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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Cody Wilson, 3D-Printed Gun Pioneer, Arrested In Taiwan
Cody Wilson, maker of the first 3D-printed plastic gun, has been arrested in Taiwan. Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes Reason:Earlier this week, Texas police issued a warrant for his arrest. Wilson, they claimed, found a woman on sugardaddymeet.com, a website that requires all users to assert they are 18 or over, then met her and paid for sex with her. Police say the woman was actually 16, which made that act a violation of Texas penal code 22.011 (A)(2)(a), regarding sex with a minor, which is legally considered sexual assault regardless of consent or payment. While Taiwan has no formal extradition treaty with the U.S., and Wilson was not said to have been doing anything directly criminal in Taiwan, the press there reports that he was arrested without incident because the U.S. had revoked his passport, making his mere presence in Taiwan illegal. (The U.S. government has the power to revoke the passports of people facing felony arrest warrants.) Wilson was then, according to The New York Times, "delivered...to the National Immigration Agency" in Taiwan. It is expected to deport him to the U.S. to face those charges, which carry a potential 2 to 20 years in prison and $10,000 fine. A reporter for Ars Technica visited Wilson's home weapons printing company, and was told that "A management restructuring is coming." But they also contacted Adam Bhala Lough, who directed and wrote a documentary film about Wilson. Prior to Wilson's arrest, Lough argued that "Without Cody, it can't last. It's like Tesla and Elon Musk, you can't separate the two. "If he comes home and faces the music, there is a chance Defense Distributed will survive because it is a totally independent company without a board or any regulatory body. And the buyers of these products -- not to generalize, but at least the ones I met while doing the documentary -- they won't care about buying a product from an [accused] pedophile. In fact they may be even more emboldened by the idea that Cody was 'set-up' or that it is a 'deep-state conspiracy' against him, even if (or when) he admits to it."

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Did John Deere Just Swindle California's Farmers Out of Their Right to Repair?
An anonymous reader quotes a new Wired opinion piece by Kyle Wiens and Elizabeth Chamberlain from iFixit:A big California farmers' lobbying group just blithely signed away farmers' right to access or modify the source code of any farm equipment software. As an organization representing 2.5 million California agriculture jobs, the California Farm Bureau gave up the right to purchase repair parts without going through a dealer. Farmers can't change engine settings, can't retrofit old equipment with new features, and can't modify their tractors to meet new environmental standards on their own. Worse, the lobbyists are calling it a victory.... John Deere and friends had already made every single "concession" earlier this year... Just after the California bill was introduced, the farm equipment manufacturers started circulating a flyer titled "Manufacturers and Dealers Support Commonsense Repair Solutions." In that document, they promised to provide manuals, guides, and other information by model year 2021. But the flyer insisted upon a distinction between a right to repair a vehicle and a right to modify software, a distinction that gets murky when software controls all of a tractor's operations. As Jason Koebler of Motherboard reported, that flyer is strikingly similar -- in some cases, identical word-for-word -- to the agreement the Farm Bureau just brokered... Instead of presenting a unified right-to-repair front, this milquetoast agreement muddies the conversation. More worryingly, it could cement a cultural precedent for electronics manufacturers who want to block third-party repair technicians from accessing a device's software.

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iPhone XS Teardown Shows Few Changes Aside From the Battery
iFixit tore apart Apple's iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, revealing very similar insides to last year's iPhone X. Engadget reports the findings: One of the most interesting features is the battery on the XS. The iPhone XS sports a slightly downgraded battery from the iPhone X, a 10.13 Wh battery (2,659 mAh at 3.81 V) versus 10.35 Wh (2716 mAh at 3.81 V). But a new configuration might more than make up for it: Apple is using a brand-new L-shaped single-cell battery instead of two separate batteries. However, the XS Max still sports two batteries. Some other tweaks include a new, Apple-branded power management chip and a new antenna line on the bottom of the phone. The camera bump is also slightly taller, meaning your iPhone X case might not fit on your XS, if you plan on upgrading. The Verge also notes that "there's no evidence that the teardown team could find of any improved water or dust resistance, despite the improved IP68 ratings on the iPhone XS and XS Max."

