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Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware? 222

Posted by Soulskill
from the very-carefully dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In light of recent revelations from Kaspersky Labs about the Equation Group and persistent hard drive malware, I was curious about how easy it might be to verify my own system's drives to see if they were infected. I have no real reason to think they would be, but I was dismayed by the total lack of tools to independently verify such a thing. For instance, Seagate's firmware download pages provide files with no external hash, something Linux distributions do for all of their packages. Neither do they seem to provide a utility to read off the current firmware from a drive and verify its integrity.

Are there any utilities to do such a thing? Why don't these companies provide verification software to users? Has anyone compiled and posted a public list of known-good firmware hashes for the major hard drive vendors and models? This seems to be a critical hole in PC security. I did contact Seagate support asking for hashes of their latest firmware; I got a response stating, "...If you download the firmware directly from our website there is no risk on the file be tampered with." (Their phrasing, not mine.) Methinks somebody hasn't been keeping up with world events lately.
Robotics

Foxconn Factories' Future: Fewer Humans, More Robots 145

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody-cares-if-a-robot-jumps-off-a-building dept.
jfruh writes: Foxconn, which supplies much of Apple's manufacturing muscle and has been criticized for various labor sins, is now moving to hire employees who won't complain because they're robots. The company expects 70 percent of its assembly line work to be robot-driven within three years.
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Old PC File Transfer Problem 447

Posted by samzenpus
from the I'll-never-let-you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes I have an old Compaq Contura Aero laptop from the nineties (20 Mhz, 12 Mb RAM, Windows 3.11, 16-bit, PCMCIA, COM, LPT, floppy) with 160 Mb drive that I would want to copy in full to a newer machine. The floppies are so unreliable — between Aero's PCMCIA floppy drive and USB floppy disk drive — that it is a total nightmare to try and do it; it just doesn't work. If that option is excluded, what else can I do? I have another old laptop with Windows XP (32-bit, PCMCIA, COM, LPT) that could be used; all other machines are too new and lack ports. Will be grateful for any ideas.
Printer

3D Printers Making Inroads In Kitchens 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the license-to-print-honey dept.
mpicpp sends an article from Fortune about the tiny industry springing up around food-related 3D printing. While such devices are still too expensive and too special-purpose for home kitchens, professionals in restaurants and large cafeterias are figuring out ways they can automate certain time-intensive tasks. For example, pasta: "If the user is making a recipe for ravioli, for instance, the [device] prints the bottom layer of dough, the filling and the top dough layer in subsequent steps. It reduces a lengthy recipe to two minutes construction time and ensures that no one has to clean a countertop caked with leftover dough and flour." The companies developing these 3D printers hope they'll be this generation's version of the microwave, gradually finding a use in almost every kitchen.
AI

Machine Intelligence and Religion 512

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-god-can't-let-you-do-that dept.
itwbennett writes: Earlier this month Reverend Dr. Christopher J. Benek raised eyebrows on the Internet by stating his belief that Christians should seek to convert Artificial Intelligences to Christianity if and when they become autonomous. Of course that's assuming that robots are born atheists, not to mention that there's still a vast difference between what it means to be autonomous and what it means to be human. On the other hand, suppose someone did endow a strong AI with emotion – encoded, say, as a strong preference for one type of experience over another, coupled with the option to subordinate reasoning to that preference upon occasion or according to pattern. what ramifications could that have for algorithmic decision making?
Intel

Intel To Rebrand Atom Chips Along Lines of Core Processors 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-consistent dept.
angry tapir writes Intel has announced that going forward it will use style of branding for its Atom chips that is similar to its branding for Core chips. Atom CPUs will have the X3, X5 and X7 designations, much like with the Core i3, i5 and i7 brands. An Atom X3 will deliver good performance, X5 will be better and X7 will be the best, an Intel spokeswoman said.
Businesses

