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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Experts Urge US To Continue Support For Nuclear Fusion Research
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: A panel of 19 scientists drawn from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended yesterday that the Department of Energy should continue an international experiment on nuclear fusion energy and then develop its own plan for a "compact power plant." A panel of 19 scientists drawn from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended yesterday that the Department of Energy should continue an international experiment on nuclear fusion energy and then develop its own plan for a "compact power plant." But as the National Academies' report noted, major challenges must be overcome to reach these goals, beginning with how to contain and control a burning "plasma" of extremely hot gas, ranging from 100 million to 200 million degrees Celsius, that can produce more heat than it consumes. The report calls the resulting plasma "a miniature sun confined inside a vessel." The world's biggest experiment intended to create and draw energy from burning plasma is under construction at Cadarache, France. It's called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, and its centerpiece is a large, doughnut-shaped, Russian-inspired reactor called a tokamak. Several member nations have already developed their own national programs, and the assembled National Academies experts concluded that the United States should eventually follow, once the ITER experiment shows there are ways to contain and manipulate a sustained fusion reaction. "It is the next critical step in the development of fusion energy," says the report.

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Russian State TV Shows Off 'Robot' That's Actually a Man In a Robot Suit
A "hi-tech robot" shown on Russian state television turns out to be a man in a suit. While airing footage of a technology forum aimed at kids, a Russian state TV reporter proclaimed that Boris the robot "has already learned to dance and he's not that bad." Gizmodo reports: This "robot" actually retails for 250,000 rubles (about $3,770), as first reported by the Guardian, and is made by a company called Show Robots. "Boris" features glowing eyes, and plastic parts -- and shockingly human-like movements. Probably because he needs a human inside to operate properly. This faux-robot (fauxbot?) mystery was actually first unraveled when some eagled-eyed Russian viewers on the internet noticed that a suspiciously human-like neck was showing in the video. The report notes that "there's no indication" that there was intent to deceive anyone. Instead, it "appears to be a case of a TV presenter getting confused with what he believed to be 'modern robots.'" You can watch the broadcast on Russia-24's YouTube channel.

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Ships Infected With Ransomware, USB Malware, Worms
An anonymous reader writes: IT systems on boats aren't as air-gapped as people think and are falling victims to all sorts of cyber-security incidents, such as ransomware, worms, viruses, and other malware -- usually carried on board via USB sticks. These cyber-security incidents have been kept secret until now, and have only been recently revealed as past examples of what could go wrong, in a new "cyber-security guideline" released by 21 international shipping associations and industry groups. One of the many incidents: "A new-build dry bulk ship was delayed from sailing for several days because its ECDIS was infected by a virus. The ship was designed for paperless navigation and was not carrying paper charts. The failure of the ECDIS appeared to be a technical disruption and was not recognized as a cyber issue by the ship's master and officers. A producer technician was required to visit the ship and, after spending a significant time in troubleshooting, discovered that both ECDIS networks were infected with a virus. The virus was quarantined and the ECDIS computers were restored. The source and means of infection in this case are unknown. The delay in sailing and costs in repairs totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (U.S.)." The document also highlights an incident involving ransomware. "For example, a shipowner reported not one, but two ransomware infections, both occurring due to partners, and not necessarily because of the ship's crew," reports ZDNet. Another ransomware incident occurred because the ship failed to set up proper (RDP) passwords: A ransomware infection on the main application server of the ship caused complete disruption of the IT infrastructure. The ransomware encrypted every critical file on the server and as a result, sensitive data were lost, and applications needed for ship's administrative operations were unusable. The incident was reoccurring even after complete restoration of the application server. The root cause of the infection was poor password policy that allowed attackers to brute force remote management services successfully. The company's IT department deactivated the undocumented user and enforced a strong password policy on the ship's systems to remediate the incident.

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Apple Is Making Its Own Modem To Compete With Qualcomm, Report Says
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Apple is apparently working on its own, in-house developed modem to allow it to better compete with Qualcomm, according to several new Apple job listings that task engineers to design and develop a layer 1 cellular PHY chip -- implying that the company is working on actual, physical networking hardware. Two of the job posts are explicitly to hire a pair of cellular modem systems architects, one in Santa Clara and one in San Diego, home of Qualcomm. That's alongside several other job postings Apple has listed in San Diego for RF design engineers. The Information, which spotted the first job posting, cites sources that go a step further, claiming that Apple is not only potentially working to develop its own modem, but is in fact specifically targeting it for use in future iPhones, with the company looking to leave longtime partner Intel behind in favor of its own, in-house solution. According to The Information's report, the new modem would still be years away, with even Apple's purported 5G iPhone slated for 2020 using Intel's in-development 5G modem instead. It makes sense logically, too -- if Apple is only just starting to hire now, it'll take at least a few years before it'll actually be ready to ship hardware. But the move would have big ramifications for the mobile space, particularly for Qualcomm and Intel, two of the biggest modem suppliers in the world.

