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Portables (Apple)

Apple To Offer 32GB of Desktop RAM, Kaby Lake In Top-End 2017 MacBook Pro, Says Analyst (appleinsider.com) 260

AppleInsider has obtained a note to investors from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that says Apple's 2017 laptop line will focus on internal component updates, including the platform-wide adoption of Intel's Kaby Lake architecture. What's more is that Apple is expected to manufacture a 15-inch MacBook Pro with up to 32GB of RAM in the fourth quarter of 2017. AppleInsider reports: Apple took flak in releasing its latest MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models with a hard memory cap of 16GB, an minimal allotment viewed as a negative for imaging and video professionals. Responding to customer criticism, Apple said the move was made in a bid to maximize battery life. Essentially, the Intel Skylake CPUs used in Apple's MacBook Pro only support up to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM at 2133MHz. Though Intel does make processors capable of addressing more than 16GB of memory, those particular chipsets rely on less efficient DDR4 RAM and are usually deployed in desktops with access to dedicated mains power. In order to achieve high memory allotments and keep unplugged battery life performance on par with existing MacBook Pro models, Apple will need to move to an emerging memory technology like LPDDR4 or DDR4L. Such hardware is on track for release later this year. As for the 12-inch MacBook, Kuo believes next-generation versions of the thin-and-light will enter mass production in the second quarter with the same basic design aesthetic introduced in 2015. New for 2017 is a 16GB memory option that will make an appearance thanks to Intel's new processor class.
Data Storage

Raspberry Pi Upgrades Compute Module With 10 Times the CPU Performance (arstechnica.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Raspberry Pi Compute Module is getting a big upgrade, with the same processor used in the recently released Raspberry Pi 3. The Compute Module, which is intended for industrial applications, was first released in April 2014 with the same CPU as the first-generation Raspberry Pi. The upgrade announced today has 1GB of RAM and a Broadcom BCM2837 processor that can run at up to 1.2GHz. "This means it provides twice the RAM and roughly ten times the CPU performance of the original Compute Module," the Raspberry Pi Foundation announcement said. This is the second major version of the Compute Module, but it's being called the "Compute Module 3" to match the last flagship Pi's version number. The new Compute Module has more flexible storage options than the original. "One issue with the [Compute Module 1] was the fixed 4GB of eMMC flash storage," the announcement said. But some users wanted to add their own flash storage. "To solve this, two versions of the [Compute Module 3] are being released: one with 4GB eMMC on-board and a 'Lite' model which requires the user to add their own SD card socket or eMMC flash." The core module is tiny so that it can fit into other hardware, but for development purposes there is a separate I/O board with GPIO, USB and MicroUSB, CSI and DSI ports for camera and display boards, HDMI, and MicroSD. The Compute Module 3 and the lite version cost $30 and $25, respectively.
Power

Researchers Create A Lithium-Ion Battery With Built-In Flame Retardant (engadget.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: One big problem with lithium-ion batteries is that they have the tendency to catch fire and blow up all kinds of gadgets like toys and phones. To solve that issue, a group of researchers from Stanford University created lithium-ion batteries with built-in fire extinguishers. They added a component called "triphenyl phosphate" to the plastic fibers of the part that keeps negative and positive electrodes separate. Triphenyl phosphate is a compound commonly used as a flame retardant for various electronics. If the battery's temperature reaches 150 degrees Celsius, the plastic fibers melt and release the chemical. Based on the researchers' tests, the method can stop batteries from burning up within 0.4 seconds.
Cellphones

Faulty Phone Battery May Have Caused Fire That Brought Down EgyptAir Flight MS80 (ibtimes.co.uk) 141

