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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Capsaicin Spices Up Perovskite-Based Solar Cells To Record Efficiencies
"Researchers claim achievement of new record photovoltaic conversion efficiencies for perovskite-based solar cells by spicing them up with a little capsaicin," writes Slashdot reader ffkom, adding: "Of course everyone who loves to eat chilis already knew capsaicin energizes you to record levels." The researchers have published their findings in the journal Joule. From the report: Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) suffer from significant nonradiative recombination, limiting their power conversion efficiencies. Here, for the first time, we directly observe a complete transformation of perovskite MAPbI 3 surface region energetics from p- to n-type during defect passivation caused by natural additive capsaicin, attributed to the spontaneous formation of a p-n homojunction in perovskite active layer. We demonstrate that the p-n homojunction locates at 100 nm below perovskite surface. The energetics transformation and defect passivation promote charge transport in bulk perovskite layer and at perovskite/PCBM interface, suppressing both defect-assisted recombination and interface carrier recombination. As a result, an efficiency of 21.88% and a fill factor of 83.81% with excellent device stability are achieved, both values are the highest records for polycrystalline MAPbI 3 based p-i-n PSCs reported to date. The proposed new concept of synergetic defect passivation and energetic modification via additive provides a huge potential for further improvement of PSC performance.

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Capitol Riot Suspect Plotted To Sell Stolen Pelosi Laptop To Russian Intelligence, Authorities Say
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: A Pennsylvania woman accused of being one of the Capitol rioters told a former "romantic partner" that she planned to steal a laptop computer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and sell it to Russian intelligence, court documents revealed Monday. The woman, Riley June Williams, 22, was on the run, charged with disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds with the intent to disturb a session of Congress and other charges after her former flame turned her in. "Williams is not in custody," a federal law enforcement officials said Monday afternoon. William's ex, who was described in Special Agent Jonathan Lund's charging document as W1 (witness one), called the FBI and told it that she "intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service." "According to W1, the transfer of the computer device to Russia fell through for unknown reasons and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it," the document states. Lund said the device and circumstances of what Williams was doing with it remain under investigation. The laptop was reported stolen from the conference room on Jan. 6 but was "only used for presentations," according to Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hamill.

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A 'Debilitating' Shortage of Computer Chips is Closing Auto Factories Worldwide
"American automakers are asking the U.S. government to help solve a debilitating shortage of computer chips that is closing auto factories worldwide and could restrict production until the fall," reports Bloomberg:The American Automotive Policy Council — a lobbying organization for General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. operations of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV — is agitating with the U.S. Commerce Department and the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden to press Asian semiconductor makers to reallocate output away from consumer electronics and build essential chips for cars. "We have requested that the U.S. government help us find a solution to the problem because it will diminish our production and have a negative impact on the U.S. economy until it's resolved," Matt Blunt, president of the AAPC, said in an interview Friday. "We are not primarily concerned with where blame may lie for this global shortage, if it lies anywhere, but we just want a solution. And the solution is more automobile-sector semiconductors." The shortage forced Ford to shut a sport-utility vehicle factory in Kentucky this week, and it is closing a small-car plant in Germany for a month. Fiat Chrysler has had to temporarily stop output at plants in Mexico and Canada. More production is expected to be idled in the coming weeks.

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Superconducting Microprocessors? Turns Out They're Ultra-Efficient
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes IEEE Spectrum:Computers use a staggering amount of energy today. According to one recent estimate, data centers alone consume two percent of the world's electricity, a figure that's expected to climb to eight percent by the end of the decade. To buck that trend, though, perhaps the microprocessor, at the center of the computer universe, could be streamlined in entirely new ways. One group of researchers in Japan have taken this idea to the limit, creating a superconducting microprocessor — one with zero electrical resistance. The new device, the first of its kind, is described in a study published last month in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits ... The price of entry for the niobium-based microprocessor is of course the cryogenics and the energy cost for cooling the system down to superconducting temperatures. "But even when taking this cooling overhead into account," says Christopher Ayala, an Associate Professor at the Institute of Advanced Sciences at Yokohama National University, in Japan, who helped develop the new microprocessor, "The AQFP is still about 80 times more energy-efficient when compared to the state-of-the-art semiconductor electronic device, [such as] 7-nm FinFET, available today."

