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NASA Selects Universities To Develop Humanoid Robot Astronauts ( 21

MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced that it is sending copies of its R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot to two universities for software upgrades and other research and development. The effort is part of a continuing project to develop cybernetic astronauts that will assist human astronauts in exploring other worlds. The idea is that robot astronauts would initially scout potentially hazardous environments, say on Mars, and then actively collaborate with their human counterparts in exploration. NASA is paying each university chosen $250,000 per year for two years to perform the R&D. The university researchers will have access to NASA expertise and facilities to perform the upgrades. Spoiler alert: the robots are both going to Greater Boston, to teams at MIT and Northeastern University respectively.

MIT Helping NASA Build Valkyrie Robots For Space Missions ( 35

An anonymous reader writes: NASA announced that MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is one of just two institutions that will receive "R5," a six-foot, 290-pound humanoid robot also known as "Valkyrie" that will serve on future space missions to Mars and beyond. A group led by CSAIL principal investigator Russ Tedrake will develop algorithms for the robot as part of NASA's upcoming Space Robotics Challenge, which aims to create more dexterous autonomous robots that can help or even take the place of humans "extreme space" missions. While R5 was initially designed to complete disaster-relief maneuvers, its main goal is now to prove itself worthy of even trickier terrain — deep space exploration.

Linux 4.4 Kernel To Bring Raspberry Pi Graphics Driver, Open-Channel SSD Support ( 67

An anonymous reader writes: Linux 4.4-rc1 has been released. New features of Linux 4.4 include a Raspberry Pi kernel mode-setting driver, support for 3D acceleration by QEMU guest virtual machines, AMD Stoney APU support, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 support, expanded eBPF virtual machine programs, new hardware peripheral support, file-system fixes, faster SHA crypto support on Intel hardware, and LightNVM / Open-Channel SSD support.

Intel Flagship Core i7-6950X Broadwell-E To Offer 10-Cores, 20-Threads, 25MB L3 ( 167

MojoKid writes: Intel has made a habit of launching enthusiast versions of previous generation processors after it releases a new architecture. As was the case with Intel's Haswell architecture, high-end Broadwell-E variants are expected and it looks like Intel is readying a doozy. Recently revealed details show four new processors under the new HEDT (High-End Desktop) banner for Broadwell, which is one more SKU than Haswell-E brought to the table. The most intriguing of the new chips is the Core i7-6950X, a monster 10-core CPU with Hyper Threading support. That gives the Core i7-6950X 20 threads to play with, along with a whopping 25MB of L3 cache. The caveat is the CPU's clockspeed — it will run at just 3.0GHz (base), so for applications that aren't properly tuned to take full advantage of large core counts and threads, it could potentially trail behind the Core i7-6700K, a quad-core Skylake processor clocked at 3.4GHz (base) to 4GHz (Turbo).

Microsoft Rolls Out Major Fall Update To Windows 10 ( 181

Ammalgam writes: Microsoft has rolled out a major update to Windows 10 called the Fall Update, November Update or Threshold 2. The update is now publicly available for everyone to download. Microsoft has confirmed it will be a staggered release. This update is full of fixes and refinements to Windows 10 including substantial changes to Edge, Cortana, icons, the Start Menu, Activation and multiple enterprise features. Here is a full list of changes. Have you updated your Windows 10 install yet? What was your experience?

Bluetooth 2016 Roadmap Brings Fourfold Range Increase and Mesh Networking ( 29

An anonymous reader writes: The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced its roadmap for Bluetooth Smart in 2016, promising a fourfold range increase in the low-energy, IoT-oriented version of the protocol, along with dedicated mesh networking, a 100% increase in speed and no extra consumption of energy. The last set of upgrades to the protocol offered direct access to the internet and security enhancements. Since Bluetooth must currently contend with attacks on everything from cars to toilets, the increased range means that developers may not be able to rely on 'fleeting contact' as a security feature quite as much.

