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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Public Cloud Providers' Network Performance Wildly Varies
ThousandEyes, a cloud analysis company, in its second annual Cloud Performance Benchmark, has succeeded in measuring a major performance factor objectively: Public cloud providers' global network performance. ZDNet reports: In this study, ThousandEyes looked at the five major public cloud providers: Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. It did by analyzing over 320 million data points from 98 global metro locations over 30 days. This included measuring network performance from within the U.S. using multiple ISPs and global network measurements and by checking out speeds between availability zones (AZ)s and connectivity patterns between the cloud providers. Besides measuring raw speed, the company also looked at latency, jitter, and data loss. First, ThousandEyes found some cloud providers rely heavily on the public internet to transport traffic instead of their backbones. This, needless to say, impacts performance predictability. During the evening Netflix internet traffic jam, if your cloud provider relies on the internet, you will see slowdowns in the evening. So, while Google Cloud and Azure rely heavily on their private backbone networks to transport their customer traffic, AWS and Alibaba Cloud rely heavily on the public internet for the majority of transport, IBM takes a hybrid approach that varies regionally. What about AWS Global Accelerator? If you pay for this service, which puts your traffic on the AWS private backbone network, will you always see a better performance? Surprisingly, the answer's no. AWS doesn't always out-perform the internet. ThousandEyes found several cases, where the internet performs faster and more reliably than Global Accelerator -- or the results were negligible. For example, ThousandEyes discovered that from your headquarters in Seoul, you'd see a major latency improvement when accessing AWS US-East-1. That's great. But your office in San Francisco wouldn't see any improvement, while your group in Bangalore India would see a performance decrease. Generally speaking, Latin America and Asia have the highest performance variations across all clouds, whereas, in North America, cloud performance is generally comparable. You need to look at ThousandEye's detailed findings to pick out the best cloud provider on a per-region basis to ensure optimal performance. Regional performance differences can make a huge impact. Additionally, the ISP you use and whether or not you're moving traffic in or out of China also affects cloud performance. For more on the report, see ThousandEyes' website.

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Motorola Resurrects the Razr As a Foldable Android Smartphone
After teasing it last month, Motorola has officially announced the successor to the Motorola Razr. The "razr," as it is called, "keeps the same general form factor but replaces the T9 keypad and small LCD with a 6.2-inch foldable plastic OLED panel and Android 9 Pie," reports The Verge. "It'll cost $1,499 when it arrives in January 2020." From the report: The new Razr is a fundamentally different take on the foldable phones that we've seen so far: instead of turning a modern-sized phone into a smaller tablet, it turns a conventional-sized smartphone into something much smaller and more pocketable. [...] The core of the phone is, of course, the display. It's a 6.2-inch 21:9 plastic OLED panel that folds in half along the horizontal axis. Unfolded, it's not dramatically bigger than any other modern phone, and the extra height is something that the Android interface and apps adapt to far better than a tablet-size screen. The screen does have a notch on top for a speaker and camera and a curved edge on the bottom, which takes a bit of getting used to, but after a minute or two, you barely notice it. There's also a second, 2.7-inch glass-covered OLED display on the outside that Motorola calls the Quick View display. It can show notifications, music controls, and even a selfie camera mode to take advantage of the better main camera. Motorola is also working with Google to let apps seamlessly transition from the front display to the main one. There are some concerns about durability for the folding display, especially after Samsung's Galaxy Fold issues. But Motorola says that it has "full confidence in the durability of the Flex View display," claiming that its research shows that "it will last for the average lifespan of a smartphone." There's a proprietary coating to make the panel "scuff resistant," and it also has an internal nano-coating for splash resistance. (Don't take it swimming, though.) Motorola says that the entire display is made with a single cut, with the edges entirely enclosed by the stainless steel frame to prevent debris from getting in. Aside from the mid-range specs, like the Snapdragon 710 processor and "lackluster" 16-megapixel camera, seasoned reviewers appear to really like the nostalgic look and feel of the device. Did you own a Razr phone from the mid-2000s? How do you think the new model compares?

