Nerval's Lobster writes that a survey from the Uptime Institute "suggests something it calls 'green fatigue' is setting in when it comes to making data centers greener. 'Green fatigue' is exactly as it sounds: managers are getting tired of the increasingly difficult race to chop their PUE, or Power Usage Effectiveness. The PUE is a measure of a data center's efficiency. The lower the PUE, the better — and Microsoft and Google, with nearly limitless resources, have set the bar so high (or low, depending on your perspective) that it's making less-capitalized firms frustrated. Just a few years ago, the Uptime Institute estimated that the average PUE of a data center was around 2.4, which meant for every dollar of electricity to power a data center, $1.4 dollars were spent to cool it. That dropped to 1.8 recently, an improvement to be sure. But then you have companies such as Google and Microsoft building data centers next to rivers for cheap hydroelectric power in remote parts of the Pacific Northwest and reporting insanely low PUEs (below 1.1 in some cases). The Institute latest survey of data center operators shows only 50 percent of respondents in North America said they considered energy efficiency to be very important to their companies, down from 52 percent last year and 58 percent in 2011."
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mikejuk writes "The new Arduino robot looks a bit like a robot vacuum cleaner, but it has a lot more going for it and it certainly doesn't suck — well not unless you add an air pump to it. As always, the Arduino Robot is completely open source and comes as an easy to assemble kit involving no soldering, just some plugging in of components. It consists of two circular boards, 19cm in diameter, each with its own Arduino controller. They fit together to create a stack about 10cm tall. The bottom board has two wheels and motors which allow it to move in any direction. The top board contains lots of sensors and a central display. The two communicate via a serial connection. There is also a lot of space for expansion. There is a new library which can be downloaded to help write programs for this fairly sophisticated robot. There is only one big problem with the Arduino robot — you can't buy one at the moment. If you really can't wait, until early July when they should start shipping from the Arduino shop and from distributors, then you will have to get to the Maker Faire San Mateo (May 17-19) where they are being demonstrated and sold."
New submitter TheJish writes "The RPiCluster is a 33-node Beowulf cluster built using Raspberry Pis (RPis). The RPiCluster is a little side project I worked on over the last couple months as part of my dissertation work at Boise State University. I had need of a cluster to run a distributed simulator I've been developing. The RPiCluster is the result. I've written an informal document on why I built the RPiCluster, how it was built, and how it performs as compared to other platforms. I also put together a YouTube video of it running an MPI parallel program I created to demo the RGB LEDs installed on each node as part of the build. While there have certainly been larger RPi clusters put together recently, I figured the Slashdot community might be interested in this build as I believe it is a novel approach to the rack mounting and power management of RPis."
First time accepted submitter Sabine Hauert writes in with news about a robotic bartending system called Makr Shakr. "You're at a busy bar. You order your personalized cocktail through a smart phone app; a drink dispenser measures out the beverage according to your instructions and a Kuka robotic arm give it a shake (or stir), while another garnishes it with a slice of lemon; the made-to-order concoction is delivered to your waiting hand via a slick little ten-lane conveyor belt. The 'mixology system' tracks your order from start to finish: a large display behind the bar shows you the number of drinks ahead of yours in the queue, the current wait time, and lets you know when your drink is ready to be picked up. It also shows you what's popular to drink tonight among both the ladies and the gents in the crowd, and lets you influence drinking trends in real-time by incorporating your suggested tweaks on popular recipes."
MojoKid writes "AMD is announcing its Radeon HD 8970M. The mobile GPU is based on a design that has a few small feature changes that have led it to be unofficially labeled a Graphics Core Next (GCN) 1.1 part versus AMD's previous gen GCN 1.0 technology. AMD claims that the Radeon HD 8970M is significantly faster than NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680M in a variety of tests, but high-end laptops that use AMD hardware are harder to find these days."
Google's I/O annual conference is ramping up at San Francisco's Moscone Center. Last year, in the conference keynote, the company took its biggest-yet dive into hardware when it introduced the Nexus 7 tablet, Google Glass, and the ill-fated Nexus Q. The secret is out on Glass, of course: this year, there's a pavilion inside the conference center where I'm sure they'll be showing off applications for it. (Quite a few of the people in the endless lines here are wearing their own, too.) Anticipating the announcements at I/O is practically its own industry, but it's easy to guess that there will be announcements from all the major pots in which Google has its many thousands of (tapping) fingers. Android, search, Chrome, mapping, and all the other ways in which the behemoth of Mountain View is watching what you do. You can watch the keynote talk (talks, really) streamed online from the main conference link above, but this story will be updated with highlights of the announcements, as well with stories that readers contribute. Update: 05/15 16:22 GMT by T : Updates below. Update: 05/15 19:02 GMT by T :Update details: Notes (ongoing) added below on maps, gaming, the Play store, Google+, and more. And, notable, Larry Page is (at this writing) on stage, with an unannounced Q & A session.