Qualcomm Unveils Snapdragon 820 With Adreno 530 Graphics For Mobile Devices ( 34

MojoKid writes: Qualcomm held an event in New York City today to demonstrate for the first time its highly anticipated Snapdragon 820 System-on-Chip (SoC). More than just a speed bump and refresh of the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm says it designed the Snapdragon 820 "from the ground up to be unlike anything else." Behind that marketing spin is indeed an SoC with a custom 64-bit quad-core Kyro processor clocked at up to 2.2GHz. Qualcomm says it delivers up to twice the performance and twice the power efficiency of its predecessor, which is in fact an 8-core chip. Qualcomm officials have quoted 2x the performance of their previous gen Snapdragon 810 in single threaded throughput alone, which is a sizable gain. Efficiency is also being touted here, and according to Qualcomm, the improvements it made to the underlying architecture translate into nearly a third (30 percent) less power consumption. That should help the Snapdragon 820 steer clear of overheating concerns, which is something the 810 wasn't able to do.

OpenSUSE Leap 42.1 Released ( 31

MasterPatricko writes: In what they're calling the first "hybrid" distribution release, the openSUSE project have announced the availability of openSUSE Leap 42.1. Built on a core of SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 SP1 packages but including an up-to-date userspace (KDE Plasma 5.4.2, GNOME 3.16, and many other DEs), Leap aims to provide a stable middle ground between enterprise releases which are quickly out of date, and the sometimes unstable community distros. DVD/USB or Network Install ISOs are available for download now. For those who do prefer the bleeding edge, the openSUSE Tumbleweed rolling-release distribution is also available.

Firefox 42 Arrives With Tracking Protection, Tab Audio Indicators 134

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 42 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Notable additions to the browser include tracking protection, tab audio indicators, and background link opening on Android. The new private browsing mode goes further than just not saving your browsing history (read: porn sites) — the added tracking protection means Firefox also blocks website elements (ads, analytics trackers, and social share buttons) that could track you while you're surfing the web, and it works on all four platforms. The feature is almost like a built-in ad blocker, though it's really closer to browser add-ons like Ghostery and Privacy Badger because ads that don't track you are allowed through.

Atom 1.1 Is Out, With Lots of Graphic Improvements ( 103

yathosho writes with some good news for GitHub developers: GitHub's new Atom editor sees a first big update in version 1.1. Character measurement has been improved, fonts with ligatures and variable width fonts are now supported. The biggest new feature is probably live Markdown preview, matching the current theme. There's also a 1.2.0 beta available, for those who want to have a look into Atom's future.

Motorola Unveils Droid Turbo 2, Claims Shatterproof Display, 48 Hour Battery ( 111

MojoKid writes: We've seen leaks and teasers for Motorola's new Droid Turbo 2 Android flagship for weeks. However, the Lenovo-owned company officially announced the smartphone, and it offers two highly sought after features: a long-running battery and a shatterproof display. Its battery has a 3760mAh capacity, allowing the Droid Turbo 2 to operate for up to 48 hours per charge. And if that wasn't enough, Motorola has incorporated Quick Charging support which allows the device to achieve 13 hours of battery life from a mere 15-minute charge. The most talked about feature, however, is its shatterproof display, which Motorola calls Moto ShatterShield. Motorola says that it's "the world's first phone screen guaranteed not to crack or shatter. The display sports a flexible AMOLED panel to absorb shocks, dual touch layers, a rigid aluminum backing, as well as interior and exterior lenses. At the launch event, Motorola was dropping the phone from about 6 feet up, direct to concrete and it was holding up to the abuse just fine.
United Kingdom

British Engineers Create Sonic Tractor Beam ( 88

An anonymous reader writes: According to the BBC, engineers in Bristol, England have created a system for remote manipulation of physical objects using sound holograms. The video shows pea-sized objects being dragged around and stacked up in mid-air with no visible means of support. "In essence, an object sitting in a 'quiet' region of space can be held there if it is surrounded by very high-intensity sound waves. As the pattern of that boundary shifts, the object can be moved around." If the Empire is making a tractor beam, now they only need a Death Star to go with it.

