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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

iFixit's Galaxy Fold Teardown Reveals Its Biggest Design Flaw
An anonymous reader shares a report: Following up on its post speculating on the possible causes of the various screen breakages we've seen on review units, iFixit's teardown analysis seems to reveal a fundamental design tradeoff Samsung had to make -- one that may have doomed the phone. It seems as though Samsung focused quite a bit on ensuring the mechanics of the hinge would be a sturdy and dependable mechanism for folding and unfolding a screen. Yet for whatever reason, the Galaxy Fold does not have enough protection against the ingress of debris. And because that screen is so incredibly delicate (as any OLED is if it's not protected by something like Gorilla Glass), that was a significant risk. We still can't know the full reasoning behind Samsung's decision to delay the launch of the phone, but this debris/bulge problem feels much more fundamental than the fact that the protective layer on the top looks like a screen protector that should be peeled off (but, again, should not be as that breaks the screen as well). The bulk of the rest of the reviewers who had broken screens tried to remove that layer -- a natural inclination since the review unit packaging didn't have any warning on it.

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Scientists Develop Self-Propelling Phoenix Aircraft That Inhales Air
dryriver writes: The BBC reports on a 50ft long and only 120kg heavy blimp-like UAV aircraft that is designed to fly at 70,000 feet, is entirely solar powered, uses variable-buoyancy for propulsion, and can essentially stay airborne in a self-powered way until it experiences mechanical or electrical failure. The Phoenix varies its buoyancy continuously using a helium-filled fuselage that also has an interior air sack that works a bit like a lung. It can inhale air and compress it on demand, making the aircraft temporarily heavier than air, and expel the inhaled air through a nozzle at the back of the aircraft, making the aircraft lighter than air again, creating some extra forward propulsion in the process. The Phoenix -- which is a simple, cheap-to-build aircraft that its designers describe as "almost a disposable aircraft" -- could one day act as a satellite replacement flying at 70,000 feet. It may also be used for surveillance purposes or to release micro-satellites into earth orbit. The Phoenix has already completed short test-flights of 120m inside the hangar it was built in. This YouTube video shows just how gently the Phoenix rises into the air, hovers in place, and lands again. Unlike drones that need to land, refuel and then take to the skies again, the Phoenix may stay in the air for very long periods of time, landing only for periodic maintenance of its electrical and mechanical components.

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NVIDIA Launches GeForce GTX 16 Series Turing Gaming Laptop GPUs
MojoKid writes: NVIDIA has launched a new family of more budget friendly Turing graphics chips for gaming laptops, called the GeForce GTX 1650, GeForce GTX 1660, and GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. The new GPUs will power roughly 80 different OEM mainstream gaming notebook designs, starting in the $799 price range. Compared to a 4-year-old gaming laptop with a GeForce GTX 960M, NVIDIA says that a modern counterpart equipped with a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti can deliver 4x the performance in today's battle royale-style games like Apex Legends, Fortnite, and PUBG. As for the GeForce GTX 1650, NVIDIA is promising a 2.5x performance advantage compared to the GTX 950M and a 1.7x advantage compared to the previous generation GTX 1050. Gamers should expect consistent 60 fps performance in the above-mentioned gaming titles at 1080p, though the company didn't specifically mention GTX 1660 vs 1060 performance comparisons. According to NVIDIA, every major OEM will be releasing GeForce GTX 16 Series laptops, including well-known brands like ASUS, Dell/Alienware, Acer, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo (among others).

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Intel's 9th-Gen Mobile Core Chips Aim For the High End, Rocking 8 Cores at Up To 5GHz Speeds
Intel debuted six new 9th-gen mobile H-series Core chips on Tuesday -- with its fastest, the Core i9-9980HK, soaring to a new high-water mark: 8 cores, 16 threads, and a whopping 5GHz clock speed, after boost. From a report: After launching its 9th-generation Core chips for desktop PCs last October, Intel has now brought that same capability to notebooks. Intel executives said systems based upon the 9th-gen chips are expected to debut shortly. All the chips are based on the "Coffee Lake Refresh" (Coffee Lake-R) architecture, and all are fabricated on a 14nm process. Last year's 8th-gen mobile Core chips topped out at 4.8GHz, and offered only 6 cores. Though theoretically anyone can benefit from the increased performance, Intel is aiming at two particular segments: professional content creators and gamers. Intel said it expects its 9th-gen Core i9-9980HK (8 cores/16 threads, 2.4GHz/5GHz turbo) to deliver up to 18 percent higher frames per second in games and 28 percent faster 4K video editing than the 8th-gen Core i9-8950HK (6 cores/12 threads, 2.9GHz/4.8GHz turbo). When performing general office tasks and web browsing, the chips can run in a low-power mode, with an "aspirational goal" of ten hours of battery life, or just an hour while gaming, executives said. Price, performance, and power are the old battlefronts, though. Further reading: All the Desktop and Mobile 45W CPUs Announced (AnandTech).