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Apple Is Finally Willing To Make Gadgets Thicker So They Work Better
Apple has started to make its products thicker in an effort to give people what they want: functionality over form. This is a good thing. There are two recent examples: this year's iPhones and the new 16-inch MacBook Pro. Todd Haselton writes via CNBC: This is a theory, but it seems this may be that there are some design changes being made after the departure of Apple's former chief design officer Jony Ive. Ive was known for creating gorgeous products but, sometimes as we've seen with the older MacBook keyboard, perhaps at the cost of functionality. Form over function, as they say. [...] If you look back at the iPhone 8, for example, the phone measured just 7.3-mm thick, an example of Apple's seeming obsession with creating devices that were as thin as possible but often at the cost of battery life. But this year, Apple put a huge focus on battery life because it knows that's one of top things people want from their phones (along with great cameras). As a result of the larger battery, this year's iPhone 11 is slightly fatter at 8.3-mm thick. It's barely noticeable but shows that Apple knows people are willing to sacrifice on thinness for a phone that lasts all day. Then there's the 16-inch MacBook Pro that was announced on Wednesday. It's less than 1-mm thicker than the 15-inch MacBook Pro that it replaces, and it weighs 4.3 pounds instead of 4 pounds in the prior model. It's 2% larger than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, too. All of this helps Apple include what people want in a similar but slightly bigger form factor: a keyboard with keys that you can actually tap into and that works, instead of one that's practically flat with very little key travel. The flat so-called butterfly keyboard was prone to exposure to dust and debris, which could lead to keys not registering or repeating themselves and, ultimately, lots of typos. Apple also focused on battery life in its new laptop. It lasts an hour longer than last year's model and charges fully in just 2.5 hours. That's partly because Apple was able to increase the battery size, something that likely contributed to the larger and heavier form factor.

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GitHub Places Open-Source Code In Arctic Cave For Safekeeping
pacopico writes: GitHub's CEO Nat Friedman traveled to Svalbard in October to stash Linux, Android, and 6,000 other open-source projects in a permafrost-filled, abandoned coal mine. It's part of a project to safeguard the world's software from existential threats and also just to archive the code for posterity. As Friedman says, "If you told someone 20 years ago that in 2020, all of human civilization will depend on and run on open-source code written for free by volunteers in countries all around the world who don't know each other, and it'll just be downloaded and put into almost every product, I think people would say, 'That's crazy, that's never going to happen. Software is written by big, professional companies.' It's sort of a magical moment. Having a historical record of this will, I think, be valuable to future generations." GitHub plans to open several more vaults in other places around the world and to store any code that people want included.

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Boston Dynamics CEO on the Company's Top 3 Robots, AI, and Viral Videos
In a rare interview, Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert talked about the three robots the company is currently focused on (today -- Spot, tomorrow -- Handle, and the future -- Atlas), its current customers, potential applications, AI, simulation, and of course those viral videos. An excerpt from the interview: "Today," for Raibert, refers to a time period that extends over the course of the next year or so. Spot is the "today" robot because it's already shipping to early adopters. In fact, it's only been shipping for about six weeks. Boston Dynamics wants Spot to be a platform -- Raibert has many times referred to it as "the Android of robots." Spot, which weighs about 60 pounds, "is not an end-use application robot," said Raibert. Users can add hardware payloads, and they can add software that interacts with Spot through its API. In fact, Raibert's main purpose in attending Web Summit was to inspire attendees to develop hardware and software for Spot. Boston Dynamics has an arm, spectrum radio, cameras, and lidars for Spot, but other companies are developing their own sensors. The "Spot" we're talking about is technically the SpotMini. It was renamed when it succeeded its older, bigger brother Spot. "The legacy Spot was a research project. We're really not doing anything with it at the moment. We just call it 'Spot' now; it's the product." Spot can go up and down stairs by using obstacle detection cameras to see railings and steps. It also has an autonomous navigation system that lets it traverse a terrain. While Spot can be steered by a human, the computers onboard regulate the legs and balance. Spot travels at about 3 miles per hour, which is about human walking speed. It has cameras on its front, back, and sides that help it navigate, travel autonomously, and move omnidirectionally. It has different gaits (slow, walking, running, and even show-off), can turn in place, and has a "chicken head" mode. That last one means it can decouple the motion of its hand from its body, similar to how many animals can stabilize one part while the rest of the body moves.

