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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Intel Is Patching Its 'Zombieload' CPU Security Flaw For the Third Time
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: For the third time in less than a year, Intel has disclosed a new set of vulnerabilities related to the speculative functionality of its processors. On Monday, the company said it will issue a software update "in the coming weeks" that will fix two more microarchitectural data sampling (MDS) or Zombieload flaws. This latest update comes after the company released two separate patches in May and November of last year. Compared to the MDS flaws Intel addressed in those two previous patches, these latest ones have a couple of limitations. To start, one of the vulnerabilities, L1DES, doesn't work on Intel's more recent chips. Moreover, a hacker can't execute the attack using a web browser. Intel also says it's "not aware" of anyone taking advantage of the flaws outside of the lab. In response to complaints of the company's piecemeal approach, Intel said that it has taken significant steps to reduce the danger the flaws represent to its processors. "Since May 2019, starting with Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS), and then in November with TAA, we and our system software partners have released mitigations that have cumulatively and substantially reduced the overall attack surface for these types of issues," a spokesperson for the company said. "We continue to conduct research in this area -- internally, and in conjunction with the external research community."

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Apple Imagines iMac Built Into Curved Sheet of Glass
Apple applied for a patent for an ambitious design for a new all-in-one computer which integrates both its keyboard and screen into a single curved sheet of glass. The Verge reports: The patent application, which was first spotted by Patently Apple, and which was filed in May last year, describes how the iMac-like computer's "input area" and "display area" could be built into a single continuous surface, while a support structure behind the display could then contain the computer's processing unit, as well as providing space for all the machine's ports. It's a pretty striking design for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the amount of curved glass involved is far more than Apple has ever used in one of its products before. It's also interesting to see that the company is thinking about taking the iMac's all-in-one design even further, by integrating not just the computer and display together, but also a keyboard and touchpad as well (although the application also describes how the keyboard could be detached during use). The patent also describes how one could dock a MacBook into the device and output the screen to the iMac's display, while its keyboard would pass through a hole in the middle of the machine to let you use it as normal. Additionally, "the application suggests that its single sheet of glass could fold down its middle to allow you to pack it away when not in use," reports The Verge.

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GM To Invest $2.2 Billion In First All-Electric Vehicle Plant, Create 2,200 Jobs
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: General Motors confirmed Monday it will invest $2.2 billion to convert an aging Detroit assembly plant into the manufacturing heart of its "all-electric future." The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant was one of five North American factories GM said it would close in November 2018 but the automaker reversed course as part of an aggressive plan to launch more than 20 battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, by 2023. The first to roll out of what is known locally as the "Poletown Plant" will be an all-electric pickup that will reportedly be the subject of an upcoming Super Bowl ad. It is widely expected to bring back the name, "Hummer," used for a brand GM abandoned in 2010 after emerging from bankruptcy. The plant will be capable of using an extremely flexible vehicle "architecture," said GM President Lloyd Reuss, industry-speak for its underlying platform. It will allow the automaker to produce multiple products "for multiple brands, with multiple variants, with multiple customers (offering) different ranges of performance at different price points to meet customers wherever they are." After a news conference at the plant, Reuss told NBC News there will be multiple pickup truck models. The Poletown plant also will have the capacity to produce SUVs and crossovers, he said. What is expected to be called the Hummer pickup will go into production in late 2021. It will be followed in early 2022 by a version of the Cruise Origin, the fully driverless ride-sharing vehicle announced last week by Cruise, GM's autonomous vehicle subsidiary. The $2.2 billion that GM will spend on the plant "is part of a broader investment of $3 billion authorized as part of the contract it negotiated last autumn with the United Auto Workers Union," adds NBC News. That includes a number of other projects, including a plan to set up a factory in Lordstown, Ohio to build batteries.

