Data Storage

Upcoming USB 3.2 Specification Will Double Data Rates Using Existing Cables (macrumors.com) 124

A new USB specification has been introduced today by the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which is comprised of Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and other companies. The new USB 3.2 specification will replace the existing 3.1 specification and will double data rates to 20Gbps using new wires available if your device embraces the newest USB hardware. Mac Rumors reports: An incremental update, USB 3.2 is designed to define multi-lane operation for USB 3.2 hosts and devices. USB Type-C cables already support multi-lane operation, and with USB 3.2, hosts and devices can be created as multi-lane solutions, allowing for either two lanes of 5Gb/s or two lanes of 10Gb/s operation. With support for two lanes of 10Gb/s transfer speeds, performance is essentially doubled over existing USB-C cables. As an example, the USB Promoter Group says a USB 3.2 host connected to a USB 3.2 storage device will be capable of 2GB/sec data transfer performance over a USB-C cable certified for USB SuperSpeed 10Gb/s USB 3.1, while also remaining backwards compatible with earlier USB devices. Along with two-lane operation, USB 3.2 continues to use SuperSpeed USB layer data rates and encoding techniques and will introduce a minor update to hub specifications for seamless transitions between single and two-lane operation.
Education

US Defense Budget May Help Fund 'Hacking For Defense' Classes At Universities (ieee.org) 31

According to an instructor at Stanford, eight universities in addition to Stanford will offer a Hacking for Defense class this year: Boise State, Columbia, Georgetown, James Madison, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Southern California, and the University of Southern Mississippi. IEEE Spectrum reports: The class has spun out Hacking for Diplomacy, Hacking for Energy, and other targeted classes that use the same methodology. The snowballing effort is now poised to get a big push. This month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment originated by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) to support development of curriculum, best practices, and recruitment materials for the program to the tune of $15 million (a drop in the $700 billion defense budget but a big deal for a university program). In arguing for the amendment, Lipinski said, "Rapid, low-cost technological innovation is what makes Silicon Valley revolutionary, but the DOD hasn't historically had the mechanisms in place to harness this American advantage. Hacking for Defense creates ways for talented scientists and engineers to work alongside veterans, military leaders, and business mentors to innovate solutions that make America safer."
Google

Google Enters Race For Nuclear Fusion Technology (theguardian.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google and a leading nuclear fusion company have developed a new computer algorithm which has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas, the ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology. Tri Alpha Energy, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has raised over $500 million in investment. It has worked with Google Research to create what they call the Optometrist algorithm. This enables high-powered computation to be combined with human judgement to find new and better solutions to complex problems. Working with Google enabled experiment's on Tri Alpha Energy's C2-U machine to progress much faster, with operations that took a month speeded up to just a few hours. The algorithm revealed unexpected ways of operating the plasma, with the research published on Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports. The team achieved a 50% reduction in energy losses from the system and a resulting increase in total plasma energy, which must reach a critical threshold for fusion to occur.
Power

Toyota's New Solid-State Battery Could Make Its Way To Cars By 2020 (techcrunch.com) 61

According to the Wall Street Journal, Toyota is in production engineering for a solid state battery, which uses a solid electrolyte instead of the conventional semi-liquid version used in today's lithium-ion batteries. The company said it aims to put the new tech in production electric vehicles as early as 2020. TechCrunch reports: The improved battery technology would make it possible to create smaller, more lightweight lithium-ion batteries for use in EVs, that could also potentially boost the total charge capacity and result in longer-range vehicles. Another improvement for this type of battery would be longer overall usable life, which would make it possible to both use the vehicles they're installed in for longer, and add potential for product recycling and alternative post-vehicle life (some companies are already looking into putting EV batteries into use in home and commercial energy storage, for example).
China

China Forces Muslim Minority To Install Spyware On Their Phones (bleepingcomputer.com) 320

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Chinese authorities in the province of Xinjiang are forcing locals of the Uyghur Muslim minority to install an app on their phones that will allow the government to scan their device for "terrorist propaganda," local media reports. In reality, the app creates MD5 hashes for the user's files and matches them against a database of known terrorist content. The app also makes copies of the user's Weibo and WeChat databases and uploads it to a government server, along with the user's IMEI, IMSI, and WiFi login information. The app is called Jingwang (Citizen Safety) and was developed by police forces from Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. Authorities launched the app in April, and also included the ability to report suspicious activity to the police. At the start of July, Xinjiang officials started sending WeChat messages in Uyghur and Chinese to locals, asking them to install the app or face detainment of up to 10 days. Police have also stopped people on the street to check if they installed the app. Several were detained for refusing to install it. Locals are now sharing the locations of checkpoints online, so others can avoid getting arrested.
Android

Motorola Unveils the Moto Z2 Force, a Smartphone With Double the Cameras and a Shatterproof Screen (theverge.com) 42

