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Transportation

Robocops Being Used As Traffic Police In Democratic Republic of Congo 21

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-citizen dept.
mspohr writes "The Guardian describes robocops used in Kinshasa to direct traffic: "The solar-powered aluminum robots are huge, towering over the jammed streets of Kinshasa, as cars and motorcycles jostle for road room, their horns blasting. Each hand on the odd-looking machines — built to withstand the year-round hot climate — is fitted with green and red lights that regulate the flow of traffic in the sprawling city of nine million. The robots are also equipped with rotating chests and surveillance cameras that record the flow of traffic and send real-time images to the police station. These are second generation robots designed by a Congolese association of women engineers. Although the humanoids look more like giant toys than real policemen, motorists have given them a thumbs up. 'There are certain drivers who don't respect the traffic police. But with the robot it will be different. We should respect the robot,' taxi driver Poro Zidane told AFP."
Cloud

Red Hat Strips Down For Docker 34

Posted by timothy
from the wearing-or-not-wearing-dockers dept.
angry tapir writes Reacting to the surging popularity of the Docker virtualization technology, Red Hat has customized a version of its Linux distribution to run Docker containers. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Atomic Host strips away all the utilities residing in the stock distribution of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) that aren't needed to run Docker containers. Removing unneeded components saves on storage space, and reduces the time needed for updating and booting up. It also provides fewer potential entry points for attackers. (Product page is here.)
Displays

Developers Race To Develop VR Headsets That Won't Make Users Nauseous 136

Posted by timothy
from the or-nauseated dept.
HughPickens.com writes Nick Wingfield reports at the NYT that for the last couple of years, the companies building virtual reality headsets have begged the public for patience as they strive to create virtual environments that don't make people physically sick. "We're going to hang ourselves out there and be judged," says John Carmack, chief technology officer of Oculus, describing what he calls a "nightmare scenario" that has worried him and other Oculus executives. "People like the demo, they take it home, and they start throwing up," says Carmack. "The fear is if a really bad V.R. product comes out, it could send the industry back to the '90s." In that era, virtual reality headsets flopped, disappointing investors and consumers. "It left a huge, smoking crater in the landscape," says Carmack, who is considered an important game designer for his work on Doom and Quake. "We've had people afraid to touch V.R. for 20 years." This time around, the backing for virtual reality is of a different magnitude. Facebook paid $2 billion last year to acquire Oculus. Microsoft is developing its own headset, HoloLens, that mixes elements of virtual reality with augmented reality, a different medium that overlays virtual images on a view of the real world. Google has invested more than $500 million in Magic Leap, a company developing an augmented reality headset. "The challenge is there is so much expectation and anticipation that that could fall away quite quickly if you don't get the type of traction you had hoped," says Neil Young. (More, below.)
Graphics

Valve Developed an Open-Source Intel Vulkan GPU Driver For Linux 45

Posted by timothy
from the good-news-for-a-change dept.
An anonymous reader writes For those wondering when the first graphics driver for the new Khronos Vulkan API will materialize and for what hardware, it looks like the first driver could very well be for Intel graphics and it might not be too far away. It turns out Valve developed an Intel Linux Vulkan driver to help ISVs bootstrap their new Vulkan code, with Valve planning to open-source this driver code. This is yet another reason to love Valve, especially as Intel graphics on Linux don't even support OpenGL 4 yet.
Intel

Intel Reveals Unlocked, Socketed Broadwell and Core i7 NUC With Iris Graphics 48

Posted by timothy
from the faster-all-the-time dept.
MojoKid writes Intel held an event at a location adjacent to GDC last night, where the company discussed some updates to its 5th Gen Core processor line-up, Intel graphics developments, the Intel Hardware SDK, and its various game developer tools. Chris Silva, Director of Marketing for Premium Notebook and Client Graphics teams disclosed a few details that a socketed, unlocked, 65W desktop processor based on Intel's Broadwell architecture, featuring Iris graphics, is due to arrive sometime in mid-2015. It's noteworthy because this will be Intel's first desktop CPU with Iris Pro graphics and because it is multiplier unlocked. It will be interesting to see what Iris Pro can do with some overclocking. Intel then showed off a new NUC mini PC powered by a 28W, quad-core Core i7 Broadwell processor, which also featured Iris graphics. The device has a tiny .63 liter enclosure with support for high-performance M.2 solid state drives and features an array of built-in IO options, like USB3, BT4, and 802.11ac WiFi. Bryan Langley, Principal PM for Windows Graphics also talked a bit about DirectX 12, disclosing that the company would be ready with DX12 support when Windows 10 arrives and that there are optimizations in DX12 and their drivers that would deliver performance enhancements to current and future Intel graphics platforms.
Businesses