5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken 254

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-for-one-welcome-our-new-robot-coworkers dept.
bizwriter writes University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimated in 2013 that 47 percent of total U.S. jobs could be automated and taken over by computers by 2033. That now includes occupations once thought safe from automation, AI, and robotics. Such positions as journalists, lawyers, doctors, marketers, and financial analysts are already being invaded by our robot overlords. From the article: "Some experts say not to worry because technology has always created new jobs while eliminating old ones, displacing but not replacing workers. But lately, as technology has become more sophisticated, the drumbeat of worry has intensified. 'What's different now?' asked Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst at market research firm Outsell. 'The pace of technology advancements plus the big data phenomenon lead to a whole new level of machines to perform higher level cognitive tasks.' Translated: the old formula of creating more demanding jobs that need advanced training may no longer hold true. The number of people needed to oversee the machines, and to create them, is limited. Where do the many whose occupations have become obsolete go?"
Build

Developers Disclose Schematics For 50-1000 MHz Software-Defined Transceiver 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the fire-up-the-boat-anchor dept.
Bruce Perens writes Chris Testa KD2BMH and I have been working for years on a software-defined transceiver that would be FCC-legal and could communicate using essentially any mode and protocol up to 1 MHz wide on frequencies between 50 and 1000 MHz. It's been discussed here before, most recently when Chris taught gate-array programming in Python. We are about to submit the third generation of the design for PCB fabrication, and hope that this version will be salable as a "developer board" and later as a packaged walkie-talkie, mobile, and base station. This radio is unique in that it uses your smartphone for the GUI, uses apps to provide communication modes, contains an on-board FLASH-based gate-array and a ucLinux system. We intend to go for FSF "Respects Your Freedom" certification for the device. My slide show contains 20 pages of schematics and is full of ham jargon ("HT" means "handi-talkie", an old Motorola product name and the hams word for "walkie talkie") but many non-hams should be able to parse it with some help from search engines. Bruce Perens K6BP
Intel

Intel Updates NUC Mini PC Line With Broadwell-U, Tested and Benchmarked 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
MojoKid writes Intel recently released its latest generation of NUC small form factor systems, based on the company's new low-power Broadwell-U series processors. The primary advantages of Intel's 5th Generation Core Series Broadwell-U-based processors are better performance-per-watt, stronger integrated graphics, and a smaller footprint, all things that are perfectly suited to the company's NUC (Next Unit of Computing) products. The Intel NUC5i5RYK packs a Core i5-5250U processor with on-die Intel HD 6000 series graphics. The system also sports built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, M.2 SSD support, and a host of other features, all in a 115mm x 111mm x 32.7mm enclosure. Performance-wise the new 5th Gen Core Series-powered NUC benchmarks like a midrange notebook and is actually up for a bit of light-duty gaming, though it's probably more at home as a Home Theater PC, media streamer or kiosk desktop machine.
Government

The Groups Behind Making Distributed Solar Power Harder To Adopt 362

Posted by Soulskill
from the sunsetting-the-sun dept.
Lucas123 writes: Distributed rooftop solar is a threat not only to fossil fuel power generation, but also to the profits of monopolistic model of utilities. While the overall amount of electrical capacity represented by distributed solar power remains miniscule for now, it's quickly becoming one of leading sources of new energy deployment. As adoption grows, fossil fuel interests and utilities are succeeding in pushing anti-net metering legislation, which places surcharges on customers who deploy rooftop solar power and sell unused power back to their utility through the power grid. Other state legislation is aimed at reducing tax credits for households or businesses installing solar or allows utilities to buy back unused power at a reduced rate, while reselling it at the full retail price.
Robotics

Should a Service Robot Bring an Alcoholic a Drink? 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-will-feed-you-booze-until-you-pass-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've come to a point where care robots are being used to assist people with illnesses and mobility problems. They can bring medicine, a glass of water, food, and other items that a person may have trouble getting to on their own. But what limits should we set on these robots? Should they be able to deliver alcoholic beverages? If so, should they refuse to serve them to certain people, like children or alcoholics? The issue is complicated further because these robots may have been purchased by the patient, by the doctor or hospital (which sent it home with the patient to monitor their health), or by a concerned family member who wants to monitor their relative. The latest poll research by the Open Roboethics Initiative looked at people's attitudes about whether a care robot should prioritize its owner's wishes over those of the patient.
Displays

