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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

World's First Robot Hotel Fires Half of Its Robot Staff
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: The world's first hotel "staffed by robots" has culled half of its steely eyed employees, because they're rubbish and annoy the guests. "Our hotel's advanced technologies, introduced with the aim of maximizing efficiency, also add to the fun and comfort of your stay," the Henn na Hotel boasted on its website. It's where multilingual female robots staff the reception desk. Guests are checked in using face recognition. Robot concierges carry your luggage. Robots cleaned and mixed drinks. A voice activated robot doll is on hand at night while you sleep. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the room doll interpreted snoring as a request it couldn't understand, waking guests continually through the night to rephrase. "The two robot luggage carriers are out of use because they can reach only about two dozen of the more than 100 rooms in the hotel. They can travel only on flat surfaces and could malfunction if they get wet going outside to annex buildings," the paper reported. "They were really slow and noisy, and would get stuck trying to go past each other," lamented one guest. The concierge and the room doll have now been removed.

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A Supercomputer In a 19th Century Church Is 'World's Most Beautiful Data Center'
"Motherboard spoke to the Barcelona Supercomputing Center about how it outfitted a deconsecrated 19th century chapel to host the MareNostrum 4 -- the 25th most powerful supercomputer in the world," writes Slashdot reader dmoberhaus. From the report: Heralded as the "most beautiful data center in the world," the MareNostrum supercomputer came online in 2005, but was originally hosted in a different building at the university. Meaning "our sea" in Latin, the original MareNostrum was capable of performing 42.35 teraflops -- 42.35 trillion operations per second -- making it one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe at the time. Yet the MareNostrum rightly became known for its aesthetics as much as its computing power. According to Gemma Maspoch, head of communications for Barcelona Supercomputing Center, which oversees the MareNostrum facility, the decision to place the computer in a giant glass box inside a chapel was ultimately for practical reasons. "We were in need of hundreds of square meters without columns and the capacity to support 44.5 tons of weight," Maspoch told me in an email. "At the time there was not much available space at the university and the only room that satisfied our requirements was the Torre Girona chapel. We did not doubt it for a moment and we installed a supercomputer in it." According to Maspoch, the chapel required relatively few modifications to host the supercomputer, such as reinforcing the soil around the church so that it would hold the computer's weight and designing a glass box that would house the computer and help cool it. The supercomputer has been beefed up over the years. Most recently, the fourth iteration came online in 2017 "with a peak computing capacity of 11 thousand trillion operations per second (11.15 petaflops)," reports Motherboard. "MareNostrum 4 is spread over 48 server racks comprising a total of 3,456 nodes. A node consists of two Intel chips, each of which has 24 processors."

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Microsoft is Preparing For Foldable Windows Devices, Report Says
Microsoft is working on adapting Windows to work on foldable devices, The Verge reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the matter. The report further added that the company is making foldable devices and dual-screen hardware a big investment area for both Windows and Surface. From the report: This investment includes adapting Windows itself and its many built-in apps to work across foldable displays and devices with dual screens. While Microsoft has been experimenting with its own hardware with dual-screens, codenamed Andromeda, the company has also been working with Intel and other OEMs to be ready for the next few years of experimentation. PC makers famously developed a range of 2-in-1 devices for Windows 8 more than five years ago, and we're expecting to see a similar effort for dual-screen and foldable devices for Windows in the coming years. Most of this work is related to Microsoft's Composable Shell (C-Shell) and Windows Core OS, a more modular version of the existing Windows Shell that powers many parts of Windows 10 today.

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VW Investing $800 Million In Tennessee Factory To Make Next-Gen Electric Vehicles
Volkswagen will spend $800 million to expand a U.S. factory that will produce the automaker's next generation of electric vehicles. "The factory in Chattanooga, Tenn. will be the company's North American base for manufacturing electric vehicles," reports TechCrunch. "The expansion is expected to create 1,000 jobs at the plant." From the report: VW's Chattanooga expansion is just a piece of the automaker's broader plan to move away from diesel in the wake of the emissions cheating scandal that erupted in 2015. Globally, VW Group plans to commit almost $50 billion through 2023 toward the development and production of electric vehicles and digital services. The Volkswagen brand (so not including its Audi or Porsche brands) alone has forecasted selling 150,000 EVs by 2020 worldwide, increasing that number to 1 million by 2025. The Tennessee factory (along with the other new facilities) will produce EVs using Volkswagen's modular electric toolkit chassis, or MEB, introduced by the company in 2016. The MEB is a flexible modular system -- really a matrix of common parts -- for producing electric vehicles that VW says make it more efficient and cost-effective. Electric vehicle production at the Tennessee site will begin in 2022. However, Volkswagen of America says it will offer the first EV based on the MEB platform to customers in 2020.This EV will be a series-production version of the I.D. CROZZ SUV concept that was first shown at the North American International Auto Show last year. This vehicle will have the interior space of a midsize SUV in the footprint of a compact SUV. Volkswagen of America will also offer a multi-purpose EV based off the I.D. BUZZ concept. This EV will be a series-production version of the I.D. CROZZ SUV concept that was first shown at the North American International Auto Show last year. This vehicle will have the interior space of a midsize SUV in the footprint of a compact SUV. Volkswagen of America will also offer a multi-purpose EV based off the I.D. BUZZ concept.