French Nuclear Industry In Turmoil As Manufacturer Buckles 361

Posted by samzenpus
from the bad-times dept.
mdsolar writes with bad news for France and its nuclear industry. "France's nuclear industry is in turmoil after the country's main reactor manufacturer, Areva, reported a loss for 2014 of 4.8 billion euros ($5.3 billion) — more than its entire market value. The government of France, the world's most nuclear dependent country, has a 29% stake in Areva, which is among the biggest global nuclear technology companies. The loss puts its future — and that of France as a leader in nuclear technology — at risk. Energy and Environment Minister Segolene Royal said Wednesday she asked Areva and utility giant Electricite de France to work together on finding solutions, amid reports of a possible merger or other link-up. The government said in a statement that it's working closely with Areva to restructure and secure financing, and would 'take its responsibility as a shareholder' in future decisions about its direction. Areva reported Wednesday 1 billion euros in losses on three major nuclear projects in Finland and France, among other hits. Areva has lost money for years, in part linked to delays on those projects and to a global pullback from nuclear energy since the 2011 Fukushima accident."
Robotics

Drones Underwater, Drones on Wheels (Video) 18

Posted by Roblimo
from the drones-above-and-drones-below dept.
Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems seems to be primarily in the business of selling aerial 'copter drones ranging in price from sub-$100 up into $1000s. But there they were at the 2015 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), showing off a submarine drone and a wheeled drone. These products don't seem to be on the company's website or even on their Facebook page quite yet. Jon McBride, the person manning their CES booth, told Timothy these products would be around soon, as in February. But it looks like a bit of extra patience is in order, although you can contact Jon through the company's Facebook page (his suggestion) if you have an urgent need for an underwater or wheeled drone for your business or government agency -- or even just for fun.
Android

NVIDIA Announces SHIELD Game Console 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-challenger-appears dept.
MojoKid writes: NVIDIA held an event in San Francisco last night at GDC, where the company unveiled a new Android TV streamer, game console, and supercomputer, as NVIDIA's Jen Hsun Huang calls it, all wrapped up in a single, ultra-slim device called NVIDIA SHIELD. The SHIELD console is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC with 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, Gig-E and 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO WiFi. It's also 4K Ultra-HD Ready with 4K playback and capture up to 60 fps (VP9, H265, H264) with encode/decode with full hardware processing. The company claims the console provides twice the performance of an Xbox 360. NVIDIA demo'ed the device with Android TV, streaming music and HD movies and browsing social media. The device can stream games from a GeForce powered PC to your television or from NVIDIA's GRID cloud gaming service, just like previous NVIDIA SHIELD devices. Native Android games will also run on the SHIELD console. NVIDIA's plan is to offer a wide array of native Android titles in the SHIELD store, as well as leverage the company's relationships with game developers to bring top titles to GRID. The device was shown playing Gearbox's Borderlands The Pre-Sequel, Doom 3 BFG Edition, Metal Gear Solid V, the Unreal Engine 4 Infiltrator demo and yes, even Crysis 3.
Power

The US's First Offshore Wind Farm Will Cut Local Power Prices By 40% 254

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-way-the-wind-blows-kinda-actually-matters dept.
merbs writes: The U.S. is finally getting its first offshore wind farm. Deepwater Wind has announced that its Block Island project has been fully financed, passed the permitting process, and will begin putting "steel in water" this summer. For local residents, that means a 40% drop in electricity rates. The company has secured $290 million in financing, with funding from the likes of Key Bank and France's Société Générale, in part on the strength of its long-term power purchase agreement with US utility National Grid. Block Island has thus surpassed the much-publicized Cape Wind project, long touted as "the nation's first offshore wind farm," but that has been stalled out for over a decade in Massachusetts, held up by a tangle of clean power foes, regulatory and financing woes, and Cape Cod homeowners afraid it'd ruin the view.
AMD

AMD Enters Virtual Reality Fray With LiquidVR SDK At GDC 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the buzzword-ascending dept.
MojoKid writes: AMD jumped into the virtual reality arena today by announcing that its new LiquidVR SDK will help developers customize VR content for AMD hardware. "The upcoming LiquidVR SDK makes a number of technologies available which help address obstacles in content, comfort and compatibility that together take the industry a major step closer to true, life-like presence across all VR games, applications, and experiences," AMD representatives said in a statement. Oculus is one of the VR companies that will be working with AMD's LiquidVR SDK, and likes what it's seen so far. "Achieving presence in a virtual world continues to be one of the most important elements to delivering amazing VR," said Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus. "We're excited to have AMD working with us on their part of the latency equation, introducing support for new features like asynchronous timewarp and late latching, and compatibility improvements that ensure that Oculus' users have a great experience on AMD hardware."
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Wireless Microphone For Stand-up Meetings? 94