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Quixotic Californian Crusade To Officially Recognize the Hellabyte
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: In 2010, Austin Sendek, then a physics student at UC Davis, created a petition seeking recognition for prefix "hella-" as an official International System of Units (SI) measurement representing 10^27. "Northern California is home to many influential research institutions, including the University of California, Davis, the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and the Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories," he argued. "However, science isn't all that sets Northern California apart from the rest of the world. The area is also the only region in the world currently practicing widespread usage of the English slang 'hella,' which typically means 'very,' or can refer to a large quantity (e.g. 'there are hella stars out tonight')." To this day, the SI describes prefixes for quantities for up to 10^24. Those with that many bytes have a yottabyte. If you only have 10^21 bytes, you have a zettabyte. There's also exabyte (10^18), petabyte (10^15), terabyte (10^12), gigabyte(10^9), and so on. Support for "hella-" would allow you to talk about hellabytes of data, he argues, pointing out that this would make the number of atoms in 12 kg of carbon-12 would be simplified from 600 yottaatoms to 0.6 hellaatoms. Similarly, the sun (mass of 2.2 hellatons) would release energy at 0.3 hellawatts, rather than 300 yottawatts. [...] The soonest [a proposal for a "hella-" SI could be officially adopted] is in November 2022, at the quadrennial meeting of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM)'s General Conference on Weight and Measures, where changes to the SI usually must be agreed upon. The report notes that Google customized its search engine in 2010 to let you convert "bytes to hellabytes." A year later, Wolfram Alpha added support for "hella-" calculations. "Sendek said 'hellabyte' initially started as a joke with some college friends but became a more genuine concern as he looked into how measurements get defined and as his proposal garnered support," reports The Register. He believes it could be useful for astronomical measurements.

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Apple Plans First iMac Desktop Redesign In Nearly a Decade
In addition to upgraded MacBook Pros, Bloomberg reports that Apple is also "planning the first redesign of its iMac all-in-one desktop computer since 2012," as it shifts away from Intel to its own silicon. From the report: The new models will slim down the thick black borders around the screen and do away with the sizable metal chin area in favor of a design similar to Apple's Pro Display XDR monitor. These iMacs will have a flat back, moving away from the curved rear of the current iMac. Apple is planning to launch two versions -- codenamed J456 and J457 -- to replace the existing 21.5-inch and 27-inch models later this year, the people said, asking not to be identified because the products are not yet announced. The new models will use next-generation versions of Apple's Mac processors like the upcoming 2021 MacBook Pros. The iMac redesign will be one of the biggest visual updates to any Apple product this year, according to people familiar with the company's roadmap. Apple is also working on a pair of new Mac Pro desktop computers, its priciest Mac machines that don't come with a screen included, the people said. One version is a direct update to the current Mac Pro and will continue to use the same design as the version launched in 2019. Apple has discussed continuing to use Intel processors for that model rather than moving to its own chips. The second version, however, will use Apple's own processors and be less than half the size of the current Mac Pro. The design will feature a mostly aluminum exterior and could invoke nostalgia for the Power Mac G4 Cube, a short-lived smaller version of the Power Mac, an earlier iteration of the Mac Pro. Apple has also reportedly started development of a cheaper external monitor to sell alongside the Pro Display XDR. "The cheaper monitor would feature a screen geared more for consumer than professional use and wouldn't have the brightness and contrast ratio of the top-tier offering," reports Bloomberg.

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Xbox's 'Instant On' Feature Could Consume 4 Billion kWh By 2025
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The "instant on" feature that's activated by default on new Xbox Series S/X consoles could suck up a total of 4 billion kWh -- the equivalent of a year's operation for a large power plant -- from US owners alone through 2025. That's according to a preliminary report released this week from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmentally focused nonprofit advocacy group. As the name implies, the "instant on" feature of the Series S/X (and the Xbox One before it) lets users skip the usual startup time when turning the console back on. That saves about 10 to 15 seconds of waiting per power cycle on the Series S/X, down from about 45 seconds on the Xbox One. "Instant on" standby also lets the system check periodically for system updates in order to download and install them in between play sessions. But leaving the "instant on" feature active means the Xbox Series S/X draws nine to 10 watts of power 24 hours a day -- even when it's not being actively used -- compared to less than 1W if the standby settings are switched to "energy saving" mode. The Xbox Series S/X initially drew 25 to 28W of "instant on" standby power at launch, but a recent firmware update caused a dramatic reduction, placing the new systems below the ~13W drawn by the Xbox One's "instant on" mode. The PlayStation 5, by contrast, uses between 1 and 2 watts when sitting idle in "rest mode."

