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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Tangle-Free Magnetic USB Cables Are Here
The Verge's Sean Hollister has been testing a number of "nifty" USB cables that magnetically stick to themselves and don't get all tangled up in your drawers and bags. The only problem is "they all suck big time at data transfer, charging, or both," he writes. From the report: This one, which also has its own built-in blue LED light and magnetic swappable tips for USB-C, micro-USB, and Lightning, won't charge most of my USB-C gadgets at all, but I was able to sling some files from an external drive at lackluster USB 2.0 speeds and charge my iPhone over Lightning. It's also got super weak coiling magnets and felt even cheaper than the rest. This USB-C to USB-C one was pretty decent at charging, giving me 65W of USB-C PD power and had the best magnets of the bunch -- but it wouldn't connect to a Pixel 4A phone or my USB-C external drive at all. They just didn't show up on my desktop! This USB-A to USB-C cable was the worst of the lot. Just wiggling it would disconnect anything I had plugged in, and it topped out at 10W of charging -- not the 15-18W I'd usually see with my Pixel. Lastly, this USB-A to Lightning one seems to be a SuperCalla cable, showing up in an "Original SuperCalla" box, even though it's sold by a brand named "Tech." Slow charging, slow data, but at least it seems to stay reliably connected to my iPhone so far. But those aren't the only style of magnetic no-tangle cable I found. I also bought this neat accordion-style one, which is perhaps the best of the bunch: I got 15W charging, and it feels better built than the rest. But it's less fun to play with, the magnets aren't as strong, and it's got a bit of an awkward shape when fully extended because the joints will always stick out. Plus, it tops out at USB 2.0 speeds of 480Mbps (or around 42MB/s in practice.) I couldn't find a C-to-C or Lightning version. [...] Right now, all I've found are these cheap-o, $10 novelty cables, and that's a real shame. The magnet design deserves better, and so do we.

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Dyson's Been Secretly Working On Robots That Do Household Chores
Dyson has revealed that it has an entire division that's secretly been developing robot prototypes that do household chores. Engadget reports: The company didn't detail any of the models in particularly, but many look like regular robot arms adapted to do specialized home chores like cleaning and tidying. One appeared to be designed to vacuum out the seat cushions, mapping an armchair out in detail to do the job. "So this means I'll never, ever find crisps around the back of my sofa again?" the company's chief engineer, Jake Dyson, asked a researcher in a video (here). Another robot was putting away dishes or at least placing them in a drying rack, and another was grasping a teddy bear, presumably picking up after a child. Dyson also showed off a "Perception Lab" that was all about robotic vision systems, detecting its environment and mapping humans with sensors, cameras and thermal imaging systems. Dyson is currently on a recruiting drive, looking for around 700 engineers, which is one reason it finally decided to show off the lab (located at Hullavington Airfield, Wiltshire in the UK) after keeping it under wraps.

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Researchers Unveil Paper On New Battery That Could Last 100 Years
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Tesla's advanced battery research group in Canada in partnership with Dalhousie University has released a new paper on a new nickel-based battery that could last 100 years while still favorably comparing to LFP cells on charging and energy density. [...] The paper describes a nickel-based battery chemistry meant to compete with LFP battery cells on longevity while retaining the properties that people like in nickel-based batteries, like higher energy density, which enables longer range with fewer batteries for electric vehicles. The group wrote in the paper's abstract: "Single crystal Li[Ni0.5Mn0.3Co0.2]O2//graphite (NMC532) pouch cells with only sufficient graphite for operation to 3.80 V (rather than [greater than or equal to] 4.2 V) were cycled with charging to either 3.65 V or 3.80 V to facilitate comparison with LiFePO4//graphite (LFP) pouch cells on the grounds of similar maximum charging potential and similar negative electrode utilization. The NMC532 cells, when constructed with only sufficient graphite to be charged to 3.80 V, have an energy density that exceeds that of the LFP cells and a cycle-life that greatly exceeds that of the LFP cells at 40C, 55C and 70C. Excellent lifetime at high temperature is demonstrated with electrolytes that contain lithium bis(fluorosulfonyl)imide (LiFSI) salt, well beyond those provided by conventional LiPF6 electrolytes." The cells showed an impressive capacity retention over a high number of cycles. The research group even noted that the new cell described in the paper could last a 100 years if the temperature is controlled at 25C: "Ultra-high precision coulometry and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy are used to complement cycling results and investigate the reasons for the improved performance of the NMC cells. NMC cells, particularly those balanced and charged to 3.8 V, show better coulombic efficiency, less capacity fade and higher energy density compared to LFP cells and are projected to yield lifetimes approaching a century at 25C." One of the keys appears to be using an electrolyte with LiFSI lithium salts, and the paper notes that the benefits could also apply to other nickel-based chemistries, including those with no or low cobalt. The paper has been published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

