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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

San Francisco Halts 'Killer Robots' Police Policy Following Backlash
San Francisco Chronicle: San Francisco supervisors have walked back their approval of a controversial policy that would have allowed police to kill suspects with robots in extreme cases. Instead of granting final authorization to the policy Tuesday in its second of two required votes, the Board of Supervisors reversed course and voted 8-3 to explicitly prohibit police from using remote-controlled robots with lethal force. It was a rare step: The board's second votes on local laws are typically formalities that don't change anything. But the board's initial 8-3 approval of the deadly robot policy last week sparked a wave of public outcry from community members and progressive supervisors who threatened to go to the ballot if their colleagues did not change their minds on Tuesday. After approving a new version of the police policy that bans officers from using robots to kill dangerous suspects such as mass shooters and suicide bombers, supervisors separately sent the original deadly robot provision of the policy back for further review. The board's Rules Committee may now choose to refine that provision -- placing tighter limits on when police can use bomb-bearing robots with deadly force -- or abandon it entirely, leaving in place the prohibition passed Tuesday. Supervisors are expected to take a final vote on the new version of the policy that bans deadly robots -- for now, at least -- next week.

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Renewables Will Overtake Coal by Early 2025, Energy Agency Says
Elena Shao reports via the New York Times: Worldwide, growth in renewable power capacity is set to double by 2027, adding as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the past two decades, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday. Renewables are posed to overtake coal as the largest source of electricity generation by early 2025, the report found, a pattern driven in large part by the global energy crisis linked to the war in Ukraine. "This is a clear example of how the current energy crisis can be a historic turning point toward a cleaner and more secure energy system," said Fatih Birol, the I.E.A. executive director, in a news release. The expansion of renewable power in the next five years will happen much faster than what the agency forecast just a year ago in its last annual report, said Heymi Bahar, a senior analyst at the I.E.A. and one of the lead authors of the report. The report revised last year's forecast of renewable growth upward by 30 percent after the introduction of new policies by some of the world's largest emitters, like the European Union, the United States and China. While there has been a wartime resurgence in fossil fuel consumption as European countries have scrambled to replace gas from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine in February, the effects are likely to be short-lived, the agency said. [...] Instead, over the next five years, the global energy crisis is expected to accelerate renewable energy growth as countries embrace low-emissions technology in response to soaring fossil fuel prices, including wind turbines, solar panels, nuclear power plants, hydrogen fuels, electric vehicles and electric heat pumps. Heating and cooling buildings with renewable power is one of the sectors that needs to see larger improvement, the report said. The United States passed the Inflation Reduction Act this year, a landmark climate and tax law that, among many investments to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, made an "unforeseen" expansion in long-term tax credits for solar and wind projects extending through 2032, Mr. Bahar said. Previously, these tax credits had been revised a few years at a time. Extending the credits until 2032 provides better certainty for investors, which is important in the energy industry, Mr. Bahar said. China alone is forecast to install almost half of the new global renewable power capacity over the next five years, based on targets set in the country's new five-year plan. Even still, the country is accelerating coal mining and production at coal-burning power plants.

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AMD Says Transistor Tech Will Keep Moore's Law Alive For 6 To 8 Years
Chipmaker AMD has hinted that new transistor technology will keep Moore's Law alive for the next six to eight years, but as one might guess, it will cost more. From a report: Meanwhile, the company still plans to market new chips based on its Zen 4 architecture next year, including Bergamo, which is intended to compete against Arm-based chips for cloud-native computing. In an interview with Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers at the financial outfit's TMT Summit, AMD CTO Mark Papermaster talked about future directions and the company's near-term roadmap. Rakers asked about the Zen family and its chiplet-based architecture versus the monolithic architecture seen with Intel's CPUs, and whether this would continue to serve AMD for the next four to five years, or whether another novel approach might be needed. "Innovation always finds its way around barriers," Papermaster said. "I can see exciting new transistor technology for the next -- as far as you can really plot these things out -- about six to eight years, and it's very, very clear to me the advances that we're going to make to keep improving the transistor technology, but they're more expensive," he said. In the past, chipmakers like AMD and Intel could double the transistor density every 18 to 24 months and stay within the same cost envelope, but that is not the case anymore, Papermaster claimed. "So, we're going to have innovations in transistor technology. We're going to have more density. We're going to have lower power, but it's going to cost more. So how you put solutions together has to change," he said.

