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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

DRAM Prices To Slide More Than 40% in 2019 Because Chip Makers Can't Forecast
The laws of botched supply and demand forecasting are coming home to roost for the semiconductor industry in 2019 with DRAM average sales price set to fall 42.1 per cent. From a report: The latest ladle of doom and gloom was poured onto the sector this morning by Gartner, days after IC Insights delivered its dark prognosis for chip makers. "A weaker pricing environment for memory and some other chip types combined with the US-China trade dispute and lower growth in major applications, including smartphones, servers and PCs is driving the global semiconductor market to its lowest growth level since 2009," said Gartner analyst Ben Lee. [...] The upshot of this is that global semiconductor revenues are expected to drop 9.6 per cent year-on-year to $475bn. This is down 3.4 per cent on Gartner's earlier forecast and likely could be revised again before the end of 2019 is upon us. Given the volumes of DRAM swilling around the supply chain that have forced down price, oversupply is on track to spill into the first and second quarters of the next calendar year.

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Dropbox Brings Back Support For ZFS, XFS, Btrfs And eCryptFS On Linux
Speaking of Dropbox, the online storage cloud service has enabled support for ZFS and XFS on 64-bit Linux systems, and eCryptFS and Btrfs on all Linux systems. The move comes after it recently pulled support for all file storage systems on Linux except Ext4. From a report: Dropbox stopped supporting folder syncing to drives with filesystems it deemed "uncommon", which on Linux meant anything but Ext4, upsetting quite a few users. The reason cited for this was that "a supported file system is required as Dropbox relies on extended attributes (X-attrs) to identify files in the Dropbox folder and keep them in sync", which doesn't really make sense since there are many filesystems that support xattr (extended attributes) on Linux. After this change was announced, various workarounds started to appear online, including one that I posted on Linux Uprising. There was even a new unofficial, open source Dropbox client developed for this reason (which is also much lighter than the official client by the way). But this didn't last long though, as last week, the Dropbox 77.3.127 beta changelog says that Dropbox has added back support for ZFS (on 64-bit systems only), XFS (on 64bit systems only), Btrfs and eCryptFS.

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Samsung-Backed Researchers Develop a Ternary Semiconductor
"Future semiconductors may perform logic with 0, 1, or 2 instead of the current binary system of 0 and 1," reports ZDNet:A South Korean research team has successfully realised an energy-efficient ternary metal-oxide semiconductor on a large-sized wafer. Professor Kyung Rok Kim of UNIST's Electrical & Computer Engineering Department and his team successfully created a semiconductor that operates in a ternary logic system instead of the current binary... Using the ternary system of 0, 1, 2 lessens the amount of information semiconductors need to process and does it faster, resulting in less power consumption, the team said. It will also help in miniaturising chips further. For example, to express the number 128 in the current binary system, 8 "bits" will be required. With the ternary system, only 5 "trits" will be required.... Samsung Electronics has been backing Kim's research since September 2017 via its Samsung's Science & Technology Foundation, which offers grants for promising technology projects. Samsung is currently verifying the technology at its foundry business-run fab.

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Largest Hybrid Electric Plane Set To Take Flight
Ampair, a Los Angeles clean tech company in my neck of the woods, is set to begin accepting orders for a hybrid electric aircraft at the EAA AirVenture airshow in Wisconsin next week. Dubbed the EEL, the aircraft is in fact a retrofit of a Cessna 337, an aircraft that has a forward-mounted prop engine that pulls and a rear-mounted prop engine that pushes. Ampair's retrofit will replace one of those internal combustion engines with an electric motor powered by batteries. ZDNet reports: Ampair believes hybrid power may be a stopgap, providing fuel savings while still retaining many of the benefits of an internal combustion drivetrain. "The Ampaire Electric EEL is the first step in bringing lower emissions, lower-operating costs, and quieter operations to general aviation through electrification," according to the company's CEO Kevin Noertker. "The original Cessna 337 provided great utility, and this hybrid electric conversion retains those advantages while reducing fuel cost and maintenance by about 50 percent." The EEL is now undergoing a 30 month test program, which began in June. One of the tests will be demonstrating reliable single-engine climbs on each powerplant. Ampair expects the aircraft to be certified by 2021. Ampair's EEL aircraft will seat four or six passengers. The company says the aircraft cost will be competitive with comparable piston twins.

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Quantum Leap From Australian Research Promises Super-Fast Computing Power
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Simmons, a former Australian of the Year, and her team at the University of New South Wales announced in a paper published in Nature journal on Thursday that they have been able to achieve the first two-qubit gate between atom qubits in silicon, allowing them to communicate with each other at a 200 times faster rate than previously achieved at 0.8 nanoseconds. A two-qubit gate operates like a logic gate in traditional computing, and the team at UNSW was able to achieve the faster operation by putting the two atom qubits closer together than ever before -- just 13 nanometers -- and in real-time controllably observing and measuring their spin states. A scanning tunneling microscope was used to place the atoms in silicon after the optimal distance between the two qubits had been worked out. The research has been two decades in the making, after researchers in Australia opted to build a quantum computer on silicon material.