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Tesla Investigates After Parked Model S Appears To Explode In China
"CNN reports on CCTV footage from China showing a parked Model S bursting violently into flames," writes Slashdot reader dryriver. From the report: Tesla is investigating after one of its vehicles appeared to explode in China. A short video of surveillance footage posted on Chinese social media site Weibo (WB) showed white smoke emerging from what looks like a white Tesla car parked at a lot in Shanghai. After a few seconds, the electric vehicle bursts into flames and the clip ends soon afterward. The video, which was filmed just after 8:15 pm local time on April 21, appears to show a Tesla Model S sedan. It was posted on Chinese social media a couple of hours later and has since been shared widely. The clip attracted a mix of derision and outrage on Weibo. "Us car owners demand an explanation," wrote user Miao Hongyang. "Jeopardizing our safety in a moment's instant and the fact it ignited so quickly is something we will not tolerate." Another Weibo user registered under the name Your Dad, added: "One thing I've learned from this incident: from now on, don't ever park next to a Tesla.'"

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Samsung's Galaxy Fold Smartphone Release Delayed
Samsung Electronics is delaying the expected Friday rollout of its Galaxy Fold smartphone [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source] until at least next month, WSJ reported Monday citing people familiar with the matter, the latest fallout from a product headache that began with tech reviewers reporting their test devices had malfunctioned. From the report: The Galaxy Fold phone -- priced at nearly $2,000 and the industry's first mainstream foldable-screen device -- was slated to hit shelves this week in the U.S. But problems with phones being used by reviewers have changed those plans, the people said. The new rollout is expected in the coming weeks, though a firm date has yet to be determined, they said. Though the company's internal investigation remains ongoing, the Galaxy Fold phone's reported issues stem from problems affecting the handset's hinge and extra pressure applied to the internal screen, the people said. A Samsung spokeswoman didn't have immediate comment. The company had previously said it would adhere to its plans for the Galaxy Fold phones to hit shelves on April 26 in the U.S. The delayed launch came hours after Samsung abruptly scrapped prerelease media events planned for Hong Kong on Tuesday and Shanghai on Wednesday.

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Are We Sacrificing Too Much For Automation?
Fast Company shares an essay from an anthropologist who researches human agency, algorithms, AI, and automation in the context of social systems:With the advent of computational tools for quantitative measurement and metrics, and the development of machine learning based on the big data developed by those metrics, organizations, Amazon among them, started to transition through a period of what I refer to as "extreme data analysis," whereby anything and anyone that can be measured, is. This is a problem. Using counting, metrics, and implementation of outcomes from extreme data analysis to inform policies for humans is a threat to our well-being, and results in the stories we are hearing about in the warehouse, and in other areas of our lives, where humans are too often forfeiting their agency to algorithms and machines. Unfortunately, after decades of building this quantitative scaffolding, a company such as Amazon has pretty much baked it into their infrastructure and their culture.... As the world continues to automate things, processes, and services, humans are put in positions where we must constantly adapt, since at the moment, automation cannot, and does not, cooperate with us outside of its pre-programmed repertoire. Thus, in many instances we must do the yielding of our agency and our choices, to the algorithms or robots, to reach the cooperative outcomes we require.... If every process is eventually automated and restricts human agency, while simultaneously requiring our servitude to function, we will be pinned to the wall with no choices, nothing left to give, and no alternatives for coping with it. One example provided was the Amazon worker who complained the warehouse temperatures were always kept too hot -- to accommodate the needs of Amazon's robots. But the article argues we also forfeit agency "Every time we use a computer, or any computationally based device... "We do this by sitting or standing to use a keyboard, by typing, clicking, scrolling, checking boxes, pulling down menus, and filling in data in a way that the machine can understand."

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Bluecherry Open Sources Its Entire Linux Surveillance Server
"Big changes are here," writes the official blog for Bluecherry:In 2010 we released our multi-port MPEG4 video capture card with an open source driver (solo6x10) and in 2011 updated the driver to support our multi-port H.264 capture cards. Later, this open source driver was later added into the mainline Linux kernel. In 2013 we released our multi-platform surveillance application client with an open source (GPL) license. We are proud to announce that Effective April 18, 2019 we have released the entire Bluecherry software application open source with a GPL license. An anonymous reader writes: This includes the Linux based server application and the Windows / Linux / OS X client. Bluecherry's GitHub repo is now open for public viewing.