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Windows 10 Bug Corrupts Your Hard Drive On Seeing This File's Icon
An unpatched zero-day in Microsoft Windows 10 allows attackers to corrupt an NTFS-formatted hard drive with a one-line command. Bleeping Computer reports: In August 2020, October 2020, and finally this week, infosec researcher Jonas L drew attention to an NTFS vulnerability impacting Windows 10 that has not been fixed. When exploited, this vulnerability can be triggered by a single-line command to instantly corrupt an NTFS-formatted hard drive, with Windows prompting the user to restart their computer to repair the corrupted disk records. The researcher told BleepingComputer that the flaw became exploitable starting around Windows 10 build 1803, the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, and continues to work in the latest version. What's worse is, the vulnerability can be triggered by standard and low privileged user accounts on Windows 10 systems. [...] It is unclear why accessing this attribute corrupts the drive, and Jonas told BleepingComputer that a Registry key that would help diagnose the issue doesn't work. One striking finding shared by Jonas with us was that a crafted Windows shortcut file (.url) that had its icon location set to C:\:$i30:$bitmap would trigger the vulnerability even if the user never opened the file! As observed by BleepingComputer, as soon as this shortcut file is downloaded on a Windows 10 PC, and the user views the folder it is present in, Windows Explorer will attempt to display the file's icon. To do this, Windows Explorer would attempt to access the crafted icon path inside the file in the background, thereby corrupting the NTFS hard drive in the process. Next, "restart to repair hard drive" notifications start popping up on the Windows PC -- all this without the user even having opened or double-clicked on the shortcut file.

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Qualcomm To Acquire NUVIA: A CPU Magnitude Shift
Today, Qualcomm has announced they will be acquiring NUVIA for $1.4 billion -- acquiring the start-up company consisting of industry veterans which originally were behind the creation of Apple's high-performance CPU cores. AnandTech reports: NUVIA was originally founded in February 2019 and coming out of stealth-mode in November of that year. The start-up was founded by industry veterans Gerard Williams III, John Bruno and Manu Gulati, having extensive industry experience at Google, Apple, Arm, Broadcom and AMD. Gerard Williams III in particular was the chief architect for over a decade at Apple, having been the lead architect on all of Apple's CPU designs up to the Lightning core in the A13 -- with the newer Apple A14 and Apple M1 Firestorm cores possibly also having been in the pipeline under his direction. NUVIA had been able to recruit a lot of top industry talent from various CPU design teams across the industry, and had planned to enter the high-performance computing and enterprise market with a new server SoC with a new CPU core dubbed "Phoenix." NUVIA particularly had made aggressive claims about how their design would be able to significantly outperform the competition both in raw performance and power efficiency once it came to market -- usually such claims are always to be taken with scepticism, however due to the members of the design team and talent having proven themselves in the form of Apple's very successful CPU microarchitectures, there's a lot more weight and credibility to them compared to other start-ups. Qualcomm now acquiring NUVIA gives them the possibility to take advantage of the start-up's early work in the server space, possibly reinvigorating the company's ambitions in the server space, and giving them a second shot at the market. It's to be noted however that in today's press release about the acquisition there had been no mention of server or enterprise plans. Furthermore, the move also has larger repercussions in the consumer space, with Qualcomm claiming that NUVIA CPU designs are expected to be deployed in flagship mobile SoCs and next generation laptops, as well as other industrial applications such as digital cockpits and ADAS.

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BeagleV is a $150 RISC-V Computer Designed To Run Linux
New submitter shoor writes: Seeed Studios -- the makers of the Odyssey mini-PC -- have teamed up with well-known SBC vendor BeagleBoard to produce an affordable RISC-V system designed to run Linux. The new BeagleV (pronounced "Beagle Five") system features a dual-core, 1GHz RISC-V CPU made by StarFive -- one of a network of RISC-V startups created by better-known RISC-V vendor SiFive. The CPU is based on two of SiFive's U74 Standard Cores -- and unlike simpler microcontroller-only designs, it features a MMU and all the other trimmings necessary to run full-fledged modern operating systems such as Linux distributions. StarFive's VIC7100 processor design is aimed at edge AI tasks as well as general-purpose computing. In addition to the two RISC-V CPU cores, it features a Tensilica Vision VP6 DSP for machine-vision applications, a Neural Network Engine, and a single-core NVDLA (Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerator) engine.

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Intel CEO Bob Swan To Step Down in February, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger To Replace Him
Intel CEO Bob Swan is set to step down effective Feb. 15. From a report: VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger will take over the position, sources told CNBC. Intel's stock was up about 13% in premarket trading following the news. VMWare's stock was down nearly 5%. Swan was named CEO in January 2019 after serving as interim CEO for seven months. During Swan's tenure, Intel has suffered blows from competitors. Over the summer, Intel reported that its latest generation chips would be delayed while AMD's were already shipping inside laptops. Apple announced in the fall that it would use its own proprietary chips in its Mac computers, breaking a 15-year partnership with Intel for its chip supplies.

