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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

'How I Compiled My Own SPARC CPU In a Cheap FPGA Board'
Long-time Slashdot reader ttsiod works for the European Space Agency as an embedded software engineer. He writes:After reading an interesting article from an NVIDIA engineer about how he used a dirt-cheap field-programmable gate array board to code a real-time ray-tracer, I got my hands on the same board -- and "compiled" a dual-core SPARC-compatible CPU inside it... Basically, the same kind of design we fly in the European Space Agency's satellites. I decided to document the process, since there's not much material of that kind available. I hope it will be an interesting read for my fellow Slashdotters -- showcasing the trials and tribulations faced by those who prefer the Open-Source ways of doing things... Just read it and you'll see what I mean. This is the same Slashdot reader who in 2016 reverse engineered his Android tablet so he could run a Debian chroot inside it. "Please remember that I am a software developer, not a HW one," his new essay warns. "I simply enjoy fooling around with technology like this."

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Nissan's Next Electric Car Could Also Provide Power To Your Home
From a report:The owner of an electric car will be able to meet household power needs from the vehicle itself based on a technology developed by Nissan, the Japanese auto giant. It plans to introduce the new 'Leaf' electric cars in the Indian market next year and is on the look-out for local partners for collaboration on the application of its latest 'Vehicle-to-Home' technology (V2H) in the state. The technology allows electric vehicles to not only receive power but also store it and send it back to the source. The 'Leaf' could be an alternative to a home battery system like inverter. Household power can be supplied from the 'Leaf' lithium-ion battery (40 kWh) of the car by installing a power control system connected to the household's distribution board. The vehicles can also be charged from the household power supply at night (lean usage period).

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Is Andrew Yang Wrong About Robots Taking Our Jobs?
U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang "is full of it," argues Slate's senior business and economics correspondent, challenging Yang's contention (in a debate Tuesday) that American jobs were being lost to automation:Following the debate, a "fact check" by the AP claimed that Yang was right and Warren wrong. "Economists mostly blame [manufacturing] job losses on automation and robots, not trade deals," it stated. But this was incorrect. No such consensus exists, and if anything, the evidence heavily suggests that trade has been the bigger culprit in recent decades. All of which points to a broader issue: Yang's schtick about techno doom may be well-intentioned, but it is largely premised on BS, and is adding to the widespread confusion about the impact of automation on the economy. Yang is not pulling his ideas out of thin air. Economists have been debating whether automation or trade is more responsible for the long-term decline of U.S. factory work for a while, and it's possible to find experts on both sides of the issue. After remaining steady for years, the total number of U.S. manufacturing jobs suddenly plummeted in the early 2000s -- from more than 17 million in 2000 to under 14 million in 2007... [But] America hasn't just lost manufacturing workers; as Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research notes, the number of factories also declined by around 22 percent between 2000 and 2014, which isn't what you'd expect if assembly workers were just being replaced by machines. In a 2017 paper, meanwhile, economists Daron Acemoglu of MIT and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University concluded that the growth of industrial robots in the U.S. since 1990 could only explain between between 360,000 and 670,000 job losses. By comparison, the proof placing blame on trade and China is much stronger. Justin Pierce of the Federal Reserve Board and Peter Schott of Yale have found evidence that the U.S.'s decision to grant the People's Republic permanent normal trade relations in 2000 led to declines in American jobs... New technology will change the economy and the way people work. It already is. But those shifts will be more complex than Yang admits and probably won't look like the wave of mass unemployment that he and his like-minded supporters tend to envision... It's not just unrealistic. It's lazy. When you buy the sci-fi notion that technology is simply a disembodied force making humanity obsolete and that there's little that can be done about it, you stop thinking about ideas that will actually prevent workers from being screwed over by the forces of globalization or new tech. By prophesying imaginary problems, you ignore the real ones.

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Apple Hid a Lightning Connector For Debugging In the Apple TV 4K's Ethernet Port
Twitter user Kevin Bradley discovered a Lightning port hidden in the Apple TV 4K's ethernet port. There's a number of theories for why the port exists, but one of the more logical explanations is that it's simply there for Apple to use for debugging. 9to5Mac reports: While earlier Apple TV models had Micro USB and USB-C, the Apple TV 4K dropped all outwardly-facing ports other than Ethernet and HDMI. Under the hood, however, there's a hidden Lightning port, as Bradley discovered. The Lightning port is hidden in the ethernet connector on the Apple TV 4K. Bradley teased on Twitter: "None of us looked THAT closely to the hardware of the AppleTV 4K and the magic locked in the ethernet port until fairly recently." As for getting the Lightning port itself to work, Steven Barker said in a tweet that this is proving to be "difficult." The Lightning port is stuck at the very back of the ethernet port. Ultimately, it's not really clear what the Lightning port discovery could mean. One thing it could lead towards is the expansion of jailbreak capabilities for the Apple TV 4K, though Bradley cautions: "Just because we know it's lightning doesn't mean anything past that. Just because we find a way in doesn't mean anything will DEFINITELY be released due to what we discover. The barrier for entry might be way too high."

