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Hardware

Transistors Will Stop Shrinking in 2021, Moore's Law Roadmap Predicts (ieee.org) 71

Moore's Law, an empirical observation of the number of components that could be built on an integrated circuit and their corresponding cost, has largely held strong for more than 50 years, but its days are really numbered now. The prediction of the 2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, which was only officially made available this month, says that transistor could stop shrinking in just five years. From an article on IEEE: After 2021, the report forecasts, it will no longer be economically desirable for companies to continue to shrink the dimensions of transistors in microprocessors. Instead, chip manufacturers will turn to other means of boosting density, namely turning the transistor from a horizontal to a vertical geometry and building multiple layers of circuitry, one on top of another. These roadmapping shifts may seem like trivial administrative changes. But "this is a major disruption, or earthquake, in the industry," says analyst Dan Hutcheson, of the firm VLSI Research. U.S. semiconductor companies had reason to cooperate and identify common needs in the early 1990s, at the outset of the roadmapping effort that eventually led to the ITRS's creation in 1998. Suppliers had a hard time identifying what the semiconductor companies needed, he says, and it made sense for chip companies to collectively set priorities to make the most of limited R&D funding.It still might not be the end of Moore's remarkable observation, though. The report adds that processors could still continue to fulfill Moore's Law with increased vertical density. The original report published by ITRS is here.
Android

Phones Without Headphone Jacks Are Here... and They're Extremely Annoying (mashable.com) 452

A few weeks ago, we had an intense discussion on what would happen if Apple's next iPhone doesn't have a headphone port -- and what that means for the rest of the industry, as well as the pros and cons of ditching the legacy port. Over the past few months, we have seen many smartphone manufacturers launch new handsets that don't have a headphone jack. Mashable has a report today in which it says that it is already causing frustration among users. From the article: In the Android camp, phones like Lenovo's Moto Z and Moto Z Force and China's LeEco have already scrapped the 3.5mm headphone jack; to listen to music on the company's three latest phones, users need to plug in USB Type-C headphones, go wireless, or use a dongle. I'm all for letting go of old technologies to push forward, but what is happening is actually going to make things worse. The headphone jack has worked for 50 years and it can work for another 50 more because it's universal. Headphones I plug into my iPhone work in an Android phone, in a BlackBerry, in my computer, in my PS4 controller, in my tablet, in any speaker with audio-out, and so on. I can walk into any electronics store and pick up a pair of headphones and not have to worry about compatibility with any of my devices. I know it'll work. [...] With a universal headphone jack, I never have to worry whether or not the crappy pack-in iPhone EarPods I have will work with the Android phone I'm reviewing or not. I also never have to worry if I'll be able to plug my headphones into a friend's phone to listen to some new song. Same applies for when I want to use my earbuds and headphones with another person's device. And there lies the real issue. I will need different dongles -- a Lightning-to-headphone-jack and a USB-Type-C-to-headphone-jack to be prepared because I do carry both iPhone and Android phone on me daily. Dongles also get lost.
Android

Do We Need The Moto Z Smartphones' New Add-On Modules? (hothardware.com) 52

This week saw the release of the Moto Z Droid and Force Droid, new Android smartphones from Motorola and Lenovo with snap-on modules. Slashdot reader MojoKid writes that the Z Force Droid "is sheathed behind Moto ShatterShield technology making it virtually indestructible." Motorola guarantees it not to crack or shatter if dropped... However, what's truly standout are Moto Mods, which are snap-on back-packs of sorts that add new features, like the JBL Speaker, Moto Insta-Projector and Incipio OffGrid Power Pack (2220 mAh) mods... Even the fairly complex projector mod fires up in seconds and works really well.
But the Verge has called it "a good phone headed down the wrong path," adding "this company is competing in the global smartphone market, not a high school science fair, and its success will depend on presenting better value than the competition, not cleverer design. Without the benefit of the value-projecting fairy dust of brands like Apple and Beats, Lenovo will have an uphill climb trying to justify its Moto Mods pricing with functionality and looks, and our review has shown that none of the company's extras are essential."
Android