Motorola has announced a new flagship smartphone that will be available on every major U.S. carrier. Some of the noteworthy specifications include a nearly indestructible screen and dual rear-facing camera sensors. The Verge reports: The Moto Z2 Force is the closest thing to a flagship phone that Motorola has released this year, and it's got all the hardware specs to show for it: inside is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It runs Android 7.1 with a promised upgrade to Android O to come. That's all standard fare for an expensive 2017 smartphone, and the Z2 Force is certainly expensive at around $720. It's priced even higher on some carriers like AT&T ($810). This version is much thinner than last year's phone, but that sleek design comes with a significant sacrifice in battery capacity; the Z2 Force has a 2,730mAh battery compared to the 3,500mAh battery in the old Moto Z Force. Between this and the Moto Z2 Play, Motorola sure does seem obsessed with slimming things down lately, and what are we gaining? Oh, there's no headphone jack on this thing either. Be prepared to go wireless or live the dongle life.
Transportation

India's Transport Minister Vows To Ban Self-Driving Cars To Save Jobs (arstechnica.com) 138

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Companies in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries are racing to develop self-driving cars. But India's top transportation regulator says that those cars won't be welcome on Indian streets any time soon. "We won't allow driverless cars in India," said Nitin Gadkari, India's minister for Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, according to the Hindustan Times. "I am very clear on this. We won't allow any technology that takes away jobs." Gadkari is taking a very different approach from politicians in the United States, where both the Obama and Trump administrations have been keen to promote the development of self-driving vehicles. "We are bullish on automated vehicles," said Obama Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last year. His successor, Elaine Chao, has also signaled support for self-driving technology, while also expressing concerns about safety risks and potential job losses.
Intel

Intel Exits the Maker Movement (hackaday.com) 83

Reader szczys writes: Intel just killed off its last "maker movement" hardware offering without fanfare by quietly releasing a Product Change Notification PDF. The Arduino 101 is halting production on September 17th. This microcontroller board is built around the Intel Curie module around which Intel bankrolled a television series called America's Greatest Makers. News on the end of life for the Arduino 101 board follows the recent cancellations of their Joule, Galileo, and Edison boards. This is the entirety of Intel's maker offerings and seems to signal their exit from entry-level embedded hardware.
Medicine

Global Network of Labs Will Test Security of Medical Devices (securityledger.com) 48

chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Amid increasing concerns about cyber threats to healthcare environments, a global network of labs will test the security of medical devices, according to an announcement on Monday by a consortium of healthcare industry firms, universities and technology firms, The Security Ledger reports. The "World Health Information Security Testing Labs (or "WHISTL") will adopt a model akin to the Underwriters Laboratory, which started out testing electrical devices, and focus on issues related to cyber security and privacy, helping medical device makers "address the public health challenges" created by connected health devices and complex, connected healthcare environments, according to a statement by The Medical Device Innovation, Safety and Security Consortium. "MDISS WHISTL facilities will dramatically improve access to medical device security know-how while protecting patient privacy and the intellectual property of our various stakeholders," said Dr. Nordenberg, MD, Executive Director of MDISS.

The labs will be one of the only independent, open and non-profit network of labs specifically designed for the needs of medical field, including medical device designers, hospital IT, and clinical engineering professionals. Experts will assess the security of medical devices using standards and specifications designed by testing organizations like Underwriters Labs. Evaluations will include application security testing like "fuzzing," static code analysis and penetration testing of devices. Any vulnerabilities found will be reported directly to manufacturers in accordance with best practices, and publicly disclosed to the international medical device vulnerability database (MDVIPER) which is maintained by MDISS and the National Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (NH-ISAC). The group says it plans for 10 new device testing labs by the end of the year including in the U.S. in states like New York to Indiana, Tennessee and California and outside North America in the UK, Israel, Finland, and Singapore. The WHISTL facilities will work with Underwriters Labs as well as AAMI, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. Specifically, MDISS labs will base its work on the UL Cybersecurity Assurance Program specifications (UL CAP) and follow testing standards developed by both groups including the UL 2900 and AAMI 80001 standards.

Earth

World's First Floating Wind Farm Emerges Off Coast of Scotland (bbc.co.uk) 243

AmiMoJo writes: The world's first full-scale floating wind farm has started to take shape off the north-east coast of Scotland. The revolutionary technology will allow wind power to be harvested in waters too deep for the current conventional bottom-standing turbines. The manufacturer hopes to cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the U.S., where waters are deep. The tower, including the blades, stretches to 175m and weighs 11,500 tons. The price of energy from bottom-standing offshore wind farms has plummeted 32% since 2012, and is now four years ahead of the government's expected target. Another big price drop is expected, taking offshore wind to a much lower price than new nuclear power.
Biotech

Wisconsin Company Will Let Employees Use Microchip Implants To Buy Snacks, Open Doors (theverge.com) 112