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New York Signs Biggest Offshore Wind Project Deal In the Nation
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: New York has signed the biggest-ever deals for offshore wind power in U.S. history, a key part of the state's plan to get all of its power from emissions-free sources by 2040. On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded contracts for two projects off Long Island that will total 1,700 megawatts in capacity. Equinor ASA and a joint venture between Denmark's Orsted A/S and Massachusetts-based Eversource Energy were chosen to build the farms, which will supply enough power to light up a million homes. Cuomo is counting on the wind projects to achieve the most aggressive clean energy goal in the U.S., and signed the state's 100% renewable energy target into law right after announcing the wind contracts. New York's ultimate plan is to get enough turbines erected off its shores to generate 9,000 megawatts by 2035. The contracted wind farms will be completed by 2024, he said. Based on cost estimates from BloombergNEF, the projects may be valued at more than $5 billion.

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Google Glass May Have an Afterlife As a Device To Teach Autistic Children
While Google stopped selling its augmented-reality glasses to customers due to privacy concerns, Google Glass lived on as something to be used by researchers and businesses. The New York Times reports of a new effort from Stanford researchers to use Google Glass to help autistic children understand emotions and engage in more direct ways with those around them. The glasses could also be used to measure changes in behavior, something that has historically been difficult to do. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt from the report: When Esaie Prickett sat down in the living room with his mother, father and four older brothers, he was the only one wearing Google Glass. As Esaie, who was 10 at the time and is 12 now, gazed through the computerized glasses, his family made faces -- happy, sad, surprised, angry, bored -- and he tried to identify each emotion. In an instant, the glasses told him whether he was right or wrong, flashing tiny digital icons that only he could see. Esaie was 6 when he and his family learned he had autism. The technology he was using while sitting in the living room was meant to help him learn how to recognize emotions and make eye contact with those around him. The glasses would verify his choices only if he looked directly at a face. He and his family tested the technology for several weeks as part of a clinical trial run by researchers at Stanford University in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently detailed in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics, the trial fits into a growing effort to build new technologies for children on the autism spectrum, including interactive robots and computerized eyewear.

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Startup Aims To Tackle Grid Storage Problem With New Porous Silicon Battery
New submitter symgym writes: Recently out of stealth mode is a new battery technology that's printed on silicon wafers (36 million "micro-batteries" machined into 12-inch silicon wafers). It can scale from small devices to large-scale grid storage and promises four times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries for half the price. There should also be no issues with fires caused by dendrite formation. "When you use porous silicon, you get about 70 times the surface area compared to a traditional lithium battery... [and] there's millions of cells in a wafer," says Christine Hallquist of Cross Border Power, the startup that plans to commercialize the battery design developed by Washington-based company XNRGI. "It completely eliminates the problem of dendrite formation." If all of this is true, it's a massive disruptive invention. Hallquist also notes that the new batteries are 100% recyclable. "At the end of the life of this product, you bring the wafers back in, you clean the wafer off, you reclaim the lithium and other materials. And it's essentially brand new. So we're 100 percent recyclable." "Hallquist says the battery banks that Cross Border Power plans to sell to utility companies as soon as next year will be installed in standard computer server racks," reports IEEE Spectrum. "One shipping container worth of those racks (totaling 40 racks in all) will offer 4 megawatts (MW) of battery storage capacity, she says. Contrast this, she adds, to a comparable set of rack-storage lithium ion batteries which would typically only yield 1 MW in a shipping container."

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Dropbox Accidentally Installed New File Manager App On Users' Systems
Dropbox said it accidentally exposed a new desktop app experience to some users for a short period of time. While the issue has since been resolved, many users were caught off guard after being silently "upgraded" to this radically different version of Dropbox. Ars Technica reports: This new version of Dropbox wants to be... a file manager? Instead of the minimal sync app, the Dropbox icon now opens a big, multi-panel, blue and white window showing all your Dropbox files. It kind of looks like Slack, if Slack was a file manager. You can now "star" folders as important so they show up in the left panel (again, like a Slack chat room). The middle panel shows your Dropbox files, and the right panel shows a file preview with options for comments and sharing. You can search for files, sort by name or date, and do all the usual file operations like cut, copy, and paste. It's a file manager. A big part of the appeal of Dropbox is (was?) that it's a dead-simple product: it's a folder, in the cloud! Put your stuff in the folder, and it seamlessly gets backed up and synced to all your other computers. Part of using Dropbox means installing the sync app to your computer, and to keep everything fresh and up to date, Dropbox has the ability to silently update this app from time to time. Using this mechanism to silently install a bigger, more bloated, completely different version of the Dropbox app onto people's computers seems... wrong, especially with no notice whatsoever. Updates are one thing, but many users (your author included) feel like there was a lack of consent here. Here's the statement Dropbox issued earlier today: "We recently announced a new desktop app experience that is now currently available in Early Access. Due to an error, some users were accidentally exposed to the new app for a short period of time. The issue has been resolved, though there might be a short lag for some users to see resolution. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused." Developer Marco Arment responded to the statement, tweeting: "'That immensely unpopular change we forced onto all of you yesterday? We only meant to force it on *some* of you. The rest of you weren't supposed to get it forced upon you until later.' Doesn't really fix the problem, does it?"

