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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Honda Bucks Industry Trend By Removing Touchscreen Controls
Honda has done what no other car maker is doing, and returned to analogue controls for some functions on the new Honda Jazz. Autocar reports: While most manufacturers are moving to touchscreen controls, identifying smartphone use as their inspiration - most recently seen in Audi's latest A3 - Honda has decided to reintroduce heating and air conditioning controls via a dial rather than touchscreen, as in the previous-generation Jazz. Jazz project leader Takeki Tanaka explained: "The reason is quite simple -- we wanted to minimize driver disruption for operation, in particular, for the heater and air conditioning. We changed it from touchscreen to dial operation, as we received customer feedback that it was difficult to operate intuitively. You had to look at the screen to change the heater seating, therefore, we changed it so one can operate it without looking, giving more confidence while driving."

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D-Wave Makes Its Quantum Computers Free To Anyone Working On Coronavirus Crisis
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: D-Wave today made its quantum computers available for free to researchers and developers working on responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. D-Wave partners and customers Cineca, Denso, Forschungszentrum Julich, Kyocera, MDR, Menten AI, NEC, OTI Lumionics, QAR Lab at LMU Munich, Sigma-i, Tohoku University, and Volkswagen are also offering to help. They will provide access to their engineering teams with expertise on how to use quantum computers, formulate problems, and develop solutions. Quantum computing leverages qubits to perform computations that would be much more difficult, or simply not feasible, for a classical computer. Based in Burnaby, Canada, D-Wave was the first company to sell commercial quantum computers, which are built to use quantum annealing. D-Wave says the move to make access free is a response to a cross-industry request from the Canadian government for solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Free and unlimited commercial contract-level access to D-Wave's quantum computers is available in 35 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia via Leap, the company's quantum cloud service. Just last month, D-Wave debuted Leap 2, which includes a hybrid solver service and solves problems of up to 10,000 variables.

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Samsung Display To End All LCD Production By End 2020
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: South Korean panel maker Samsung Display has decided to end all of its production of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels in South Korea and China by end of this year, a spokesperson said on Tuesday. Samsung Display, a unit of South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, said in October that it suspended one of its two LCD production lines at home amid falling demand for LCD panels and a supply glut. 'We will supply LCD orders to our customers by end of this year without any issues', the company said in a statement.

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Microsoft Reports a 775 Percent Increase In Usage of Azure Cloud Services
Mark Wilson shares a report from BetaNews: This weekend, Microsoft has given an insight into the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on its services. The company says that there has been a huge increase in Teams usage, and there are now over 44 million daily users. In regions where there are isolation and home sheltering orders in place, Microsoft says that there has been a colossal 775 percent increase in usage of its cloud services. While there have not yet been any significant service disruptions, Microsoft says it has plans to increase capacity: "We are expediting the addition of significant new capacity that will be available in the weeks ahead. Concurrently, we monitor support requests and, if needed, encourage customers to consider alternative regions or alternative resource types, depending on their timeline and requirements. If the implementation of these efforts to alleviate demand is not sufficient, customers may experience intermittent deployment related issues. When this does happen, impacted customers will be informed via Azure Service Health."

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2019 Saw Over 60 Gigawatts of Wind Power Installed
The Global Wind Energy Council, an industry trade organization, released its review of the market in 2019. During the past year, wind power saw its second-largest amount of new installed capacity ever, with over 60GW going in. From a report: But the news going forward is a bit more uncertain, with the report predicting that after years of double-digit growth, the industry would see things tail off into steady-but-unspectacular territory. And that prediction was made before many key markets started dealing with the coronavirus. Wind power is now one of the cheapest options for generating electricity. In many areas of the globe, building and maintaining wind power is cheaper per unit of power than it is to fuel a previously constructed fossil fuel plant. While offshore wind remains more expensive, its prices have dropped dramatically over the last several years, and it is rapidly approaching price parity with fossil fuels.