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Dell Unveils Subscription Model To Counter Amazon, Microsoft
Dell is planning to offer business clients a subscription model for products like servers and personal computers, "seeking to counter the lure of cloud services from Amazon and Microsoft," reports Bloomberg. From the report: Dell and its hardware peers have been under pressure to offer corporate clients the flexibility and simplicity of infrastructure cloud services. Public cloud titans such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have cut demand for data-center hardware as more businesses look to rent computing power rather than invest in their own server farms. Rival Hewlett Packard Enterprise said in June that it would move to a subscription model by 2022. Research firm Gartner predicts 15% of data-center hardware deals will include pay-per-use pricing in 2022, up from 1% in 2019, Dell said. Dell is making it easier for clients to upgrade their hardware since they don't have to spend a large amount of capital expenditures upfront, but can pay a smaller amount each month that counts toward a company's operating expenditures. For the consumption programs, customers pay for the amount of storage or computing power they use. Companies can also hire Dell to completely manage their hardware infrastructure for them. While Dell's overall sales climbed 2% in the quarter that ended Aug. 2, demand for its servers and networking gear dropped 12% in a reversal from last year, when there was unprecedented customer interest in the products. Dell still expects the vast majority of customers to pay upfront for products in the next three to five years, Grocott said.

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UCLA Now Has the First Zero-Emission, All-Electric Mobile Surgical Instrument Lab
UCLA's new mobile surgical lab is a zero-emission, all-electric vehicle that will move back and forth between two UCLA campuses, collecting, sterilizing and repairing surgical instruments for the medical staff there. TechCrunch reports: Why is that even needed? The usual process is sending out surgical instruments for this kind of service by a third-party, and it's handled in a dedicated facility at a significant annual cost. UCLA Health Center estimates that it can save as much as $750,000 per year using the EV lab from Winnebago instead. The traveling lab can operate for around eight hours, including round-trips between the two hospital campuses, or for a total distance traveled of between 85 and 125 miles on a single charge of its battery, depending on usage. It also offers "the same level of performance, productivity and compliance" as a lab in a fixed-location building, according to Winnebago.

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Intel Fixes a Security Flaw It Said Was Repaired 6 Months Ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Last May, when Intel released a patch for a group of security vulnerabilities researchers had found in the company's computer processors, Intel implied that all the problems were solved. But that wasn't entirely true, according to Dutch researchers at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam who discovered the vulnerabilities and first reported them to the tech giant in September 2018. The software patch meant to fix the processor problem addressed only some of the issues the researchers had found. It would be another six months before a second patch, publicly disclosed by the company on Tuesday, would fix all of the vulnerabilities Intel indicated were fixed in May, the researchers said in a recent interview. The public message from Intel was "everything is fixed," said Cristiano Giuffrida, a professor of computer science at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and one of the researchers who reported the vulnerabilities. "And we knew that was not accurate." While many researchers give companies time to fix problems before the researchers disclose them publicly, the tech firms can be slow to patch the flaws and attempt to muzzle researchers who want to inform the public about the security issues. Researchers often agree to disclose vulnerabilities privately to tech companies and stay quiet about them until the company can release a patch. Typically, the researchers and companies coordinate on a public announcement of the fix. But the Dutch researchers say Intel has been abusing the process. Now the Dutch researchers claim Intel is doing the same thing again. They said the new patch issued on Tuesday still doesn't fix another flaw they provided Intel in May. The Intel flaws, like other high-profile vulnerabilities the computer security community has recently discovered in computer chips, allowed an attacker to extract passwords, encryption keys and other sensitive data from processors in desktop computers, laptops and cloud-computing servers. Intel says the patches "greatly reduce" the risk of attack, but don't completely fix everything the researchers submitted. The company's spokeswoman Leigh Rosenwald said Intel was publishing a timeline with Tuesday's patch for the sake of transparency. "This is not something that is normal practice of ours, but we realized this is a complicated issue. We definitely want to be transparent about that," she said. "While we may not agree with some of the assertions made by the researchers, those disagreements aside, we value our relationship with them."