Turn Your Android Phone Into a Laptop For $99 With the Superbook (techinsider.io) 113

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: A company called Andromium is attempting to harness the processing power of your Android smartphone and turn it into a full fledged computer. The 'Superbook' consists of a 11.6-inch laptop shell, which you connect to your phone via a USB Micro-B or Type-C cable, and run the Andromium OS application (currently in beta, but available in the Play Store)... The leader of the project and Company co-founder Gordon Zheng, previously worked at Google and pitched the idea to them... They refused so he quit his job and founded Andromium Inc.

In December 2014 the company had introduced their first product which was a dock which used the MHL standard to output to external monitor. That campaign failed, however their newest creation, the Superbook smashed their Kickstarter goal in just over 20 minutes.

And within their first 38 hours, they'd crowdfunded $500,000. In an intriguing side note, Andromium "says it'll open its SDK so developers can tailor their apps for Andromium, too, though how much support that gets remains to be seen," reports Tech Insider. But more importantly, "Andromium says its prototypes are finished, and that it hopes to ship the Superbook to backers by February 2017."
China

China Wants To Be a Top 10 Nation For Automation By Putting More Robots In Its Factories (reuters.com) 134

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: China is aiming for a top-10 ranking in automation for its industries by 2020 by putting more robots in its factories, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) said. China's push to modernize its manufacturing with robotics is partly a response to labor shortages and fast-rising wages. But the world's second-largest economy still has far lower robot penetration than other big industrialized economies -- just 36 per 10,000 manufacturing workers in 2015, ranking it 28th among the world's most automated nations. By 2020, it aims to boost penetration to 150 per 10,000 workers, IFR said in a statement, citing Wang Ruixiang, President of the China Machinery Industry Federation. To help reach that goal, China aims for sales of 100,000 domestically produced industrial robots a year by 2020, up 49 percent compared with last year, the IFR said in a statement at an industry summit in Shanghai, where the Chinese federation's chief was speaking.
Graphics

NVIDIA Drops Surprise Unveiling of Pascal-Based GeForce GTX Titan X (hothardware.com) 134

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: Details just emerged from NVIDIA regarding its upcoming powerful, Pascal-based Titan X graphics card, featuring a 12 billion transistor GPU, codenamed GP102. NVIDIA is obviously having a little fun with this one and at an artificial intelligence (AI) meet-up at Stanford University this evening, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang first announced, and then actually gave away a few brand-new, Pascal-based NVIDIA TITAN X GPUs. Apparently, Brian Kelleher, one of NVIDIA's top hardware engineers, made a bet with NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, that the company could squeeze 10 teraflops of computing performance out of a single chip. Jen-Hsun thought that was not doable in this generation of product, but apparently, Brian and his team pulled it off. The new Titan X is powered by NVIDIA's largest GPU -- the company says it's actually the biggest GPU ever built. The Pascal-based GP102 features 3,584 CUDA cores, clocked at 1.53GHz (the previous-gen Titan X has 3,072 CUDA cores clocked at 1.08GHz). The specifications NVIDIA has released thus far include: 12-billion transistors, 11 TFLOPs FP32 (32-bit floating point), 44 TOPS INT8 (new deep learning inferencing instructions), 3,584 CUDA cores at 1.53GHz, and 12GB of GDDR5X memory (480GB/s). The new Titan X will be available August 2nd for $1,200 direct from NVIDIA.com.
Earth

Large Source Of Hydrogen Gas May Lie Near Slow-Spreading Tectonic Plates Under The Ocean (sciencedaily.com) 71