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Could Robots Help Us Fight Infectious Diseases?
In the journal Science Robotics, an international group of robotic experts wrote an editorial arguing COVID-19 "may drive further research in robotics to address risks of infectious diseases," and urging more funding. The Washington Post reports:Robots already have been enlisted in the fight against the virus. In Hong Kong, a fleet of miniature robots disinfects the city's subways; in China, an entire field hospital was staffed by robots designed to relieve overworked health-care workers. In the United States, robots played a role in the country's first known case of covid-19. One outfitted with a stethoscope and a microphone was used with a 35-year-old man in Everett, Washington, who was confined to an isolated unit after showing symptoms of the coronavirus. He later made a full recovery. "Already, we have seen robots being deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls," the researchers write. They identify plenty of other ways to use robots in the pandemic response. Robots could assist with testing and screening; already, researchers have created a device that can identify a suitable vein and perform a blood draw. Or they could take over hospital disinfection entirely, providing continuous sterilization of high-touch areas with UV light. The researchers hope covid-19 will catalyze robotics research for the sake of public health.

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Bay Area Group Pushes $1,000 Universal Basic Income For Everyone
"Gisele Huff is convinced universal basic income is finally having its moment," reports the Bay Area newsgroup, describing the 84-year-old president of a nonprofit promoting universal basic incomes to honor their recently-deceased son, a Tesla software engineer:While Huff's organization is only a few years old, it has already made its mark in the Bay Area. Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors is considering a pilot program that would provide youth exiting foster care with a basic $1,000 monthly income. If approved later this year, the program would likely be the first of its kind in the nation... Q: Different people have different ideas about what exactly UBI should look like. What's yours? A: It would be $1,000 a month and it runs like social security. It's an automatic system. All you need is a bank account. So UBI is a direct payment to your bank account on a monthly basis. It has no requirements. When you're 18 it starts and it goes on until you die. Q: And everyone would get the same amount? Including the wealthiest households? A: Yes. For the people who are wealthy, it will disappear because $1,000 doesn't mean anything. But it will mean the world for the people who are so marginalized now, like foster kids or abused women who can't leave a situation because they don't have a dime to their name. It is a huge incentive for people to move on, to do things, take risks that they would not do before. Q: Some critics of UBI say that it could incentivize people not to work, because no matter what they do they will get a monthly paycheck. What is your response? A: If you have a job, you're not going to stop working for $1,000 a month. What you're going to do is you're going to tell your boss: "No, I'm not doing this because it's not acceptable and I have $1,000 dollars that I can use for the next two months until I find a better job." So if you want that job done as a boss, you're going to have to improve the conditions or the pay...." Q: And your son was concerned about those same issues? How did he come to his perspective on UBI? A: Gerald was the software engineer for the Model 3 Tesla. So he has been a techie all of his life and what really spurred him on to look into this in a deeper way was his fear of technological unemployment. The robots are coming. And the potential of that technology is what Gerald was aware of — it's immense.

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Are There Exceptions to the Rule that Going Electric Reduces Emissions?
"Averaged over the globe, electric vehicles (EVs) already represent about a 31-percent emissions savings" writes Ars Technica, noting results from a study which also found similar savings from energy-efficient home-heating pumps. "Even in the scenario where these technologies are promoted but the grid isn't cleaned up much, there's a substantial benefit through 2050." But the researchers also separated the world into 59 regions, then used data on the "greenness" of each country's electricity grids, considering the full range of available vehicle types and home-heating methods as well as their predicted "uptake" of green technologies from 2015 to 2050. And this did identify a handful exceptions, Ars Technica reports: Compare, for example, Switzerland's exceptionally low-carbon grid to Estonia's, which runs primarily on oil shale. Swapping an internal combustion vehicle for an electric one in Switzerland cuts emissions by 70 percent, and a heat pump will cut them by about 88 percent. But in Estonia, an electric vehicle would increase emissions by 40 percent and a heat pump pushes that to an eye-watering 120 percent. A more significant exception can be found in Japan. In the scenarios with little progress on grid emissions, a decade from now, the combination of Japan's dirtier grid and preference for hybrid vehicles means that swapping in EVs doesn't quite pay... As time goes on, emissions from manufacturing electric vehicles accounts for a larger share of their total life cycle emissions, the researchers note. You can make the vehicle efficient and the grid clean, but you'll also have to clean up industry to keep shrinking that carbon footprint. The article notes that the researchers also predict continued improvements in the efficiency of electric vehicles -- with an unintended side effect. "As time goes on, emissions from manufacturing electric vehicles accounts for a larger share of their total life cycle emissions, the researchers note. "You can make the vehicle efficient and the grid clean, but you'll also have to clean up industry to keep shrinking that carbon footprint."