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New LG Gram is the Lightest 17-inch Laptop Ever at Just 3 Pounds
LG has unveiled two new laptops in its Gram lineup in advance of CES in Las Vegas next month, and the Gram 17 looks like a stunner. LaptopMag: It weighs just 3 pounds, which is crazy light for a notebook with a 17-inch display. That's the same weight as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. A typical 17-inch laptop weighs 6 to 6.5 pounds, so getting such a big screen in such a lightweight package is definitely no small feat. Does that mean the specs skimpy? Nope. LG says the 15 x 10.5 x 0.7-inch Gram 17 packs a 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8565U, up to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. (There's also a slot for an additional SSD). The Gram 17's 72W battery is rated for up to 19.5 hours of usage, which we will obviously put to the test once we get our hands on the laptop. Other highlights include a sharp 2560 x 1600 pixel display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, a fingerprint reader and a chassis that's rated MIL-STD-810G for durability. LG's website lists a suggested price of $1,699.99 for the LG Gram 17.

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Intel Unveils Roadmaps For Core Architecture and Atom Architecture
Intel on Wednesday surprised a number of people when it shared not one roadmap on CPUs, but two. AnandTech: For the high performance Core architecture, Intel lists three new codenames over the next three years. To be very clear here, these are the codenames for the individual core microarchitecture, not the chip, which is an important departure from how Intel has previously done things. Sunny Cove, built on 10nm, will come to market in 2019 and offer increased single-threaded performance, new instructions, and 'improved scalability'. Willow Cove looks like it will be a 2020 core design, most likely also on 10nm. Intel lists the highlights here as a cache redesign (which might mean L1/L2 adjustments), new transistor optimizations (manufacturing based), and additional security features, likely referring to further enhancements from new classes of side-channel attacks. Golden Cove rounds out the trio, and is firmly in that 2021 segment in the graph. Process node here is a question mark, but we're likely to see it on 10nm and or 7nm. Golden Cove is where Intel adds another slice of the serious pie onto its plate, with an increase in single threaded performance, a focus on AI performance, and potential networking and AI additions to the core design. Security features also look like they get a boost. The lower-powered Atom microarchitecture roadmap is on a slower cadence than the Core microarchitecture, which is not surprising given its history. The upcoming microarchitecture for 2019 is called Tremont, which focuses on single threaded performance increases, battery life increases, and network server performance. Based on some of the designs later in this article, we think that this will be a 10nm design. Following Tremont will be Gracemont, which Intel lists as a 2021 product. Beyond this will be a future 'mont' core (and not month as listed in the image).

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Intel Reveals 10nm Sunny Cove CPU Cores That Go Deeper, Wider, and Faster
Long criticized for reusing old cores in its recent CPUs, Intel on Wednesday showed off a new 10nm Sunny Cove core that will bring faster single-threaded and multi-threaded performance along with major speed bumps from new instructions. From a report: Sunny Cove, which many believe will go into Intel's upcoming Ice Lake-U CPUs early next year, will be "deeper, wider, and smarter," said Ronak Singhal, director of Intel's Architecture Cores Group. Singhal said the three approaches should boost the performance of Sunny Cove CPUs. By doing "deeper," Sunny Cove cores find greater opportunities for parallelism by increasing the cache sizes. "Wider" means the new cores will execute more operations in parallel. Compared to the Skylake architecture (which is also the basis of Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake chips), the chip goes from a 4-wide design to 5-wide. Intel says Sunny Cove also increases performance in specialized tasks by adding new instructions that will improve the speed of cryptography and AI and machine learning.