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Solar Panels Are Coming To IKEA
Starting this fall with its locations in California, the Swedish furniture giant Ikea will sell the means to power your Starkvind (that's an air purifier) and Stjarnstatus (that's a fridge) by adding solar panels to the company's offerings. Thankfully, assembly will be handled by the professionals. Curbed reports: To bring photovoltaics -- the technical name for solar panels -- to the people, Ikea is partnering with SunPower, one of the largest solar-energy providers in the country, which will install the rooftop systems and a DC-battery storage unit. As with all solar installations, the cost and energy generated will vary depending on a range of factors, such as the size of the roof and how much sunlight it sees during the day. Incentives like tax credits can also help sweeten the deal, depending on where you live. [...] The stated goal of Ikea's solar efforts is to zero out the emissions generated to power its plugged-in products, which the company estimates are about 20 percent of its total. Now let's see if Ikea can make solar panels as ubiquitous and affordable for U.S. homes as its Billy bookshelf -- one of which is made every three seconds.

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NY State is Giving Out Hundreds of Robots as Companions For the Elderly
The state of New York will distribute robot companions to the homes of more than 800 older adults. From a report: The robots are not able to help with physical tasks, but function as more proactive versions of digital assistants like Siri or Alexa -- engaging users in small talk, helping contact love ones, and keeping track of health goals like exercise and medication. The scheme is being organized by the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), and is intended to help address the growing problem of social isolation among the elderly. An estimated 14 million Americans over the age of 65 currently live alone, and this figure is projected to increase over the next decade as the boomer generation ages. Studies have suggested that long-term loneliness is as damaging to an individual's health as smoking.

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US Moves Toward Supplying Romania With a Modular, Low-Cost Nuclear Plant
tomhath shares a report from The New York Times: The United States said on Monday that it would supply Romania with a training simulator in preparation for building a new type of nuclear power generating plant in the country. If an agreement on moving ahead with a power station is reached, Romania could become the first country in Europe, and perhaps in the world, to have such a plant, known as a small modular reactor. The one in Romania would be built by NuScale Power, a start-up company based in Portland, Ore. The government announced that the plant would be built in Doicesti, at the site of a shuttered coal-fired power plant about 55 miles northwest of Bucharest. [...] NuScale's approach to nuclear energy involves constructing relatively small reactors in factories and then assembling groups of them at the actual site for generating power. The aim is to reduce costs as well as the time required for construction. Conventional modern nuclear plants can cost $10 billion or more. The plan involves building a power station composed of six of the modular units. The plant would generate 462 megawatts of electricity, making it the size of a medium-size conventional power station. Such a plant might cost around $1.6 billion, according to figures published by the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. The hope is to have it operating by the end of the decade.

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Spain To Invest $13 Billion To Build Microchip Industry
The Spanish government on Tuesday announced plans to invest $13.2 billion to build microchips in the country and "help reduce the dependence of Span and the European Union on other suppliers," reports the Associated Press. From the report: Speaking in Madrid, Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said the five-year plan is aimed at enabling Spain to cover every area in the design and production of microchips, which are now considered key to all areas of modern industry. She said the plan was among the most ambitious of the Spanish government's projects to reboot the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic and that it would have an effect on other sectors. The project was directed at boosting the EU's weak position in microchip production, which Calvino said represented some 10% of the world total. She said this led to a great dependence on a small number of major producers such as Taiwan, the United States, South Korea, Japan and China. Calvino added that "the war in Ukraine makes it a priority to reinforce strategic autonomy in energy, technology, food production as well as cyber security."