A Wisconsin company called Three Square Market will soon offer employees implantable chips to open doors, buy snacks, log in to computers, and use office equipment like copy machines. The chips use near field communication (NFC) technology and will be implanted between the thumb and forefinger of participating employees. According to The Verge, around 50 people are supposedly getting the optional implants. From the report: NFC chips are already used in a couple of workplaces in Europe; The Los Angeles Times reported on startup workspace Epicenter's chip program earlier this year. In the US, installing them is also a form of simple biohacking. They're essentially an extension of the chips you'd find in contactless smart cards or microchipped pets: passive devices that store very small amounts of information. A Swedish rail company also lets people use implants as a substitute for fare cards. 32M CEO Todd Westby is clearly trying to head off misunderstandings and paranoia by saying that they contain "no GPS tracking at all" -- because again, it's comparable to an office keycard here.
AI

Quest for AI Leadership Pushes Microsoft Further Into Chip Development (bloomberg.com) 34

From a Bloomberg report: Tech companies are keen to bring cool artificial intelligence features to phones and augmented reality goggles -- the ability to show mechanics how to fix an engine, say, or tell tourists what they are seeing and hearing in their own language. But there's one big challenge: how to manage the vast quantities of data that make such feats possible without making the devices too slow or draining the battery in minutes and wrecking the user experience. Microsoft says it has the answer with a chip design for its HoloLens goggles -- an extra AI processor that analyzes what the user sees and hears right there on the device rather than wasting precious microseconds sending the data back to the cloud. The new processor, a version of the company's existing Holographic Processing Unit, is being unveiled at an event in Honolulu, Hawaii, today. The chip is under development and will be included in the next version of HoloLens; the company didn't provide a date. This is one of the few times Microsoft is playing all roles (except manufacturing) in developing a new processor. The company says this is the first chip of its kind designed for a mobile device. Bringing chipmaking in-house is increasingly in vogue as companies conclude that off-the-shelf processors aren't capable of fully unleashing the potential of AI. Apple is testing iPhone prototypes that include a chip designed to process AI, a person familiar with the work said in May. Google is on the second version of its own AI chips. To persuade people to buy the next generation of gadgets -- phones, VR headsets, even cars -- the experience will have to be lightning fast and seamless.
The Military

Top US General Warns Against Rogue Killer Robots (thehill.com) 163

Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro quotes The Hill: The second-highest-ranking general in the U.S. military last Tuesday warned lawmakers against equipping the armed forces with autonomous weapons systems... Gen. Paul Selva warned lawmakers that the military should keep "the ethical rules of war in place lest we unleash on humanity a set of robots that we don't know how to control. I don't think it's reasonable for us to put robots in charge of whether or not we take a human life," Selva told the committee.
There's already a Defense Department directive that requires humans in the decision-making process for lethal autonomous weapons systems. But it expires later this year...
Iphone

Apple Sued By State Farm Over Alleged iPhone Fire (cnet.com) 165

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Insurer State Farm and one of its customers, Wisconsin resident Xai Thao, allege that one of Apple's older iPhones had a defective battery that led to a fire last year. A lawsuit filed on Thursday by both State Farm and Thao claims that her iPhone 4S "failed" and "started a fire at Thao's home." The lawsuit further claims that "preliminary investigations show evidence of a significant and localized heating event in the battery area of the iPhone." It also declares that there were "remnants of internal shorting, indicating that an internal failure of the iPhone's battery caused the fire"... The State Farm lawsuit says that Thao's iPhone was "in a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition" when she bought it in 2014. The suit is claiming in excess of $75,000 in damages.
Math

A New Sampling Algorithm Could Eliminate Sensor Saturation (scitechdaily.com) 135

Baron_Yam shared an article from Science Daily: Researchers from MIT and the Technical University of Munich have developed a new technique that could lead to cameras that can handle light of any intensity, and audio that doesn't skip or pop. Virtually any modern information-capture device -- such as a camera, audio recorder, or telephone -- has an analog-to-digital converter in it, a circuit that converts the fluctuating voltages of analog signals into strings of ones and zeroes. Almost all commercial analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), however, have voltage limits. If an incoming signal exceeds that limit, the ADC either cuts it off or flatlines at the maximum voltage. This phenomenon is familiar as the pops and skips of a "clipped" audio signal or as "saturation" in digital images -- when, for instance, a sky that looks blue to the naked eye shows up on-camera as a sheet of white.

Last week, at the International Conference on Sampling Theory and Applications, researchers from MIT and the Technical University of Munich presented a technique that they call unlimited sampling, which can accurately digitize signals whose voltage peaks are far beyond an ADC's voltage limit. The consequence could be cameras that capture all the gradations of color visible to the human eye, audio that doesn't skip, and medical and environmental sensors that can handle both long periods of low activity and the sudden signal spikes that are often the events of interest.