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Intel's Cascade Lake CPUs Impacted By New Zombieload v2 Attack
The Zombieload vulnerability disclosed earlier this year in May has a second variant that also works against more recent Intel processors, not just older ones, including Cascade Lake, Intel's latest line of high-end CPUs -- initially thought to have been unaffected. From a report: Intel is releasing microcode (CPU firmware) updates today to address this new Zombieload attack variant, as part of its monthly Patch Tuesday -- known as the Intel Platform Update (IPU) process. Back in May, two teams of academics disclosed a new batch of vulnerabilities that impacted Intel CPUs. Collectively known as MDS attacks, these are security flaws in the same class as Meltdown, Spectre, and Foreshadow. The attacks rely on taking advantage of the speculative execution process, which is an optimization technique that Intel added to its CPUs to improve data processing speeds and performance. Vulnerabilities like Meltdown, Spectre, and Foreshadow, showed that the speculative execution process was riddled with security holes. Disclosed in May, MDS attacks were just the latest line of vulnerabilities impacting speculative execution. They were different from the original Meltdown, Spectre, and Foreshadow bugs disclosed in 2018 because they attacked different areas of a CPU's speculative execution process. Further reading: Flaw in Intel PMx driver gives 'near-omnipotent control over a victim device'.

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American Robots Lose Jobs To Asian Robots as Adidas Shifts Manufacturing
Adidas plans to close high-tech "robot" factories in Germany and the United States that it launched to bring production closer to customers, saying Monday that deploying some of the technology in Asia would be "more economic and flexible." Reuters: The Adidas factories were part of a drive to meet demand for faster delivery of new styles to its major markets and to counter rising wages in Asia and higher shipping costs. It originally planned a global network of similar factories. The German sportswear company did not give details on why it was closing the facilities, which have proved expensive and where the technology has been difficult to extend to different products. Martin Shankland, Adidas' head of global operations, said the factories had helped the company improve its expertise in innovative manufacturing, but it aimed to apply what it had learned with its suppliers.

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Honda Works On Second EV, Quits Diesel, and Puts Hydrogen On Hold
Socguy writes: In late October, at Honda's "Electric Vision" event in Amsterdam, the company said it was "electrifying" its entire product line, which mostly means hybrids. "We will bring further battery-electric products to the market," they said. At the same time it would seem, diesel and hydrogen are on the way out. Katsushi Inoue, Honda Europe's president, said: "Maybe hydrogen fuel cell cars will come, but that's a technology for the next era. Our focus is on hybrid and electric vehicles now." Diesel is also on the way out as in September, Honda said it would phase out all diesel cars by 2021. In addition to the all-electric Honda E, which is launching in Europe next year, the company will introduce a second EV that's expected to be revealed by 2022.

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How Tech From Australia Could Prevent California Wildfires and PG&E Blackouts
"Technology developed to combat Australia's deadly bushfires could slash California's fire risk and reduce the need for PG&E's 'public safety power shutoffs'," reports IEEE Spectrum. "See the video to watch an advanced power diverter cut off 22,000 volts of power in less than 1/20th of a second, preventing ignition of dry brush," writes Slashdot reader carbonnation. IEEE Spectrum reports:California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) delivered a bitter pill last month when it said that deliberate blackouts to keep its lines from sparking wildfires could be the new normal for millions of customers for the next decade -- a dangerous disruption to power-dependent communities that California governor Gavin Newsom says "no state in the 21st Century should experience." Grid experts say Newsom is right, because technology available today can slash the risk of grid-induced fires, reducing or eliminating the need for PG&E's "public safety power shutoffs...." Some of the most innovative fire-beating grid technologies are the products of an R&D program funded by the state of Victoria in Australia, prompted by deadly grid-sparked bushfires there 10 years ago. Early this year, utilities in Victoria began a massive rollout of one solution: power diverters that are expected to protect all of the substations serving the state's high fire risk areas by 2024. "It's not cheap to put one in but once you do it, you've got 1,000 kilometers of network that's suddenly a lot safer," says Monash University professor Tony Marxsen, former chair of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Australia's power grid regulator, and chairman of Melbourne-based grid equipment developer IND Technology. The power diverters -- known as Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCLs) -- react to the surge of current unleashed when a power line strikes the ground or is struck by a tree. When this happens on one of Victoria's 22-kilovolt distribution circuits, the REFCL instantly begins collapsing the faulted line's voltage toward 100 volts, and can get there in as few as 40 milliseconds (ms). "If it can do it within 85 ms, you won't get fires," he says... Marxsen says 20 to 30 percent of the distribution circuits in PG&E's territory have the appropriate three-phase design for REFCLs, as do a similar proportion of circuits in the territory of Southern California Edison (which is also grappling with grid-sparked wildfires). "It would certainly offer the option of not shutting down the networks when there's high fire risk," he says.