New submitter pyroclast writes: According to research from Duke University, rocks forming from fast-spreading tectonic plates create hydrogen gas in large quantities. The tectonic alternation of hydrolyzed ultramafic rock to serpentinized rock has the byproduct of hydrogen gas. Science Daily reports: "'A major benefit of this work is that it provides a testable, tectonic-based model for not only identifying where free hydrogen gas may be forming beneath the seafloor, but also at what rate, and what the total scale of this formation may be, which on a global basis is massive,' said [researcher] Lincoln F. Pratson[.] 'Most scientists previously thought all hydrogen production occurs only at slow-spreading lithosphere, because this is where most serpentinized rocks are found. Although faster-spreading lithosphere contains smaller quantities of this rock, our analysis suggests the amount of H2 produced there might still be large,' [researcher Stacy] Worman said. [S]cientists need to understand where the gas goes after it's produced. 'Maybe microbes are eating it, or maybe it's accumulating in reservoirs under the seafloor. We still don't know,' Worman said. 'Of course, such accumulations would have to be quite significant to make hydrogen gas produced by serpentinization a viable fuel source.'"
Movies

Man Builds $1.5 Million Star Trek-Themed Home Theater (cepro.com) 158

CIStud writes: This $1.5 million "Star Trek" home theater is the envy of every geek on the planet. The theater is a reconstruction of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise from "Star Trek: Next Generation" and also includes $1 million worth of memorabilia from the classic sci-fi TV show. The home theater was created by financier Marc Bell with the help from Jay Miller of Boca Raton-based Acoustic Innovations. The two started working on the home cinema in 2002 -- before construction of Bell's house even began -- and it took them four years to complete. CEPro reports: "A D-Box controller manipulates hydraulics installed beneath the floorboards, meaning the entire room shakes when anything loud happens on screen. The room also includes a JBL Synthesis sound system, which at the time of installation was only used in commercial theaters. The audio system is currently being upgraded to Dolby Atmos specifications and Bell plans to install a 4K projector. A big movie fan, Bell has had over 3,500 films digitized, which are stored and streamed through a Kaleidescape server. He also spent approximately $35,000 on a Prima Cinema system, allowing him and his family to watch films at home the day they are released in commercial cinemas. A wraparound control center surrounds the 11 custom leather chairs in the theater, eight of which recline into beds, while the doors that open into the theater are exact replicas of the Turbolift doors as seen on the TV show. When someone steps on the circular "transporter," the doors open with that familiar "whoosh" sound." Bell apparently likes to spend his money on others too. He has rented a local movie theater for every Star Trek film released in the past 25 years and has taken all of his employees, friends and their children along on opening night. The Wall Street Journal posted a video on YouTube of the home theater.
Transportation

Tesla's Autopilot Mode Reportedly Saves Pedestrian's Life (electrek.co) 219

An anonymous reader writes: Following reports of Tesla's Autopilot mode being linked to a fatal crash, one Tesla Model S owner is reporting that the Autopilot mode has likely saved a pedestrian's life. The driver sent an email to Elon Musk explaining the situation, which was confirmed by Tesla through the vehicle logs: "I wanted to let you know that I think my car probably saved the life of a pedestrian last night, 7/16 around 10:30pm when I was driving in Washington DC with my daughter." The driver says him and his daughter were trying to locate where sirens were coming from "when a pedestrian stepped out in front of [their] Model S in the dark with dark clothes and in the middle of the road." The car slammed on its breaks before he could and "stopped just inches from hitting the pedestrian." The driver said, "I am not sure if I would have been able to stop before hitting him but I am so glad the car did." The Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), which is standard on all Tesla vehicles and is part of Tesla's Autopilot mode, is what was at work here. It appears that many of the convenience features of Autopilot were not activated at the time of the incident. This is likely the first of many good press stories released by Elon Musk, who said he would consider releasing the stories of accidents prevented by the Autopilot mode with the authorization of the Tesla owners and by confirming the events through the vehicle logs. Elon Musk did also announce Tesla's 'Master Plan, Part Deux,' which includes new kinds of Tesla vehicles, expanded solar initiatives, updates on Tesla's 'autopilot' technology, and a ride-sharing program.
Nintendo