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Samsung Allegedly Assembling a 'Dream Team' To Take Down Apple's M1 In 2025
Samsung is rumored to be assembling a special task force dubbed "Dream Platform One team" tasked with designing a custom in-house Samsung mobile Application Processor (AP) that can take on Apple Silicon. Neowin reports: It's probably fair to say that Samsung hasn't had the best time with its Exynos offerings when compared against rivals like Qualcomm or Apple. To shake its fortunes up, the company also paired up with AMD for its Exynos 2200 GPU, and results were a mixed bag. Both the AMD RDNA 2 Xclipse 920 graphics and the Exynos 2200 CPU were found to be pretty disappointing in terms of power efficiency as they were not much better than the previous Exynos 2100 offering. In a nutshell, the new CPU was around 5% faster while the AMD graphics was around 17% better, both of which were clearly not enough (via TechAltar on Twitter). However, the company is looking to get real serious and down to business come 2025. The new report coincides with a separate report suggesting that Samsung was working on a custom chipset for its Galaxy S series. The downside is that it's not slated for 2025 and will obviously have to compete against whatever Apple offers at that time.

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AMD Ryzen 7000 Smokes Alder Lake In Computex Keynote Zen 4 Tease
"AMD's Computex 2022 keynote marks the first appearance of company's new Zen 4-based Ryzen 7000 desktop chip in the flesh," writes Slashdot reader MojoKid. "And in its first quick benchmark tease, it's looking pretty buff." Here's an excerpt from a report via HotHardware: AMD Ryzen 7000-series processors that will be the first to ship with Zen 4 cores will include one or two 5nm Zen 4 CCDs -- topping out at 16 cores, just like Zen 3 -- as well as a new cIOD fabricated on 6nm chip process technology. The new cIOD will include PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 support, as well as an RDNA 2-based GPU for basic display support. [...] Initial performance claims regarding solid state storage weren't the only ones made during AMD's Computex keynote, however. As the keynote was wrapping up, Dr. Su showed two demos powered by a Ryzen 7000 series processor. AMD Ryzen 7000-series processors that will be the first to ship with Zen 4 cores will include one or two 5nm Zen 4 CCDs -- topping out at 16 cores, just like Zen 3 -- as well as a new cIOD fabricated on 6nm chip process technology. The new cIOD will include PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 support, as well as an RDNA 2-based GPU for basic display support. In the second demo, a custom Ryzen 7000 3D image was being rendered in Blender, with an Intel Core i9-12900K 16-core / 24-thread processor running alongside an AMD Ryzen 7000 series 16-core / 32-thread processor. In the time-lapsed demo, the Ryzen 7000-based system finished the render 31% faster than the Intel system. While AMD wasn't willing to commit to any specific date, the company did confirm that Zen 4 will be here this year, and well before the holiday shopping season. Dr. Su set a timeframe of "Fall" for availability of the new Ryzen 7000 CPUs, as well as the motherboards that will help enable the entire platform. Slashdot reader UnknowingFool also shared the news (via AnandTech). You can watch the entire AMD Computex 2022 Keynote presentation here.