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First Hydrogen-Powered Train Hits the Tracks In Germany
"French train-building company Alstom built two hydrogen-powered trains and delivered them to Germany last weekend, where they'll zoom along a 62-mile stretch of track that runs from the northern cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervorde, and Buxtehude," reports Ars Technica. "The new trains replace their diesel-powered counterparts and are the first of their kind, but they are likely not the last. Alstom is contracted to deliver 14 more hydrogen-powered trains, called Coradia iLint trains, before 2021." From the report: The trains are an initial step toward lowering Germany's transportation-related emissions, a sector that has been intractable for policy makers in the country. But hydrogen fuel faces some chicken-and-egg-type problems. Namely, hydrogen is difficult to store, and making it a truly zero-emissions source of fuel requires renewable electricity to perform water electrolysis. The more common option for creating hydrogen fuel involves natural gas reforming, which is not a carbon-neutral process. The advantages of hydrogen fuel cells are that -- unlike battery-powered vehicles -- refueling a hydrogen-powered vehicle is just as fast as a vehicle powered by fossil fuels. No sitting around and charging overnight is required. Trains tend not to be battery-powered when they're electric, however, because they're so heavy. Electric train systems tend to use catenary systems, with electrified cables providing electricity to the train. But over long distances, setting up an external electricity source can be expensive. Both trains have a reported range of 1,000km (621 miles) and can reach top speeds of 140km/h (87mph). Cost is unknown, although Alstom's press release says that Lower Saxony, the German state where the trains will run, supported the purchase of the 14 additional trains with $94.5 million.

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In a World of Robots, Carmakers Persist in Hiring More Humans
It looks like car-industry employees who are concerned about robots taking their jobs don't need to worry -- for now, at least. Of the 13 publicly traded automakers with at least 100,000 workers at the end of their most-recent fiscal year, 11 had more staff compared with year-end 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Combined, they had 3.1 million employees, or 11 percent more than four years earlier, the data show. From the report: Carmakers in China and other emerging markets, where growth is strongest, favor human labor because it requires less upfront investment, said Steve Man, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong. In developed markets, tasks that can be handled by robots were automated years ago and automakers are now boosting hiring in research and development as the industry evolves. "There's been a lot of growth in emerging markets, especially China, so that's one reason automakers are adding staff," Man said. "More staff is being added on the R&D side, with the push for autonomous, electric, connected vehicles." A trio of Chinese automakers, SAIC Motor, Dongfeng Motor Group and BYD -- in which Warren Buffett is a major investor -- increased staff by at least 24 percent. Volkswagen accounted for more than one in five jobs among the group of 13, and increased its employee count by 12 percent in the period. Things, however, look differently at General Motors, which shrank its payroll 18 percent to 180,000, and Nissan Motor, which contracted by 2.8 percent to 139,000 workers, the report added.

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Alibaba To Set Up New Chip Company Amid Fear of US Tech Dependency
hackingbear shares a report from CNN: China's biggest tech firm announced Wednesday that the new [semiconductor] business will develop artificial intelligence chips for cloud computing, internet-connected devices and other sectors. Alibaba's chief technology officer, Jeff Zhang, said the e-commerce company's advantages in algorithms and data put it in "a unique position to lead real technology breakthroughs in disruptive areas, such as quantum and chip technology." "The market for chips is controlled by America ... and suddenly if they stop selling, what that means, you understand," Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma told university students in Tokyo in April. "That's why China, Japan and any country -- you need core technologies." Ma's remarks came shortly after the U.S. Commerce Department blocked American companies from selling parts to ZTE, a Chinese tech company that relied on U.S. suppliers, including chipmakers, to manufacture smartphones and telecommunications equipment. Slashdot reader hackingbear adds: "The since-lifted ban woke up China to the (political) risks of dependence on American technologies, just like the U.S. is afraid of dependency on Chinese rare earth products which account for ~80% of world's supplies."

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Google's Android OS To Power Dashboard Displays
schwit1 shares a report from The Wall Street Journal: Google is making a major push into the auto industry, partnering with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to use the tech company's Android OS to power media displays (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) that will eventually be sold in millions of cars world-wide. The auto-making alliance, which together sells more vehicles than any other auto maker, is picking Google to provide the operating system for its next-generation infotainment system, marking a major victory for the Silicon Valley tech giant, which has spent more than a decade trying to replicate the success it has had with the smartphone in the car. The alliance, which last year sold a combined 10.6 million vehicles globally, will debut the new system in 2021, giving drivers better integration of Google's maps, app store and voice-activated assistant from the vehicle's dashboard, the companies said. The move comes as other auto makers have been reluctant to cede control of this space to tech rivals, in part because they see the technology as generating valuable consumer data that can be turned into new revenue streams. Slashdot reader schwit1 adds: "But can I get it unlocked and can it be turned off, like this traveling telescreen?

