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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

135-Year-Long Streak Is Over: Renewables Overtake Coal, But Lag Far Behind Oil and Natural Gas
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Forbes: Last week the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported something extraordinary. For the first time in 135 years, last year U.S. consumption of renewables surpassed consumption of coal. There are two interrelated reasons for this: The collapse of coal consumption over the past decade, which was fueled by the rise of cheaper alternatives. I have covered the reasons for coal's collapse previously. The short version is that policies to curb carbon emissions were put in place about the same time the shale boom and renewable power revolutions created cheaper, cleaner alternatives to coal. The graphic above shows the surge in renewables that helped collapse coal demand. This surge is better shown by the following graphic, which highlights the three categories of modern renewables that have driven the consumption surge: Wind power, solar power, and biofuels. The report points out that fossil fuels still dominate our energy consumption. "Last year the U.S. consumed 11.3 quadrillion BTUs (quads) of coal and 11.5 quads of renewables," adds Forbes. "But we also consumed 36.7 quads of petroleum and 32.1 quads of natural gas. Each of these categories of fossil fuel consumption was greater than our combined consumption of renewables and coal, which provides a broader perspective on our energy consumption." "In total, the U.S. consumed 80.5 quads of fossil fuels, 11.5 quads of renewables, and 8.5 quads of nuclear power. Renewables represented 11.4% of U.S. energy consumption in 2019, versus 8.1% a decade ago."

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MIT Builds Robot Hand That Can 'See and Feel' Objects
Robotic hands capable of picking up objects as fragile as a crisp by "sensing" objects have been developed by researchers. The Independent reports: Two new tools built by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) offer a breakthrough in the emerging field of soft robotics -- a new generation of robots that use squishy, flexible materials rather than traditional rigid equipment." These types of soft robots often draw inspiration from living organisms and offer numerous benefits in their versatile functionality. They are able to operate far more delicately than their rigid counterparts, but until now they have lacked the ability to perceive what items they are interacting with. To overcome this, the researchers equipped their robots with various sensors, cameras and software, allowing them to "see and classify" a range of objects. The first robot built of research from MIT and Harvard University in 2019, where a team developed a robotic gripper in the shape of a cone. It worked by collapsing in on an object in a similar way to a Venus flytrap, allowing it to pick up a range of awkwardly shaped objects up to 100-times its weight. By adding tactile sensors, the robot was able to understand what it was picking up and adjust the amount of pressure exerted accordingly. Of the 10 objects used in the experiment, the sensors were able to identify them with an accuracy rate of more than 90 percent. The second robot made use of an innovative "GelFlex" finger, which uses a tendon-driven mechanism and an array of sensors to provide "more nuanced, human-like senses." The team now hopes to fine-tune the sensing algorithms and introduce more complex finger configurations, such as twisting.

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Dutch Restaurant Will Re-Open With Robot Waiters
When Dutch restaurants open tomorrow, one will be using two shiny white-and-red robot waiters, reports the Associated Press:"Hello and welcome," the robots say — in a voice best described as pre-programmed. Their duties will include greeting customers, serving drinks and dishes and returning used glasses and crockery. It's unclear whether diners will be expected to tip. One thing the robots will certainly do is see that social distancing rules are respected. "We will use them to make sure the five feet we need during the corona crisis sticks," Leah Hu said. "I've had negative reactions," she said, "such as saying it makes it impersonal." But it may prove just what customers crave when Dutch restaurants are allowed to reopen Monday as lockdown restrictions are further eased. In a stab at quasi-human panache, one robot wears a chiffon scarf around its neck.... And in the southern Zeeland province, the Hus don't want to hear any complaints about the robots robbing young people of a job. They say it's hard enough anyway to find staff in a rural region without any major city close by... "We are often busy and cleaning tables and the robots give us an extra hand." It also frees up the human staff for some more personal contact. "We are not disappearing. We are still here. They will always need people in this industry," she said.