Posted by timothy
from the pass-around-a-laptop dept.
rolandw writes We have daily stand-ups and normally there is at least one person missing from the room. We relay via on-line chat but the sound quality is rubbish. The remote person sounds great via our speaker when they use a headset but they can't hear what is happening in the room. We need a wireless mic that copes with a large echoing room and will stop feedback. Can you recommend one? We're not an over-funded start-up so don't have an unlimited budget...
Music

A Versatile and Rugged MIDI Mini-Keyboard (Video) 55

Posted by Roblimo
from the Willy-and-the-poor-boys-playing-that-MIDI-can't-be-beat dept.
The K-Board won a "Best in Show" award at CES 2015. Plus, as Timothy said, "I always like pour and stomp demos." And it's totally cross-platform. If your computer, tablet or smartphone has a USB port and (almost) any kind of music software, it works. In theory, you could hook a K-Board to your Android or iOS device and use it to accompany yourself while you sing for spare change on a downtown corner. Or noodle around to get a handle on a theme you'll use in your next major symphony. Or...?
Android

Google Backs Off Default Encryption on New Android Lollilop Devices 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-the-people-what-the-government-wants dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Although Google announced in September 2014 that Android 5.0 Lollipop would require full-disk encryption by default in new cell phones, Ars Technica has found otherwise in recently-released 2nd-gen Moto E and Galaxy S6. It turns out, according to the latest version of the Android Compatibility Definition document (PDF), full-disk encryption is currently only "very strongly recommended" in anticipation of mandatory encryption requirements in the future. The moral of the story is: don't be lazy — check that your full-disk encryption is actually enabled.
Software

How a Kickstarter Project Can Massively Exceed Its Funding Goals and Still Fail 215

Posted by Soulskill
from the optimism-to-a-fault dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In November, 2013, a Kickstarter project for a software-defined camera trigger scored £290,386 (~$450,000) in funding after asking for a mere £50,000. After almost a year of delays, they've now announced the project is dead. Their CEO has published a lengthy article about how such a successful funding round can still turn into a failed product. In short: budgeting. To get their software into a workable state, they ended up spending 940% of the amount they'd originally allocated to software development. Their protoyping went over budget, too, and they had to spend a fair bit in legal fees to fend off a major camera manufacturer complaining about their product's name.

Still, they had more funding than they expected, and would have been able to deal with these costs. Unfortunately, the bill of materials for their final product clocked in way higher than they expected. They would have had to sell the device at about $350 each, when they were originally targeting a $99 price point. (And that figure assumes good sales — with a smaller production run, price per unit goes even higher.) The company is now going to refund the remaining money left over from its Kickstarter campaign — about 20% of the total. They're also open sourcing the software and sharing the PCB designs and schematics.
Crime

Police Could Charge Data Center Operators In the Largest Child Porn Bust Ever 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the enforcing-due-diligence dept.
sarahnaomi sends this report from Motherboard: Canadian police say they've uncovered a massive online file sharing network for exploitative material that could involve up to 7,500 users in nearly 100 countries worldwide. But unlike past investigations into the distribution of child porn, which typically involve targeting suspects individually, police have instead seized over 1.2 petabytes of data ... from a data center responsible for storing the material, and may even attempt to lay criminal charges against its operators, too.

"What we are alleging is occurring is that there are individuals and organizations that are profiting from the storage and the exchange of child sexual exploitation material," Scott Tod, Deputy Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), told Motherboard at a conference late last month, after speaking to a crowd of defense specialists. "They store it and they provide a secure website that you can log into, much like people do with illegal online gaming sites."
Data Storage

New Seagate Shingled Hard Drive Teardown 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the made-out-of-actual-shingles dept.
New submitter Peter Desnoyers writes: Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) drives are starting to hit the market, promising larger drives without heroic (and expensive) measures such as helium fill, but at a cost — data can no longer be over-written in place, requiring SSD-like algorithms to handle random writes.

At the USENIX File and Storage Technologies conference in February, researchers from Northeastern University (disclaimer — I'm one of them) dissected shingled drive performance both figuratively and literally, using both micro-benchmarks and a window cut in the drive to uncover the secrets of Seagate's first line of publicly-available SMR drives.