Official, Customized Raspberry Pi Versions Coming Soon ( 93

DeviceGuru writes: The immensely popular Raspberry Pi will soon be offered in customized versions, through an exclusive arrangement between Raspberry Pi Trading and Element14. According to the companies' announcement, Element14 will provide design and manufacturing services to OEM customers to create 'bespoke designs' based upon the Raspberry Pi technology platform. That's weird U.K. English for saying that contracts for creating customized Raspberry Pi SBCs will entail substantial NRE fees and 3,000 to 5,000 unit orders, depending on the nature of the customization. The tweaked Pi's are likely to have revised board layouts, additional or alternative functions, interfaces, connectors, and memory configurations, and more. A handful of unsanctioned Raspberry Pi knock-offs have already appeared over the past couple of years, including various Orange Pi and Banana Pi flavors, which certainly didn't involve any 'bespeaking.' More info is at Element14's CustomPi page.

Ubuntu 15.10 'Wily Werewolf' Released ( 191

LichtSpektren writes: Ubuntu 15.10 "Wily Werewolf" is now released and available, along with its alternative desktop flavors (MATE, Xfce, LXDE, GNOME, KDE, Kylin). This release features Linux 4.2, GCC 5, Python 3.5, and LibreOffice 5. The default version is still using display server and Unity7; Mark Shuttleworth has said that Mir and Unity8 won't arrive until Ubuntu 16.04 "Xenial Xerus." Not much has changed beyond package updates, other than replacing the invisible overlay scrollbars in Nautilus with the GNOME 3 scrollbars.

Phoronix brings us the only bit of drama regarding this release: Jonathan Riddell, long time overseer of Kubuntu, has resigned with claims that Canonical has "defrauded donors and broke the copyright licenses."
Another reader adds a link to a Q & A session with Riddell.

Hands-On With the Fairphone 2 Modular Android Smartphone ( 107

An anonymous reader writes: In just a couple of months, the world's first consumer-ready modular smartphone will start shipping. It's called the Fairphone 2, and it will run Android 5.1. Ars Technica got hands-on time with the device, and they say it works surprisingly well. It's a bit thicker than most modern phones, but that's the trade-off for being able to swap out components. "The smartphone consists of seven major building blocks: the back cover, removable battery, display assembly, main chassis, receiver module, rear camera module, and speaker module. Positioned this way, the components that break most often, like the screen, are isolated for better repairability. In addition to swappable blocks, you can even change things inside the modules: for example, a mic or a speaker. They are press-fit, not glued, and can be extracted with simple tools."

Assembly and disassembly is pretty straightforward, as well: "The modules are held together by Phillips screws marked with blue circles. All screws are the same, so you won't have to remember which one goes where. It's quite hard to make a mistake in the assembling process, however Fairphone promises to release additional manuals and video instructions in collaboration with iFixit." The company also thinks it's important to get the phone's materials and components from ethical sources.

Data Storage

Samsung 950 Pro Brings NVMe To M.2, Over 2.5GB/s 36

Vigile writes: Samsung just released its first non-OEM, consumer level NVMe enabled SSD, the 950 Pro series. This drive will ship in an M.2 form factor rather than a 2.5-in drive size that is the standard for users today, allowing installation into notebooks, small form factor PCs and desktop PCs that have at least one M.2 slot on-board. It peaks at 512GB capacity today but Samsung promises a 1TB version using 48-layer VNAND in 2016. The NVMe protocol allows much better performance directly over the PCIe bus without the overhead of the AHCI protocol used in hard drives and previous SSDs. PC Perspective's review has performance breaking the 2.5GB/s read speed level while also introducing an entirely new type of performance evaluation for SSDs centered around latency distribution of IOs. By measuring how long each IO takes, rather than reporting only an average, the performance of an SSD can be determined on a per-workflow basis and drives can be compared in an entirely new light. There is a lot of detail on to be read over and digested but again the new NVMe Samsung 950 Pro impresses. Hot Hardware takes a similarly data-dump-heavy look at the same drive.
Data Storage