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US Officials Reportedly Agree To Cut Off Huawei From Global Chip Suppliers
Senior U.S. government officials have agreed to new rules to cut off Huawei from global chip suppliers, according to a Reuters report Thursday, citing sources familiar with the matter. CNET reports: Under the new measures, foreign companies that use American chipmaking equipment would first need to secure a license before supplying some chips to Huawei, the report says. The focus of the new rules is to restrict the sale of more sophisticated chips to the Chinese telecom giant rather than generic, more widely available chips. Trump hasn't signed off on the proposed new measures yet, but if he does, a slew of US tech companies stand to lose, like Apple and Qualcomm along with Huawei. It could also negatively impact the world's largest chipmaker, Taiwan's TSMC, the report says.

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How Much More Power Does 5G Consume Over 4G? Redmi Has Answer
Most 5G phones offer big batteries owing to the increased power consumption of early 5G modems and connectivity. But just how much more power does a 5G phone need over a 4G device? From a report: Redmi general manager Lu Weibing has taken to Weibo to answer this question, claiming that 5G phones consume ~20% more power than a 4G phone. This suggests that a 20% increase in battery size is needed for a 5G phone to achieve the same endurance as a 4G variant (assuming everything else is equal). The Redmi executive adds that Qualcomm's flagship 800-series processors consume 20% more juice than an upper mid-range Snapdragon 700-series chipset. So when taken together, this means a 5G flagship will consume significantly more power compared to a mid-range 4G phone, which means battery capacity and optimizations are key for high-end 5G phones.

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Virginia Is the First Southern State With a 100 Percent Carbon-Free Electricity Goal
An anonymous reader shares a report: Virginia has become the first among the Southern US states to take on a goal for 100 percent carbon-free electricity. State governor Ralph Northam, an Army veteran and pediatric neurologist, issued Executive Order 43. The executive order detailed the state's plans to reach a zero CO2 energy goal by 2050. In September 2019, Northam also brought Virginia into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a carbon trading network that spans nine states. Before then, Northam's efforts to take these initiatives and to join the RGGI were thwarted. However, following the 2019 election, voters in the state changed the political climate in the state. This opened the opportunity to move forward with renewable energy-based efforts. Earlier this month, the state General Assembly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), which brought Northam's previously failed efforts into law. The House voted in favor 51 to 45 and the Senate voted 22 to 17. Among the VCEA goals are to gradually reduce the use of fossil fuels until they are no longer a part of the state's electricity production. Instead, it will use 100 percent clean energy to power the state. In order to achieve this goal, Virginia has a four-part plan: 1. Join the RGGI and develop a cap-and-trade system. The states that are already using similar strategies and that are a part of the RGGI have experienced healthy economic effects overall. Moreover, the hope is that the addition of Virginia to a heavily supplied market will only boost competition. This is meant to drive the clean energy transition forward even faster.2. Achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050.3. Keep power costs low and protect vulnerable and low-income communities.4. Build rooftop solar, offshore wind, and power storage.

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World's Wind Power Capacity Up By Fifth After Record Year
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's wind power capacity grew by almost a fifth in 2019 after a year of record growth for offshore windfarms and a boom in onshore projects in the US and China. The Global Wind Energy Council found that wind power capacity grew by 60.4 gigawatts, or 19%, compared with 2018, in one of the strongest years on record for the global wind power industry. The growth was powered by a record year for offshore wind, which grew by 6.1GW to make up a tenth of new windfarm installations for the first time. The council's annual report found that the US and China remain the world's largest markets for onshore wind power development. Together the two countries make up almost two-thirds of global growth in wind power. GWEC had expected 2020 to emerge as a record year for the rollout of wind energy projects, and forecast growth of 20% in the year ahead, but it said the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic was as yet unknown.

