency service unit and bomb squad." But the robot has skeptics. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, described Digidog on Twitter as a "robotic surveillance ground" drone.... Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said empowering a robot to do police work could have implications for bias, mobile surveillance, hacking and privacy. There is also concern that the robot could be paired with other technology and be weaponized. "We do see a lot of police departments adopting powerful new surveillance and other technology without telling, let alone asking, the communities they serve," he said. "So openness and transparency is key...." A mobile device that can gather intelligence about a volatile situation remotely has "tremendous potential" to limit injuries and fatalities, said Keith Taylor, a former SWAT team sergeant at the police department who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "It's important to question police authority; however, this appears to be pretty straightforward," he said. "It is designed to help law enforcement get the information they need without having a deadly firefight, for instance." The Times reports that Boston Dynamics has been selling the dog since June. It's also already being used by the Massachusetts State Police and the Honolulu Police Department, "while other police departments have called the company to learn more about the robot, which has a starting price of about $74,000 and may cost more with extra features," according to Michael Perry, vice president of business development at the company. The Times points out that the robot dog is also being purchased by utility and energy companies as well as manufacturers and construction companies, which use it to get into dangerous spaces. "The robot has been used to inspect sites with hazardous material. Early in the pandemic, it was used by health care workers to communicate with potentially sick patients at hospital triage sites, Perry said."

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Exploring the Open Source That Really Goes Into a RISC-V Chip
"Maker Andreas Spiess talks about the Open Source that really goes into a RISC-V chip and the ESP32-C3," writesSlashdot reader nickwinlund77 — sharing a link to this article from Hackaday: It's an exciting time in the world of microprocessors, as the long-held promise of devices with open-source RISC-V cores is coming to fruition. Finally we might be about to see open-source from the silicon to the user interface, or so goes the optimistic promise. In fact the real story is considerably more complex than that, and it's a topic [Andreas Speiss] explores in a video that looks at the issue with a wide lens... nickwinlund77 writes:The YouTube video starts out with a good general history of competition between large businesses over architectures and embracing the standards for tech which many of us have depended on throughout the years. The video then gets into the technical specifics of the ESP32-C3. Hackaday adds:His conclusion is that while a truly open-source RISC-V chip is entirely possible (as demonstrated with a cameo Superconference badge appearance), the importance of the RISC-V ISA is in its likely emergence as a heavyweight counterbalance to ARM's dominance in the sector.

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Vast Energy Use of Bitcoin Criticized
The University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance has calculated that Bitcoin's total energy consumption is somewhere between 40 and 445 terawatt hours (TWh) a year, with a central estimate of about 130 terawatt hours, reports the BBC:The UK's electricity consumption is a little over 300 TWh a year, while Argentina uses around the same amount of power as the CCAF's best guess for Bitcoin. And the electricity the Bitcoin miners use overwhelmingly comes from polluting sources. The CCAF team surveys the people who manage the Bitcoin network around the world on their energy use and found that about two-thirds of it is from fossil fuels.... We can track how much effort miners are making to create the currency. They are currently reckoned to be making 160 quintillion calculations every second — that's 160,000,000,000,000,000,000, in case you were wondering. And this vast computational effort is the cryptocurrency's Achilles heel, says Alex de Vries, the founder of the Digiconomist website and an expert on Bitcoin. All the millions of trillions of calculations it takes to keep the system running aren't really doing any useful work. "They're computations that serve no other purpose," says de Vries, "they're just immediately discarded again. Right now we're using a whole lot of energy to produce those calculations, but also the majority of that is sourced from fossil energy." The vast effort it requires also makes Bitcoin inherently difficult to scale, he argues. "If Bitcoin were to be adopted as a global reserve currency," he speculates, "the Bitcoin price will probably be in the millions, and those miners will have more money than the entire [U.S.] Federal budget to spend on electricity." "We'd have to double our global energy production," he says with a laugh. "For Bitcoin." Ken Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard and a former chief economist at the IMF, tells the BBC that Bitcoin exists almost solely as a vehicle for speculation, rather than as a stable store of value that can be easily exchanged. When asked if the Bitcoin bubble is about to burst, he answers, "That's my guess." Then pauses and adds, "But I really couldn't tell you when."

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Aptera Promises The World's First Mass-Produced Solar Car This Year
California-based Aptera Motors "is rolling out the first mass-produced solar car this year," reports the Washington Post, after successfully crowdfunding a restart of their development effort:It's a three-wheel, ultra-aerodynamic electric vehicle covered in 34 square feet of solar cells. The car is so efficient that, on a clear day, those cells alone could provide enough energy to drive about 40 miles — more than twice the distance of the average American's commute. The Aptera must undergo safety tests before the company can begin distribution, which it hopes to do by the end of this year. Even then, it's not clear that consumers will want to buy something that looks like a cross between the Batmobile and a beetle. The shadow of an initial attempt, which ended in bankruptcy, hangs over the founders as they gear up to launch their new product. But the Aptera's creators, Chris Anthony and Steve Fambro, think the world needs a car like theirs. Transportation is the largest source of planet-warming pollution in the United States. The Biden administration has made it a priority to reduce vehicle emissions, and several major automakers have pledged to phase out cars and light trucks with internal combustion engines. After years of dreaming, maybe the time for driving on sunshine is finally here. The Post also reports that 7,500 people have already put down a deposit for the two-seater car (which retails for $25,900). It can be charged just by plugging it into an electric outlet, the Post notes, while its creators claim that their car is four times more efficient than the average electric vehicle. "At least 90% of the power produced by the Aptera's solar panels goes toward making the vehicle move, the company says." "Its extreme efficiency means the car can go 150 miles after just 15 minutes at an ordinary charging station."