New submitter drunkdrone writes: "French authorities investigating the EgyptAir crash that killed 66 people last year believe that the plane may have been brought down by an overheating phone battery," reports International Business Times. Investigators say the fire that broke out on the Airbus A320 in May 2016 started in the spot where the co-pilot had stowed his iPad and iPhone 6S, which he placed on top of the instrument panel in the plane's cockpit. From the report: "EgyptAir flight MS804 was traveling from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar on 19 May 2016. Egyptian investigators have speculated that the crash, which killed all 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel on board, was caused by an act of terrorism due to traces of explosives reported to be found on some the victims. Investigators in France have disputed these claims, saying that data recorded from the aircraft around the time it disappeared points to an accidental fire on the right-hand side of the flight deck, next to the co-pilot. According to The Times, CCTV pulled from cameras at Paris' Charles de Gualle airport show that the co-pilot stored a number of personal items above the dashboard, where the first signs of trouble were detected. This included an automated alert indicating a series of malfunctions on the right-hand flight deck window, followed by smoke alerts going off in a toilet and in the avionics area below the cockpit, minutes before the plane vanished."
Businesses

Tesla To Power Gigafactory With World's Largest Solar Rooftop Installation (inhabitat.com) 110

Last week, Tesla announced that its Gigafactory has begun mass production of lithium-ion battery cells in Nevada. But the company failed to mention one thrilling detail in their January 4 announcement: the Gigafactory could be powered by the world's largest solar rooftop installation. According to an investor handout, a 70-megawatt (MW) solar array along with ground solar panels could let the factory operate entirely on clean energy. Inhabitat reports: The 70 MW solar array would be around seven times larger than any rooftop arrays currently installed, according to Tesla's exciting handout released by Electrek and confirmed as genuine by The Verge. The rooftop array currently boasting the title of world's largest is a 11.5 MW installation in India. The United States' biggest rooftop array is a 10 MW array atop a California Whirlpool distribution center. SolarCity will likely manufacture the solar panels, according to The Verge, as Tesla acquired the solar energy company in November. Powerpacks will store any excess energy generated by the vast solar installation. Tesla said in the handout the "all-electric" factory will be able to run with greater efficiency and will produce zero carbon emissions. Heating and water use at the Gigafactory will also be sustainable. In the handout, Tesla said a large part of heating for the building would come from waste heat obtained from production processes. Also, "Gigafactory's closed-loop water supply system uses six different treatment systems to efficiently re-circulate about 1.5 million liters (that's around 400,000 gallons) of water, representing an 80 percent reduction in fresh water usage compared with standard processes." Tesla even said they're building a recycling facility at the Gigafactory that will be able to "safely reprocess" battery cells, packs, and modules to obtain metal usable in new cells.
Businesses

Comcast Remains America's Most-Hated Company, Survey Finds (dslreports.com) 111

What may come as no surprise to cable TV or internet subscribers, Comcast remains among the least-liked companies in American history, according to a new survey from 24/7 Wall Street. From DSL Reports: [The survey] combines data from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, JD Power and Associates and a Zogby Analytics poll, and lists Comcast as the "most hated company in America." Comcast had made some small strides in the ACSI rankings last year, but even with minor improvements still consistently battles Charter for last place in most customer satisfaction and service studies. "The company')s internet services received the fourth worst score out of some 350 companies. In J.D. Power's rating of major wireline services, only Time Warner Cable -- recently subsumed by Charter -- received a worse score in overall satisfaction," notes the report, which adds that Comcast received the worst scores in consumer costs, billing, and reliability. "In 24/7 Wall St.'s annual customer satisfaction poll conducted in partnership with Zogby, nearly 55% of of respondents reported a negative experience with the company, the second worst of any corporation." Comcast finds itself ahead of numerous banks and airlines, but it isn't alone in the rankings among telecom providers. Dish Network is ranked eighth, the report noting that 47% of those polled reported a negative service experience with the company. Also on the list at tenth is Sprint, which had the worst customer service rating out of the more than 100 companies included in the survey. "More than half of Sprint customers polled reported a negative customer service experience with the company," the study found.
Earth