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Tesla Proposes Microgrids With Solar and Batteries To Power Greek Islands
Tesla is proposing ways to modernize the electric grid of Greece's many islands in the Mediterranean sea with microgrids and renewable energy to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. "Several Greek islands are relatively remote and rely heavily on fossil fuels to power their electric grid," notes Electrek. From the report: The Greek Minister of Environment and Energy, Mr. George Stathakis, confirmed last week that they have met with Tesla to discuss the deployment of microgrids in Greek islands. They issued the following statement (translated from Greek via Capital.gr): "[...] The extremely interesting thing that emerged from the meeting is that technological progress has now significantly reduced the cost of energy storage. At the same time, successful competitions for new RES investments in Greece, led to an equally significant reduction in the cost of energy production. As a result, the conversion of the islands to RES, apart from being environmentally useful, is now also economically viable. In this context, cooperation with Tesla can prove to be extremely beneficial, as the American company officials have highlighted, showing strong interest in the initiatives promoted by the Ministry for 'smart' and 'energy' islands." Tesla has reportedly already suggested a pilot project to demonstrate their microgrid system in the region. The government would like it to be on the island of Limnos. The idea is to install a large solar array and combine it with an energy storage facility to store the excess energy during the day and use it at night when the sun is not shining.

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Apple Wanted To Use Qualcomm Chips For Its 2018 iPhones, But Qualcomm Refused Because of Companies' Licensing Dispute
Apple's operating chief said on Monday that Qualcomm refused to sell its 4G LTE processors to the company due to the companies' licensing dispute. According to CNET, that decision "had a ripple effect on how quickly Apple can make the shift to 5G." From the report: Qualcomm continues to provide Apple with chips for its older iPhones, including the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple COO Jeff Williams testified Monday during the US Federal Trade Commission's trial against Qualcomm. But it won't provide Apple with processors for the newest iPhones, designed since the two began fighting over patents, he said. And Williams believes the royalty rate Apple paid for using Qualcomm patents -- $7.50 per iPhone -- is too high. The FTC has accused Qualcomm of operating a monopoly in wireless chips, forcing customers like Apple to work with it exclusively and charging excessive licensing fees for its technology. The FTC has said that Qualcomm forced Apple to pay licensing fees for its technology in exchange for using its chips in iPhones. The trial kicked off Jan. 4 in US District Court in San Jose, California. Testimony covers negotiations and events that occurred before March 2018 and can't encompass anything after that date. Apple is expected to only use Intel chips in its next iPhones, something that will make Apple late to the market for 5G phones. "By the 2019 holiday season, every major Android vendor in the U.S. will have a 5G phone available," reports CNET. "But Intel's 5G modem isn't expected to hit phones until 2020."

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Apple's AirPower Wireless Charging Mat Is In Production
Apple's long-delayed AirPower wireless charging mat might finally be in production. According to a tweet from ChargerLAB, a "credible source" says that Apple has begun manufacturing the long-delayed wireless charging mat. The Verge reports: If true, it could mean that the long-overdue product could finally reach the hands of consumers before too much longer. Apple announced in September 2017, that it was introducing wireless charging capabilities in with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and gave a preview for its own wireless charging mat that would not only charge the iPhone, but its Apple Watch and AirPods. At the time, Apple didn't announce a price -- only that it was expected to be released sometime in 2018. That obviously didn't happen... If what ChargerLAB says is accurate, that could mean that we'll see more about them in the near future. The site's tweet says that the devices are being manufactured at Luxshare Precision, which already manufactures Apple's AirPods and some cords. MacRumors translated a screenshot of ChargerLAB's WeChat conversation, in which the site's source expects the device be released soon. But given the charger's history of delays and technical challenges, it's probably best not to get one's hopes up just yet.