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Google Hardware Chief Says He Does Not Know Why Pixel 4 Smartphone With Snapdragon 855 Processor Can't Support 4K Video Recording at 60FPS
Google's latest flagship smartphones -- the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL -- do not support video recording in 4K at 60 frames per second. This has disappointed -- and puzzled -- many fans especially since other smartphones that are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 do offer this video recording functionality. (Recent generation of iPhone models also offer this functionality.) Folks over at The Verge asked Rick Osterloh, the hardware chief at Google, where the bottleneck lied. "I don't know," responded the chief.

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Volvo To Roll Out a New Electric Vehicle Every Year Through 2025
Volvo Car Group President and CEO Hakan Samuelsson laid out the company's new business strategy that includes introducing a new EV every year through 2025 and slashing the carbon footprint of the lifecycle of every car and SUV it builds by 40%. All of the changes are aimed at Volvo Cars' target to become a climate neutral company by 2040. TechCrunch reports: A critical piece to hitting its target will be making more EVs available. The automaker plans to launch an all-electric car every year over the next five years. By 2025, it wants all-electric vehicles to represent 50% of global sales with the rest compromised by hybrids. As of this year, every new Volvo launched will be electrified, which means it could be a hybrid, plug-in electric (PHEV) or all-electric (BEV) vehicle. To hit this target, every Volvo model will include a Recharge option. This means a plug-in hybrid or all-electric version will be available, according to the company. To further encourage electric driving, every Volvo Recharge plug-in hybrid model will come with free electricity for a year, provided through a refund for the average electricity cost during that period. Volvo also plans to triple its manufacturing capacity and is now quickly ramping up its production globally, Bjorn Annwall, head of global commercial operations at Volvo, said during the press conference. Volvo is aiming for plug-in hybrid cars to make up 20% of total sales in 2020. Volvo isn't ditching combustion engines completely. But it's distancing itself from them by spinning it out. Volvo Cars and its Chinese parent company Geely Holdings will merge their existing combustion engine operations into a standalone business. The move will "clear the way for Volvo Cars to focus on the development of its all-electric range of premium cars," Samuelsson said. "So we believe we will bring sustainability into our company, not as something to add on, because it's good or something that is expected for us," Samuelsson said. "We bring it into the company because we think it's really good for our business. It will make our company grow faster it will make our company stronger exactly as safety made Volvo stronger."

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Google Chief: I'd Disclose Smart Speakers Before Guests Enter My Home
After being challenged as to whether homeowners should tell guests smart devices -- such as a Google Nest speaker or Amazon Echo display -- are in use before they enter the building, Google senior vice president of devices and services, Rick Osterloh, concludes that the answer is indeed yes. The BBC reports: "Gosh, I haven't thought about this before in quite this way," Rick Osterloh begins. "It's quite important for all these technologies to think about all users... we have to consider all stakeholders that might be in proximity." And then he commits. "Does the owner of a home need to disclose to a guest? I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it's probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate." To be fair to Google, it hasn't completely ignored matters of 21st Century privacy etiquette until now. As Mr Osterloh points out, its Nest cameras shine an LED light when they are in record mode, which cannot be overridden. But the idea of having to run around a home unplugging or at least restricting the capabilities of all its voice- and camera-equipped kit if a visitor objects is quite the ask. The concession came at the end of one-on-one interview given to BBC News to mark the launch of Google's Pixel 4 smartphones, a new Nest smart speaker and other products. You can read the full conversation on the BBC's article.

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Robot War Breaks Out As Roomba Maker Sues Upstart SharkNinja
Roomba robotic vacuum maker IRobot Corp. is suing rival SharkNinja for copying a device of theirs and selling it at "half the price." "Shark is not even shy about being a copycat," iRobot said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Boston, "claiming that the Shark IQ Robot offers the same iRobot technology at 'half the price of iRobot i7+'."Bloomberg reports: The company that unveiled the Roomba robotic vacuum in the early 2000s launched a product last year that takes house cleaning to a new level: It maps your home, schedules sweeps through each room, empties the dust bin itself and even knows where to resume cleaning after has returned to its base for a recharge. After being recognized by Time magazine for one of 2018's inventions of the year, IRobot Corp. says it's no accident that rival SharkNinja Operating LLC came out with a similar device a year later. [...] SharkNinja, a unit of closely held EP Midco LLC, on Friday filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in federal court in Delaware, asking the court to declare that the Shark IQ doesn't infringe six patents cited in iRobot's complaint, nor five others. IRobot had previously demanded that the Shark IQ be pulled off store shelves.