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Ask Slashdot: Why Don't HDR TVs Have sRGB Or AdobeRGB Ratings?
dryriver writes: As anyone who buys professional computer monitors knows, the dynamic range of the display device you are looking at can be expressed quite usefully in terms of percentage sRGB coverage and percentage AdobeRGB coverage. The higher the percentage for each, the better and wider the dynamic range of the screen panel you are getting. People who work with professional video and photographs typically aim for a display that has 100 percent sRGB coverage and at least 70 to 80 percent AdobeRGB coverage. Laptop review site Notebookcheck for example uses professional optical testing equipment to check whether the advertised sRGB and AdobeRGB percentages and brightness in nits for any laptop display panel hold up in real life. This being the case, why do quote-unquote "High Dynamic Range" capable TVs -- which seem to be mostly 10 bits per channel to begin with -- not have an sRGB or AdobeRGB rating quoted anywhere in their technical specs? Why don't professional TV reviewers use optical testing equipment that's readily available to measure the real world dynamic range of HDR or non-HDR TVs objectively, in hard numbers? Why do they simply say "the blacks on this TV were deep and pleasing, and the lighter tones were..." when this can be expressed better and more objectively in measured numbers or percentages? Do they think consumers are too unsophisticated to understand a simple number like "this OLED TV achieves a fairly average 66 percent AdobeRGB coverage?"

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Border Agents Fail To Delete Personal Data of Travelers After Electronic Searches, Watchdog Says
The Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog, known as the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that the majority of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents fail to delete the personal data they collect from travelers' devices. Last year alone, border agents searched through the electronic devices of more than 29,000 travelers coming into the country. "CBP officers sometimes upload personal data from those devices to Homeland Security servers by first transferring that data onto USB drives -- drives that are supposed to be deleted after every use," Gizmodo reports. From the report: Customs officials can conduct two kinds of electronic device searches at the border for anyone entering the country. The first is called a "basic" or "manual" search and involves the officer visually going through your phone, your computer or your tablet without transferring any data. The second is called an "advanced search" and allows the officer to transfer data from your device to DHS servers for inspection by running that data through its own software. Both searches are legal and don't require a warrant or even probable cause -- at least they don't according to DHS. It's that second kind of search, the "advanced" kind, where CBP has really been messing up and regularly leaving the personal data of travelers on USB drives. According to the new report [PDF]: "[The Office of the Inspector General] physically inspected thumb drives at five ports of entry. At three of the five ports, we found thumb drives that contained information copied from past advanced searches, meaning the information had not been deleted after the searches were completed. Based on our physical inspection, as well as the lack of a written policy, it appears [Office of Field Operations] has not universally implemented the requirement to delete copied information, increasing the risk of unauthorized disclosure of travelers' data should thumb drives be lost or stolen." The report also found that Customs officers "regularly failed to disconnect devices from the internet, potentially tainting any findings stored locally on the device." It also found that the officers had "inadequate supervision" to make sure they were following the rules. There's also a number of concerning redactions. For example, everything from what happens during an advanced search after someone crosses the border to the reason officials are allowed to conduct an advanced search at all has been redacted.

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Why I'm Usually Unnerved When Modern SSDs Die on Us
Chris Siebenmann, a Unix Systems Administrator at University of Toronto, writes about the inability to figure out the bottleneck when an SSD dies: What unnerves me about these sorts of abrupt SSD failures is how inscrutable they are and how I can't construct a story in my head of what went wrong. With spinning HDs, drives might die abruptly but you could at least construct narratives about what could have happened to do that; perhaps the spindle motor drive seized or the drive had some other gross mechanical failure that brought everything to a crashing halt (perhaps literally). SSDs are both solid state and opaque, so I'm left with no story for what went wrong, especially when a drive is young and isn't supposed to have come anywhere near wearing out its flash cells (as this SSD was). (When a HD died early, you could also imagine undetected manufacturing flaws that finally gave way. With SSDs, at least in theory that shouldn't happen, so early death feels especially alarming. Probably there are potential undetected manufacturing flaws in the flash cells and so on, though.) When I have no story, my thoughts turn to unnerving possibilities, like that the drive was lying to us about how healthy it was in SMART data and that it was actually running through spare flash capacity and then just ran out, or that it had a firmware flaw that we triggered that bricked it in some way.

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Super Micro Says Review Found No Malicious Chips in Motherboards
Computer hardware maker Super Micro Computer told customers on Tuesday that an outside investigations firm had found no evidence of any malicious hardware in its current or older-model motherboards. From a report: In a letter to customers, the San Jose, California, company said it was not surprised by the result of the review it commissioned in October after a Bloomberg article reported that spies for the Chinese government had tainted Super Micro equipment to eavesdrop on its clients.