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Sergey Brin's Airship Aims To Use World's Biggest Mobile Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Sergey Brin's secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell. From a report: A job listing from the company, which is based in Mountain View, California and Akron, Ohio, reveals that LTA wants to configure a 1.5-megawatt hydrogen propulsion system for an airship to deliver humanitarian aid and revolutionize transportation. While there are no specs tied to the job listing, such a system would likely be powerful enough to cross oceans. Although airships travel much slower than jet planes, they can potentially land or deliver goods almost anywhere. Hydrogen fuel cells are an attractive solution for electric aviation because they are lighter and potentially cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. However, the largest hydrogen fuel cell to fly to date is a 0.25-megawatt system (250 kilowatts) in ZeroAvia's small passenger plane last September. LTA's first crewed prototype airship, called Pathfinder 1, will be powered by batteries when it takes to the air, possibly this year. FAA records show that the Pathfinder 1 has 12 electric motors and would be able to carry 14 people. That makes it about the same size as the only passenger airship operating today, the Zeppelin NT, which conducts sightseeing tours in Germany and Switzerland. The Pathfinder 1 also uses some Zeppelin components in its passenger gondola.

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Nvidia Made $5 Billion During a GPU Shortage and Expects To Do It Again in Q1
Nvidia has shared its Q4 2021 earnings, and despite the company's GPUs being in extremely low supply, it didn't seem to hurt how much money the company made. From a report: In fact, it reported a record $5 billion in revenue, which is up 61 percent year-over-year. What's more impressive is that Nvidia expects to make another $5 billion in revenue during Q1 2022. This positive outlook is surprising given that Q1 is generally slower than other quarters, even for the biggest tech companies, as it follows the rush of people buying lots of products during the holiday period. It's generally a slower period in general for product releases across tech and gaming. Also, let's not forget the GPU shortage is still happening. Nvidia reiterated that sparse supply will continue through the next quarter, but that's likely factored into its rosy revenue prediction. Nvidia says it expects most of that $5 billion revenue estimate in Q1 2022 to come from the gaming market, despite being the segment it's currently having the toughest time serving. Since the launch of the RTX 30-series desktop graphics cards, leading with the RTX 3080, 3090, 3070, and followed by other products, Nvidia hasn't been able to meet the demand -- though it's not the only company affected. AMD has also struggled, perhaps more than Nvidia, to keep a steady stock of graphics cards heading to retailers.

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Toshiba Unveils World's First FC-MAMR HDD: 18 TB, Helium Filled
Toshiba this week announced the industry's first hard drive featuring flux-control microwave-assisted magnetic recording (FC-MAMR) technology. The new MG09-series HDDs are designed primarily for nearline and enterprise applications, they offer an 18 TB capacity along with an ultra-low idle power consumption. From a report: The Toshiba MG09-series 3.5-inch 18 TB HDD are based on the company's 3rd generation nine-platter helium sealed platform that features 18 heads with a microwave-emitting component which changes magnetic coercivity of the platters before writing data. The HD disks are made by Showa Denko K.K. (SDK), a long-time partner of Toshiba. Each aluminum platter is about 0.635 mm thick, it features an areal density of around 1.5 Tb/inch2 and can store up to 2 TB of data. The MG09 family also includes a 16 TB model which presumably features a lower number of platters (based on the same performance rating). For modern enterprise and nearline 3.5-inch HDDs, Toshiba's MG09-series drives uses a motor with a 7200-RPM spindle speed. The HDDs are also equipped with a 512 MB buffer and are rated for a 281 MB/s maximum sustained data transfer rate. Unfortunately, Toshiba has not updated the random access performance of the new products, though it is likely that their per-TB IOPS performance is lower when compared to predecessors. The manufacturer will offer its new drives both with SATA 3.3 (6 Gbps) and SAS 3.0 (12 Gbps) interfaces as well as a selection of logical data block length. One of the noteworthy things about Toshiba's MG09-series FC-MAMR HDDs is their power consumption. In active idle mode, they typically consume 4.16/4.54 Watts (SATA/SAS models), which is considerably lower when compared with Seagate's Exos X18 as well as Western Digital's Ultrastar DC HC550. As far as power consumption efficiency at idle (large hard drives could spend plenty of time idling) is concerned, the 18 TB MG09 is an undeniable champion consuming just 0.23 Watts per TB (in case of the SATA version). Meanwhile, the new drives are rated for 8.35/8.74 Watts (SATA/SAS SKUs) during read/write operations, which is higher when compared to the DC HC550 as well as predecessors from the MG07 and the MG08-series.

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Apple M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives. From a report: Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are said to be consuming as much as 10 to 13 percent of the maximum warrantable total bytes written (TBW) value of its SSD. Flash memory on solid-state drives, such as those used in Macs, can only be written to a certain number of times before they become unstable. Software ensures that load is spread evenly across the drive's memory cells, but there is a point when the drive has been written to so many times that it can no longer reliably hold data. So while SSD wear is normal, expected behavior, drives should not be exhausting their ability to hold data as quickly as some M1 Macs seem to be. One user showed that their M1 Mac had already consumed one percent of its SSD after just two months, while another M1 Mac with a 2TB SSD had already consumed three percent. The total data units written for these machines is running into many terabytes, when they would normally be expected to be considerably lower.

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