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Dell's All-AMD Gaming Laptop Hailed as a 'Budget Blockbuster'
AMD "has a potent combination of both CPU and GPU technologies," writes Slashdot reader MojoKid, that "can play well in the laptop market especially, where a tight coupling of the two processing engines can mean both performance and cost efficiencies."One of the first all-AMD laptops to hit the market powered by the company's new Ryzen 4000 mobile processors is the Dell G5 15 SE, it's a 5.5 pound, 14.4-inch machine [with a 15.6-inch display] that sports an understated design for a gaming notebook but with an interesting glittery finish that resists fingerprints well. With a retail price of $1199 (starting at $879), the model tested at HotHardware is powered by an AMD Ryzen 4800H 8-core processor that boosts to 4.2GHz and an AMD Radeon RX 5600M mobile GPU with 6GB of GDDR6 memory... In the benchmarks, AMD's SmartShift technology load-balances CPU and GPU power supply for optimal performance and very respectable numbers that are competitive with any similar Intel/NVIDIA powered machine. The Dell G5 15 SE put up north of 60 FPS frame rates at maximum image quality in current-gen game titles, but with a significantly better price point, relatively speaking. The GPU also has 2,304 stream processors across 36 compute units, and "Overall, we think Dell hit it out of the park with the new G5 15 SE," the review concludes. "This all-AMD budget blockbuster has all of the gaming essentials: a fast processor, a powerful GPU, and a 144 Hz display."

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Western Digital Gets Sued For Sneaking SMR Disks Into Its NAS Channel
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: All three of the surviving conventional hard drive vendors -- Toshiba, Western Digital, and Seagate -- have gotten caught sneaking disks featuring Shingled Magnetic Recording technology into unexpected places recently. But Western Digital has been the most brazen of the three, and it's been singled out for a class action lawsuit in response. Although all three major manufacturers quietly added SMR disks to their desktop hard drive line-up, Western Digital is the only one so far to slip them into its NAS (Network Attached Storage) stack. NAS drives are expected to perform well in RAID and other multiple disk arrays, whether ZFS pools or consumer devices like Synology or Netgear NAS appliances. Hattis Law has initiated a class action lawsuit against Western Digital, accordingly. The lawsuit alleges both that the SMR technology in the newer Western Digital Red drives is inappropriate for the marketed purpose of the drives and that Western Digital deliberately "deceived and harm[ed] consumers" in the course of doing so. Hattis' position is strengthened by a series of tests that website ServeTheHome released yesterday. The results demonstrate that although Western Digital's new 4TB Red "NAS" disk performed adequately as a desktop drive, it was unfit for purpose in a ZFS storage array (zpool).

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Amazon Will No Longer Support the Echo Look, Encourages Owners To Recycle Theirs
"Amazon is discontinuing its Echo Look camera, a standalone device that gave owners fashion advice using artificial intelligence and machine learning," reports The Verge. The gadget raised eyebrows when it was first announced as it included a virtual assistant with a microphone and a camera specifically designed to go somewhere in your bedroom, bathroom, or wherever the hell you get dressed. From the report: The Look's companion app and the device itself will stop functioning on July 24th. Between now and July 24th, 2021, Look users can back up their images and videos by making a free Amazon Photos account. (People with existing Photos accounts will have their media backed up automatically.) Anyone who wants to delete all their existing photos and videos will have to do so before the July 2020 deadline; otherwise, they'll have to call Amazon's customer service to have them deleted. They can currently delete them through the Look app. Amazon points out that much of the Echo Look's functionality is now included in the Amazon Shopping app, including Style by Alexa, which involves the AI offering fashion pointers. The company says people should download the app to keep consulting with Amazon, and they should also recycle their Look through Amazon's program.

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Vulcan Is Closing 'The Living Computers: Museum + Labs' In Seattle
Flexagon writes: Buried in the news of several closures by Vulcan, a venture by the late Paul Allen, is that Seattle's Living Computers museum is among the closures, along with Seattle's Cinerama movie theater. "Two museums under the Vulcan wing, closed because of the pandemic, will also remain shuttered: the Living Computers: Museum + Labs and the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum," reports The Seattle Times. "For both, the Vulcan statement said, the coming months will be a time to evaluate 'if, how and when to reopen.' The Living Computers: Museum + Labs, described on Vulcan's website as 'the world's largest collection of fully restored supercomputers, mainframes, minicomputers and more,' opened in Sodo in 2012 and was expanded in 2016. Its offerings included not only selections from Allen's vast personal collection, but hands-on exhibits on virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, and computer-generated art and music."