Pebble Time Smartwatch Receives Overwhelming Support On Kickstarter 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-it-run-crysis? dept.
DJAdapt writes: Pebble Time, the successor to the Pebble & Pebble Steel smartwatches, has gone up on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, hitting its $500,000 goal in 17 minutes and hitting the $2M mark in less than an hour. The new wearable is touting a color e-paper display and microphone for responding to notifications. It also has features Pebble users are already familiar with, such as seven days of battery life, water resistance, and an extensive library of watch faces and apps. Will any of you be jumping on this? Holding out for the Apple Watch? Waiting for wearables to get more capable?
AMD

AMD Unveils Carrizo APU With Excavator Core Architecture 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the trying-to-catch-up dept.
MojoKid writes: AMD just unveiled new details about their upcoming Carrizo APU architecture. The company is claiming the processor, which is still built on Global Foundries' 28nm 28SHP node like its predecessor, will nonetheless deliver big advances in both performance and efficiency. When it was first announced, AMD detailed support for next generation Radeon Graphics (DX12, Mantle, and Dual Graphics support), H.265 decoding, full HSA 1.0 support, and ARM Trustzone compatibility. But perhaps one of the biggest advantages of Carrizo is the fact that the APU and Southbridge are now incorporated into the same die; not just two separates dies built into and MCM package.

This not only improves performance, but also allows the Southbridge to take advantage of the 28SHP process rather than older, more power-hungry 45nm or 65nm process nodes. In addition, the Excavator cores used in Carrizo have switched from a High Performance Library (HPL) to a High Density Library (HDL) design. This allows for a reduction in the die area taken up by the processing cores (23 percent, according to AMD). This allows Carrizo to pack in 29 percent more transistors (3.1 billion versus 2.3 billion in Kaveri) in a die size that is only marginally larger (250mm2 for Carrizo versus 245mm2 for Kaveri). When all is said and done, AMD is claiming a 5 percent IPC boost for Carrizo and a 40 percent overall reduction in power usage.
Books

The Case Against E-readers -- Why Digital Natives Prefer Reading On Paper 253

Posted by Soulskill
from the love-affairs-with-dead-trees dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Michael Rosenwald writes in the WaPo that textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer reading on paper for pleasure and learning. This bias surprises reading experts, given the same group's proclivity to consume most other content digitally. "These are people who aren't supposed to remember what it's like to even smell books," says Naomi S. Baron. "It's quite astounding." Earlier this month, Baron published Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, a book that examines university students' preferences for print and explains the science of why dead-tree versions are often superior to digital (PDF).

Her conclusion: readers tend to skim on screens, distraction is inevitable and comprehension suffers. Researchers say readers remember the location of information simply by page and text layout — that, say, the key piece of dialogue was on that page early in the book with that one long paragraph and a smudge on the corner. Researchers think this plays a key role in comprehension — something that is more difficult on screens, primarily because the time we devote to reading online is usually spent scanning and skimming, with few places (or little time) for mental markers.

Another significant problem, especially for college students, is distraction. The lives of millennials are increasingly lived on screens. In her surveys, Baron was surprised by the results to the question of whether students were more likely to multitask in hard copy (1 percent) vs. reading on-screen (90 percent). "When a digital device has an Internet connection, it's hard to resist the temptation to jump ship."
Displays

Valve To Reveal Virtual Reality Dev Kit Next Week At GDC 48

Posted by timothy
from the they-want-your-eyeballs dept.
An anonymous reader writes Gaming giant Valve has been researching augmented and virtual reality for some time. Early on, the company worked closely with Oculus, sharing research findings and even adding support for TF2 to Oculus' first VR headset, the DK1, back in 2013. After demonstrating their own prototype VR headset at Steam Dev Days in early 2014, and then a modified version later in the year, Valve is now ready to take the wraps off a 'previously unannounced ... SteamVR Dev Kit,' which will make its debut at GDC next week. SteamVR is the name of the software adaptation of Steam's 'Big Picture' mode that the company revealed early last year, allowing players to browse their Steam library and play supported games all in virtual reality.
Intel