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OpenAI's AI-Powered Robot Learned How To Solve a Rubik's Cube One-Handed
Earlier today, San Francisco-based research institute OpenAI announced that it had taught a robotic hand to solve Rubik's cube one-handed. "Lost in the shuffle is just what is new here, if anything, and what of it may or may not be machine learning and artificial intelligence -- the science in other words," writes Tiernan Ray via ZDNet. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt from his report: The real innovation in Tuesday's announcement, from a science standpoint, is the way many versions of possible worlds were created inside the computer simulation, in an automated fashion, using an algorithm called ADR. ADR, or "Automatic domain randomization," is a way to reset the neural network at various points based on different appearances of the Rubik's cube and different positions of the robotic hand, and all kinds of physical variables, such as friction and gravity. It's done by creating thousands of variations of the values of those variables inside the computer simulator while the neural network is being trained. ADR is an algorithm that changes the variables automatically and iteratively, as the policy network is trained to solve the Rubik's cube. The ADR, in other words, is a separate piece of code that is designed to increase random variation in training data to make things increasingly hard for the policy neural network. Using ADR, the real world Dexterous Hand can adapt to changes such as when it drops the cube on the floor and the cube is placed back in the hand at a slightly different angle. The performance of the Dexterous Hand after being trained with ADR is vastly better than without it, when only a handful (sorry again again for the pun) of random variants are thrown at it using the prior approach of manually-crafted randomness, the authors report. What's happening, they opine, is the emergence of a kind of "meta-learning." The neural network that has been trained is still, in a sense "learning" at the time it is tested on the real-world Rubik's cube. What that means is that the neural network is updating its model of what kinds of transitions can happen between states of affairs as events happen in the real world. The authors assert that they know this is happening "inside" the trained network because they see that after a perturbation -- say, the Dexterous Hand is hit with some object that interrupts its effort -- the robot's activity suddenly plunges, but then steadily improves, as if the whole policy network is adjusting to the changed state of affairs.

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PG&E Should Compensate Customers For Power Shutoffs, California Governor Says
Pacific Gas & Electric should give rebates or credits to each of its nearly 800,000 customers affected by last week's power shutoffs, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said, demanding that the utility "be held accountable." CNN reports: The utility intentionally cut power to almost 800,000 customers in Northern California last week in an effort to prevent downed utility lines and equipment from causing wildfires amid dry and windy conditions. Some customers were without power for days. Newsom is urging PG&E to give credits or rebates of $100 to each residential customer and $250 to small businesses as "some compensation for their hardships," a release from the governor's office said Monday. "Californians should not pay the price for decades of PG&E's greed and neglect," Newsom said in the release. "PG&E's mismanagement of the power shutoffs experienced last week was unacceptable." PG&E CEO Bill Johnson responded by saying it had carried out the shutoffs in accordance with a plan that the California Public Utilities Commission had approved, under the commission's guidelines, and pointed to the fact that no wildfires were started. "While we recognize this was a hardship for millions of people throughout Northern and Central California, we made that decision to keep customers and communities safe," Johnson said in a statement. "That was the right decision." Californians blasted the utility for the move. While PG&E has been blamed for deadly wildfires in the past, critics said it should have invested in improving its infrastructure instead of just cutting off power for days.

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Harley-Davidson Stops Electric Motorcycle Production Due To Charging Problem
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Harley-Davidson has temporarily stopped making and shipping its first electric motorcycle, LiveWire, due to a problem with the bike's charging equipment, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The company told the Journal that LiveWire bikes are still safe to ride, but it's asking the first few customers to only charge the $30,000 electric motorcycle at dealerships, indicating that there may be a problem with plugging them into lower-voltage outlets, such as the ones found in their homes. LiveWire motorcycles only just started shipping in September. The LiveWire was first introduced as a concept motorcycle back in 2014. The project then disappeared from the spotlight for a few years before Harley-Davidson reintroduced the LiveWire in production-ready form in November 2018. Reached for comment, the publicly traded motorcycle manufacturer only issued an opaque statement about the charging issue: "As we lead in the electrification of motorcycles, we have delivered our first LiveWire motorcycles to authorized LiveWire dealers. We recently discovered a non-standard condition during a final quality check; stopped production and deliveries; and began additional testing and analysis, which is progressing well. We are in close contact with our LiveWire dealers and customers and have assured them they can continue to ride LiveWire motorcycles. As usual, we're keeping high quality as our top priority."