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A $350 'Anti-5G' Device Is Just a 128MB USB Stick, Teardown Finds
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Believers of 5G conspiracy theories have apparently been buying a $350 anti-5G USB key that -- not surprisingly -- appears to just be a regular USB stick with only 128MB of storage. As noted by the BBC today, the "5GBioShield" USB stick "was recommended by a member of Glastonbury Town Council's 5G Advisory Committee, which has called for an inquiry into 5G." The company that sells 5GBioShield claims it "is the result of the most advanced technology currently available for balancing and prevention of the devastating effects caused by non-natural electric waves, particularly (but not limited to) 5G, for all biological life forms." The product's website charges 283 British pounds for a single 5GBioShield, which converts to nearly $350. That's what it costs to get "protection for your home and family, thanks to the wearable holographic nano-layer catalyser, which can be worn or placed near to a smartphone or any other electrical, radiation or EMF emitting device." The USB stick apparently doesn't need to be plugged in to anything to work its magic. "It is always ON and working -- that's why we used quantum nano-layer technology," the company says in an FAQ. But what does the 5GBioShield actually consist of? The BBC pointed to a recent teardown by security company Pen Test Partners, which found that the device is just a USB stick with 128MB of storage. The company wrote: "When plugged in to our test machine we may have missed the bubble of 'quantum holographic catalyzer technology' appearing. The stick comes loaded with a 25 page PDF version of the material from 5GBioShield's website. It included a Q&A of distances for the "bubble" and how to know if it is working. It's an "always on" system apparently, is always working, powered or not, so no visual checks needed. A review of the stick's properties revealed nothing more than what you'd expect from a regular 128MB USB key. We weren't even sure that 128s are still in production!" The report says that the London Trading Standards has launched a probe to investigate this product. How will the company defend itself? BioShield Distribution Director Anna Grochowalska told the BBC, "We are in possession of a great deal of technical information, with plenty of back-up historical research," and "we are not authorized to fully disclose all this sensitive information to third parties, for obvious reasons."

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The Most Powerful Raspberry Pi Now Has 8GB of RAM
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has doubled the maximum amount of RAM available in the Raspberry Pi 4 to 8GB with a new device it's selling for $75. An anonymous reader writes: To take advantage of the RAM increase, the foundation is also releasing a new 64-bit version of its operating system in early beta. The new Raspberry Pi 4 is otherwise identical to the device that was announced in June last year, meaning it has the same ARM-based CPU, and HDMI, USB 3, and Ethernet ports. 8GB is a lot of RAM considering the Raspberry Pi's size and price. It's the same as many flagship smartphones released this year, and enough for an entry-level gaming PC. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says the additional memory should be useful for compiling large pieces of software, running heavy server workloads, or maybe just having more browser tabs open at once. We're sure that it won't take long for the community to come up with many interesting uses.

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Looking Glass Starts Shipping Its 8K Holographic Display
Looking Glass is now shipping its 8K holographic display, which utilizes 33.2 million pixels and 45-element light field to provide a 3D effect. TechCrunch reports: The target markets here are medical imaging, mapping, automotive, architecture and engineering. A press release tied to the announcement features a handful of folks in these categories who are excited at what such a technology could mean, going forward. Here's Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri: "Having access to a glasses-free holographic display is a massive breakthrough, and presents an exciting prospect for teams working in immersive computer graphics, visualization and content creation. The Looking Glass holographic display provides a stunning level of realism, and we look forward to seeing the innovations that emerge with the support of Unreal Engine generated content." The company is only offering pricing quotes by request through its site -- which means it's pretty likely to be cost prohibitive for those just looking to augment a remote working setup. As noted in the earlier piece, the company is targeting enterprise users with early applications -- organizations that generally have money to spend on state of the art hardware. More consumer-focused applications, including gaming, could be coming a ways down the road.