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'Germans Have Seen the Future, and It's a Heat Pump'
Facing higher prices for natural gas, Germans are now embracing climate-friendly heat pumps, reports the New York Times. "So much so that heat pumps are often sold out, and the wait for a qualified installer can last months."The German government is among the fans. "This is the technology of the future," Robert Habeck, the minister for the economy, told reporters last month while announcing a government plan to promote heat pumps. "To achieve our goals, we want to get to six million customers by 2030," Mr. Habeck said.... The cost for the electricity needed to power a heat pump is about 35 percent cheaper than natural gas, according to Verivox, a company that compares energy prices for German consumers. The savings are even greater for those who can run their heat pumps off solar panels.... Sales of heat pumps in Germany have more than doubled in the past two years, especially as the price of gas has soared.... To encourage people to make the change, the government is offering subsidies that can cover up to a quarter of the upfront price of a unit, along with subsidies for other energy-efficiency improvements up to a total of €60,000. Germany lags far behind its European neighbors, where imported natural gas was not as affordable or abundant. Residents of Finland and Norway, which rely more on electricity, have 10 times the number of heat pumps as do Germans, according to Agora Energiewende, a policy institute in Berlin. Even the Netherlands, which sits on its own wealth of natural gas but made a push for the more climate-friendly machines several years ago, has double the number of the units that Germany has.

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Becoming America's #2 Seller of Electric Vehicles, Ford Passes Kia in November
CNBC reports:Ford Motor said Friday that it has achieved CEO Jim Farley's goal of becoming the second best-selling automaker of electric vehicles in the U.S. The Detroit automaker, citing third-party industry data, narrowly topped Hyundai/Kia to hit the goal.... Ford said its share of the electric vehicle segment was 7.4% through November, up from 5.7% a year earlier. Ford reported sales of 53,752 all-electric vehicles in the U.S. through November. Tesla, which does not break out domestic results, reported global deliveries of more than 908,000 EVs through the third quarter. Hyundai's sales do not include the Nexo hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The company says with that vehicle, it slightly outsold Ford in battery- and fuel cell-powered vehicles of 54,043 units through November. The sales come after the South Korean automaker lost incentives that gave buyers of its EVs tax credits of up to $7,500 under the Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act, which took effect in August. Vehicles such as Ford's EVs that are produced in North America still qualify for the credit. The article notes that General Motors — America's second-largest automaker — also "plans to significantly step up EV production in the coming years." Although so far, through the third quarter of this year, "it reported sales of less than 23,000 EVs."

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Huawei Teases a Smartwatch With Built-In Wireless Earbuds
Huawei has confirmed the existence of a smartwatch it's working on featuring a pair of built-in wireless earbuds. "Huawei's account on Chinese Twitter-like site Weibo announced the existence of the device on Wednesday and promised all would be revealed on December 2," reports The Register. "But Huawei has since postponed its Winter 2022 consumer kit launch for unexplained reasons." You can view a teaser video on YouTube. The Verge adds: As the name suggests, the Huawei Watch Buds are a pair of earbuds concealed within a smartwatch that looks similar to the Huawei Watch 3. Details are a little sparse so there's no word yet on what kind of performance or battery life you can expect from either of the products, but the watch itself does appear to be running HarmonyOS. The earbuds don't seem to resemble any previous Huawei products, sporting a bare-bones black and silver design. While the concept feels more than a little gimmicky, it could be a neat solution for runners and other sporty folks who don't want to carry a separate earbud case during a workout. (If they don't mind the extra bulk on their wrists.) [...] Addressing the elephant in the room, it's unlikely that you'll be able to buy this wacky gadget in the US anyway, regardless of its legitimacy. Huawei products have been effectively banned in the country since the company was placed on the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security Entity list in 2019.

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PCI Standards Group Deflects, Assigns Blame for Melting GPU Power Connectors
An anonymous reader shares a report: Nvidia's new RTX 4090 and 4080 GPUs both use a new connector called 12VHPWR to deliver power as a way to satisfy ever-more power-hungry graphics cards without needing to set aside the physical space required for three or four 8-pin power connectors. But that power connector and its specifications weren't created by Nvidia alone -- to ensure interoperability, the spec was developed jointly by the PCI Express Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG), a body that includes Nvidia, AMD, Intel, Arm, IBM, Qualcomm, and others. But the overheating and melting issues experienced by some RTX 4090 owners recently have apparently prompted the PCI-SIG to clarify exactly which parts of the spec it is and is not responsible for. In a statement reported by Tom's Hardware, the group sent its members a reminder that they, not the PCI-SIG, were responsible for safety testing products using connector specs like 12VHPWR. "Members are reminded that PCI-SIG specifications provide necessary technical information for interoperability and do not attempt to address proper design, manufacturing methods, materials, safety testing, safety tolerances, or workmanship," the statement reads. "When implementing a PCI-SIG specification, Members are responsible for the design, manufacturing, and testing, including safety testing, of their products."