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Planting Tiny Spy Chips in Hardware Can Cost as Little as $200
An anonymous reader shares a report: More than a year has passed since Bloomberg Businessweek grabbed the lapels of the cybersecurity world with a bombshell claim: that Supermicro motherboards in servers used by major tech firms, including Apple and Amazon, had been stealthily implanted with a chip the size of a rice grain that allowed Chinese hackers to spy deep into those networks. Apple, Amazon, and Supermicro all vehemently denied the report. The NSA dismissed it as a false alarm. The Defcon hacker conference awarded it two Pwnie Awards, for "most overhyped bug" and "most epic fail." And no follow-up reporting has yet affirmed its central premise. But even as the facts of that story remain unconfirmed, the security community has warned that the possibility of the supply chain attacks it describes is all too real. The NSA, after all, has been doing something like it for years, according to the leaks of whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Now researchers have gone further, showing just how easily and cheaply a tiny, tough-to-detect spy chip could be planted in a company's hardware supply chain. And one of them has demonstrated that it doesn't even require a state-sponsored spy agency to pull it off -- just a motivated hardware hacker with the right access and as little as $200 worth of equipment.

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NVIDIA's Job Listings Reveal 'Game Remastering' Studio, New Interest In RISC-V
An anonymous reader quotes Forbes:Nvidia has a lot riding on the success of its GeForce RTX cards. The Santa Clara, California company is beating the real-time ray tracing drum loudly, adamant on being known as a champion of the technology before AMD steals some of its thunder next year with the PlayStation 5 and its own inevitable release of ray-tracing enabled PC graphics cards. Nvidia has shown that, with ray tracing, it can breathe new life into a decades-old PC shooter like id Software's Quake 2, so why not dedicate an entire game studio to remastering timeless PC classics? A new job listing spotted by DSOGaming confirms that's exactly what Nvidia is cooking up. The ad says NVIDIA's new game remastering program is "cherry-picking some of the greatest titles from the past decades and bringing them into the ray tracing age, giving them state-of-the-art visuals while keeping the gameplay that made them great." (And it adds that the initiative is "starting with a title that you know and love but we can't talk about here!") Meanwhile, a China-based industry watcher on Medium reports that "six RISC-V positions have been advertised by NVIDIA, based in Shanghai and pertaining to architecture, design, and verification."

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Invisible Hardware Hacks Allowing Full Remote Access Cost Pennies
Long-time Slashdot reader Artem S. Tashkinov quotes Wired:More than a year has passed since Bloomberg Businessweek grabbed the lapels of the cybersecurity world with a bombshell claim: that Supermicro motherboards in servers used by major tech firms, including Apple and Amazon, had been stealthily implanted with a chip the size of a rice grain that allowed Chinese hackers to spy deep into those networks. Apple, Amazon, and Supermicro all vehemently denied the report. The NSA dismissed it as a false alarm. The Defcon hacker conference awarded it two Pwnie Awards, for "most overhyped bug" and "most epic fail." And no follow-up reporting has yet affirmed its central premise. But even as the facts of that story remain unconfirmed, the security community has warned that the possibility of the supply chain attacks it describes is all too real. The NSA, after all, has been doing something like it for years, according to the leaks of whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Now researchers have gone further, showing just how easily and cheaply a tiny, tough-to-detect spy chip could be planted in a company's hardware supply chain. And one of them has demonstrated that it doesn't even require a state-sponsored spy agency to pull it off -- just a motivated hardware hacker with the right access and as little as $200 worth of equipment.

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Microsoft's New Keyboards Have Dedicated Keys For 'Office' and Emojis
"Microsoft's latest keyboards now include dedicated Office and emoji keys," reports the Verge:The software giant was previously experimenting with an Office key on keyboards earlier this year, and now the company is launching a new Ergonomic and slim Bluetooth Keyboard that include the dedicated button. The Office key replaces the right-hand Windows key, and it's used to launch the Office for Windows 10 app that acts as a hub for Microsoft's productivity suite. You can also use the Office key as a shortcut to launch Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. Office key + W opens Word for example, while Office key + X opens Excel. Alongside the Office key, there's also a new emoji key on these new keyboards. It will launch the emoji picker inside Windows 10, but you won't be able to assign it to a specific emoji or even create shortcuts, unfortunately... Microsoft quietly launched these new keyboards at the company's Surface hardware event last week, but they'll be available in stores on October 15th.

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