Intel Moving Forward With 10nm, Will Switch Away From Silicon For 7nm 279

Posted by Soulskill
from the ever-smaller-ever-faster dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Intel has begun talking about its plans for future CPU architectures. The company is already working on a 10nm manufacturing process, and expects the first such chips to be ready by early 2017. Beyond that, things are getting difficult. Intel says it will need to move away from silicon when it develops a 7nm process. "The most likely replacement for silicon is a III-V semiconductor such as indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs), though Intel hasn't provided any specific details yet." Even the current 14nm chips they're making ran into unexpected difficulties. "While Intel didn't provide any specifics, we strongly suspect that we're looking at the arrival of transistors based on III-V semiconductors. III-V semiconductors have higher electron mobility than silicon, which means that they can be fashioned into smaller and faster (as in higher switching speed) transistors."
Robotics

Only Twice Have Nations Banned a Weapon Before It Was Used; They May Do It Again 318

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-skynet-cares-about-international-treaties dept.
Lasrick writes: Seth Baum reports on international efforts to ban 'killer robots' before they are used. China, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are apparently developing precursor technology. "Fully autonomous weapons are not unambiguously bad. They can reduce burdens on soldiers. Already, military robots are saving many service members' lives, for example by neutralizing improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq. The more capabilities military robots have, the more they can keep soldiers from harm. They may also be able to complete missions that soldiers and non-autonomous weapons cannot." But Baum, who founded the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, goes on to outline the potential downsides, and there are quite a few.
Businesses

Is Sega the Next Atari? 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the once-false-step dept.
donniebaseball23 writes As CEO of Sega of America in the early 1990s, Tom Kalinske oversaw the company during its glory days, when all eyes in the industry were glued to the titanic struggle for console superiority between the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Times have changed, to put it mildly, and Sega is now a shell of its former self. Where did things go wrong? According to Kalinske, Sega's downfall was failing to partner with Sony on a new platform, and the bad decisions kept piling on from there. Sega's exit from hardware "could have been avoided if they had made the right decisions going back literally 20 years ago. But they seem to have made the wrong decisions for 20 years."
Businesses

Apple To Invest $2B Building Green Data Centers In Ireland and Denmark 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-green dept.
stephendavion writes Amid deeper investigations into how Apple may be using its operations in Ireland as a means for tax avoidance on tens of billions of dollars in profit, the iPhone maker has announced that it will spend nearly $2 billion (€1.7 billion) to develop two new 100% renewable energy data centers in Europe. The centers — which will use wind power and other green fuel sources — will be located in Athenry, Ireland, and Viborg, Denmark. Apple said that they will power services such as apps in the App Store, Siri and iMessage. Both locations will run on 100 percent renewable energy and Apple said they will have the 'lowest environmental impact' of its data centers thus far. It will also be following in the footsteps of companies like Facebook, which has also built sustainable data center operations out in Europe.
Power

Intel Core M Enables Lower Cost Ultrabooks; Asus UX305 Tested 70

Posted by timothy
from the can-never-be-too-cheap-or-too-thin dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes Asus announced their super-slim Zenbook UX305 during the IFA trade show in Berlin in September. The machine will be available in two models, one with a 1920x1080 IPS display and one with a QHD+ display that boasts a native resolution of 3200x1800. They're both built around Intel's more power-efficient Core M processor, which was designed for ultra-thin and "fanless" form factors. Intel's Core M does seem to offer significant advances both in terms of power consumption and performance, which enables many of the design features found on the 12.3mm thin UX305. The Core M 5Y10 in the Asus Zenbook UX305 is complemented by 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and this is one of the few ultrabooks to feature a matte display. All told, the machine put up some decent numbers in the benchmarks and battery life was excellent, but what's perhaps most interesting is that this is an "ultrabook" class machine that weighs in at a much more palatable $700 price tag.