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Government Scientists 'Approaching What is Required for Fusion' in Breakthrough Energy Research
Scientists hoping to harness nuclear fusion -- the same energy source that powers the Sun and other stars -- have confirmed that magnetic fields can enhance the energy output of their experiments, reports a new study. The results suggest that magnets may play a key role in the development of this futuristic form of power, which could theoretically provide a virtually limitless supply of clean energy. Motherboard reports: Fusion power is generated by the immense energy released as atoms in extreme environments merge together to create new configurations. The Sun, and all the stars in the night sky, are fueled by this explosive process, which occurs in their cores at incredibly high temperatures and pressures. Scientists have spent roughly a century unraveling the mechanics of nuclear fusion in nature, and trying to artificially replicate this starry mojo in laboratories. Now, a team at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), which is a fusion experiment based at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has reported that the magnetic fields can boost the temperature of the fusion "hot spot" in experiments by 40 percent and more than triple its energy output, which is "approaching what is required for fusion ignition" according to a study published this month in Physical Review Letters. "The magnetic field comes in and acts kind of like an insulator," said John Moody, a senior scientist at the NIF who led the study, in a call with Motherboard. "You have what we call the hot spot. It's millions of degrees, and around it is just room temperature. All that heat wants to flow out because heat always goes from the hot to the cold and the magnetic field prevents that from happening." "When we go in and we put the magnetic field on this hotspot, and we insulate it, now that heat stays in there, and so we're able to get the hot spot to a higher temperature," he continued. "You get more [fusion] reactions as you go up in temperature, and that's why we see this improvement in the reactivity." The hot spots in the NIF's fusion experiments are created by shooting nearly 200 lasers at a tiny pellet of fuel made of heavier isotopes (or versions) of hydrogen, such as deuterium and tritium. These laser blasts generate X-rays that make the small capsule implode, producing the kinds of extreme pressures and temperatures that are necessary for the isotopes to fuse together and release their enormous stores of energy. NIF has already brought their experiments to the brink of ignition, which is the point at which fusion reactions become self-sustaining in plasmas. The energy yields created by these experiments are completely outweighed by the energy that it takes to make these self-sustaining reactions in the plasmas in the first place. Still, achieving ignition is an important step toward creating a possible "breakeven" system that produces more energy output than input. Moody and his colleagues developed their magnetized experiment at NIF by wrapping a coil around a version of the pellet made with specialized metals.

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San Francisco Supervisors Vote To Allow Police To Use Robots To Kill
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 Tuesday night to approve a controversial policy that would allow police to deploy robots capable of using lethal force in extraordinary circumstances, according to multiple reports. From a report: The Washington Post reports the vote came after a heated debate on a policy that would allow officers to use ground-based robots to kill "when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and officers cannot subdue the threat after using alternative force options or de-escalation tactics." The Post says the measure still requires a second vote next week and the mayor's approval. "There could be an extraordinary circumstance where, in a virtually unimaginable emergency, they might want to deploy lethal force to render, in some horrific situation, somebody from being able to cause further harm," Supervisor Aaron Peskin said at the board meeting, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But Supervisors Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen and Shamann Walton voted against the policy, the Chronicle reported. "There is serious potential for misuse and abuse of this military-grade technology, and zero showing of necessity," Preston said at the meeting. Ultimately, the board adopted an amendment requiring one of two high-ranking San Francisco Police Department leaders to authorize any use of a robot for lethal force, according to the Chronicle.

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Dropbox Acquires Boxcryptor Assets To Bring Zero-Knowledge Encryption To File Storage
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Dropbox has announced plans to bring end-to-end encryption to its business users, and it's doing so through acquiring "key assets" from Germany-based cloud security company Boxcryptor. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Dropbox is well-known for its cloud-based file back-up and sharing services, and while it does offer encryption for files moving between its servers and the destination, Dropbox itself has access to the keys and can technically view any content passing through. What Boxcryptor brings to the table is an extra layer of security via so-called "zero knowledge" encryption on the client side, giving the user full control over who is allowed to decrypt their data. For many people, such as consumers storing family photos or music files, this level of privacy might not be a major priority. But for SMEs and enterprises, end-to-end encryption is a big deal as it ensures that no intermediary can access their confidential documents stored in the cloud -- it's encrypted before it even arrives. Moving forward, Dropbox said that it plans to bake Boxcryptor's features natively into Dropbox for business users. "In a blog post published today, Boxcryptor founders Andrea Pfundmeier and Robert Freudenreich say that their 'new mission' will be to embed Boxcryptor's technology into Dropbox," adds TechCrunch. "And after today, nobody will be able to create an account or buy any licenses from Boxcryptor -- it's effectively closing to new customers." "But there are reasons why the news is being packaged the way it has. The company is continuing to support existing customers through the duration of their current contracts."

