The BBC Looks At Rollover Bugs, Past and Approaching 59

Posted by timothy
from the ought-to-be-enough-for-anybody dept.
New submitter Merovech points out an article at the BBC which makes a good followup to the recent news (mentioned within) about a bug in Boeing's new 787. The piece explores various ways that rollover bugs in software have led to failures -- some of them truly disastrous, others just annoying. The 2038 bug is sure to bite some people; hopefully it will be even less of an issue than the Year 2000 rollover. From the article: It was in 1999 that I first wrote about this," comments [programmer William] Porquet. "I acquired the domain name 2038.org and at first it was very tongue-in-cheek. It was almost a piece of satire, a kind of an in-joke with a lot of computer boffins who say, 'oh yes we'll fix that in 2037' But then I realised there are actually some issues with this.

AI Experts In High Demand 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-attempting-to-bootstrap-itself dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The field of artificial intelligence is getting hotter by the moment as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and other tech companies snap up experts and pour funding into university research. Commercial uses for AI are still limited. Predictive text and Siri, the iPhone's voice-recognition feature, are early manifestations. But AI's potential has exploded as the cost of computing power drops and as the ability to collect and process data soars. Big tech companies like Facebook and Google now vacuum up the huge amount of data that needs to be processed to help machines make "intelligent" decisions. The relationship between tech giants and academia can be difficult to navigate. Some faculty members complain tech companies aren't doing enough in the many collaborative efforts now under way. One big gripe: Companies aren't willing to share the vast data they are able to collect.

Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs 310

Posted by timothy
from the stick-it-on-the-wall dept.
Technologist Ramez Naam (hat tip to Tyler Cowen's "Marginal Revolution" blog) has taken a look at the economics of Tesla's new wall-mounted household battery system, and concludes that it's "almost there," at least for many places in the world -- and seems to already make sense in some. From his analysis: For some parts of the US with time-of-use plans, this battery is right on the edge of being profitable. From a solar storage perspective, for most of the US, where Net Metering exists, this battery isn’t quite cheap enough. But it’s in the right ballpark. And that means a lot. Net Metering plans in the US are filling up. California’s may be full by the end of 2016 or 2017, modulo additional legal changes. That would severely impact the economics of solar. But the Tesla battery hedges against that. In the absence of Net Metering, in an expensive electricity state with lots of sun, the battery would allow solar owners to save power for the evening or night-time hours in a cost effective way. And with another factor of 2 price reduction, it would be a slam dunk economically for solar storage anywhere Net Metering was full, where rates were pushed down excessively, or where such laws didn’t exist. That is also a policy tool in debates with utilities. If they see Net Metering reductions as a tool to slow rooftop solar, they’ll be forced to confront the fact that solar owners with cheap batteries are less dependent on Net Metering. ... And the cost of batteries is plunging fast. Tesla will get that 2x price reduction within 3-5 years, if not faster.

Long Uptime Makes Boeing 787 Lose Electrical Power 248

Posted by timothy
from the have-you-tried-turning-off-and-then-on-again? dept.
jones_supa writes: A dangerous software glitch has been found in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. If the plane is left turned on for 248 days, it will enter a failsafe mode that will lead to the plane losing all of its power, according to a new directive from the US Federal Aviation Administration. If the bug is triggered, all the Generator Control Units will shut off, leaving the plane without power, and the control of the plane will be lost. Boeing is working on a software upgrade that will address the problems, the FAA says. The company is said to have found the problem during laboratory testing of the plane, and thankfully there are no reports of it being triggered on the field.

New Test Supports NASA's Controversial EM Drive 472

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-argue dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Last year, NASA's advanced propulsion research wing made headlines by announcing the successful test of a physics-defying electromagnetic drive, or EM drive. Now, this futuristic engine, which could in theory propel objects to near-relativistic speeds, has been shown to work inside a space-like vacuum. NASA Eagleworks made the announcement quite unassumingly via NASASpaceFlight.com. The EM drive is controversial in that it appears to violate conventional physics and the law of conservation of momentum; the engine, invented by British scientist Roger Sawyer, converts electric power to thrust without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves within a closed container. So, with no expulsion of propellant, there’s nothing to balance the change in the spacecraft’s momentum during acceleration.