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iPhone XS, XS Max Are World's Fastest Phones (Again)
According to "several real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks," the new iPhone XS and XS Max, equipped with the world's first 7-nanometer A12 Bionic processor, are the world's fastest smartphones, reports Tom's Guide. They even significantly outperform Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chip. From the report: Geekbench 4 is a benchmark that measures overall performance, and no other phone comes close to Apple's new handsets on this test. The iPhone Xs notched 11,420, and the iPhone Xs Max hit 11,515. The older iPhone X scored 10,357, so that's about an 11 percent improvement. There's a lot more distance between the new iPhones and Android flagships. The fastest Android phone around, the OnePlus 6, scored 9,088 on Geekbench 4 with its 8GB of RAM, while the Galaxy Note 9 reached 8,876. To test real-world performance, we use the Adobe Premiere Clips app to transcode a 2-minute 4K video to 1080p. The iPhone X was miles ahead last year with a time of just 42 seconds. This time around, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max knocked it down further to 39 seconds. The Galaxy S9+ took 2 minutes and 32 seconds to complete the task, and that's the fastest we've seen from an Android phone. The OnePlus 6 finished in 3:45, and the LG G7 ThinQ took 3:16. One good way to measure real-world performance is to see how long it takes for a phone to load demanding apps. Because the phones have the same processor for this round, we just used the iPhone Xs Max and put it up against the iPhone X and the Galaxy Note 9. The iPhone XS Max was faster every time, including a 15-second victory in Fortnite over the Note 9 and 3-second win in Asphalt 9. The phones were closer in Pokemon Go but the iPhone XS Max still came out on top. The new iPhones did lag behind the competition in the 3DMark Slingshot Extreme test, which measures graphics performance by evaluating everything from rendering to volumetric lighting. The iPhone XS Max and iPhone X received scores of 4,244 and 4,339, respectively, while the OnePlus 6 received a score of 5,124. As for the GFXBench 5 test, the iPhone XS Max achieved 1,604.7 frames on the Aztec Ruins portion of the test, and 1,744.44 frames in the Car Chase test," reports Tom's Guide. "The Note 9 was far behind at 851.7 and 1,103 frames, respectively. However, the Galaxy S9+ edged past the iPhone XS Max on this test."

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A $1, Linux-Capable, Hand-Solderable Processor
An anonymous reader shares a report: Over on the EEVblog, someone noticed an interesting chip that's been apparently flying under our radar for a while. This is an ARM processor capable of running Linux. It's hand-solderable in a TQFP package, has a built-in Mali GPU, support for a touch panel, and has support for 512MB of DDR3. If you do it right, this will get you into the territory of a BeagleBone or a Raspberry Pi Zero, on a board that's whatever form factor you can imagine. Here's the best part: you can get this part for $1 USD in large-ish quantities. A cursory glance at the usual online retailers tells me you can get this part in quantity one for under $3. This is interesting, to say the least. The chip in question, the Allwinner A13, is a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor. While it's not much, it is a chip that can run Linux in a hand-solderable package. There is no HDMI support, you'll need to add some more chips (that are probably in a BGA package), but, hey, it's only a dollar. If you'd like to prototype with this chip, the best options right now are a few boards from Olimex, and a System on Module from the same company. That SoM is an interesting bit of kit, allowing anyone to connect a power supply, load an SD card, and get this chip doing something. Currently, there aren't really any good solutions for a cheap Linux system you can build at home, with hand-solderable chips.

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Apple's AirPower Wireless Charger Is Facing Overheating Issues, Says Reports
Two separate reports are saying Apple's yet-to-be-released AirPower charger is facing overheating issues. The product, designed to simultaneously charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods, was announced more than a year ago at Apple's 2017 iPhone event. Apple has yet to provide any additional information on AirPower, even during its iPhone event last week. The company even appears to have wiped all mention of it from its website. CNBC reports: Tech writer Sonny Dickson, who has a track record of accurately reporting on Apple, said over the weekend that Apple has struggled with heat management, which affects accuracy and charging speed. Dickson thinks it's unlikely Apple will make its end-of-year release deadline. Daring Fireball's John Gruber said something similar. Gruber said the charging pad, which uses a multi-coil design, is "getting too hot -- way too hot." "There are engineers who looked at AirPower's design and said it could never work, thermally. ... I think they've either had to go completely back to the drawing board and start over with an entirely different design, or they've decided to give up and they just don't want to say so," Gruber said. Apple gave a broad timeline for AirPower's launch, saying it would go on sale in 2018. So it is still possible it can work out any issues before the end of the year.

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US Congress Passes Bill To Help Advanced Nuclear Power
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Last week, the House passed a bipartisan bill that originated in the Senate called the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S. 97), which will allow the private sector to partner with U.S. National Laboratories to vet advanced nuclear technologies. The bill also directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to lay the ground work for establishing "a versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source." The Senate also introduced a second bill called the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (S. 3422) last Thursday, which would direct the DOE to actually establish that fast neutron reactor. That bill also directs the DOE to "make available high-assay, low-enriched uranium" for research purposes. The Nuclear Energy Leadership Act has not yet made it past a Senate vote. The report also mentions a recent U.S. Court of Appeals ruling to keep older reactors online. "The court said that subsidies for nuclear energy proposed by Illinois don't cause any interference with federal control over interstate power markets, which is prohibited," reports Ars. "In 2017 the state of Illinois agreed to offer a Zero Emissions Credit that included nuclear energy (PDF). The credit was opposed by fossil fuel generators and by the Electric Power Supply Association, who sued the director of the Illinois Power Agency. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Justice filed a joint brief in the case several months ago, saying those federal agencies had no problem with Illinois' credit system, according to Utility Dive."