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The PC Market Just Had its First Big Growth in 10 Years
The PC was supposed to die 10 years ago, but it's just experienced its first big growth in a decade. From a report: Market research firm Canalys reports that PC shipments reached 297 million units in 2020, up an impressive 11 percent from 2019. IDC puts the year at 302 million shipments, up 13.1 percent year over year. Gartner also agrees that 2020 was a big year for PCs and the biggest growth we've seen since 2010. PC shipments are up thanks to demand related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Supply constraints made it difficult to buy a new laptop halfway through the year, and demand continued throughout 2020. "Demand is pushing the PC market forward and all signs indicate this surge still has a way to go," says IDC's Ryan Reith. While home working and remote learning have been big drivers, people are also turning to PCs and laptops for entertainment.

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Nvidia Reveals Mobile RTX 3060, 3070, and 3080 GPUs for Gaming Laptops
Nvidia's Ampere architecture is going mobile. The company revealed its plans and partnerships to bring GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs to more than 70 laptops throughout 2021. From a report: This includes notebooks with the RTX 3060, RTX 3070, and RTX 3080 all using Nvidia's mobile-optimized Max-Q technology. "After taking the desktop market by storm, our Nvidia Ampere architecture is now powering the world's fastest laptops," Nvidia Geforce OEM general manager Kaustubh Sanghani said. "Nowhere does power efficiency matter more than in gaming laptops, a market that's grown [sevenfold] in the past seven years. These new thin and light systems are based on our Max-Q technologies, where every aspect -- CPU, GPU, software, PCB design, power delivery, thermals -- is optimized for power and performance." Laptops with RTX 3070 and 3080 processors will begin launching later this month. RTX 3060 laptops will follow later. RTX 3060 laptops start at $1,000. RTX 3070 laptops starts at $1,300, and Nvidia claims this is ideal for 90 frames per second at 1440p. RTX 3080 laptops, which use 16GB of GDDR6 memory instead of 10GB GDDR6x, start at $2,000.

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AMD Shows Off Impressive Ryzen 5000 Mobile Processors and 3rd Gen Epyc Server Chips
Advanced Micro Devices showed off some impressive Ryzen 5000 mobile processors today and teased the performance of its 3rd Gen Epyc server chips. From a report: Those chips are aimed at keeping AMD's performance lead over its rival Intel in the mobile and server markets. AMD CEO Lisa Su showed off the new chips in a keynote speech at CES 2021, the online-only tech trade show. AMD is launching its Ryzen 5000 Series mobile processors for gaming laptops and thin-and-light notebooks. These eight-core x86 chips are built with a 7-nanometer manufacturing process (where the circuits are 7 billionths of a meter apart). They are also based on the Zen3 design for processor cores, which can process instructions 19% faster per clock cycle than Zen2 cores. The H-Series focuses on top performance in laptops for gamers and content creators, while the U-Series focuses on thin-and-light notebooks with great battery life. The chips have four to eight cores and they range in power consumption from 15 watts to 45 watts. AMD said the 5000 Series will be available in PCs in February, and we'll see more than 150 systems using it. That compares to 100 systems for the Ryzen 4000 Series and 70 for the Ryzen 3000.

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Intel Unveils New Core H-Series Laptop and 11th Gen Desktop Processors At CES 2021
MojoKid writes: At its virtual CES 2021 event today, Intel's EVP Gregory Bryant unveiled an array of new processors and technologies targeting virtually every market, from affordable Chromebooks to enthusiast-class gaming laptops and high-end desktops. Intel's 11th Gen Core vPro platform was announced, featuring new Intel Hardware Shield AI-enabled threat ransomware and crytpo-mining malware detection technology. In addition, the Intel Rocket Lake-S based Core i9-11900K 8-core CPU was revealed, offering up to a 19% improvement in IPC performance and the ability to out-pace AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X 12-core CPU in some workloads like gaming. Also, a new high-end hybrid processor, code-named Alder Lake was previewed. Alder Lake packs both high-performance cores and high-efficiency cores on a single product, for what Intel calls its "most power-scalable system-on-chip" ever. Alder Lake will also be manufactured using an enhanced version of 10nm SuperFin technology with improved power and thermal characteristics, and targets both desktop and mobile form factors when they arrive later this year. Finally, Intel launched its new 11th Gen Core H-Series Tiger Lake H35 parts that will appear in high-performance laptops as thin as 16mm. At the top of the 11th Gen H-Series stack is the Intel Core i7-11375H Special Edition, a 35W quad-core processor (8-threads) that turbos up to 5GHz and supports PCI Express 4.0, and is targeted for ultraportable gaming notebooks. Intel is claiming single-threaded performance improvements in the neighborhood of 15% over previous-gen architectures and a greater than 40% improvement in multi-threaded workloads. Intel's Bryant also announced an 8-core mobile processor variant leveraging the same architecture as the 11th Gen H-Series that is slated to start shipping a bit later this quarter at 5GHz on multiple cores, with 20 lanes of PCIe Gen 4 connectivity.

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