Tesla Announces Home Battery System 512

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-plans-for-a-1.21-gigawatt-model dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, Elon Musk finally revealed Tesla's plans for the home: battery systems designed to store up to 10 kWh of power. The company is leveraging the battery technology they've developed for their electric cars to enable more people to switch to renewable power for their homes. There will be two models of the battery. The 10 kWh version will cost $3,500, and the 7 kWh version will cost $3,000. They can deliver power at a continuous rate of 2kW, with peaks up to 3 kW. Crucially, the batteries will be warrantied for 10 years. Musk thinks the market for home batteries will expand to at least two billion, eventually. But even a much smaller uptake for now will validate the creation of Tesla's "gigafactory."

"The gigafactory is the recipient of the largest incentive package ever given by Nevada at $1.3 billion, which followed a hotly contested tax incentive bidding war between various states to land the Tesla battery plant. For the investment to pay off, Tesla needs to convince hundreds of thousands of consumers per year to buy its cars and battery products, with the gigafactory serving as a cornerstone to the company's sales strategy. ... An early gigafactory rendering released by Tesla stated that the plant will have an annual battery pack output of 50 gigawatt hours — the bulk of which will go toward batteries for cars with most of the remainder to be allocated for stationary batteries, according to figures mentioned by Tesla's chief technology JB Straubel last year. The gigafactory's sheer scope makes other battery products a possibility as well."
The Internet

Comcast Brings Fiber To City That It Sued 7 Years Ago To Stop Fiber Rollout 182

Posted by samzenpus
from the imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery dept.
An anonymous reader writes with the latest update in Comcast's "if you can't beat them, join them" fiber plan. In April 2008, Comcast sued the Chattanooga Electric Power Board (EPB) to prevent it from building a fiber network to serve residents who were getting slow speeds from the incumbent cable provider. Comcast claimed that EPB illegally subsidized the buildout with ratepayer funds, but it quickly lost in court, and EPB built its fiber network and began offering Internet, TV, and phone service. After EPB launched in 2009, incumbents Comcast and AT&T finally started upgrading their services, EPB officials told Ars when we interviewed them in 2013. But not until this year has Comcast had an Internet offering that can match or beat EPB's $70 gigabit service. Comcast announced its 2Gbps fiber-to-the-home service on April 2, launching first in Atlanta, then in cities in Florida and California, and now in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

LG G4 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 808 Benchmarked 45

Posted by samzenpus
from the looking-at-the-numbers dept.
MojoKid writes: LG officially lifted the veil on its new G4 flagship Android phone this week and the buzz has been fairly strong. LG's display prowess is well known, along with their ability to pack a ton of screen real estate into a smaller frame with very little bezel, as they did with the previous generation G3. However, what's under the hood of the new LG G4 is probably just as interesting as the build quality and display, for some. On board the LG G4 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, the six-core little brother of the powerful and power-hungry Snapdragon 810 that's found in HTC's One M9. The One M9 is currently one of the fastest Android handsets out there, but its battery life suffers as a result. So with a six-core Snapdragon and a slightly tamer Adreno 418 graphics engine on board, but also with 3GB of RAM, it's interesting to see where the G4 lands performance-wise. It's basically somewhere between the HTC One M9 (Snapdragon 810) and the Snapdragon 805 in the Nexus 6 in CPU bound workloads, besting even the iPhone 6, but much more middle of the pack in terms of graphics and gaming.

Ham Radio Fills Communication Gaps In Nepal Rescue Effort 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the doing-good-work dept.
itwbennett writes: Amateur radio has stepped in to fill communication gaps in Nepal, which is struggling with power outages and a flaky Internet after a devastating earthquake on Saturday killed over 5,000 people. Though 99 persons have ham licenses in Kathmandu, about eight use high-frequency (HF) radios that can transmit long distances, while another 30 have very high frequency and ultra high frequency sets for local traffic, said Satish Kharel, a lawyer in Kathmandu, who uses the ham call signal 9N1AA. The hobbyist radio operators are working round-the-clock to help people get in touch with relatives, pass on information and alert about developing crises.

The Power of Backroom Lobbying: How the Music Industry Got a Copyright Extension 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-wouldn't-download-a-lobbyist dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Canadian government's unexpected budget decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings came as a surprise to most copyright watchers, but not the music industry lobby, which was ready with a press release within minutes. How did the industry seemingly know this was coming? Michael Geist reports that records show the extension is the result of backroom lobbying with monthly meetings between senior government officials and music industry lobbyists paving the way for copyright term extension without public consultation or debate.