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'The Raspberry Pi 4 Needs a Fan'
Author and programmer Jeff Geerling explains in a blog post why the new Raspberry Pi 4 needs a fan. Unlike previous Pis that didn't require a fan or heatsink to avoid CPU throttling, the Pi 4 is a different beast and "pretty much demands a fan," writes Geerling. "Not only does the CPU get appreciably hot even under normal load, there are a number of other parts of the board that heat up to the point they are uncomfortable to touch." After 5 minutes at idle, he recorded the CPU/System-on-a-Chip (SoC) was around 60C, and it climbed to the 60-70C range when using the USB ports. "[I]magine if you're truly using the Pi 4 as a desktop replacement, with at least one external USB 3.0 hard drive attached, WiFi connected and transferring large amounts of data, a USB keyboard and mouse, a few browser windows open (the average website these days might as well be an AAA video game with how resource-intense it is), a text editor, and a music player," writes Geerling. "This amount of load is enough to cause the CPU to throttle in less than 10 minutes." So, Geerling did what any programmer and DIYer would do and decided to add a fan himself to the official case -- and in addition to the blog post describing the process, he made a 22-minute-long video showing you what he did. From the post: Without any ventilation, it's kind of a little plastic oven inside the Pi 4 case. A heat sink might help in some tiny way, but that heat has nowhere to go! So I decided to follow the lead of Redditor u/CarbyCarberson and put a fan in the top cover. [...] After installing the fan, I booted the Pi and ran "stress --cpu 4" and let it go for an hour. The entire time, the CPU's temperature stayed at or under 60C (140F), a full 20C lower than the throttling point. There are some other options which may be even easier than modifying the official case, like the Fan Shim from Pimoroni or purchasing a 3rd party case with a fan built in. But this option was easy enough and all I needed to complete the project was a $4 fan and a $7 hole saw drill bit (which I can use for other projects in the future).

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California Awards $70 Million To State Schools To Replace 200 Polluting Diesel School Buses With All-Electric Buses
The California Energy Commission has awarded nearly $70 million to state schools to replace more than 200 diesel school buses with new, all-electric school buses. Electrek reports: The commission approved the funding this week. A total of $89.8 million has now been earmarked for new electric buses at schools in 26 California counties, as the commission's School Bus Replacement Program works toward this goal. A study published in Economics of Education Review last month showed diesel retrofits had positive results on both respiratory health and test scores. Eliminating emissions from these buses completely will do even more to protect children from dangerous emissions while cutting air pollution. The new buses will eliminate nearly 57,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and nearly 550 pounds of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions annually. The exact number of buses going to California school districts is unclear -- the energy commission only says "more than 200." If the entirety of the $70 million went to just 200 buses, that'd be $350,000 per bus. But while the exact cost of each bus is unknown, the commission does estimate that "schools will save nearly $120,000 in fuel and maintenance costs per bus over 20 years." Some estimates have noted that electric school buses tend to cost about $120,000 more than diesel buses -- if that's the case here, the price will be equal in the end, with added health benefits. Funding for the electric buses is supplied by the voter-approved California Clean Energy Jobs Act, and the commission's Clean Transportation Program will provide the charging infrastructure to support the buses.

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Making the Case For a Microsoft Surface Phone That Runs Android
Zac Bowden from Windows Central makes the case for why Microsoft may want to make a Surface phone that runs Android. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: While a Surface Phone running Android would never sell to the quantity that Samsung smartphones do (or at least not a first- or second-generation phone), Microsoft could utilize the Surface brand to showcase the best of Microsoft's Android efforts all in one place, just like it has done for Windows PCs. I'm picturing a Surface-branded, Microsoft-built smartphone that comes with Microsoft Launcher, Edge, Office, Your Phone phone-mirroring integration, and more, out of the box. In fact, that's one of four unique selling points that a Surface Phone running Android could have: -- Showcase the best of Microsoft's efforts on Android. -- Seamless integration with Windows PCs using Your Phone. -- Provide the best security and update support on Android. -- Brand recognition that can rival Apple and Samsung. That last point is more for Microsoft fans, but the first three are important. A Surface Phone running Android would be the only smartphone out there that's always guaranteed to work with all of Your Phone's features. I have a wide array of Android smartphones, yet 90 percent of them don't support all of Your Phone's features on Windows 10. Screen mirroring is only available on select devices, and while that may improve, there's no guarantee your smartphone will ever get it, or if it'll work well. Microsoft could also provide enhanced features, such as the ability to take cellular phone calls on your PC directly from your Surface Phone. It could also build out dedicated Phone and SMS apps that sync up with the Messages app on your PC, instead of having to relay it through the Your Phone app. There's so much more potential when you build your own Android phone.