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'Bring Back the Replaceable Laptop Battery'
"If you've gone shopping for a new laptop lately, you may notice something missing in all newer models regardless of make," writes Slashdot reader ikhider. There's no removable battery.Whether mainstream or obscure manufacturer, the fact that pretty much all of them are made in the same area denote a similar approach to soldering batteries in. While battery technology may have improved, it is not to the extent that they no longer need to be replaced. Premium retention of charges generally tend to deplete in about a year or so. This impacts the device mobility and necessitates replacement. Also, the practical use of having a backup battery if you need one cannot even be applied. While some high-end models may have better quality batteries, it does not replace popping in a fresh, new one. This leads to one conclusion, planned obsolescence.If you want your laptop to still be mobile when the battery fizzles out, forget about it. Buy new instead. Pick your manufacturer, even those famed for building 'tank' laptops that last forever, all you need is a fresh battery, upgrade the RAM, and a new HD or SSD and away you go. While the second hand market still has good models with replaceable batteries, it is only a matter of time before that too fizzles away. If you had a limited budget, you could still get a good, second-hand machine [in the past], but now you are stuck with the low end. Consumers need to make their case to manufacturers, for their own best interest to leverage the life of a machine on their own terms, not the manufacturers. Bring back the removable laptop battery.

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AMD Unveils the World's Most Powerful Desktop CPUs
ZDNet reports:In the never ending war between the chip giants, AMD has released a salvo by unveiling what are the world's most powerful desktop processors -- the new 24-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X and 32-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X... These 3rd-generation Ryzen Threadripper Processors are built using AMD's 7-nanometer "Zen 2" core architecture, and both chips feature 88 PCIe 4.0 lanes with extraordinary power efficiency. On the performanced front, AMD claims that the new 32-core Ryzen Threadripper 3970X offers up to 90 percent faster performance over the competition... This performance doesn't mean the chips are power-hungry either, with AMD claiming they deliver up to 66 percent better power efficiency compared to previous generation processors. The new chips do, however, need a new socket. The new socket is called sTRX4, which offers expansion for serious multi-GPU and NVMe arrays, quad channel DDR4, ECC support, and unlocked overclocking.... [T]hey both will be available starting Tuesday, November 19. Engadget reports:After getting some wins against Intel in the desktop enthusiast processor race, AMD is trying to run up the score with its latest model, the Ryzen 9 3950X. It has 16 cores/32 threads, a 3.5 Ghz base clock with up to 4.7 GHz boost (on two cores) and 105 watt power consumption (TDP), and costs $749, compared to $1,199 for Intel's 12-core i9-9920X. At the same time, AMD claims it outperforms the i9-9920X in gaming and even more so for content creation, where those extra cores can be best exploited. According to the company, it'll do some Adobe Premiere tasks up to 26 percent quicker than an i9-9920X, and 42 percent faster than an 8-core i9-9900K. Better still, the Ryzen 9 3950X delivers 2.34 times more performance per watt than its Intel counterpart, and consumes 173W of absolute wall power compared to 304W for the i9-9920X. The power figures alone could be decisive for creators who run multiple workstations for 3D animation and rendering... If $749 is $700 too much, AMD has another option -- the Athlon 3000G. The dual-core processor runs at 3.5Ghz, but AMD said it's "the only unlocked option in its segment," meaning you can push it to around 3.9Ghz. That'll boost its performance ahead of Intel's $73 Pentium G5400, AMD said. The Athlon 3000G will arrive November 19th for $49.

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Ask Slashdot: Are There Storage Devices With Hardware Compression Built In?
Slashdot reader dryriver writes:Using a compressed disk drive or hard drive has been possible for decades now. But when you do this in software or the operating system, the CPU does the compressing and decompressing. Are there any hard drives or SSDs that can work compressed using their own built in hardware for this? I'm not talking about realtime video compression using a hardware CODEC chip -- this does exist and is used -- but rather a storage medium that compresses every possible type of file using its own compression and decompression realtime hardware without a significant speed hit. Leave your best thoughts and suggestions in the comments. Are there storage devices with hardware compressiong built in?

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