Hardware Hacking

ARM Processor On a Breadboard (hackaday.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes: A normal Arduino is easy to use and cheap, but it is a reasonably slow 8-bit processor with limited memory. Why do people use them? They are simple to use and set up. Hackaday shows how to take a cheap ($6) 32-bit CPU in a breadboard-friendly package, plug in a small number of parts (resistors, LEDs, and a cable), and use an online Arduino-like IDE to program it. The chip is way more powerful than an 8-bit Arduino and the code is comparable in complexity to an Arduino sketch that does the same thing. It's an easy way to get into embedded without having to suffer through 8-bit processors. And the new Arduinos also use 32-bit ARM, so that's an option too.

Amazon: a Single Disaster Made Us Rethink Our Cloud Supply Chain (datacenterfrontier.com) 26

1sockchuck writes: At this week's AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon Web Services introduced new features and looked ahead to a future in which enterprise computing shifts to the cloud. But AWS also looked back at how a disaster reshaped its supply chain. In 2011, an unusually heavy monsoon season led to massive flooding in Thailand, which at the time manufactured nearly half of the world's supply of hard disk drives (HDDs). Prices soared and shortages developed, and Amazon's usual vendors were unable to deliver the volume the company sought to support its fast-growing cloud computing platform. "When a single flood hits half the manufacturing supply, and you don't have a direct relationship with suppliers, it turns out to be hard to get what you need," said AWS executive Jerry Hunter. So AWS executives jumped on a plane, flew to Thailand, and began building direct relationships that would support their shift to company-built hardware.

Linus: '2016 Will Be the Year of the ARM Laptop' (softpedia.com) 126

jones_supa writes: Linus Torvalds took the stage at LinuxCon Europe in Dublin, Ireland, and talked about a number of things, including security and the future for Linux on ARM hardware. There is nothing that will blow your mind, but there are a couple of interesting statements nonetheless. Chromebooks are slowly taking over the world, and a large number of those Chromebooks are powered by ARM processors. "I'm happy to see that ARM is making progress. One of these days, I will actually have a machine with ARM. They said it would be this year, but maybe it'll be next year. 2016 will be the year of the ARM laptop," said Linus excitedly. He also explained that one of the problems now is actually finding people to maintain Linux. It's not a glorious job, and it usually entails answering emails seven days a week. Finding someone with the proper set of skills and the time to do this job is difficult.
Data Storage

Amazon To Offer Sneakernet Services: Data Upload By Mail 88

blueshift_1 writes: If you have 50TB of data that you'd like to put on the S3 cloud, Amazon is releasing Snowball. It's basically a large grey box full of hard drives that Amazon will mail to you. Simply upload your files and mail it back — they will upload it for you. For $200 + shipping, it's at a pretty reasonable price point if you're tired of hosting your data and want to try and push that to AWS. ("Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway." -Tanenbaum, Andrew S.)

Barnes & Noble Has Been Quietly Refreshing Its Nook Hardware (itworld.com) 30

itwbennett writes: Peter Smith writes that he 'had more or less written off the Nook when Barnes & Noble farmed hardware duties out to Samsung.' But now that Amazon is aiming for the low end with its downgraded Fire tablet line, Barnes & Noble has an opportunity to 'carve out a niche on the higher end of things,' says Smith. And so it has been quietly moving in that direction. Yesterday, Venture Beat wrote about the newly (and stealthily) launched $250 Samsung Galaxy Tab E Nook. As Smith notes, 'the specs for this new tablet aren't anything special,' which might explain the stealthy launch, except that another, pricier Nook tablet apparently came out a month ago (again, according to VentureBeat), the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Nook.

Dell Brings 4K InfinityEdge Display To XPS 15 Line, GeForce GPU, Under 4 Pounds (hothardware.com) 83

MojoKid writes: There's no doubt that Dell's new XPS 13 notebook, when it debuted earlier this year, was very well received. Dell managed to cram a 13.3-inch 3200x1800 QHD+ display into a 12-inch carbon fiber composite frame. Dell has now brought that same InfinityEdge display technology to its larger XPS 15, which the company boasts has the same footprint as a 14-inch notebook. But Dell didn't just stay the course with the QHD+ resolution from the smaller XPS 13; the company instead is offering an optional UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD panel with 8 million pixels and 282 pixels per inch (PPI). The 350-nit display allows for 170-degree viewing angles and has 100 percent minimum Adobe RGB color. Dell also beefed up the XPS 15's internals, giving it sixth generation Intel Core processors (Skylake), support for up to 16GB of memory and storage options that top out with a 1TB SSD. Graphics duties are handled by either integrated Intel HD Graphics 530 or a powerful GeForce GTX 960M processor that is paired with 2GB GDDR5 memory. And all of this squeaks in at under 4 pounds.