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New Trump Tariffs Won't Include Fitness Trackers Or the Apple Watch
According to Bloomberg, the next round of China tariffs won't include devices that receive and transmit voice data, a category that includes the Apple Watch, Fitbits, Sonos Speakers, and a host of other fitness trackers and home assistants. The Verge reports: The White House recently backed down on the rate at which the imports would be taxed. Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported that listed goods would likely be taxed at only 10 percent. As recently as August, President Trump had considered setting the rate at 25 percent. Customs documents describe the category in vague terms, listing the devices as "machines for the reception, conversion and transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data." But that vague category has come to encompass a wide range of personal tech, including fitness trackers and personal voice assistants. The Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, BeatsWL, AirPort, and Time Capsule all fall under the code, according to a letter submitted by Apple to the U.S. Trade Representative. Other categories of Apple products will still be affected by the tariff, including adapters, the Mac mini, and any circuit boards or internal components shipped individually to the United States.

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AMD's Vega Graphics Are Coming To Gaming Laptops
Paul Alcorn reporting for Tom's Hardware: AMD listed the Ryzen 7 2800H and the Ryzen 5 2600H on its website. These new processors bring the inherent goodness of the Raven Ridge architecture, found in the Ryzen 5 2400G and the Ryzen 3 2200G, to gaming notebooks. As such, these processors come with AMD's Zen compute cores paired with the Vega graphics architecture, and they are also AMD's first processors to support DDR4-3200 as a base specification. Both new models feature a similar design as their desktop counterparts, albeit with slightly redesigned in frequencies to adjust for the flimsy cooling in mobile form factors and battery life limitations. That's reflected in the processors' reduced 45W TDP (thermal design power), which is much lower than the 65W TDP found on the desktop parts. AMD does give vendors some wiggle room with a configurable TDP (cTDP) range that spans between 35W and 45W. The Ryzen 7 2800H is analogous to the 2400G, but it comes with a 3.3 GHz base and 3.8 GHz boost clocks. The four-core, eight-thread CPU is complemented by Vega graphics with 11 CU (Compute Unit) clocked up to a max of 1,300 MHz, which is a nice boost over its desktop counterpart. The Ryzen 5 2600H is similar to the 2200G, but it's four cores are hyper-threaded, which is a big bonus. The Vega graphics come with 8 CUs and boost up to 1,100 MHz.

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Machines Are Going To Perform More Tasks Than Humans By 2025
In less than a decade, most workplace tasks will be done by machines rather than humans, according to the World Economic Forum's latest AI job forecast. From a report: Machines will overtake humans in terms of performing more tasks at the workplace by 2025 -- but there could still be 58 million net new jobs created in the next five years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in a report on Monday. Developments in automation technologies and artificial intelligence could see 75 million jobs displaced, according to the WEF report "The Future of Jobs 2018." However, another 133 million new roles may emerge as companies shake up their division of labor between humans and machines, translating to 58 million net new jobs being created by 2022, it said. At the same time, there would be "significant shifts" in the quality, location and format of new roles, according to the WEF report, which suggested that full-time, permanent employment may potentially fall. Some companies could choose to use temporary workers, freelancers and specialist contractors, while others may automate many of the tasks. New skill sets for employees will be needed as labor between machines and humans continue to evolve, the report pointed out.

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Automation: The Exaggerated Threat of Robots
It will take quite a lot of time before robots become cheaper than workers in emerging markets such as Africa, argues Nico Beckert of Flassbeck Economics, a consortium of researchers who aim to provide economics insights with a more realistic basis. From the post: All industrialized countries used low-cost labour to build industries and manufacture mass-produced goods. Today, labour is relatively inexpensive in Africa, and a similar industrialization process might take off accordingly. Some worry that industrial robots will block this development path. The reason is that robots are most useful when doing routine tasks -- precisely the kind of work that is typical of labour-intensive mass production. At the moment, however, robots are much too expensive to replace thousands upon thousands of workers in labour-intensive industries, most of which are in the very early stages of the industrialization process. Robots are currently best used in technologically more demanding fields like the automobile or electronics industry. Even a rapid drop in robot prices would not lead to the replacement of workers by robots in the short term in Africa where countries lag far behind in terms of fast internet and other information and communications technologies. They also lack well-trained IT experts. Other problems include an unreliable power supply, high energy costs and high financing costs for new technologies. For these reasons, it would be difficult and expensive to integrate robots and other digital technologies into African production lines.

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