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Do Emails Contribute to Global Warming?
"Cut back on email if you want to fight global warming," read the headline on a recent article at Bloomberg:[A]ll those messages require energy to preserve them. And despite the tech industry's focus on renewables, the advents of streaming and artificial intelligence are only accelerating the amount of fossil fuels burned to keep data servers up. Right now, data centers consume about 2 percent of the world's electricity, but that is expected to reach 8 percent by 2030. Moreover, only about 6 percent of all data ever created is in active use today, according to research from Hewlett Packard Enterprise. That means 94 percent is sitting in a vast "landfill" with a massive carbon footprint. "It's costing us the equivalent of maintaining the airline industry for data we don't even use," said Andrew Choi, a senior research analyst at Parnassus Investments, a $27 billion environmental, social and governance firm in San Francisco. Kirk Bresniker, chief architect of Hewlett Packard Labs, said these server farms use energy both to retain your data and when you use it... And when you empty the email trash, you probably aren't actually erasing the data. Multiple copies of even decade-old emails are stored on servers around the world, still using energy... Bresniker says the tech industry is "flying blind" when it comes to the true cost of storing data. The picture is clouded by a constant stream of efficiency and memory upgrades, increased renewable power and AI aimed at data-center efficiency. "We don't really understand what the footprint is," he said... The sum of all the world's data in 2018 was 33 zettabytes — 33 trillion gigabytes — but by 2025 it could increase fivefold, to 175 zettabytes, according to International Data Corp. Every day, the world produces about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data... Computing workloads are likely to more than double as more AI comes online, more devices are connected and people do more work in the cloud... Choi says the problem is getting too big, too fast... Training an AI model emits about as much carbon as the lifetime emissions associated with running five cars.

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Some Vendors Are Already Releasing Chipsets That Support 6 GHz Wifi
Long-time Slashdot reader gabebear writes: The FCC hasn't officially cleared 6 GHz for WiFi, but chipsets that support 6 GHz are starting to be released. 6 GHz opens up a several times more bandwidth than what is currently available with WiFi, although it doesn't penetrate walls as well as 2.4 GHz. Celeno has their press release and Broadcom has their press release. Still no news from Intel or Qualcomm on chipsets that support 6 GHz.

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Coming Soon: an Open Source eBook Reader
Electronic component distributor Digi-Key will be producing a small manufacturing run of the "open hardware" ereader from the Open Book Project, reports Gizmodo:The raw hardware isn't as sleek or pretty as devices like the Kindle, but at the same time there's a certain appeal to the exposed circuit board which features brief descriptions of various components, ports, and connections etched right onto the board itself for those looking to tinker or upgrade the hardware. Users are encouraged to design their own enclosures for the Open Book if they prefer, either through 3D-printed cases made of plastic, or rustic wooden enclosures created using laser cutting machines. With a resolution of just 400x300 pixels on its monochromatic E Ink display, text on the Open Book won't look as pretty as it does on the Amazon Kindle Oasis which boasts a resolution of 1,680x1,264 pixels, but it should barely sip power from its built-in lithium-polymer rechargeable battery -- a key benefit of using electronic paper. The open source ereader -- powered by an ARM Cortex M4 processor -- will also include a headphone jack for listening to audio books, a dedicated flash chip for storing language files with specific character sets, and even a microphone that leverages a TensorFlow-trained AI model to intelligently process voice commands so you can quietly mutter "next!" to turn the page instead of reaching for one of the ereader's physical buttons like a neanderthal. It can also be upgraded with additional functionality such as Bluetooth or wifi using Adafruit Feather expansion boards, but the most important feature is simply a microSD card slot allowing users to load whatever electronic text and ebook files they want. They won't have to be limited by what a giant corporation approves for its online book store, or be subject to price-fixing schemes which, for some reason, have still resulted in electronic files costing more than printed books.

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A Man Diagnosed With Wuhan Coronavirus Near Seattle Is Being Treated Largely By a Robot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: The first person diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus in the United States is being treated by a few medical workers and a robot. The robot, equipped with a stethoscope, is helping doctors take the man's vitals and communicate with him through a large screen, said Dr. George Diaz, chief of the infectious disease division at the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. "The nursing staff in the room move the robot around so we can see the patient in the screen, talk to him," Diaz said, adding the use of the robot minimizes exposure of medical staff to the infected man. It's unclear when the patient will be released because the CDC, which is set to provide the discharge details, has recommended additional testing. "They're looking for ongoing presence of the virus," Diaz told CNN on Thursday. "They're looking to see when the patient is no longer contagious."