Not All iPhone 6s Processors Are Created Equal (itworld.com) 256

itwbennett writes: Apple is splitting the manufacture of the A9 processor for its iPhone 6s between TSMC (~60%) and rival Samsung (~40%) — "and they are not created equal," writes Andy Patrizio. For starters, Chipworks noted that Samsung uses 14nm while TSMC uses 16nm. A Reddit user posted tests of a pair of 6s Plus phones and found the TSMC chip had eight hours of battery life vs. six hours for the Samsung. Meanwhile, benchmark tests from the folks at MyDriver (if Mr. Patrizio's efforts with Google Translate got it right) also found that the Samsung chip is a bigger drain on the phone's battery, while the TSMC chip is slightly faster and runs a bit cooler. So how do you know which chip you got? There's an app for that.

Dell, EMC Said To Be In Merger Talks (itworld.com) 96

itwbennett writes: According to a Wall Street Journal report (paywalled), Dell might buy some or all of storage giant EMC. (The grain of salt here is that the Journal's report cited unnamed sources, and cautioned that the companies might not finalize any agreement.) If the report has it right, though, "a total merger would be one of the biggest deals ever in the technology industry," writes Stephen Lawson for IDG, "with EMC holding a market value of about US$50 billion. It would also bring together two of the most important vendors to enterprise IT departments."

Wealth of Personal Data Found On Used Electronics Purchased Online 70

An anonymous reader writes: After examining 122 used mobile devices, hard disk drives and solid state drives purchased online, Blancco Technology Group and Kroll Ontrack found 48% contained residual data. In addition, 35% of mobile devices contained emails, texts/SMS/IMs, and videos. From the article: "Upon closer examination, Blancco Technology Group and Kroll Ontrack discovered that a deletion attempt had been made on 57 percent of the mobile devices and 75 percent of the drives that contained residual data. Even more compelling was the discovery that those deletion attempts had been unsuccessful due to common, but unreliable methods used, leaving sensitive information exposed and potentially accessible to cyber criminals. The residual data left on two of the second-hand mobile devices were significant enough to discern the original users' identities. Whether it's a person's emails containing their contact information or media files involving a company's intellectual property, lingering data can have serious consequences."
Hardware Hacking

Making Your Graphing Calculator a Musical Instrument 54

An anonymous reader writes: Thanks to a recently published open source music editor/sequencer, you can now create music on Texas Instruments graphing calculators. The complexity of the sound is impressive (video) for such a simple device, which does not feature any dedicated sound hardware. HoustonTracker 2 is open source, and is available for the TI-82, 83, 83Plus, and 84Plus.

Wind Power Now Cheapest Energy In UK and Germany; No Subsidies Needed 415

Socguy writes: Bloomberg reports wind power has now crossed the threshold to become the cheapest source of energy in both the UK and Germany. This is notable because it's the first time this has occurred in a G7 country. In the U.S., wind and solar are still massively overshadowed by the power generated from fossil fuel plants, but the percentage is creeping up. It's gotten to the point where it's starting to affect the lifetime profitability of new plants.

Why Is RAM Suddenly So Cheap? It Might Be Windows 208

jfruh writes: The average price of a 4GB DDR3 memory DIMM at the moment $18.50 — a price that's far lower than at this time last year. Why is it so cheap? The memory business tends to go in boom and bust cycles, but the free availability of Windows 10 means that fewer people are upgrading their PCs, reducing RAM demand. Analyst Avril Wu said, "Notebook shipments in the third quarter fall short of what is expected for a traditional peak season mainly because Windows 10 with its free upgrade plan negatively impacted replaced sales of notebooks to some extent rather than driving the demand for these products." And prices might stay low for another two years.

Team Constructs Silicon 2-qubit Gate, Enabling Construction of Quantum Computers (phys.org) 92

monkeyzoo writes: A team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney has made a crucial advance in quantum computing. Their advance, appearing in the journal Nature (abstract), demonstrated a two-qubit logic gate — the central building block of a quantum computer — and, significantly, did it in silicon. This makes the building of a quantum computer much more feasible, since it is based on the same manufacturing technology as today's computer industry. Until now, it had not been possible to make two quantum bits 'talk' to each other — and thereby create a logic gate — using silicon. But the UNSW team — working with Professor Kohei M. Itoh of Japan's Keio University — has done just that for the first time. The result means that all of the physical building blocks for a silicon-based quantum computer have now been successfully constructed, allowing engineers to finally begin the task of designing and building a functioning quantum computer.

From Microsoft, HoloLens VR Dev Kit, New Phones, Continuum 87

Ars Technica and scads of other tech hardware sites are reporting that the big news so far from this morning's Microsoft product launch event in New York is that the company's Hololens development kit will begin shipping in the first quarter of next year, and at a price that puts the units out of the hands of typical consumers: $3000. At that level, developers are more likely to make the plunge, which Ars applauds.