Amazon Still Lags Behind Apple, Google in Greenpeace Renewable Energy Report (greenpeace.org) 84

Amazon's cloud-computing unit says that one day it will rely solely on renewable power. But Greenpeace reports that a ramp-up in data-center construction in Virginia, where electricity comes mostly from coal and nuclear plants, makes that goal elusive. From the report: Apple, Google, Facebook, and newcomer Switch are taking some of the greatest strides towards 100% renewable energy, while companies such as Netflix, Amazon Web Services, and Samsung are lagging. The findings in Greenpeace USA's report outlines the energy footprints of large data center operators and nearly 70 of the most popular websites and applications. "Amazon continues to talk a good game on renewables but is keeping its customers in the dark on its energy decisions. This is concerning, particularly as Amazon expands into markets served by dirty energy," said Greenpeace USA Senior IT Analyst, Gary Cook. "Like Apple, Facebook, and Google, Netflix is one of the biggest drivers of the online world and has a critical say in how it is powered. Netflix must embrace the responsibility to make sure its growth is powered by renewables, not fossil fuels and it must show its leadership here," continued Cook.
AMD

AMD Announces X300 and X370 AM4 Motherboards For Ryzen, All CPUs Unlocked (hothardware.com) 71

MojoKid writes: AMD has a lot riding on Ryzen, its new generation CPU architecture that is supposed to return the chip designer to a competitive position versus Intel in the high-end desktop X86 processor market. Late last week, at CES 2017, AMD has lined up over a dozen high-performance AM4 motherboards from five hardware partners, including ASRock, ASUS, Biostar, Gigabyte, and MSI. All AM4 motherboards are built around one of two desktop chipsets for Ryzen, the AMD X370 or X300. Motherboards based on the X370 chipset are intended for power users and gamers. These boards bring more robust overclocking controls and support for dual graphics cards, along with more I/O connectivity and dual-channel DDR4 memory support. The X300 is AMD's chipset for mini-ITX motherboards for small form factor (SFF) system platforms. The X300 also supports dual-channel DDR4 memory, PCIe 3.0, M.2 SATA devices, NVMe, and USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 1. Finally, AMD representatives on hand at CES also reported that all Ryzen processors will be multiplier unlocked, hopefully for some rather flexible overclocking options. There will also be several processors in the family, with varying core counts depending on SKU, at launch.
Businesses

Volkswagen Unveils 'ID Buzz' Electric Microbus Concept (ibtimes.co.uk) 52

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Given the emissions scandal that rocked Volkswagen in 2015, we reckon Scooby Doo and the gang would opt for something a little more environmentally-sound were they to be reinvented for the 21st Century. VW's new ID Buzz electric concept car, unveiled at the International Auto Show in Detroit on 8 January, is exactly the sort of thing we can imagine the overbearing talking dog and four meddlesome kids driving around in today. The ID Buzz is the second electric concept vehicle to come from Volkswagen in recent months, following the VW I.D. concept car unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September 2016. The ID Buzz is a re-imagining of sorts of the German automaker's classic VW Microbus, with 'Buzz' being a phonetic play on 'bus' and, according to VW, "refers to the silent buzzing of the drive system." The all-electric van boasts a driving range of up to 270 miles, which VW says is comparable to traditional petrol-powered vehicles, and features a "fully-autonomous" mode that allows the driver's seat to swing round 180 degrees for a more social seating arrangement. Additional cutting-edge features include a heads-up display that projects navigational information as augmented reality images, which can appear as directional cues as much as 49 feet ahead of the car. This provides a more visual system that marks directions on the road itself, rather than having to rely on a 2D image as in the case with traditional sat-navs. VW calls the effect "astonishingly realistic."
Power

Next-Gen Samsung EV Battery Gets 300+ Miles of Range From 20-Minute Charge (techcrunch.com) 198