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The US Government Has Amassed Terabytes of Internal WikiLeaks Data
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a Gizmodo report, written by national security reporter and transparency activist Emma Best: Late last year, the U.S. government accidentally revealed that a sealed complaint had been filed against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Shortly before this was made public, the FBI reconfirmed its investigation of WikiLeaks was ongoing, and the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice was optimistic that it would be able to extradite Assange. Soon after, portions of sealed transcripts leaked that implicate WikiLeaks and Assange in directing hackers to target governments and corporations. The charges against Assange have not been officially revealed, though it's plausible that the offenses are related to Russian hacking and the DNC emails. The alleged offenses in the complaint notwithstanding, the government has an abundance of data to work with: over a dozen WikiLeaks' computers, hard drives, and email accounts, including those of the organization's current and former editors-in-chief, along with messages exchanged with alleged Russian hackers about DNC emails. Through a series of search warrants, subpoenas, equipment seizures, and cooperating witnesses, the federal government has collected internal WikiLeaks data covering the majority of the organization's period of operations, from 2009 at least through 2017. In some instances, the seized data has been returned and allegedly destroyed, such as in the case of David House, a technologist and friend of Chelsea Manning when she famously became a source for WikiLeaks. In others, the seized materials include communications between WikiLeaks and their sources. Some of these discussions show WikiLeaks discussing their other sources and specific identifying details about them. Other seizures gave authorities a deeper view of the internal workings of WikiLeaks, including one of the earliest known seizures of WikiLeaks-related data, executed on December 14, 2010, when the messages and user information of several WikiLeaks-linked Twitter accounts were ordered. This search-and-seizure order included direct messages associated with WikiLeaks and its founder, former Army private first class and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, WikiLeaks editor Rop Gongrijp, former WikiLeaks associate Jacob Appelbaum, and former WikiLeaks associate and Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir, between November 1, 2009, and the order's execution.

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Did a Russian Robotics Company Fake This Tesla-Robot Crash?
Last Saturday a firm which rents promotional robots claimed that one of their robots broke free from a line of robots, only to be hit by a self-driving Tesla. Though video of the incident has now been viewed over 1.2 million times, Wired followed up on the company's claim that "Nevada police" were investigating the incident.Or weren't. Aden Ocampo Gomez, a public information officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said he couldn't find any record of such an incident. And anyway, he says, "We don't report to that kind of incident on private property." Wired also challenged Promobot's claim that their robot was hit by "a self-driving Tesla car":Teslas don't have a "full self-driving" mode. Autopilot, the automaker's semiautonomous system, is made for highways, not the sort of private road shown in a video of the alleged crash published by the robotics company. Promobot seems to start falling over just a moment before the car gets to it. And that video appears to show a rope snaking away from the incident -- the sort that could be used, say, to pull down a robot that hadn't been hit by a car at all. When Wired contacted the company for a comment, they didn't respond. The company's press release also claims that after the collision "most likely there is no way to restore" their robot -- and yet the Daily Dot reports Promobot "does not intend to pursue reparations".

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Lenovo And Dell Seeing PC Growth in US, But CPU Shortage Takes A Toll On Overall Market
Lenovo's resurgence in the U.S. PC market continued during the final quarter of 2018 with gains in both shipments and market share, while Dell also saw growth in the fourth quarter in spite of supply chain and market challenges, according to research firm Gartner. From a report: It marked the third quarter in a row that Lenovo enjoyed strong growth in the U.S. PC market, solidifying the company's position as the No. 3 player in the market ahead of Apple and Microsoft--but still trailing well behind HP and Dell. However, overall PC shipments in the U.S. slid 4.5 percent during the fourth quarter compared to the same period a year earlier, Gartner reported. In a news release, Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa blamed the decline in part on market uncertainties -- given that the quarter is "typically a buying season" for businesses looking to use up budget money by the end of the year.

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Procter and Gamble Unveils New Device That Aims To Remove Signs of Aging
In a video for the BBC, technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones uses Procter and Gamble's new device to maker him look younger. Called Opte, the device scans the skin and precisely applies tiny amounts of make-up to remove age spots, burst blood vessels and other blemishes. Opte has a camera in it that captures 200 frames per second and processes that data by looking at the difference of the color of your skin. It then sends it to a microprocessor and 120 thermal inkjet printers print the product directly on your skin. The company says it works with all skin colors via three different cartridges: light, medium, and dark. Procter and Gamble is planning to release the device in late 2019 or 2020.