mattOzan writes "When data centers first opened in the 1990s, the tenants paid for space to plug in their servers with a proviso that electricity would be available. As computing power has soared, so has the need for electricity, turning that relationship on its head: electrical capacity is often the central element of lease agreements, and space is secondary. While lease arrangements are often written in the language of real estate, they are essentially power deals. 'Since tenants on average tend to contract for around twice the power they need, Mr. Tazbaz said, those data centers can effectively charge double what they are paying for that power. Generally, the sale or resale of power is subject to a welter of regulations and price controls. For regulated utilities, the average "return on equity" — a rough parallel to profit margins — was 9.25 percent to 9.7 percent for 2010 through 2012.'"
redletterdave writes "The FAA predicts 30,000 drones will patrol the US skies by 2020, but New Jersey drivers could see these unmanned aerial vehicles hovering above the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway much sooner than that. New Jersey lawmakers from both Republican and Democratic parties have introduced a number of bills to tackle the drones issue before the federal government starts issuing the first domestic drone permits in September 2015."
kkleiner writes "The first NeuroGaming Conference and Expo took place at the beginning of May to showcase the convergent technologies that are paving the way toward gaming with your mind. Tech news has been dominated with stories about Google Glass and the Oculus Rift, which was on display for attendees to test out. Other technologies that utilize EEG are opening up possibilities of a controller-free gaming experience into virtual realities with unlimited potential. 'Deeper questions surrounding the morality of neurogames will be sure to stir debate. As virtual reality technology inches closer to lifelike resolution, should gamers simulate themselves as characters engaged in acts of violence or criminal activity? It’s unpredictable what these games could uncover about the user as neurogames gain insight into a users’ psyche and how they respond to stimuli at a subconscious level. For instance, a game could uncover how its user particularly enjoys shooting at civilians in gameplay. Games might even become expert at diagnosing psychiatric disorders. As computers become exponentially more powerful, game resolution could fully mimic our ever-present reality.'"
mask.of.sanity writes "While Hollywood often fails to portray hacking, one researcher has made the art of exploitation look more like the big screen. Kinectasploit is hacking in the form of a first-person shooter that melds Microsoft's Kinect controls with 20 hacking tools including Metasploit, Snort, Nessus, John the Ripper and Ettercap. The work in progress can be downloaded from github."
MojoKid writes "For the past decade, AMD and Intel have been racing each other to incorporate more components into the CPU die. Memory controllers, integrated GPUs, northbridges, and southbridges have all moved closer to a single package, known as SoCs (system-on-a-chip). Now, with Haswell, Intel is set to integrate another important piece of circuitry. When it launches next month, Haswell will be the first x86 CPU to include an on-die voltage regulator module, or VRM. Haswell incorporates a refined VRM on-die that allows for multiple voltage rails and controls voltage for the CPU, on-die GPU, system I/O, integrated memory controller, as well as several other functions. Intel refers to this as a FIVR (Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator), and it apparently eliminates voltage ripple and is significantly more efficient than your traditional motherboard VRM. Added bonus? It's 1/50th the size." Update: 05/14 01:22 GMT by U L : Reader AdamHaun comments: "They already have a test chip that they used to power a ~90W Xeon E7330 for four hours while it ran Linpack. ... Voltage ripple is less than 2mV. Peak efficiency per cell looks like ~76% at 8A. They claim hitting 82% would be easy..." and links to a presentation on the integrated VRM (PDF).
Nate the greatest writes "It looks like those 4 month old rumors are true. Amazon has confirmed today that they have bought Liquavista, a Netherlands based screen tech company. There's no info yet on how much Amazon paid to Samsung, but previous rumors suggested that the asking price was under $100 million. Amazon also isn't talking about how they plan to use the electrowetting screen tech, but many are assuming that a Color Kindle is in the works."
MojoKid writes "Is the world really ready to shift from native apps to HTML5 Web apps? Probably not, at least not in North America yet, but developing nations may see it differently. That's the hope with Firefox OS, a web-based operating system that's (in theory) a lot more open. Of course, one needs only look at Microsoft's battle to get Windows Phone into a place of competition to realize that gaining market share is no easy task, which is why Mozilla will soon be handing out Firefox OS developer phones in order to bolster that. The company's goal is to get app builders to build for Firefox OS, so Mozilla is sending out free Preview handsets for folks to tinker with."
In the U.S., subsidized phones are the norm: for post-paid, long-term contract use, getting a low up-front price on a phone is one of the few upsides. New submitter Apptopia writes "After T Mobile mostly did away with subsidized phone plans, the other major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint) are paying attention. Carriers lose money with phone subsidies for high-end smartphones (particularly Apple's iPhone). If they do away with the subsidy, you will have to pay full retail price for phones, but your monthly bill will be lower." If people had a better idea what they were paying for, though, manufacturers might fight harder on price. There are lots of well-reviewed, multi-band, unlocked phones on Amazon and DealExtreme from lesser-known companies, and Nokia's new Asha 501 (though limited in many ways, including availability, having just launched in India) shows that the "smartphone" label can apply even to a sub- $100 phone.