KDE Plasma 5.3 Released 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the onward-and-upward dept.
jrepin writes: The KDE community has released Plasma 5.3, a major new version of the popular, open source desktop environment. The latest release brings much enhanced power management, better support for Bluetooth, and improved Plasma widgets. Also available is a technical preview of Plasma Media Center shell. In addition, Plasma 5.3 represents a big step towards support for the Wayland windowing system. There are also a few other minor tweaks and over 300 bugfixes. Here is the full changelog, and here's the package download wiki page.

Why Our Antiquated Power Grid Needs Battery Storage 329

Posted by Soulskill
from the investing-in-wires-is-boring-but-necessary dept.
Lucas123 writes: Last year, renewable energy sources accounted for half of new installed electric-generation capacity (natural gas units made up most of the remainder). As more photovoltaic panels are installed on rooftops around the nation, an antiquated power grid is being overburdened by a bidirectional load its was never engineered to handle. The Hawaiian Electric Company, for example, said it's struggling with electricity "backflow" that could destabilize its system. Batteries for distributed renewable power has the potential to mitigate the load on the national grid by allowing a redistribution of power during peak hours. Because of this, Tesla, which is expected to announce batteries for homes and utilities on Thursday, and others are targeting a market estimated to be worth $1.2B by 2019. Along with taking up some of the load during peak load, battery capacity can be used when power isn't being generated by renewable systems, such as at night and during inclement weather. That also reduces grid demand.

Supreme Court To Consider Data Aggregation Suit Against Spokeo 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-numbers-right dept.
BUL2294 writes: Consumerist and Associated Press are reporting that the Supreme Court has taken up the case of Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins — a case where Spokeo, as a data aggregator, faces legal liability and Fair Credit Reporting Act violations for providing information on Thomas Robins, an individual who has not suffered "a specific harm" directly attributable to the inaccurate data Spokeo collected on him.

From SCOTUSblog: "Robins, who filed a class-action lawsuit, claimed that Spokeo had provided flawed information about him, including that he had more education than he actually did, that he is married although he remains single, and that he was financially better off than he actually was. He said he was unemployed and looking for work, and contended that the inaccurate information would make it more difficult for him to get a job and to get credit and insurance." So, while not suffering a specific harm, the potential for harm based on inaccurate data exists. Companies such as Facebook and Google are closely watching this case, given the potential of billions of dollars of liability for selling inaccurate information on their customers and other people.

Tesla To Announce Battery-Based Energy Storage For Homes 299

Posted by timothy
from the but-in-the-meantime-here's-this-preemptive-announcement dept.
Okian Warrior writes: Billionaire Elon Musk will announce next week that Tesla will begin offering battery-based energy storage for residential and commercial customers. The batteries power up overnight when energy companies typically charge less for electricity, then are used during the day to power a home. In a pilot project, Tesla has already begun offering home batteries to SolarCity (SCTY) customers, a solar power company for which Musk serves as chairman. Currently 330 U.S. households are running on Tesla's batteries in California. The batteries start at about $13,000, though California's Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PCG) offers customers a 50% rebate. The batteries are three-feet high by 2.5-feet wide, and need to be installed at least a foot and a half off the ground. They can be controlled with a Web app and a smartphone app.

Amazon's Profits Are Floating On a Cloud (Computing) 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the they're-hoping-the-weather-holds dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that Amazon unveiled the financial performance of its powerful growth engine for the first time on Thursday, and the numbers looked good, energized primarily by renting processing power to start-ups and, increasingly, established businesses. Amazon said in its first-quarter earnings report that its cloud division, Amazon Web Services, had revenue of $1.57 billion during the first three months of the year. Even though the company often reports losses, the cloud business is generating substantial profits. The company said its operating income from AWS was $265 million.

Amazon helped popularize the field starting in 2006 and largely had commercial cloud computing to itself for years, an enormous advantage in an industry where rivals usually watch one another closely. At the moment, there is no contest: Amazon is dominant and might even be extending its lead. Microsoft ranks a distant No. 2 in cloud computing but hopes to pick up the slack with infrastructure-related services it sells through Azure, the name of its cloud service. Amazon executives have said they expect AWS to eventually rival the company's other businesses in size. The cloud business has been growing at about 40 percent a year, more than twice the rate of the overall company and many Wall Street analysts have been hoping for a spinoff.