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Nest Competitor Ring Reportedly Gave Employees Full Access To Customers' Live Camera Feeds
Amazon-owned Ring allowed employees to access customers' live camera feeds, according to a report from The Intercept. "Ring's engineers and executives have 'highly privileged access' to live camera feeds from customers' devices," reports 9to5Google. "This includes both doorbells facing the outside world, as well as cameras inside a person's home. A team tasked with annotating video to aid in object recognition captured 'people kissing, firing guns, and stealing.'" From the report: U.S. employees specifically had access to a video portal intended for technical support that reportedly allowed "unfiltered, round-the-clock live feeds from some customer cameras." What's surprising is how this support tool was apparently not restricted to only employees that dealt with customers. The Intercept notes that only a Ring customer's email address was required to access any live feed. According to the report's sources, employees had a blase attitude to this potential privacy violation, but noted that they "never personally witnessed any egregious abuses." Meanwhile, a second group of Ring employees working on R&D in Ukraine had access to a folder housing "every video created by every Ring camera around the world." What's more, these employees had a "corresponding database that linked each specific video file to corresponding specific Ring customers." Also bothersome is Ring's reported stance towards encryption. Videos in that bucket were unencrypted due to the costs associated with implementation and "lost revenue opportunities due to restricted access." In response to the report, Ring said: "We have strict policies in place for all our team members. We implement systems to restrict and audit access to information. We hold our team members to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our policies faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties. In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them."

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15 Years After Announcing the 1GB SD Card, Lexar Unveils 1TB SD Card
Lexar has just unveiled the first commercially available 1-terabyte SD card. "Lexar's Professional 633x line of SDHC and SDXC UHS-I cards [...] is now listed for sale in capacities from 16GB all the way up to the flagship 1TB," reports The Verge. "That card claims read speeds of up to 95MB/s and write speeds of 70MB/s, though it's only rated as V30/U3, which guarantees sustained write performance of 30MB/s." Unfortunately, you'll pay a premium price of $499.99 for the new 1TB SD card, which is more than the cost of two 512GB cards. Still, the convenience may be worth it. Joey Lopez, Senior Marketing Manager of Lexar, said in a statement: "Almost fifteen years ago, Lexar announced a 1GB SD card. Today, we are excited to announce 1TB of storage capacity in the same convenient form factor. As consumers continue to demand greater storage for their cameras, the combination of high-speed performance with a 1TB option now offers a solution for content creators who shoot large volumes of high-resolution images and 4K video."

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So You Automated Your Coworkers Out of a Job
merbs writes: Automation is too often presented as a faceless, monolithic phenomenon -- but it's a human finger that ultimately pulls the trigger. Someone has to initiate the process that automates a task or mechanizes a production line. To write or procure the program that makes a department or a job redundant. And that's not always an executive, or upper-, or even middle management -- in fact, it's very often not. Sometimes it's a junior employee, or a developer, even an intern. In a series of interviews with coders, technicians, and engineers who've automated their colleagues out of work -- or, in one case, been put in a position where they'd have to do so and decided to quit instead -- I've attempted to produce a snapshot of life on the messy front lines of modern automation. (Some names have been changed to protect the identities of the automators.) We've heard plenty of forecasting about the many jobs slated to be erased, and we've seen the impacts on the communities that have lost livelihoods at the hands of automation, but we haven't had many close up looks at how all this unfolds in the office or the factory floor.

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Wireless Tech Company Finds Way To Charge Drones In Flight
Global Energy Transmission (GET) co-founder William Kallamn says his wireless tech company has found a way to create a "power cloud" that can charge a drone while it's in flight. "The system comprises a ground-based power station with a frame of wires positioned in a roughly circular shape," reports Futurism. "When turned on, this creates an electromagnetic field in the air near the station. A drone equipped with a special antennae charges by flying into the range of the power cloud." From the report: Eight minutes of charge time translates to 30 minutes of flight. One of GET's power stations and two customized drones, each capable of carrying 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds), currently costs $120,000. It's hard to overstate the potential for drones to change our world, but for seemingly every positive use for the machines (package delivery, search and rescue operations), there's a negative one to consider (military weaponry, citizen surveillance). So, sure, a drone that never needs to land would be amazingly beneficial for moviemaking and sports coverage -- two uses Kallman notes in [an interview with entertainment vlogger David Fordham] -- but it's hard to imagine military or government officials wouldn't be highly interested in GET's drone charging tech as well.

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