Samsung Demos PCIe NVMe SSD At 5.6 GB Per Second, 1 Million IOPS ( 88

MojoKid writes: Samsung decided to show off their latest SSD wares at Dell World 2015 with two storage products that are sure to impress data center folks. Up and running on display, Samsung showcased their PM1725 drive, which is a half-height, half-length (HHHL) NVMe SSD that will be one of the fastest on the market when it ships later this year. It sports transfer speeds of 5500MB/sec for sequential reads and 1800MB/s for writes. Samsung had the drive running in a server with Iometer fired up and pushing in excess of 5.6GB/sec. The PM1725 also is rated for random reads up to 1,000,000 IOPS and random writes of 120,000 IOPS. The top of the line 6.4TB SSD is rated to handle 32TB of writes per day with a 5-year warranty.

Google Makes Full-Disk Encryption Mandatory For Some Android 6.0 Devices ( 150

itwbennett writes: Google's plan to encrypt user data on Android devices by default will get a new push with Android 6.0, also known as Marshmallow. Devices with enough memory and decent cryptographic performance will need to have full-disk encryption enabled in order to be declared compatible with the latest version of the mobile OS. From the ITWorld article: "The move is likely to draw criticism from law enforcement officials in the U.S. who have argued over the past year that the increasing use of encryption on devices and online communications affects their ability to investigate crimes. In addition to encryption, Google also mandates verified boot for devices with AES performance over 50MB/s. This is a feature that verifies the integrity and authenticity of the software loaded at different stages during the device boot sequence and protects against boot-level attacks that could undermine the encryption."

Windows 10 Upgrades Are Being Forced On Some Users ( 374

grimmjeeper writes: According to Ars Technica the Windows 10 upgrade option is being selected by default for some users. A dialogue box is appearing that only permits them to reschedule the upgrade process, not cancel it. "For the first year of its availability, Windows 10 is available for free to most Windows 7 and 8 users, and Microsoft has been trying to coax those users to make the switch by delivering the operating system through Windows Update. Until now, the OS has been delivered as an optional update; while Windows Update gives it prominent positioning, it shouldn't be installed automatically. This system has already generated some complaints, as Windows Update will download the sizeable operating system installer even if you don't intend to upgrade any time soon, but, over the last couple of days, the situation seems to have become a little more aggressive. We've received a number of reports that people's systems are not merely downloading the installer but actually starting it up." Update: 10/16 11:35 GMT by S : Microsoft said, "In the recent Windows update, this option was checked as default; this was a mistake and we are removing the check."
Data Storage

China's Flash Consumption Grows To 30%; 8TB SSDs Are Coming ( 67

Lucas123 writes: Seven of the world's top 10 smartphone vendors hail from China as does PC giant Lenovo, which is driving up the amount of NAND flash and DRAM the country consumes. This year alone, China is expected to purchase nearly 30% of the world's NAND flash and 21% of its DRAM, according to a report from TrendForce. Additionally, state-backed companies are trying to break into Western markets with SSDs. For example, Sage Microelectronics (SageMicro), a four-year-old company based in Hangzhou, China, plans to release an 8TB SSD next month that will be based on eMMC flash, and it said it will release a 10TB drive next year. Update: 10/16 15:11 GMT by T : Note this interesting highlight from the second story linked above: SageMicron is selling not just drives that emphasize capacity over speed, but also a feature that will do doubt appeal to government agencies or private citizens intent on replicating Mission Impossible-style data wiping. The company's "Smart Destruction" function "can be set to erase encryption keys, perform a drive erase or physically fry the memory chips with a pulse of high voltage ... [and] can be triggered using a digital timer, a mobile phone instruction, or by simply pressing a button. 'Yes, it actually smokes sometimes when you push the button,' [Sage U.S. sales director Troy Rutt] said. 'People like that.'"