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Dropbox Acquires Boxcryptor Assets To Bring Zero-Knowledge Encryption To File Storage
Dropbox has announced plans to bring end-to-end encryption to its business users, and it's doing so through acquiring "key assets" from Germany-based cloud security company Boxcryptor. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. From a report: Dropbox is well-known for its cloud-based file back-up and sharing services, and while it does offer encryption for files moving between its servers and the destination, Dropbox itself has access to the keys and can technically view any content passing through. What Boxcryptor brings to the table is an extra layer of security via so-called "zero knowledge" encryption on the client side, giving the user full control over who is allowed to decrypt their data. For many people, such as consumers storing family photos or music files, this level of privacy might not be a major priority. But for SMEs and enterprises, end-to-end encryption is a big deal as it ensures that no intermediary can access their confidential documents stored in the cloud -- it's encrypted before it even arrives. Moving forward, Dropbox said that it plans to bake Boxcryptor's features natively into Dropbox for business users.

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Rolls-Royce Successfully Tests Hydrogen-Powered Jet Engine
Britain's Rolls-Royce said it has successfully run an aircraft engine on hydrogen, a world aviation first that marks a major step towards proving the gas could be key to decarbonizing air travel. Reuters reports: The ground test, using a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional aircraft engine, used green hydrogen created by wind and tidal power, the British company said on Monday. Rolls and its testing program partner easyJet are seeking to prove that hydrogen can safely and efficiently deliver power for civil aero engines. They said they were already planning a second set of tests, with a longer-term ambition to carry out flight tests. Hydrogen is one of a number of competing technologies that could help the aviation industry achieve its goal of becoming net zero by 2050.

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Epson To End the Sale and Distribution of Laser Printer
Japanese electronics and printer maker Epson announced this month that it will end the sale and distribution of laser printer hardware by 2026, citing sustainability issues. From a report: According to the company, inkjets have a "greater potential" than laser printers to make "meaningful advances" when it comes to the environment. The company already halted laser printer sales in many markets, but continued in Asia and Europe. Even though new hardware would be unavailable everywhere, Epson said it would continue to support consumers with consumables and spare parts. "As a company we're totally committed to sustainable innovation and action, and inkjets simply use less energy and fewer consumable parts," explained Epson sales and marketing manager Koichi Kubota in canned statement. "While laser printers work by heating and fusing toner to a page, Epson's Heat-Free inkjet technology consumes less electricity by using mechanical energy to fire ink onto the page."

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A Light-powered Catalyst Could Be Key For Hydrogen Economy
"Rice University researchers have engineered a key light-activated nanomaterial for the hydrogen economy," the University announced this week. "Using only inexpensive raw materials, a team from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics, Syzygy Plasmonics Inc. and Princeton University's Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment created a scalable catalyst that needs only the power of light to convert ammonia into clean-burning hydrogen fuel...."The research follows government and industry investment to create infrastructure and markets for carbon-free liquid ammonia fuel that will not contribute to greenhouse warming. Liquid ammonia is easy to transport and packs a lot of energy, with one nitrogen and three hydrogen atoms per molecule. The new catalyst breaks those molecules into hydrogen gas, a clean-burning fuel, and nitrogen gas, the largest component of Earth's atmosphere. And unlike traditional catalysts, it doesn't require heat. Instead, it harvests energy from light, either sunlight or energy-stingy LEDs.... "This discovery paves the way for sustainable, low-cost hydrogen that could be produced locally rather than in massive centralized plants," said Peter Nordlander, also a Rice co-author. Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot for submitting the story (via Phys.org.

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Europe's Biggest Battery Storage System Switched On
What is thought to be Europe's biggest battery energy storage system has begun operating near Hull. The BBC reports: The site, said to be able to store enough electricity to power 300,000 homes for two hours, went online at Pillswood, Cottingham, on Monday. Its launch was brought forward four months as the UK faces possible energy shortages this winter. The facility was developed by North Yorkshire renewable power firm Harmony Energy using technology made by Tesla. The Pillswood facility has the capacity to store up to 196 MWh energy in a single cycle. It has been built next to the National Grid's Creyke Beck substation, which will be connected to Dogger Bank, the world's largest offshore wind farm, when it launches in the North Sea later this decade. The system, which will use Tesla's AI software to match energy supply to demand, had been due to be switched on in two stages in December 2022 and March 2023. Peter Kavanagh, director of Harmony Energy, said: "Battery energy storage systems are essential to unlocking the full potential of renewable energy in the UK and we hope this particular one highlights Yorkshire as a leader in green energy solutions." "These projects are not supported by taxpayer subsidy and will play a major role in contributing to the Net Zero transition, as well as ensuring the future security of the UK's energy supply and reduced reliance on foreign gas imports."

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