Apple To Make $3 Billion From Pokemon Go (theguardian.com) 78

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Guardian: We all know what Pokemon Go is, and we all know how successful it is. The Guardian is reporting that Apple will "rake in $3 billion in revenue from Pokemon Go in the next one to two years as gamers buy 'PokeCoins' from its app store, according to analysts." One pack of 100 PokeCoins costs about $1 in Apple's app store, but gamers can purchase as many as 14,500 PokeCoins for about $100. "We believe Apple keeps 30% of Pokemon Go's revenue spent on iOS devices, suggesting upside to earnings," Needham and Co brokerage analyst Laura Martin wrote in a client note on Wednesday. The game, which is also available on Android, had over 21 million active users after only being on the market for less than two weeks. It has also been rolled out in 35 countries since its U.S. debut. "Martin said Pokemon Go's ratio of paid users to total users was 10 times that of Candy Crush, the hit game from King Digital that generated more than $1 billion of revenue in both 2013 and 2014," reports The Guardian. Not only has Apple's stock risen since the launch of Pokemon Go, but Nintendo's stock has more than doubled.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Surface Hub Is a 'Hit', Demand Outstrips Supply (petri.com) 67

Microsoft said on Thursday that it has sold over 500 units of the Surface Hubs, a number that apparently "exceeded" the company's initial forecasts. In a statement to Microsoft-centric blog Petri, the company said: "Demand for Surface Hubs is very strong and exceeded initial forecasts. To date, we've shipped to over 500 customers worldwide and that number continues to grow. We are ramping up production to meet this strong demand via our partner reseller channel as soon as possible. Customers are encouraged to speak with their sales representative if interested in ordering Surface Hubs." For a refresh, the Surface Hub is a giant all-in-one Windows 10 computer which retails at a starting price point of $8,999 for the 55-inch model, and goes all the way up to $21,999 for the 84-inch model.
Printer

Police 3D-Printed A Murder Victim's Finger To Unlock His Phone (theverge.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Police in Michigan have a new tool for unlocking phones: 3D printing. According to a new report from Flash Forward creator Rose Eveleth, law enforcement officers approached professors at the University of Michigan earlier this year to reproduce a murder victim's fingerprint from a prerecorded scan. Once created, the 3D model would be used to create a false fingerprint, which could be used to unlock the phone. Because the investigation is ongoing, details are limited, and it's unclear whether the technique will be successful. Still, it's similar to techniques researchers have used in the past to re-create working fingerprint molds from scanned images, often in coordination with law enforcement. This may be the first confirmed case of police using the technique to unlock a phone in an active investigation. Apple has recently changed the way iOS manages fingerprint logins. You are now required to input an additional passcode if your phone hasn't been touched for eight hours and the passcode hasn't been entered in the past six days.
Apple

Smartwatch Shipments Fall For the First Time; Apple Only Company In Top 5 To Decline (venturebeat.com) 128

Emil Protalinski, reporting for VentureBeat: The smartwatch market has hit its first bump, and it's all Apple's fault. Vendors shipped a total of 3.5 million smartphones worldwide last quarter. This Q2 2016 figure is down 32 percent from the 5.1 million units shipped in Q2 2016, marking the first decline on record. It's important to note that smartwatches are just a subcategory of the larger wearable market. As such, these figures don't count basic bands sold by companies like Fitbit. Apple is thus the undisputed leader, even after the losses it saw in Q2 2016, and it could easily see a return to growth with the release of Watch OS 2.0. Apple's market share decreased 25 percentage points (from 72 percent to 47 percent) and it shipped less than half the smartwatches (1.6 million). But the company still holds almost half the market, with every other vendor shipping fewer than a million units.
Businesses

Tesla's 'Master Plan, Part Deux' Includes Trucks, Buses and Ride-Sharing (latimes.com) 171