One of the paper's author's explains that "The idea is very simple. If you have a number that is too big to store in your computer memory, you can take the modulo of the number."
Google

Linus Torvalds Now Reviews Gadgets On Google+ (zdnet.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: If you know anything about Linus Torvalds, you know he's the mastermind and overlord of Linux. If you know him at all well, you know he's also an enthusiastic scuba diver and author of SubSurface, a do-it-all dive log program. And, if you know him really well, you'd know, like many other developers, he loves gadgets. Now, he's starting his own gadget review site on Google+: Working Gadgets...

"[W]hile waiting for my current build to finish, I decided to write a note about some of the gadgets I got that turned out to work, rather than all the crazy crap that didn't. Because while 90% of the cool toys I buy aren't all that great, there's still the ones that actually do live up to expectations. So the rule is: no rants. Just good stuff. Because this is about happy gadgets."

So far Linus has reviewed an automatic cat litter box, a scuba diving pressure regulator, and a Ubiquiti UniFi Wi-Fi access point that complements his Google WiFi mesh network.

Linus will be great at this. Just last week I saw him recommending a text editor.
Intel

Intel Launches Movidius Neural Compute Stick: 'Deep Learning and AI' On a $79 USB Stick (anandtech.com) 59

Nate Oh, writing for AnandTech: Today Intel subsidiary Movidius is launching their Neural Compute Stick (NCS), a version of which was showcased earlier this year at CES 2017. The Movidius NCS adds to Intel's deep learning and AI development portfolio, building off of Movidius' April 2016 launch of the Fathom NCS and Intel's later acquisition of Movidius itself in September 2016. As Intel states, the Movidius NCS is "the world's first self-contained AI accelerator in a USB format," and is designed to allow host devices to process deep neural networks natively -- or in other words, at the edge. In turn, this provides developers and researchers with a low power and low cost method to develop and optimize various offline AI applications. Movidius's NCS is powered by their Myriad 2 vision processing unit (VPU), and, according to the company, can reach over 100 GFLOPs of performance within an nominal 1W of power consumption. Under the hood, the Movidius NCS works by translating a standard, trained Caffe-based convolutional neural network (CNN) into an embedded neural network that then runs on the VPU. In production workloads, the NCS can be used as a discrete accelerator for speeding up or offloading neural network tasks. Otherwise for development workloads, the company offers several developer-centric features, including layer-by-layer neural networks metrics to allow developers to analyze and optimize performance and power, and validation scripts to allow developers to compare the output of the NCS against the original PC model in order to ensure the accuracy of the NCS's model. According to Gary Brown, VP of Marketing at Movidius, this 'Acceleration mode' is one of several features that differentiate the Movidius NCS from the Fathom NCS. The Movidius NCS also comes with a new "Multi-Stick mode" that allows multiple sticks in one host to work in conjunction in offloading work from the CPU. For multiple stick configurations, Movidius claims that they have confirmed linear performance increases up to 4 sticks in lab tests, and are currently validating 6 and 8 stick configurations. Importantly, the company believes that there is no theoretical maximum, and they expect that they can achieve similar linear behavior for more devices. Though ultimately scalability will depend at least somewhat with the neural network itself, and developers trying to use the feature will want to play around with it to determine how well they can reasonably scale. As for the technical specifications, the Movidius Neural Compute Stick features a 4Gb LPDDR3 on-chip memory, and a USB 3.0 Type A interface.
United States

US Ends Controversial Laptop Ban On Flights From Middle East (theguardian.com) 79

The United States has ended a four-month ban on passengers carrying laptops onboard US-bound flights from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration. From a report: Riyadh's King Khalid international airport was the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the US department of homeland security (DHS) confirmed in a tweet late on Wednesday local time. Middle East carriers have blamed Trump's travel restrictions, which include banning citizens of some Muslim-majority countries from visiting the United States, for a downturn in demand on US routes. In March, the United States banned large electronics in cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken onboard aircraft. The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected -- Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian , Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc -- which are the only carriers to fly direct to the US from the region. A ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, -- remains in place, though has been limited after several US court hearings challenged the restrictions.
Government

US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 191

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping proposal by voice vote to allow automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards and bar states from imposing driverless car rules. Representative Robert Latta, a Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee overseeing consumer protection, said he would continue to consider changes before the full committee votes on the measure, expected next week. The full U.S. House of Representatives will not take up the bill until it reconvenes in September after the summer recess. The measure, which would be the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would require automakers to submit safety assessment reports to U.S. regulators, but would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies. Automakers would have to show self-driving cars "function as intended and contain fail safe features" to get exemptions from safety standards but the Transportation Department could not "condition deployment or testing of highly automated vehicles on review of safety assessment certifications," the draft measure unveiled late Monday said.
Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 160

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

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