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Elon Musk Unveils Neuralink's Plans For Brain-Reading 'Threads' and a Robot To Insert Them
Neuralink, the secretive company developing brain-machine interfaces, held a press conference today where it unveiled some of the technology it's been developing to the public for the first time. The first big advance is flexible "threads," which are less likely to damage the brain than the materials currently used in brain-machine interfaces and create the possibility of transferring a higher volume of data. "The threads are 4 to 6 micrometers in width, which makes them considerably thinner than a human hair," reports The Verge. The other big advance that Neuralink unveiled is a machine that automatically embeds the threads into the brain. From the report: In the future, scientists from Neuralink hope to use a laser beam to get through the skull, rather than drilling holes, they said in interviews with The New York Times. Early experiments will be done with neuroscientists at Stanford University, according to that report. The company aims for human trials as soon as the second quarter of next year, according to The New York Times. The system presented today, if it's functional, may be a substantial advance over older technology. BrainGate relied on the Utah Array, a series of stiff needles that allows for up to 128 electrode channels. Not only is that fewer channels than Neuralink is promising -- meaning less data from the brain is being picked up -- it's also stiffer than Neuralink's threads. That's a problem for long-term functionality: the brain shifts in the skull but the needles of the array don't, leading to damage. The thin polymers Neuralink is using may solve that problem. However, Neuralink's technology is more difficult to implant than the Utah Array, precisely because it's so flexible. To combat that problem, the company has developed "a neurosurgical robot capable of inserting six threads (192 electrodes) per minute [automatically]," according to the white paper. In photos, it looks something like a cross between a microscope and a sewing machine. It also avoids blood vessels, which may lead to less of an inflammatory response in the brain, the paper says. Finally, the paper says that Neuralink has developed a custom chip that is better able to read, clean up, and amplify signals from the brain. Right now, it can only transmit data via a wired connection (it uses USB-C), but ultimately the goal is to create a system than can work wirelessly. Currently, the company is testing the robot and threads on rats, but it's hoping to actually begin working with human test subjects as early as next year. Story is developing...

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Nokia 2.2 Brings Back the Removable Battery
HMD is bringing the latest version of the Nokia 2, called the "Nokia 2.2," to the U.S. For $139, it features a notched camera design, a plastic body, and a removable battery. Ars Technica reports: HMD is delivering a good package for the price, with a fairly modern design, the latest version of Android, and a killer update package with two years of major OS updates and three years of security updates. On the front, you have a 5.71-inch, 1520x720 IPS LCD with a flagship-emulating notch design and rounded corners. There's a sizable bezel on the bottom with a big "Nokia" logo on it, but it's hard to complain about that for $140. This is a cheap phone, so don't expect a ton in the specs department. Powering the Nokia 2.2 is a MediaTek Helio A22 SoC, which is just four Cortex A53 cores at 2GHz. The U.S. version gets 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage version with an option to add a MicroSD card. The back and sides are plastic, and on the side you'll find an extra physical button, which will summon the Google Assistant. The back actually comes off, and -- get this -- you can remove the 3000mAh battery! Speaking of unnecessarily removed smartphone features from the past, there's also a headphone jack. Unfortunately, it's missing some key features to keep the price down. There's a microUSB port instead of a USB-C port, no fingerprint reader, and cameras that have low expectations. Since it is a GSM phone, it will be supported by T-Mobile and AT&T networks, along with all their MVNOs.

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Glitch Causes Smart Meter Displays In England To Appear In Welsh Language
AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: Bulb smart energy users have reported their meter displays appearing in Welsh -- even though they are not in Wales. Some of the energy firm's customers said their displays were showing the text "defnydd heddiw," meaning "usage today." Fixing the problem involves navigating the menu, which also appears in Welsh. Bulb said the problem occurred with one in every 200 of its smart meters and could be resolved in five steps. One customer, James Tombs, who lives more than 100 miles from the Welsh border in West Sussex, said: "I don't live in Wales and don't know Welsh... I went on to the Bulb forums, found others with the same problem and followed directions to change [the] language." You can find instructions on how to change the display via Bulb.

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