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Los Angeles Times: After teasing Part 2 of his "master product plan" for over a week, Elon Musk finally delivered. Los Angeles Times reports: "In a blog post published on the automaker's website, Musk introduced a multiyear, four-pronged strategy that includes new kinds of Tesla vehicles, expanded solar initiatives, updates on Tesla's 'autopilot' technology and a ride-sharing program. Commercial trucks, buses, a 'future compact SUV' and a 'new kind of pickup truck' will be added to Tesla's fleet of electric cars. A heavy-duty truck called the Tesla Semi and a shrunken bus that Musk called a 'high passenger density urban transport' vehicle are in early development stages 'and should be ready for unveiling next year,' he said. The smaller bus would be designed without a center aisle, with seats close to the entrances, and would be able to automatically pace themselves with traffic, the post said. The bus driver would become a 'fleet manager.' Musk also used the master plan to defend his bid for rooftop solar power provider SolarCity and said he aims to make Tesla's Autopilot robotic driver-assist system 10 times safer than cars that humans drive manually. Musk also plans to move Tesla into the popular ride-sharing business, not only with an Uber-like fleet but also with an app that lets Tesla owners rent out their vehicles when they're not using them, perhaps defraying a portion of their auto loans. This will happen, he said, 'when true self-driving is approved by regulators,' a turn of events that's at least several years away."
Cellphones

Corning Unveils Gorilla Glass 5, Can Survive Drops 'Up To 80% Of The Time' (theverge.com) 110

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Corning has unveiled their new Gorilla Glass 5, which should make its way to high-end smartphones and other electronic devices later this year and into 2017. Gorilla Glass 5 is designed to improve drop performance from devices that are dropped onto rough surfaces from waist heigh to shoulder height. Corning says it can survive up to 80 percent of the time when dropped from 1.6 meters. For comparison, Gorilla Glass 4, which was released in the fall of 2014, was marketed as being twice as tough as the previous version and twice as likely to survive drops onto uneven surfaces from about a meter high. Some things to note include the fact that in Corning's tests, the 80 percent survival rate was with pieces of glass that were 0.6mm thick -- Corning now makes glass as thin as 0.4mm. Depending on how thin manufacturers want the glass in their devices, the durability results may vary. Also, most of demos consisted of dropping the glass face down, rather than on its side or corner. Corning's vice president and general manger John Bayne said if the glass is dropped in such a way, it's going to depend on the overall design of the phone, not just the glass. Gorilla Glass 5 is currently in production, though the company says we'll hear more about it "in the next few months." There's no word as to whether or not the glass will be ready in time for the wave of devices expected this fall.
Blackberry

BlackBerry CEO 'Disturbed' By Apple's Hard Line On Encryption (theinquirer.net) 198

An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he is "disturbed" by Apple's tough approach to encryption and user privacy, warning that the firm's attitude is harmful to society. Earlier this year, Chen said in response to Apple resisting the government's demands to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters: "We are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good." During BlackBerry's Security Summit in New York this week, Chen made several more comments about Apple's stance on encryption. "One of our competitors, we call it 'the other fruit company,' has an attitude that it doesn't matter how much it might hurt society, they're not going to help," he said. "I found that disturbing as a citizen. I think BlackBerry, like any company, should have a basic civil responsibility. If the world is in danger, we should be able to help out." He did say there was a lot of "nonsense" being reported about BlackBerry and its approach to how it handles user information. "Of course, there need to be clear guidelines. The guidelines we've adopted require legal assets. A subpoena for certain data. But if you have the data, you should give it to them," he said. "There's some complete nonsense about what we can and can't do. People are mad at us that we let the government have the data. It's absolute garbage. We can't do that." Chen also warned that mandatory back doors aren't a good idea either, hinting at the impending Investigatory Powers Bill. "There's proposed legislation in the U.S., and I'm sure it will come to the EU, that every vendor needs to provide some form of a back door. That is not going to fly at all. It just isn't," he said.
Government