As for Google, the cloud was barely mentioned in Google's earnings call. Nor did the search giant offer any cloud numbers, making it impossible to gauge how well it is doing. But the enthusiasm of Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, was manifest when he spoke at an event for cloud software developers this week. "The entire world will be defined by smartphones, Android or Apple, a very fast network, and cloud computing," said Schmidt. "The space is very large, very vast, and no one is covering all of it."

Virtual Telescope Readied To Image Black Hole's 'Ring of Fire' 37

Posted by timothy
from the ghost-of-johnny-cash dept.
astroengine writes: With the addition of a telescope at the southern-most point of Earth, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) now spans the diameter of our planet and, when the vast project goes online, astronomers will get their first glimpse of the bright ring surrounding a supermassive black hole. Using a method known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry, or VLBI, astronomers can combine the observing power of many telescopes situated at distant locations around the planet. The distance between those observatories, known as the "baseline," then mimics a virtual telescope of that diameter. Now, in an attempt to make direct observations of the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy, located at a powerful radio emission source called Sagittarius A*, the South Pole Telescope (SPT) at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has been linked to the EHT and the stage is set for a historic new era of exploring the most extreme objects in the known universe. "Now that we've done VLBI with the SPT, the Event Horizon Telescope really does span the whole Earth, from the Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona, to California, Hawaii, Chile, Mexico, Spain and the South Pole," said Dan Marrone of the University of Arizona. "The baselines to SPT give us two to three times more resolution than our past arrays, which is absolutely crucial to the goals of the EHT. To verify the existence of an event horizon, the 'edge' of a black hole, and more generally to test Einstein's theory of general relativity, we need a very detailed picture of a black hole. With the full EHT, we should be able to do this."

Intel 'Compute Stick' PC-Over-HDMI Dongle Launched, Tested 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the minimally-elegant-product-names dept.
MojoKid writes: Intel has officially announced the availability of their Compute Stick HDMI dongle, and has lifted the embargo on early tests with the device. The Compute Stick is essentially a fully-functional, low-power, Atom-based system with memory, storage, and an OS, crammed into a dongle about 10cm long. There will initially be two compute sticks made available: one running Windows (model STCK1A32WFC) and another running Ubuntu (model STCK1A8LFC). The Windows 8.1 version of the Compute Stick is packing an Intel Atom Z3735F processor, with a single-channel of 2GB of DDR3L-1333 RAM and 32GB of internal storage, though out of the box only 19.2GB is usable. The Ubuntu version of the Compute Stick has as a similar CPU, but is packing only 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. All sticks have USB and MicroSD expansion capability. It doesn't burn through any benchmarks, but for multi-media playback, basic computing tasks, web browsing, HD video, or remote access, the Compute Stick has enough muscle to get the job done, and it's cheap, too: $99 — $149.

Japan Looks To Distributed Control Theory To Manage Energy Market Deregulation 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
Hallie Siegel writes: Japan's power industry is currently centralized, but it aims to deregulate by around 2020. Coupled with this major structural market change, the expansion of thermal, nuclear and renewable power generation will place additional demands on the management of the country's energy market. Researchers from the Namerikawa lab at Keio University are working with control engineers, power engineers and economists to designing mechanical and control algorithms that can manage this large-scale problem.

Using Adderall In the Office To Get Ahead 407

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-TPS-reports-will-get-an-asterisk dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports on the changing usage of psychostimulants like Adderall. They were once only prescribed to help children with attention deficit disorders focus on their school work, but then college students found those drugs could increase their ability to study. Now a growing number of workers use them to help compete. What will happen as these drugs are more widely used in the workplace? According to Anjan Chatterjee, the use of neurotechnologies to enhance healthy people's brain function could easily become widespread. "If anything, we worship workplace productivity by any means. Americans work longer hours and take fewer vacations than most others in the developed world. Why not add drugs to energize, focus and limit that annoying waste of time — sleep?" Julian Savulescu says that what defines human beings is their extraordinary cognitive power and their ability to enhance that power through reading, writing, computing and now smart drugs. "Eighty-five percent of Americans use caffeine. Nicotine and sugar are also cognitive enhancers," says Savulescu.

But cognitive neurologist Martha Farah says regular use on the job is an invitation to dependence. "I also worry about the effect of drug-fueled productivity on people other than the users," says Farah. "It is not hard to imagine a supervisor telling employees that this is the standard they should aspire to in their work, however they manage to do it (hint, hint). The eventual result will be a ratcheting up of "normal" productivity, where everyone uses (and the early adopters' advantage is only fleeting)."