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Can We Generate Renewable Energy by Burning Trash?
CNBC visited a company that burns trash from a California landfill, and then "harnesses steam to make enough electricity to power 18,000 homes in the area" — which turns out to be part of a surprisingly large industry:A portion of the waste comes from companies including American Airlines, Quest Diagnostics, Sunny Delight and Subaru.... Major retailers like Amazon also use this combustion method to dispose of returns they deem unfit to recycle, resell, or donate.... The U.S. is one of the most wasteful developed countries in the world. Of the record 292 million tons of waste generated by Americans each year, more than half is landfilled, about a third is recycled, and 12% is incinerated at waste-to-energy facilities, according to the World Bank. Online commerce poses a particular problem. Not only are internet purchases breaking records in terms of volume, but roughly 20% of items get returned, which is a higher number than for in-store purchases. Returns solutions provider Optoro says U.S. returns generate an estimated 5.8 billion pounds of landfill waste each year. But the article also points out that more than half of U.S. states define waste-to-energy as a renewable energy source."Unlike landfills, many governments and non-governmental organizations consider it a source of greenhouse gas mitigation. That includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where Susan Thorneloe leads research on materials management. U.S. climate experts say these are the three reasons the burning process produces a net reduction of greenhouse gasses. First, it keeps waste out of landfills, which emit methane that the EPA estimates is 86 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Second, waste-to-energy facilities reduce the need for mining because they recover 700,000 tons of metal each year. And finally, they produce energy, reducing the need to burn fossil fuels.... The steam can also be captured and piped up to a mile away to heat or cool entire buildings, like Target Field in Minneapolis.... The EPA estimates that for every megawatt-hour of electricity generated, waste-to-energy emits an average of just over half a metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent gasses. Landfills emit six times that, and coal plants emit nearly double. At least some scientists CNBC spoke to said that air pollution technology has advanced so much in the last two decades that most common toxins have largely been eliminated.

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Mitsubishi Develops Technology for 3D Printing in Outer Space
"Made In Space, Redwire, and Bigelow, move over," writes long-time Slashdot reader Dr. Crash. "There's yet another 3D printing in space group — and it's not a startup."Mitsubishi Electric just went public with a UV-sensitive resin specially made to print in zero-G and in a hard vacuum — as in outside the airlock. The polymer is tuned to harden with solar ultraviolet light, so no UV lasers needed (saving power and launch weight). Their first goal? Printing cubesat parabolic dishes in orbit, so a 300mm cubesat could have what looks like a one-meter dish antenna — or anything else that can be freeform-printed. This "photopolymerization" technology "specifically addresses the challenge of equipping small, inexpensive spacecraft buses with large structures, such as high-gain antenna reflectors," according to Mitsubishi's announcement — arguing that it also ultimately "enables on-orbit fabrication of structures that greatly exceed the dimensions of launch vehicle fairings."

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HP Chooses Ubuntu-Based Pop!_OS Linux For Its Upcoming Dev One Laptop
System76's CEO Carl Richell announced that HP has chosen the Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS operating system to run on its 14-inch developer-focused notebook called "Dev One." Brian Fagioli from BetaNews speculates that a HP acquisition of System76 "could be a possibility in the future -- if this new relationship pans out at least." He continues: HP could be testing the waters with the upcoming Dev One. Keep in mind, System76 does not even build its own laptops, so we could see the company leave the notebook business and focus on desktops only -- let HP handle the Pop!_OS laptops. "We've got you covered. Experience exceptional multi-core performance from the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO processor and multitask with ease. Compile code, run a build, and keep all your apps running with more speed from the 16GB memory. Plus, load and save files in a flash, thanks to 1TB fast PCIe NVMe M.2 storage. We've even added a Linux Super key so shortcuts are a click away. Simply put, HP Dev One is built to help you code better," explains HP. The company adds, "Pop!_OS is at your service. Create your ideal work experience with multiple tools to help you perform with peak efficiency. Use Stacking to organize and access multiple applications, browsers, and terminal windows. Move, resize, and arrange windows with ease or, let Pop!_OS keep you organized and efficient with Auto-tiling. And use Workspaces to reduce clutter by organizing windows across multiple desktops." Apparently, there will only be one configuration priced at $1,099. So far, no details about a release date have been announced other than "coming soon."