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Jack Dorsey Tells Andrew Yang: 'AI is Coming For Programming Jobs'
An anonymous reader quotes CNBC:The rise of artificial intelligence will make even software engineers less sought after. That's because artificial intelligence will soon write its own software, according to Jack Dorsey, the tech billionaire boss of Twitter and Square. And that's going to put some beginning-level software engineers in a tough spot. "We talk a lot about the self-driving trucks in and whatnot" when discussing how automation will replace jobs held by humans, Dorsey told former Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang on an episode of the "Yang Speaks" podcast published Thursday. But A.I. "is even coming for programming" jobs, Dorsey said. "A lot of the goals of machine learning and deep learning is to write the software itself over time so a lot of entry-level programming jobs will just not be as relevant anymore," Dorsey told Yang. Dorsey also told Yang that he belives a Universal Basic Income could give workers "peace of mind" that they'll be able to "eat and feed their children while they are learning how to transition into this new world."

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America Makes a Big Investment In Next-Gen Nuclear Power
America's Department of Energy "has started a new Office of Nuclear Energy projects called the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program" (or ARDP) reports Popular Mechanics: "The $230 million program will give $160 million to scientists working on two reactor designs that 'can be operational' in the very near future."The "Advanced" part of ARDP is an industry term for the generation of reactors we have today... Generation IV — the super advanced reactors? — are in the research phase, but the ARDP statements mention development into the mid 2030s and likely includes generation IV. So the technical difference may be arbitrary, but the advanced reactors are often safer, smaller in overall form factor, and more standardized in order to be easier to install and scale. Most existing power plants are idiosyncratic, built on a case-by-case basis to suit individual communities or use cases. A more uniform process means plants that are easier to secure, support, and regulate. One of the leading projects the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) mentions may sound familiar: "NuScale Power LLC is expected to receive the first small modular reactor design certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission later this year," the NEI reports. NuScale's tiny modular reactor is designed to be deployed for small communities with lower power needs and embodies advanced reactor values. (NuScale received previous funding and is not eligible for this program.)

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As Demand Plummets This Weekend, UK Renewable Energy Projects May Be Asked To Turn Off
"Hundreds of renewable energy projects may be asked to turn off this weekend," reports the Guardian, "to avoid overloading the grid as the UK's electricity demand plummets to record lows."Britain's demand for electricity is forecast to tumble to a fifth below normal levels due to the spring bank holiday and the shutdown of shops, bars and restaurants mandated by the coronavirus lockdown... Meanwhile, the sunny weather is expected to generate more renewable electricity than the UK needs... The National Grid control room plans to use a new scheme this weekend that will pay small wind turbines and solar installations to stop generating electricity if the UK's renewable energy sources threaten to overwhelm the energy system. About 170 small-scale renewable energy generators have signed up to the scheme, with a total capacity of 2.4GW. This includes 1.5GW of wind power and 700MW of solar energy. Other companies have also signed up to boost their electricity use when demand falls too low.

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'Apple Glass' Rumored To Start at $499, Support Prescription Lenses
Front Page Tech host Jon Prosser this week shared several details about Apple's rumored augmented reality glasses, including an "Apple Glass" marketing name, $499 starting price, prescription lens option, and more.The marketing name will be "Apple Glass" According to Prosser, who has established a reliable track record for Apple's product roadmap in recent months, here are some other key details about the Apple Glass:The glasses will start at $499 with the option for prescription lenses at an extra cost.There will be displays in both lenses that can be interacted with using gestures.The glasses will rely on a paired iPhone, similar to the original Apple Watch.An early prototype featured LiDAR and wireless charging.Apple originally planned to unveil the glasses as a "One More Thing" surprise at its iPhone event in the fall, but restrictions on in-person gatherings could push back the announcement to a March 2021 event.Apple is targeting a late 2021 or early 2022 release.

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Sabrent Unveils Record-Breaking 8TB Rocket Q NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 SSD
Sabrent, an LA-headquartered computer vendor, has expanded its Rocket Q family of 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB drives with a new model that offers 8 terabytes of super-fast storage in the same M.2 2280 form-factor by utilizing Micron's 3D QLC NAND technology. The company shares features of the drive below:M.2 PCIe Gen3 x 4 Interface.PCIe 3.1 Compliant / NVMe 1.3 Compliant.Power Management Support for APST / ASPM / L1.2.Supports SMART and TRIM commands. Supports ONFi 2.3, ONFi 3.0, ONFi 3.2 and ONFi 4.0 interface.Advanced Wear Leveling, Bad Block Management, and Over-Provision. No word on pricing.

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