The company also announced three new smartphones: two of them, the Lumia 950, 950XL, are worth designating "flagships," while the 550, notably, will sell for $139, putting it in the territory of cheap grey-market Android phones. More interesting than spec bumps, though, is Continuum for Windows, a Window 10 feature which made its official debut at the event. Continuum is one manifestation of the pocket-computer idea that others have had as well in various forms: it means that with an adapter, a phone can be used as the CPU and graphics engine when connected to a screen and keyboard: "The adapter features a Microsoft Display Dock, an HDMI and Display Port, plus 3 USB ports to provide productivity on the go and let you plug in additional peripherals, such as mice and keyboards. Other accessories can be connected too, Microsoft said."

Microsoft also demo'd the Surface 4. Its improved screen is 12.3" at 2160x1440, for a pixel density of 267 PPI. The new pro has a Skylake 6th-gen processor, which they say provides a 30% performance boost over the Surface Pro 3, and a 50% boost over the MacBook Air. The SP4 goes up to 1TB of storage, and up to 16GB of RAM. The Type Cover was improved as well — the touchpad is 40% larger and supports 5-point multi-touch, while the keys have better travel and pitch.

On top of this, Microsoft also unveiled the Surface Book laptop. Its defining feature is that you can unclip the 13.5" touchscreen and use it separately as a tablet. The keyboard dock has a dedicated GPU that will boost performance when attached. Microsoft is using a new type of hinge that bends and extends at multiple points, so you can also reattach the screen backward if you want to use it as a tablet while keeping the extra GPU power available. They claim a 12-hour battery life for the Surface Book.

Software Defined Smart Battery Arrays Extend Laptop Life 42

An anonymous reader writes: A Microsoft research paper, titled 'Software Defined Batteries', outlines a radical charging alternative which uses a smart battery system to keep consumer-grade gadgets going for much longer than the current norm, by monitoring user habits. Making use of existing technologies, the engineers place multiple battery control under the duties of the operating system to create a software-defined approach optimized for different scenarios, such as word processing, email or video streaming.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Most Awesome Hardware Hack? 249

An anonymous reader writes: Another Slashdotter once asked what kind of things someone can power with an external USB battery. I have a followup along those lines: what kind of modifications have you made to your gadgets to do things that they were never meant to do? Consider old routers, cell phones, monitors, etc. that have absolutely no use or value anymore in their intended form. What can you do with them? Have you ever done something stupid and damaged your electronics?

On-Chip Liquid Cooling Permits Smaller Devices With No Heatsinks Or Fans 45

An anonymous reader writes: DARPA-funded research into on-chip liquid cooling has resulted in a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) liquid-cooled device that can operate at 24 degrees Celsius, versus 60 degrees Celsius for an equivalent air-cooled device. The cooling fluid resides only nanometers from the heat it must address, and operates so efficiently as to offer potential to stack CPUs and GPUs using copper columns, as well as dispensing with heat-sinks and fan systems. With those components removed, the system can facilitate far more compact designs than are currently feasible.
Hardware Hacking

Sensor Network Makes Life Easier For Japan's Aging Rice Farmers 91

szczys writes: The average age of Japan's rice farmers is 65-70 years old. The work is difficult and even small changes to the way things are done can have a profound impact on these lives. The flooded paddies where the rice is grown must maintain a consistent water level, which means farmers must regularly traverse the terraced fields to check many different paddies. A simple sensor board is changing this, letting farmers check their fields by phone instead of in person.

This might not sound like much, but reducing the number of times someone needs to walk the fields has a big effect on the man-hours spent on each crop. The system, called TechRice, is inexpensive and the nodes recharge batteries from a solar cell. The data is aggregated on the Internet and can be presented as a webpage, a text-message interface, or any other reporting scheme imaginable by utilizing the API of the Open Source software. This is a testament to the power we have as small groups of engineers to improve the world.

Nissan Creates the Ultimate Distracted Driving Machine 140

jfruh writes: More and more research is suggesting that it isn't safe to text or even talk on our phones hands-free while driving, but one brave car company is pushing full-speed in the other direction. Nissan has created a concept car in which every surface, including the entire dashboard and even the seats, is a display device. The car is the result of "extensive" surveys with the younger generation that came to the conclusion that, according to Nissan, young people "feel that time spent in a car should be time for connecting and sharing experiences with friends."

Japan Display Squeezes 8K Resolution Into 17-inch LCD, Cracks 510 PPI At 120Hz 178

MojoKid writes: By any metric, 8K is an incredibly high resolution. In fact, given that most HD content is still published in 1080p, the same could be said about 4K. 4K packs in four times the pixels of 1080p, while 8K takes that and multiplies it by four once again; we're talking 33,177,600 pixels. We've become accustomed to our smartphones having super-high ppi (pixels-per-inch); 5.5-inch 1080p phones are 401 ppi, which is well past the point that humans are able to differentiate individual pixels. Understanding that highlights just how impressive Japan Display's (JDI) monitor is, as it clocks in at 510 ppi in a 17-inch panel. Other specs include a 2000:1 contrast ratio, a brightness of 500cd/m2, and a 176 degree viewing angle. While the fact that the company achieved 8K resolution in such a small form-factor is impressive in itself, also impressive is the fact that it has a refresh rate of 120Hz.