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'Pi VizuWall' Is a Beowulf Cluster Built With Raspberry Pi's
Why would someone build their own Beowulf cluster -- a high-performance parallel computing prototype -- using 12 Raspberry Pi boards? It's using the standard Beowulf cluster architecture found in about 88% of the world's largest parallel computing systems, with an MPI (Message Passing Interface) system that distributes the load over all the nodes. Matt Trask, a long-time computer engineer now completing his undergraduate degree at Florida Atlantic University, explains how it grew out of his work on "virtual mainframes":In the world of parallel supercomputers (branded 'high-performance computing', or HPC), system manufacturers are motivated to sell their HPC products to industry, but industry has pushed back due to what they call the "Ninja Gap". MPI programming is hard. It is usually not learned until the programmer is in grad school at the earliest, and given that it takes a couple of years to achieve mastery of any particular discipline, most of the proficient MPI programmers are PhDs. And this, is the Ninja Gap -- industry understands that the academic system cannot and will not be able to generate enough 'ninjas' to meet the needs of industry if industry were to adopt HPC technology. As part of my research into parallel computing systems, I have studied the process of learning to program with MPI and have found that almost all current practitioners are self-taught, coming from disciplines other than computer science. Actual undergraduate CS programs rarely offer MPI programming. Thus my motivation for building a low-cost cluster system with Raspberry Pis, in order to drive down the entry-level costs. This parallel computing system, with a cost of under $1000, could be deployed at any college or community college rather than just at elite research institutions, as is done [for parallel computing systems] today. The system is entirely open source, using only standard Raspberry Pi 3B+ boards and Raspbian Linux. The version of MPI that is used is called MPICH, another open-source technology that is readily available. But there's an added visual flourish, explains long-time Slashdot reader iamacat. "To visualize computing, each node is equipped with a servo motor to position itself according to its current load -- lying flat when fully idle, standing up 90 degrees when fully utilized." Its data comes from the /proc filesystem, and the necessary hinges for this prototype were all generated with a 3D printer. "The first lesson is to use CNC'd aluminum for the motor housings instead of 3D-printed plastic," writes Trask. "We've seen some minor distortion of the printed plastic from the heat generated in the servos."

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Robot News Presenter Causes a Stir On Russian TV
Russia state news channel Rossiya 24 has introduced a robot presenter for some of its bulletins. The BBC reports that the robot, named Alex, "has already caused a stir, with some viewers complaining about his appearance and accusing him of peddling political propaganda." From the report: The robot was developed by Promobot in the city of Perm. His silicon head is modeled on the face of the company's co-founder Alexei Yuzhakov. At the moment, the robot anchor can only move his facial features and neck. However, the final robot will have fully mobile limbs as well. Production of the robot began in 2017 and should be fully complete later this year, according to Promobot. It said Alex had cost more than one million roubles ($15,600) to develop and that it had received orders for 12 more humanoids. Rossiya 24 said its newest presenter was of Russian origin with "software and almost all of its components produced inside the country." Alex has delivered a number of bulletins for the channel, presenting news items about agriculture, a nuclear technology forum and micro-finance. Most observers think on-air Alex is a temporary stunt to inject some fun and promote innovative Russian technology in TV news.

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Should Vendors Start Adding Physical On/Off Switches To Devices That Can Spy On Us?
Larry Sanger, American internet project developer and co-founder of Wikipedia, argues in a blog post that vendors must start adding physical on/off switches to webcams, smartphone cameras/mics, and other devices that spy on us. He writes: Have you ever noticed that your webcam doesn't have an "off" switch? I looked on Amazon, and I couldn't find any webcams for sale that had a simple on/off switch. When I thought I found one, but it turned out just to have a light that turns on when the camera is in use, and off when not -- not a physical switch you can press or slide. The "clever" solution is supposed to be webcam covers (something Mark Zuckerberg had a hand in popularizing); you can even get a webcam (or a laptop) with such a cover built in. How convenient! I've used tape, which works fine. But a cover doesn't cover up the microphone, which could be turned on without your knowledge.[...]It's almost as if the vendors of common, must-have devices want to make it possible to spy on us. An enterprising journalist should ask why they don't make such switches. They certainly have deliberately made it hard for us to stop being spied upon -- even though we're their customers. Think about that. We're their bread and butter, and we're increasingly and rightly concerned about our security. Yet they keep selling us these insecure devices. That's just weird, isn't it? What the hell is going on? [...] If your webcam, or your phone, or any other device with an Internet-connected camera or microphone (think about how many you own) has ever been hacked, these [hardware vendors like Logitech and Apple and large software vendors like Skype and Snapchat] are partly to blame if it was always-on by design. They have a duty to worry about how their products make their users less secure. They haven't been doing this duty. Sanger goes on to urge consumers to care more about our privacy and security, and demand that vendors give us an off switch. "I think we consumers should demand that webcams, smart phones, smart speakers, and laptop cameras and microphones -- and any other devices with cameras and microphones that are connected to the Internet -- be built with hardware 'off' switches that make it impossible for the camera and microphone to be operated," writes Sanger. Do you agree?