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Samsung's SDI battery subsidiary announced a new battery cell designed for use in electric vehicles that offers improved density to manage a max range of up to 372 miles on a full charge, with a quick charge capacity that will help it regain 310 miles or so of charge on just 20 minutes of charging. Unveiled at the North American International Auto Show for the first time, the new battery tech come with a 10 percent decrease in the number of units and weight required vs. current production battery units made by Samsung SDI. Mass production isn't set to begin until 2021, but the tech should arrive in time to supply the first crop of autonomous cars, which are also targeting street dates sometime within that year from a range of manufacturers. A 20-minute charge delivering that kind of range would help considerably with making EVs more practical for more drivers; it's around the time you'd spend at a rest stop using the restroom and grabbing coffee or a snack, after all. By comparison, Tesla's superchargers currently manage to provide around 170 miles of range on a half-hour charge, so Samsung's planned tech could approximately double that.
Toys

Ask Slashdot: What's The Most Useful 'Nerd Watch' Today? 232

He's worn the same watch for two decades, but now Slashdot reader students wants a new one. For about 20 years I've used Casio Databank 150 watches. They were handy because they kept track of my schedule and the current time. They were very cheap. They required very little maintenance, since the battery lasts more than a year and the bands last even longer. Since they were waterproof, I don't even have to take them off (or remember where I put them!) They were completely immune to malicious software, surveillance, and advertising. However, their waterproof gaskets have worn out so they no longer work for me. Casio no longer makes them or any comparable product (their website is out of date).
Today's watches include everything from heart rate monitors to TV remote controls, and Casio even plans to release a new version of their Android Wear watch with a low-power GPS chip and mapping software. But what's your best suggestion? "I don't want a watch that duplicates the function of my cell phone or computer," adds the original submission -- so leave your best answers in the comments. What's the most useful nerd watch today?
Power

Vast New Tomb Now Covers The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Site (slashdot.org) 173

The final stage of the Chernobyl clean-up took over 20 years to build -- and will seal up the site for the next 100 years. Slashdot reader MrKaos writes: 30 years and seven months since the explosion...the project known as the 'Shelter Implementation Plan' has been rolled into place, sealing the crippled Chernobyl reactor. More than 10,000 people were involved in the project, which includes an advanced ventilation systems and remote controlled robotic cranes to dismantle the existing Soviet-built structure and reactor. This sarcophagus -- or New Safe Confinement -- is taller than the Statue of Liberty and larger than Wembley stadium.
Over one million people worked on the initial clean-up, the BBC reports, calling this new sarcophagus "the largest object people have ever moved," and its installation was apparently pretty surreal. "World leaders jostle with global executives and anonymous men dressed in full camouflage as platters of shrimp, foie gras and cheesecake are passed around by white-gloved staff...just 330 feet away from the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history."
NES (Games)

Hackers Unlock NES Classic, Upload New Games Via USB Cable (arstechnica.com) 86

Just because Nintendo doesn't officially let their tiny replica NES receive new games doesn't mean hackers won't find a way to add their own. This week, hackers in Japan and Russia figured out soft-mod solutions to adding new games to the NES Classic, meaning you don't need to grab a screwdriver or a soldering iron to mod your own console. Ars Technica reports: According to the whiz kids at Reddit's NESClassicMods community, the solution won't work until you've created a save file in Super Mario Bros' first slot. (Chances are, you've already done this just by playing the game, since creating game saves is so easy with this system.) Once you've done that, connect your NES Classic Edition to a computer via a micro-USB cable, then boot the NES in "FEL" mode. This is done by holding down the system's reset button while pushing down the power button from a powered-off state. While you're booting, you should also run a "sunxi-FEL" interface on your computer. (An open-source version of compatible "USBBoot" software can be found here.) The rest of the steps land firmly in "operate at your own risk" territory, as they require copying your NES Classic's internal data to your computer, then modifying and adding files via an application made by hackers. Doing so, by the way, includes the dubious step of supplying your own ROM files, which you may have either dumped from your own cartridges or downloaded from other Internet users. One tool linked from that Reddit community, however, comes with two open-source NES ROMs that are in the legal free-and-clear to upload to your hardware. Once you've added your own game files, which should also include custom JPGs that will appear in the NES Classic's "box art" GUI, you'll have to repack the hardware's kernel, then fully flash the hardware yourself. Do all of those steps correctly, and you'll see every single game you've added appear in the slick, default interface.
AMD