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Californians Have Now Purchased Half a Million EVs
According Veloz -- an electric car industry group -- electric vehicle sales in California hit a cumulative 512,717 since 2010. "Months of strong U.S. sales in 2018, preceded by a strong 2017, are starting to show a trend: electric vehicles are selling well, especially in places where there are strong monetary and non-monetary incentives to buy them," reports Ars Technica. From the report: "Overall, this year has seen exponential growth in electric car sales," Veloz wrote. "Electric cars accounted for 7.1 percent of California car sales in the first three quarters of the year, with fully electric, zero-emission car sales outpacing plug-in hybrid sales 4.1 percent to 3 percent respectively." Veloz's data tallies not just fully battery-electric vehicles but also plug-in hybrids as well as the much rarer fuel cell vehicles. The group gets its data (PDF) from the blogs InsideEVs and HybridCars.com as well as a market-research firm called Baum & Associates and estimates from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). According to data from InsideEVs, the Tesla Model 3 was the top-selling electric vehicle model in the U.S. in November. In November alone, 18,650 of those vehicles were sold in the U.S. To its credit, Veloz's press release isn't too self-congratulatory. The group writes, "Veloz recognizes that, while electric car sales are increasing at a rapid clip, it is not happening fast enough to achieve the deep cuts in emissions that the state needs to achieve to protect people's health and curb negative impacts on the environment."

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Walmart Is Reportedly Testing a Burger-Flipping Robot
Flippy, a burger-flipping robot that's been trialed in a number of restaurants this year, is coming to Walmart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, to see whether or not it's the right fit for its in-store delis. Yahoo News reports: Flippy is the world's first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant powered by artificial intelligence from Miso Robotics, a two-year-old startup. Flippy got a gig at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles with vending food service company Levy Restaurants, part of Compass Group, to fry up chicken tenders and tater tots. Through the World Series, Flippy churned out 17,000 pounds worth of the fried foods. It's able to fry up to eight baskets of food simultaneously. "Walmart saw what we were doing and said, 'Could you bring Flippy from Dodgers Stadium to our Culinary Institute?'" Miso Robotics CEO David Zito told Yahoo Finance. In practice, a Walmart associate would place a frozen product on the rack. Using visual recognition technology, Flippy identifies the food in the basket and sets it in the cooking oil. The machine then "agitates" the basket by shaking it to make sure the product cooks evenly. When the food is finished cooking, Flippy moves the basket to the drip rack. An associate then tests the food's internal temperature. A few minutes later, the associate can season the food before it hits the hot display case. The reason Walmart is looking at the robot is so it can do some of the more mundane and repetitive tasks at the deli. The robot is supposed to serve as an "extra set of hands," letting the associate spend less time putting potato wedges and chicken tenders in fryers and more time on other services like taking customer orders and prepping other foods.

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GoPro To Move US-Bound Camera Production Out of China
In an effort to counter the potential impact from new tariffs, GoPro is moving most of its U.S.-bound camera production out of China by the summer of 2019. The company said international-bound camera production will remain in China. Reuters reports: The company had previously said it was being "very proactive" about the situation regarding tariffs as U.S. and China ramped up its bitter trade war, in which both nations have imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other's imports. "It's important to note that we own our own production equipment while our manufacturing partner provides the facilities, so we expect to make this move at a relatively low cost," said Chief Financial Officer Brian McGee. In the company's earnings call in November, GoPro said it had the option to move U.S.-bound production out of China in the first half of 2019, if necessary.

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Aston Martin Will Make Old Cars Electric So They Don't Get Banned From Cities
Aston Martin announced this week that it's starting a "Heritage EV" program where owners of classic Aston Martins can have their cars converted to an all-electric powertrain. The British automaker said they are starting this program so that classic cars don't get banned from cities that are moving to shun internal combustion engines in favor of boosting air quality for residents. The Verge reports: Aston Martin says the technology for these conversions will be built on "key components" being used to develop the Rapide E, a super-limited all-electric sports car due late next year. The Rapide E will use an 800-volt, 65kWh battery, offer "over 200 miles" of range, and feature a sub-4-second 0-60 mph time, as well as a top speed of 155 miles per hour. Only 155 of them will be sold, too. So the best way to get a taste of Aston Martin's electric future might actually be one of these EV conversions. The automaker says the first car it will develop a conversion plan for is the 1970 DB6 MkII Volante. Aston Martin will build Rapide E-inspired "cassettes" that can essentially slide in where the original engine and gearbox used to be, and will even be attached to the same mountings. A new screen will be fitted in the car's interior, but otherwise, little else is changed. This also means that, should an owner change their mind, and also have the money (which, come on, of course they do), they should be able to change it back if they so desire.

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