An anonymous reader writes "With the personal robotics revolution imminent, a law professor and a roboticist (called Professor Smart!) argue that the law needs to think about robots properly. In particular, they say we should avoid 'the Android Fallacy' — the idea that robots are just like us, only synthetic. 'Even in research labs, cameras are described as "eyes," robots are "scared" of obstacles, and they need to "think" about what to do next. This projection of human attributes is dangerous when trying to design legislation for robots. Robots are, and for many years will remain, tools. ... As the autonomy of the system increases, it becomes harder and harder to form the connection between the inputs (your commands) and the outputs (the robot's behavior), but it exists, and is deterministic. The same set of inputs will generate the same set of outputs every time. The problem, however, is that the robot will never see exactly the same input twice. ... The problem is that this different behavior in apparently similar situations can be interpreted as "free will" or agency on the part of the robot. While this mental agency is part of our definition of a robot, it is vital for us to remember what is causing this agency. Members of the general public might not know, or even care, but we must always keep it in mind when designing legislation. Failure to do so might lead us to design legislation based on the form of a robot, and not the function. This would be a grave mistake."
CowboyRobot writes "Two researchers at San Francisco State University has successfully implemented hardware acceleration for realtime audio using graphics processing units (GPUs). 'Suppose you are simulating a metallic plate to generate gong or cymbal-like sounds. By changing the surface area for the same object, you can generate sound corresponding to cymbals or gongs of different sizes. Using the same model, you may also vary the way in which you excite the metallic plate — to generate sounds that result from hitting the plate with a soft mallet, a hard drumstick, or from bowing. By changing these parameters, you may even simulate nonexistent materials or physically impossible geometries or excitation methods. There are various approaches to physical modeling sound synthesis. One such approach, studied extensively by Stefan Bilbao, uses the finite difference approximation to simulate the vibrations of plates and membranes. The finite difference simulation produces realistic and dynamic sounds (examples can be found here). Realtime finite difference-based simulations of large models are typically too computationally-intensive to run on CPUs. In our work, we have implemented finite difference simulations in realtime on GPUs.'"
cylonlover writes "Millions of years have evolution has resulted in plants being the most efficient harvesters of solar energy on the planet. Much research is underway into ways to artificially mimic photosynthesis in devices like artificial leaves, but researchers at the University of Georgia are working on a different approach that gives new meaning to the term 'power plant.' Their technology harvests energy generated through photosynthesis before the plants can make use of it (abstract), allowing the energy to instead be used to run low-powered electrical devices."
DeviceGuru writes "Embedded Linux pioneer LinuxDevices.com departed from the web earlier this week. The site became a collateral casualty of the aquisition of eWEEK by Quinstreet in February 2012, as part of a bundle of Ziff Davis Enterprise assets. Quinstreet immediately fired all the LinuxDevices staffers and ceased maintaining the site. A few days ago, the site's plug was finally pulled and it is now gone from the Web, save for a few pages on the WayBack Machine. For more than a decade, LinuxDevices played a pivotal role in serving and fostering an emerging embedded Linux ecosystem, and it was well respected by the embedded Linux community at the time it was acquired by QuinStreet. Unfortunately, the site did not mesh well with QuinStreet's B2B market focus. Fortunately, its spirit remains alive and well at LinuxGizmos.com, a site recently launched by LinuxDevices founder Rick Lehrbaum."
recoiledsnake writes "The first real world stats for Chromebooks show that they're struggling to have any traction in the marketplace. In its first week of monitoring worldwide usage of Google's Chrome OS, NetMarketShare reported that the percentage of web traffic from Chromebooks was roughly 2/100 of 1 percent, a figure too small to earn a place on its reports. The first Chromebooks went on sale in June 2011, nearly two years ago, with Acer reportedly selling fewer than 5000 units in the first six months and Samsung selling even fewer. In the past three years, Chromebook sales have been worse than even three months worth of WindowsRT sales. Perhaps users are heeding Stallman's warning on Chromebooks. We previously discussed reports of Chromebook topping Amazon sales, selling to 2000 schools and wondered whether QuickOffice on ChromeOS can topple Microsoft Office." I find ChromeOS good in some contexts (any place that a browser and a thin layer of Linux is all you need), but the limitations are frustrating — especially on hardware that can run a conventional Linux as well as Google's specialized one. We'll watch for developments in the Google hardware world at next week's I/O conference.
PC Mag is one of several outlets reporting that the Kickstarter-funded Ouya Android game console has been delayed by a few weeks; the new target date for launch is June 25. Says the article "The delay does not affect early backers, who are still on track to receive their devices by month's end. Helping to meet that demand will be $15 million in funding, led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers." Also at CNET.