AMD Declares Ryzen Will Be a Four-Year Architecture (extremetech.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ExtremeTech : Having spent over four years designing the architecture, the company plans to keep it around for at least that long. That's according to CTO Mark Papermaster, who was on-hand to discuss the chip. First things first -- AMD is promising a hard launch for Ryzen, without any paper launches, limited availability, or limited product introductions. When Zen debuts it'll debut in multiple (still unknown) configurations, not a single eight-core part. As PCWorld details, Papermaster also confirmed the four-year target and emphasized that it didn't mean AMD wouldn't iterate the core. "We're not going tick-tock," Papermaster said. "Zen is going to be tock, tock, tock." There are several ways to read this sentence. Tick-tock refers to Intel's previous practice of introducing new CPU architectures in one product cycle and new manufacturing nodes in the other. AMD has never strictly deployed an equivalent approach over multiple product cycles. I wouldn't necessarily conclude that Papermaster is saying AMD won't deploy Zen on new manufacturing nodes over time, but that AMD intends to implement an aggressive series of tweaks and improvements to the current core as time goes by. There's a significant lag between when a design tapes out and when it ships to consumers. This means AMD's CPU design team is almost certainly hard at work on Zen's successor already, even though Zen hasn't actually shipped yet. While I can't make any concrete predictions about how Zen will compete against specific products in Intel's lineup, the demos we've seen and the product information already available has convinced me that Ryzen will be at least a meaningful and significant improvement on AMD's overall power efficiency, performance, and performance-per-watt.
Earth

A Coal-Fired Power Plant In India Is Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Baking Soda (technologyreview.com) 197

schwit1 quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: In the southern Indian city of Tuticorin, locals are unlikely to suffer from a poorly risen cake. That's because a coal-fired thermal power station in the area captures carbon dioxide and turns it into baking soda. Carbon capture schemes are nothing new. Typically, they use a solvent, such as amine, to catch carbon dioxide and prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere. From there, the CO2 can either be stored away or used. But the Guardian reports that a system installed in the Tuticorin plant uses a new proprietary solvent developed by the company Carbon Clean Solutions. The solvent is reportedly just slightly more efficient than those used conventionally, requiring a little less energy and smaller apparatus to run. The collected CO2 is used to create baking soda, and it claims that as much as 66,000 tons of the gas could be captured at the plant each year. Its operators say that the marginal gain in efficiency is just enough to make it feasible to run the plant without a subsidy. In fact, it's claimed to be the first example of an unsubsidized industrial plant capturing CO2 for use. schwit1 notes: "A 'climate change' project that doesn't involve taxpayer dollars? Is that even allowed?"
AMD

AMD Unveils Vega GPU Architecture With 512 Terabytes of Memory Address Space (hothardware.com) 125

MojoKid writes: AMD lifted the veil on its next generation GPU architecture, codenamed Vega, this morning. One of the underlying forces behind Vega's design is that conventional GPU architectures have not been scaling well for diverse data types. Gaming and graphics workloads have shown steady progress, but today's GPUs are used for much more than just graphics. In addition, the compute capability of GPUs may have been increasing at a good pace, but memory capacity has not kept up. Vega aims to improve both compute performance and addressable memory capacity, however, through some new technologies not available on any previous-gen architecture. First, is that Vega has the most scalable GPU memory architecture built to date with 512TB of address space. It also has a new geometry pipeline tuned for more performance and better efficiency with over 2X peak throughput per clock, a new Compute Unit design, and a revamped pixel engine. The pixel engine features a new draw stream binning rasterizer (DSBR), which reportedly improves performance and saves power. All told, Vega should offer significant improvements in terms of performance and efficiency when products based on the architecture begin shipping in a few months.
Intel