TL;DR: It's a pretty good desktop drive — with write cache enabled (the default for non-server setups) and an intermittent workload it performs quite well, handling bursts of random writes (up to a few tens of GB total) far faster than a conventional drive — but only if it has long powered-on idle periods for garbage collection. Reads and large writes run at about the same speed as on a conventional drive, and at $280 it costs less than a pair of decent 4TB drives. For heavily-loaded server applications, though, you might want to wait for the next generation. Here are a couple videos (in 16x slow motion) showing the drive in action — sequential read after deliberately fragmenting the drive, and a few thousand random writes.
United Kingdom

World's First Lagoon Power Plants Unveiled In UK 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
AmiMoJo writes Plans to generate electricity from the world's first series of tidal lagoons have been unveiled in the UK. The six lagoons — four in Wales and one each in Somerset and Cumbria — will capture incoming and outgoing tides behind giant sea walls, and use the weight of the water to power turbines. The series of six lagoons could generate 8% of the UK's electricity for an investment of £12bn. Tidal Lagoon Power wants £168 per MWh hour for electricity in Swansea, reducing to £90-£95 per MWh for power from a second, more efficient lagoon in Cardiff. The £90 figure compares favorably with the £92.50 price for power from the planned Hinkley nuclear station, especially as the lagoon is designed to last 120 years — at a much lower risk than nuclear. Unlike power from the sun and wind, tidal power is predictable. Turbines capture energy from two incoming and two outgoing tides a day, and are expected to be active for an average of 14 hours a day. Friends of the Earth Cymru, said the group is broadly in favor of the Swansea lagoon.
Intel

Intel Announces Atom x3, x5 and x7, First SOCs With Integrated 3G and LTE Modems 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the brand-new dept.
MojoKid writes Intel is unleashing a new family of Atom processors today, taking a cue from its highly successful Core series with model branding. Similar to the Good, Better, Best strategy with the Core i3, i5 and i7, Intel is renaming its Atom family with x3, x5, and x7 designations. The biggest news comes from the low-end Atom x3, which will be available in three distinct variants; all of which will come with integrated modems — a first for the Atom family. All three variants are 64-bit capable cores. The Atom x3-C3130 tops out at 1GHz, incorporates a Mali 400 MP2 GPU, and includes an integrated 3G (HSPA+) modem. The Atom x3-C3230RK bumps the max clock speed to 1.2GHz, throws in a Mali 450 MP4 GPU, and the same 3G modem. Finally, the Atom x3-C3440 clocks in at 1.4GHz, features a Mali T720 MP2 graphics core, incorporates a Category 6 LTE modem, and can optionally support NFC. Using handpicked benchmarks, Intel claims that the Atom x3-C3230RK can offer up to 1.8x the media editing performance of competing SoCs from Qualcomm and MediaTek. Then there's Intel's Cherry Trail-based Atom x5 and x7. These are the first 64-bit Atom SoCs to be built using a 14nm manufacturing and they incorporate eighth generation Intel graphics. While the Atom x5 and x7 don't feature integrated modems like the Atom x3, they do support Intel's next generation XMM 726x and 7360 LTE modems. Intel claims that the Atom x7 offers two times the graphics performance of the existing high-end Atom Z3795 in the GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex HD benchmark and 50 percent greater performance on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark.
Cellphones

Ikea Unveils Furniture That Charges Your Smartphone Wirelessly 95

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
pbahra writes Swedish furniture maker Ikea unveiled a new range of furniture that it says can wirelessly charge some mobile devices. The Swedish furniture giant made the announcement on Sunday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Ikea's introduction of wireless charging functionality on some of its new furniture heats up the battle for a global wireless charging standard, of which there are currently three, all struggling to become the global leader.
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware? 323

Posted by Soulskill
from the very-carefully dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In light of recent revelations from Kaspersky Labs about the Equation Group and persistent hard drive malware, I was curious about how easy it might be to verify my own system's drives to see if they were infected. I have no real reason to think they would be, but I was dismayed by the total lack of tools to independently verify such a thing. For instance, Seagate's firmware download pages provide files with no external hash, something Linux distributions do for all of their packages. Neither do they seem to provide a utility to read off the current firmware from a drive and verify its integrity.

Are there any utilities to do such a thing? Why don't these companies provide verification software to users? Has anyone compiled and posted a public list of known-good firmware hashes for the major hard drive vendors and models? This seems to be a critical hole in PC security. I did contact Seagate support asking for hashes of their latest firmware; I got a response stating, "...If you download the firmware directly from our website there is no risk on the file be tampered with." (Their phrasing, not mine.) Methinks somebody hasn't been keeping up with world events lately.