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iFixit On Right To Repair's Remaining Obstacles, Hope
iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens sat down with Ars Technica to discuss the fight for the right to repair. Here's an excerpt from their report: Tech repairs got complicated in 1998 when Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [PDF]. Section 1201 of the copyright law essentially made it illegal to distribute tools for, or to break encryption on, manufactured products. Created with DVD piracy in mind, it made fixing things like computers and tractors significantly harder, if not illegal, without manufacturer permission. It also represented "a total sea change from what historic property rights have been," Wiens said. This makes Washington, DC, the primary battleground for the fight for the right to repair. "Because this law was passed at the federal level, the states can't preempt. Congress at the federal level reset copyright policy. This fix has to happen at the US federal level," Wiens told Ars Technica during the Road to Frontiers talk. The good news is that every three years, the US Copyright Office holds hearings to discuss potential exemptions. Right to repair advocates are hoping Congress will schedule this year's hearing soon. Wiens also highlighted the passing of the Freedom to Repair Act [PDF] introduced earlier this year as critical for addressing Section 1201 and creating a permanent exemption for repairing tech products. Apple's self-service repair program launched last month marked a huge step forward for the right to repair initiated by a company that has shown long-standing resistance. Wiens applauded the program, which provides repair manuals for the iPhone 12, 13, and newest SE and will eventually extend to computers. He emphasized how hard it is for iFixit to reverse-engineer such products to determine important repair details, like whether a specific screw is 1 or 1.1 mm. [...] Wiens envisioned a world where gadgets not only last longer but where you may also build relationships with local businesses to keep your products functioning. He lamented the loss of businesses like local camera and TV repair shops extinguished by vendors no longer supplying parts and tools. [...] He also discussed the idea of giving gadgets second and even third lives: An aged smartphone could become a baby monitor or a smart thermostat. "I think we should be talking about lifespans of smartphones in terms of 20, 25 years," Wiens said. The livestream of the discussion can be viewed here.

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Apple's Headset Said To Feature 14 Cameras Enabling Lifelike Avatars
Citing a report from The Information's Wayne Ma (paywalled), MacRumors reports Apple's long-rumored AR/VR headset is said to feature 14 cameras that enable lifelike avatars with accurate facial expressions. The company is also working with former design chief Jony Ive on the project. From the report: For starters, one of the headset's marquee features is said to be lifelike avatars with accurate facial expressions captured by 14 cameras: "Other challenges, such as incorporating 14 cameras on the headset, have caused headaches for hardware and algorithm engineers. The cameras include those that will track the user's face to ensure virtual avatars accurately represent their expressions and mouth movements, a marquee feature." The report adds that Apple's former design chief Jony Ive has remained involved with the headset project as an external consultant to the company: "One person familiar with the matter said Ive's consulting work for Apple since he left includes the headset, adding that he is often brought in to help his former team push through their preferences in areas such as battery, camera placement and ergonomics over those of engineers. Two people said even after Ive left Apple, some employees on the headset project were still required to make the trek from Cupertino to San Francisco, where Ive has a home, to get his approval on changes. Ive has continued to tweak the headset's design. While earlier prototypes had the battery in the headband, he prefers a design that would tether the headset to a battery the user wears, similar to Magic Leap's headset design. It couldn't be learned if this approach will make it into the final design." The initial version of Apple's headset is said to lack a focus on gaming: "Four people who have worked on the project also criticized its lack of focus on gaming, a category of software that appeals to early adopters, which was important to the success of the iPhone and has been a big priority for Meta's VR group. Those people said Rockwell's group almost never mentioned games in internal presentations about possible uses for the headset. Apple isn't developing game controllers for the device and is aiming to use hand tracking or in combination with a clothespin-like finger clip as inputs for the device, multiple people familiar with the project say." On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Apple executives previewed the upcoming headset to the company's board last week, "indicating that development of the device has reached an advanced stage."

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Electrify America Will Be 100 Percent Solar-Powered By 2023
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: One of the best things about electric cars, other than their power trains, immediate torque, and relaxing quiet, is the fact that as the electrical grid becomes cleaner, so too does every EV that uses that grid to charge. That process took a step forward this week with the news that by next year, the Electrify America (EA) charging network will be entirely offset by solar energy. On Wednesday, EA signed a 15-year agreement with Terra-Gen to purchase electricity from a 75 MW solar farm being built by the latter in San Bernardino County, California. The Electrify America Solar Glow 1 project will break ground later this year, and when it's fully operational in 2023, it should have an annual energy production of 225,000 MWh. That's more than enough to account for the annual energy use of the EA charging network. In fact, EA says that as of April, its electricity is already 100 percent renewable thanks to purchases from various suppliers, but with the commissioning of Solar Glow 1, the charging company should have complete confidence that it's putting more solar energy into the grid than it uses to charge our cars.

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