EPA's Gasoline Efficiency Tests Provide No Valid Information At All (hotair.com) 136

schwit1 writes from a report via Behind The Black: The tests the EPA uses to establish the fuel efficiency of cars are unreliable, and likely provide no valid information at all about the fuel efficiency of the cars tested. Robert Zimmerman reports from Behind The Black: "The law requiring cars to meet these fuel efficiency tests was written in the 1970s, and specifically sets standards based on the technology then. Worse, the EPA doesn't know exactly how its CAFE testing correlates with actual results, because it has never done a comprehensive study of real-world fuel economy. Nor does anyone else. The best available data comes from consumers who report it to the DOT (WARNING: Source may be paywalled) -- hardly a scientific sampling. Other than that, everything is fine. Companies are forced to spend billions on this regulation, the costs of which they immediately pass on to consumers, all based on fantasy and a badly-written law. Gee, I'm sure glad we never tried this with healthcare!"
Earth

There's A 50% Chance of Another Chernobyl Before 2050, Say Safety Specialists (technologyreview.com) 140

An anonymous reader writes from a report via MIT Technology Review: Spencer Wheatley and Didier Sornette at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Benjamin Sovacool at Aarhus University in Denmark have compiled the most comprehensive list of nuclear accidents ever created and used it to calculate the chances of future accidents. They say there is a 50:50 chance that a major nuclear disaster will occur somewhere in the world before 2050. "There is a 50 percent chance that a Chernobyl event (or larger) occurs in the next 27 years," they conclude. Since the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't publish a historical database of the nuclear accidents it rates using the International Nuclear Event Scale, others, like Wheatley and co, have to compile their own list of accidents. They define an accident as "an unintentional incident or event at a nuclear energy facility that led to either one death (or more) or at least $50,000 in property damage." Each accident must have occurred during the generation, transmission, or distribution of nuclear energy, which includes accidents at mines, during transportation, or at enrichment facility, and so on. Fukushima was by far the most expensive accident in history at a cost of $166 billion, which is 60 percent of the total cost of all other nuclear accidents added together. Wheatley and co say their data suggests that the nuclear industry remains vulnerable to dragon king events, which are large unexpected events that are difficult to analyze because they follow a different statistical distribution, have unforeseen causes, and are few in number. "There is a 50% chance that a Fukushima event (or larger) occurs in the next 50 years," they say.
Businesses

Verizon Begins Charging a Fee Just to Use an Older Router (dslreports.com) 180

Karl Bode, reporting for DSLReports: Several users have written in to note that Verizon has informed them the company will begin charging FiOS customers with an older router a new "Router Maintenance Charge." An e-mail being sent to many Verizon FiOS customers says that the fee of $2.80 will soon be charged every month -- unless users pay Verizon to get a more recent iteration of its FiOS gateway and router. Since Verizon FiOS often uses a MOCA coax connection and the gateway is needed for Verizon TV, many FiOS users don't have the ability to swap out gear as easily as with other ISPs. "Our records indicate that you have an older model router that is being discontinued," states the e-mail. "If you do plan to keep using your current router, we will begin billing, on 9.29.16, a monthly Router Maintenance Charge of $2.80 (plus taxes), to ensure we deliver the best support."
Japan

Japan Will Make Its Last-Ever VCR This Month (mentalfloss.com) 130

An anonymous reader writes: Most of us stopped using video cassette recorders a very, very long time ago. By 2008, DVD had officially replaced VHS as the preferred home media format, and the glory days of the 1980s -- when VHS and Betamax battled it out to be the number-one choice for watching and recording movies and television at home -- were very much in the rear-view mirror. So it might surprise you to learn that VCRs are still being manufactured -- at least they were until this month. Funai Electric, the last remaining Japanese company to make the units, has announced that the company will cease production on its VCR units, due to declining sales and difficulty acquiring parts. Their VCRs are made in China and sold in many territories, including North America, under brand names like Sanyo, but last year's figures reported just 750,000 sales worldwide.

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