Intel's Compute Card Is a PC That Can Fit In Your Wallet (arstechnica.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Intel mostly missed the boat on smartphones, but the company is trying to establish a firm foothold in the ever-broadening marketplace for connected appliances and other smart things. Intel's latest effort in this arena is its new "Compute Card," a small 94.5mm by 55mm by 5mm slab that includes a CPU and GPU, RAM, storage, and wireless connectivity. Intel hasn't given us specific information about the specs and speeds of its first Compute Cards, but you can expect the fastest ones to approach the performance of high-end fanless laptops like Apple's MacBooks. Intel told us that processors with a TDP of up to 6W could fit inside the Compute Cards, which covers both low-power Atom chips like those that powered early versions of Intel's Compute Stick to full Core M and Y-series Core i5 and i7 CPUs like the ones you find in laptops. Intel says that the card uses a variant of the USB-C port called "USB-C plus extension" to connect with the systems it's plugged into. That connector gives devices direct access to the USB and PCIe buses as well as HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs. The company considers the Compute Card to be a replacement of sorts for the Compute Stick, which Intel says will probably disappear from its roadmap in 2018 or so. The issue with the Compute Stick from Intel's perspective is that its input and output ports were unnecessarily limiting -- it could only connect to HDMI ports and could only accept a limited number of USB inputs. The Compute Card can be slid into a wider variety of enclosures that can use all kinds of ports and display interfaces, and Intel says the Card will also offer a large array of performance and storage options, unlike current Compute Sticks.
China

China To Plow $361 Billion Into Renewable Fuel By 2020 (indiatimes.com) 117

China will invest $361 billion in renewable power generation between 2016 and 2020, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said Thursday, as the world's largest energy market pushes to shift away from coal power. From a report: The investment will create over 13 million jobs in the sector, the NEA said in a blueprint document that lays out its plan to develop the nation's energy sector in a five-year period. The NEA repeated its goal to have 580 million tonnes of coal equivalent of renewable energy consumption by 2020, accounting for 15 percent of overall energy consumption.
Hardware

Razer Built a Laptop With Three Screens Because Why Not? (engadget.com) 161

At CES in Las Vegas today, Razer unveiled a prototype that could change the way we play. Behold: Project Valerie, the world's first laptop to incorporate three built-in monitors. From a report on Engadget: Each screen measures 17.3 inches with 4K resolution -- that's 12k total (11520 x 2160) viewing space. They slide out from the central lid chassis under their own power and autonomously position themselves to create a full 180-degree viewing area, powered by NVIDIA's Surround View technology, which enables programs to spread a single image across multiple monitors. All of the computer's wiring is internal so you won't have to worry about snagging power cords as the screens deploy. The Valerie also utilizes Razer's short-throw keyboard, an all-aluminum case and the computing prowess of the 17-inch Blade Pro. No word on pricing.
Power

Tesla Gigafactory Begins Production (reuters.com) 200

Thelasko writes: Right on schedule, Tesla's Gigafactory has begun production of battery cells. The fact that the factory has opened on schedule has surprised many critics of the company. Reuters reports: "Electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc has started mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at its gigafactory in Nevada along with Japan's Panasonic Corp, the company said on Wednesday. The cylindrical '2170 cells,' which will be used to power Tesla's energy storage products and the new Model 3 sedan, have been jointly designed by Tesla and Panasonic, its longstanding battery partner. The gigafactory will initially produce battery cells for the company's Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 energy products, Tesla said. The factory is expected to drive down the cost of battery packs by more than 30 percent, the company has said. At peak production, the gigafactory is expected to employ 6,500 workers and create between 20,000 and 30,000 additional jobs in the surrounding regions, Tesla said."

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