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36 Years Ago Today, Steve Jobs Unveiled the First Macintosh
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MacRumors: On January 24, 1984, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh at Apple's annual shareholder's meeting in Cupertino, California, debuting the new computer equipped with a 9-inch black and white display, an 8MHz Motorola 68000 processor, 128KB of RAM, a 3.5-inch floppy drive, and a price tag of $2,495. The now iconic machine weighed in at a whopping 17 pounds and was advertised as offering a word processing program, a graphics package, and a mouse. At the time it was introduced, the Macintosh was seen as Apple's last chance to overcome IBM's domination of the personal computer market and remain a major player in the personal computer industry. Despite the high price at the time, which was equivalent to around $6,000 today, the Macintosh sold well, with Apple hitting 70,000 units sold by May 1984. The now iconic "1984" Super Bowl ad that Apple invested in and debuted days before the Macintosh was unveiled may have helped bolster sales.

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Spot the Robot Dog Trots Into the Big, Bad World
Boston Dynamics' creation is starting to sniff out its role in the workforce: as a helpful canine that still sometimes needs you to hold its paw. From a report: This autumn, after years of dropping view-amassing videos of Spot the robot dog fending off stick-wielding humans and opening doors for its pals, Boston Dynamics finally announced that the machine was hitting the market -- for a select few early adopters, at least. BD's people would be the first to tell you that they don't fully know what the hypnotically agile robot will be best at. Things like patrolling job sites, sure. But Spot is so different than robots that have come before it that company execs are, in part, relying on customers to demonstrate how the machine might actually be useful. After a few months on the job, Spot is beginning to show how it'll fit in the workforce. BD's researchers have kept close tabs on the 75 or so Spots now working at places like construction companies and mining outfits. (Oh, and one's with MythBuster Adam Savage for the next year.) They're seeing hints of a new kind of cooperation between humans and machines, and even machines and other machines. Starting today, you can even customize Spot to your liking -- the software development kit is now publicly available on GitHub. The robot is not included, though.

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Lenovo Issues Firmware Update for ThinkPad Laptops Made Between 2017 and 2019 To Fix Various USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 Connection Issues
couchslug writes: Potential hardware damage alert. As reported by Notebookcheck and later posted to a Lenovo support page, the USB-C firmware issue affects more than a dozen ThinkPad models including the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th Gen to 7th Gen), X1 Yoga (2nd Gen to 4th Gen), and P-series ThinkPads. It turns out that a firmware update issued in August 2019 corrupted the software controlling the port. " couchslug adds: Anyone with more information on this expensive problem please post. It's already taken out many system boards. The problem affects enough models that class action suit may be appropriate because failures due to the defect have occurred outside the warranty window. Users on Reddit suggest the situation is even worse. The "critical firmware update" is only a mitigation for the hardware failure -- keeping the machine going until the warranty expires." CNET adds: If your laptop is one of the models affected, Lenovo recommends to immediately update your system with new driver and firmware packages that are designed to resolve any USB-C problem. If the updates don't work out, Lenovo urges ThinkPad owners to reach out to Technical Support.

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Mars Rover Temporarily Froze In Place Following Software Error
UPDATE (1/25/2018): NASA has successfully unfrozen Curiosity, which will now live to rove another day. But here's the original report shared by Iwastheone detailing what the concerns were: NASA reports that Curiosity has suffered a system failure that left the robot unaware of its position and attitude on the red planet. Until it recovers, Curiosity is frozen in place. Mars is far enough away that we can't directly control Curiosity in real-time -- the rover gets batches of commands and then carries them out. That means it needs to have precise awareness of the state of all its joints, as well as environmental details like the location of nearby obstacles and the slope of the ground. This vital information ensures the rover doesn't bump anything with its arm or clip large rocks as it rolls along. Curiosity stores all this attitude data in memory, but something went wrong during operations several days ago. As the rover was carrying out its orders, it suddenly lost track of its orientation. The attitude data didn't add up, so Curiosity froze in place to avoid damaging itself. While the rover is physically stuck in place, it's still in communication with the team here on Earth. Since everything else is working on the rover, NASA was able to develop a set of instructions that should get the rover moving again. When transmitted, the data will inform Curiosity of its attitude and confirm its current state. This should allow the rover to recover and keep performing its safety checks. However, NASA also hopes to gather data on what caused the issue in the first place. The hope is they can avoid another freeze-up in the future.