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HDD Shipments Fell Nearly 13% in the First Quarter of 2019, 18% Since Last Year
Suren Enfiajyan writes: HDD shipments are continuing to decline. This is about all major HDD vendors with WDC with the most decline yearly -- 26.1% against 11.3% (Toshiba) and 14.4% (Seagate). Desktop HDD shipments are said to have fallen to just 24.5 million units, a drop of nearly 4 million units from the previous quarter. Laptop HDD shipments dropped more than 6 million units to hit the 37 million mark. Enterprise HDDs are said to have rebounded by nearly 1 million units, however, to around 11.5 million hard drives purchased in the quarter. Business customers essentially picked up the slack left by consumers. These shipments were likely affected by many factors. But there's also the simple fact that most people want SSDs instead of HDDs for most of their devices. Nobody wants to wait for their system to boot, their files to load, or their apps to finish routine tasks.

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The Dirty Truth About Green Batteries
If we're going to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we'll need an energy revolution. But there's a big problem. Making that future a reality will, among other things, require a lot of batteries: batteries to charge our electric cars; batteries to store solar power collected while the sun's up and wind power harnessed when it's gusty out. And as a new report by researchers at the University of Technology Sydney warns, that's likely to drive demand for the metals used to build green batteries -- as well as wind turbines and solar panels -- through the roof. From a report: In other words the clean tech boom is, at least in the short term, likely to fuel a mining boom. And that won['t come without cost. "We already know about the environmental, social, and human rights impacts extraction is posing to front line communities right now," Payal Sampat, mining program director at Earthworks, which commissioned the new report, told Earther. "It's kind of unimaginable to think about... how it would be considered sustainable to scale up those impacts that many fold and still be reaping benefits." Much like our smartphones and computers, the high-tech energy infrastructure of tomorrow requires a host of metals and minerals from across the periodic table and the planet. The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs and energy storage require not just lithium, but often cobalt, manganese, and nickel. Electric vehicle engines rely on rare earths, as do the permanent magnet-based generators inside some wind turbines. Solar panels gobbles up a significant share of the world's supply of tellurium, and gallium, along with a sizable fraction of mined silver and indium. Most renewable technologies demand heaps of copper and aluminum.

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Student Used 'USB Killer' Device To Destroy $58,000 Worth of College Computers
A former student of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, has pled guilty to charges that he destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of campus computers using a USB device designed to instantly overwhelm and fry their circuitry. The plea was announced today by the Department of Justice, FBI, and Albany Police Department. The Verge reports: Vishwanath Akuthota, the former student, now faces up to 10 years in prison (with up to three years of supervision after release) and a fine totaling up to $250,000. He was arrested and taken into custody in North Carolina on February 22nd, just over a week after he went on a spree of inserting the "USB Killer" device into 66 of Saint Rose's computers around various locations on campus. Such devices can be easily and freely purchased online and can overload the surge protection in many PCs. Akuthota, 27, apparently made video recordings of himself inserting the malicious USB device into the computers and said "I'm going to kill this guy" as the PCs were overloaded and permanently ruined. So it's fair to say the FBI and APD had all the evidence they needed. In total, Akuthota caused $58,471 worth of damage. As part of his guilty plea, he has agreed to pay back that amount to the college, a small private school in New York's capital city. The Verge reached out to The College of Saint Rose for a statement on today's news, but a spokesperson said the college had been asked by law enforcement to refrain from commenting.

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HD Emulation Mod Makes 'Mode 7' SNES Games Look Like New
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Gamers of a certain age probably remember being wowed by the quick, smooth scaling and rotation effects of the Super Nintendo's much-ballyhooed "Mode 7" graphics. Looking back, though, those gamers might also notice how chunky and pixelated those background transformations could end up looking, especially when viewed on today's high-end screens. Emulation to the rescue. A modder going by the handle DerKoun has released an "HD Mode 7" patch for the accuracy-focused SNES emulator bsnes. In their own words, the patch "performs Mode 7 transformations... at up to 4 times the horizontal and vertical resolution" of the original hardware. The results, as you can see in the above gallery and the below YouTube video, are practically miraculous. Pieces of Mode 7 maps that used to be boxy smears of color far in the distance are now sharp, straight lines with distinct borders and distinguishable features. It's like looking at a brand-new game. Perhaps the most impressive thing about these effects is that they take place on original SNES ROM and graphics files; DerKoun has said that "no artwork has been modified" in the games since the project was just a proof of concept a month ago. That makes this project different from upscaling emulation efforts for the N64 and other retro consoles, which often require hand-drawn HD texture packs to make old art look good at higher resolutions.

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