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Graphene Solar Thermal Film Could Be a New Way To Harvest Renewable Energy
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Researchers at the Center for Translational Atomaterials (CTAM) at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a new graphene-based film that can absorb sunlight with an efficiency of over 90 percent, while simultaneously eliminating most IR thermal emission loss -- the first time such a feat has been reported. The result is an efficient solar heating metamaterial that can heat up rapidly to 83 degrees C (181 degrees F) in an open environment with minimal heat loss. Proposed applications for the film include thermal energy harvesting and storage, thermoelectricity generation, and seawater desalination. The 3D structured graphene metamaterial (SGM) is composed of a 30-nanometer-thick film of alternating graphene and dielectric layers deposited on a trench-like nanostructure that does double duty as a copper substrate to enhance absorption. More importantly, the substrate is patterned in a matrix arrangement to enable flexible tunability of wavelength-selective absorption. The graphene film is designed to absorb light between 0.28- to 2.5-micrometer wavelengths. And the copper substrate is structured so that it can act as a selective bandpass filter that suppresses the normal emission of internally generated blackbody energy. This retained heat then serves to further raise the metamaterial's temperature. Hence, the SGM can rapidly heat up to 83 degrees C. Should a different temperature be required for a particular application, a new trench nanostructure can be fabricated and tuned to match that specific blackbody wavelength. "The new material also uses less graphene by significantly reducing the film thickness to one third, and its thinness aids in transferring the absorbed heat more efficiently to other media such as water," the report adds. "Additionally, the film is hydrophobic, which fosters self-cleaning, while the graphene layer effectively protects the copper layer from corrosion, helping to extend the metamaterial's lifetime." The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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iFixit MacBook Air Teardown Finds More Repairable Than Predecessor
iFixit tore apart the updated MacBook Air and found that Apple made a few changes making for a more repairable notebook than the last generation. All in all, the new 2020 MacBook Air got a 4/10 repairability score from iFixit, which is one point higher than the previous-gen model which scored 3/10. 9to5Mac reports: iFixit highlights in its full teardown that the update to the reliable Magic Keyboard only added 0.5mm to the thick end of the new MacBook Air... a more than worth it trade-off: "More than anything, that 0.5 mm illustrates the sheer unnecessary-ness of the five painful years that Mac fans spent smashing on unresponsive butterfly keyboards. Knowing that Apple's thinnest-and-lightest notebook accommodates a scissor-switch keyboard so gracefully makes us wonder what it was all for. We understand as well as anyone the urge to fix things, but Apple's insistence on reworking and re-reworking the troubled butterfly design came at such a high cost -- financially, environmentally, and to the Mac's reputation -- and for what? We'll probably never know all the factors that led to the creation and persistence of the butterfly keyboard, but this Magic keyboard is a reminder that sometimes the difference between usable and unusable, or repairable and unrepairable, can be as small as half a millimeter." Past the keyboard update, iFixit found a nice improvement to how Apple has implemented the trackpad cable: "Where last year the trackpad cables were trapped under the logic board, they are now free to be disconnected anytime -- meaning trackpad removal can happen as soon as the back cover comes off. And since the battery rests under these same cables, this new configuration also greatly speeds up battery removal by leaving the logic board in place. That's two very tasty birds, one stone, for those of you counting. This is one of those happy (but all too rare) occasions where we can identify a hardware change from Apple that's squarely aimed at improving serviceability in the existing design. Sometimes they do listen!"

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HPE Says Firmware Bug Will Brick Some SSDs Starting in October this Year
An anonymous reader writes: Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) issued a security advisory last week warning customers about a bug in the firmware of some SAS SSDs (Serial-Attached SCSI solid-state drives) that will fail after reaching 40,000 hours of operation -- which is 4 years, 206 days, and 16 hours after the SSD has been put into operation. HPE says that based on when affected SSDs have been manufactured and sold, the earliest failures are expected to occur starting with October this year. The company has released firmware updates last week to address the issue. HPE warns that if companies fail to install the update, they risk losing both the SSD and the data. "After the SSD failure occurs, neither the SSD nor the data can be recovered," the company explained.

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