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Oregon Supreme Court Approves Measure To Limit Self-Checkout Lanes
nickwinlund77 shares a report from Corvallis Gazette-Times: A petition to limit each grocery store to two self-checkout kiosks can move forward to signature gathering for a state ballot measure. On Friday, the Oregon Supreme Court certified the attorney general's description of the proposed measure. Backers need 112,020 signatures to get to voters' ballots in November. Filed in July, Initiative Petition 41 is backed by the Oregon AFL-CIO, a coalition of labor groups representing about 300,000 Oregon workers. "We have been consistently concerned about the impacts of technology and automation on the livelihoods of working people, especially when they have no voice in how technology is used in their workplaces," Graham Trainor, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, said in a statement. "You can see expansion of self-checkout machines in stores across the country and in Oregon." He said jobs are lost as a result. The AFL-CIO contends self-checkout kiosks make customers feel socially isolated, particularly elderly people, and that the kiosks let stores rely more on part-time workers and leaves workers "feeling devalued." They also claim self-checkout stands make it easier for minors to buy alcohol and for people to steal from stores. The measure would give the state Bureau of Labor and Industries enforcement power and let it issue penalties for stores that provide too many self-service stations. "Today's customer wants convenience and less hassle when shopping," said Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association, an industry group. "This is evident in the growth of online shopping for local pick-up and home delivery. This measure is tone deaf to what the public is demanding in the marketplace." He said that self-checkout lets customers check out more quickly and privately. He said presuming that self-checkout machines would replace workers is "simply untrue."

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Germany Rejected Nuclear Power -- and Deadly Emissions Spiked
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: On New Year's Eve, while the rest of the world was preparing to ring in a new decade, employees of the German energy company EnBW were getting ready to pull the plug on one of the country's few remaining nuclear power plants. The license to operate the two reactors at the Philippsburg nuclear facility expired at midnight after 35 years of providing carbon-free power to Germans living along the country's southwestern border. The Philippsburg plant was the eleventh nuclear facility decommissioned in Germany over the last decade. The country's remaining six nuclear plants will go dark by 2022. To uncover the hidden costs of denuclearizing Germany, economists used machine learning to analyze reams of data gathered between 2011 and 2017. The researchers, based at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and Carnegie Mellon University, found that nuclear power was mostly replaced with power from coal plants, which led to the release of an additional 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or about a 5 percent increase in emissions. More distressingly, the researchers estimated that burning more coal led to local increases in particle pollution and sulfur dioxide and likely killed an additional 1,100 people per year from respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses. "Altogether, the researchers calculated that the increased carbon emissions and deaths caused by local air pollution amounted to a social cost of about $12 billion per year," the report says. "The study found that this dwarfs the cost of keeping nuclear power plants online by billions of dollars, even when the risks of a meltdown and the cost of nuclear waste storage are considered."

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Apple Fights EU Call For Common Smartphone Charger, Claiming Consumer Harm
Apple on Thursday pushed back against EU lawmakers' call for a common charger, warning the move could hamper innovation, create a mountain of electronic waste and irk consumers. From a report: Apple's comments came a week after lawmakers at the European Parliament called for a common charger for all mobile phones and amended a draft law to say the ability to work with common chargers would be an essential requirement for radio equipment in the bloc. A move to a common charger would affect Apple more than any other company as its iPhones and most of its products are powered by its Lightning cable, whereas Android devices are powered by USB-C connectors. "We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole," Apple said in a statement.

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How Dual-Screen Apps Will Run On Windows 10X, Android
Microsoft has published a blog post detailing exactly how it imagines dual-screen apps will run on devices like the Surface Duo and Surface Neo -- two foldable devices unveiled back on October that run Android and Windows 10X, respectively. The Verge reports: By default, an app will occupy a single screen according to Microsoft. Surface Duo or Surface Neo users can then span the app across both displays when they're in double-portrait or double-landscape layout. Microsoft envisions that app developers will experiment with different ways to utilize both screens. Some of these include simply using both screens as an extended canvas, having two pages of a document shown at once, using the second display as a companion or dual view of something, or having a master part of the app on one display and details on the second. These are "initial app pattern ideas," according to Microsoft, and the company could well extend them based on developer feedback in the coming months. Microsoft is also releasing an Android emulator for the Surface Duo today to allow devs to test mobile apps. A Windows 10X emulator for the Surface Neo will arrive next month at around the same time that Microsoft plans to detail more of its dual-screen plans during a developer webcast. Microsoft's Android emulator will naturally support Android apps, and the Windows 10X version will include support for native Windows APIs to let developers detect hinge positions and optimize their win32 or Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps for these new devices. Microsoft is also proposing new web standards for dual-screen layouts, and is "actively incubating new capabilities that enable web content to provide a great experience on dual-screen devices."

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