University of Cape Town Team Breaks World Water Rocketry Record ( 35

New submitter Cycliclogic writes: A team of engineers based at the University of Cape Town recently had their record breaking flights of their water powered rocket Ascension III ratified by the Water Rocket Achievement World Record Association. This record is for a single stage rocket power purely on pressurized water. Two launches must be completed within two hours, the record being set at the mean above-ground altitude of the two flights. The record now stands at a whopping 2723 Feet (830m). You can watch videos of the launches here. (Warning: they're loud.)

Wind Power Now Cheapest Energy In UK and Germany; No Subsidies Needed 415

Socguy writes: Bloomberg reports wind power has now crossed the threshold to become the cheapest source of energy in both the UK and Germany. This is notable because it's the first time this has occurred in a G7 country. In the U.S., wind and solar are still massively overshadowed by the power generated from fossil fuel plants, but the percentage is creeping up. It's gotten to the point where it's starting to affect the lifetime profitability of new plants.
Open Source

Matthew Garrett Forks the Linux Kernel 686

jones_supa writes: Just like Sarah Sharp, Linux developer Matthew Garrett has gotten fed up with the unprofessional development culture surrounding the kernel. "I remember having to deal with interminable arguments over the naming of an interface because Linus has an undying hatred of BSD securelevel, or having my name forever associated with the deepthroating of Microsoft because Linus couldn't be bothered asking questions about the reasoning behind a design before trashing it," Garrett writes. He has chosen to go his own way, and has forked the Linux kernel and added patches that implement a BSD-style securelevel interface. Over time it is expected to pick up some of the power management code that Garrett is working on, and we shall see where it goes from there.

From Microsoft, HoloLens VR Dev Kit, New Phones, Continuum 87

Ars Technica and scads of other tech hardware sites are reporting that the big news so far from this morning's Microsoft product launch event in New York is that the company's Hololens development kit will begin shipping in the first quarter of next year, and at a price that puts the units out of the hands of typical consumers: $3000. At that level, developers are more likely to make the plunge, which Ars applauds.

The company also announced three new smartphones: two of them, the Lumia 950, 950XL, are worth designating "flagships," while the 550, notably, will sell for $139, putting it in the territory of cheap grey-market Android phones. More interesting than spec bumps, though, is Continuum for Windows, a Window 10 feature which made its official debut at the event. Continuum is one manifestation of the pocket-computer idea that others have had as well in various forms: it means that with an adapter, a phone can be used as the CPU and graphics engine when connected to a screen and keyboard: "The adapter features a Microsoft Display Dock, an HDMI and Display Port, plus 3 USB ports to provide productivity on the go and let you plug in additional peripherals, such as mice and keyboards. Other accessories can be connected too, Microsoft said."

Microsoft also demo'd the Surface 4. Its improved screen is 12.3" at 2160x1440, for a pixel density of 267 PPI. The new pro has a Skylake 6th-gen processor, which they say provides a 30% performance boost over the Surface Pro 3, and a 50% boost over the MacBook Air. The SP4 goes up to 1TB of storage, and up to 16GB of RAM. The Type Cover was improved as well — the touchpad is 40% larger and supports 5-point multi-touch, while the keys have better travel and pitch.

On top of this, Microsoft also unveiled the Surface Book laptop. Its defining feature is that you can unclip the 13.5" touchscreen and use it separately as a tablet. The keyboard dock has a dedicated GPU that will boost performance when attached. Microsoft is using a new type of hinge that bends and extends at multiple points, so you can also reattach the screen backward if you want to use it as a tablet while keeping the extra GPU power available. They claim a 12-hour battery life for the Surface Book.

Software Defined Smart Battery Arrays Extend Laptop Life 42

An anonymous reader writes: A Microsoft research paper, titled 'Software Defined Batteries', outlines a radical charging alternative which uses a smart battery system to keep consumer-grade gadgets going for much longer than the current norm, by monitoring user habits. Making use of existing technologies, the engineers place multiple battery control under the duties of the operating system to create a software-defined approach optimized for different scenarios, such as word processing, email or video streaming.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Most Awesome Hardware Hack? 249

An anonymous reader writes: Another Slashdotter once asked what kind of things someone can power with an external USB battery. I have a followup along those lines: what kind of modifications have you made to your gadgets to do things that they were never meant to do? Consider old routers, cell phones, monitors, etc. that have absolutely no use or value anymore in their intended form. What can you do with them? Have you ever done something stupid and damaged your electronics?
Hardware Hacking

Sensor Network Makes Life Easier For Japan's Aging Rice Farmers 91

szczys writes: The average age of Japan's rice farmers is 65-70 years old. The work is difficult and even small changes to the way things are done can have a profound impact on these lives. The flooded paddies where the rice is grown must maintain a consistent water level, which means farmers must regularly traverse the terraced fields to check many different paddies. A simple sensor board is changing this, letting farmers check their fields by phone instead of in person.

This might not sound like much, but reducing the number of times someone needs to walk the fields has a big effect on the man-hours spent on each crop. The system, called TechRice, is inexpensive and the nodes recharge batteries from a solar cell. The data is aggregated on the Internet and can be presented as a webpage, a text-message interface, or any other reporting scheme imaginable by utilizing the API of the Open Source software. This is a testament to the power we have as small groups of engineers to improve the world.

This is not F1 (or NASCAR): High-End Hybrids Race In Texas 28

Ars Technica takes an in-depth look at some of the tech side of the hybrid racing circuit, in particular the World Endurance Championship . From the article: Hybrid systems are allowed to deploy between 2MJ and 8MJ of energy during a single lap of Le Mans, augmenting the power from an internal combustion engine. Energy can be recovered from up to two motor/generator units (MGUs); usually this means recapturing kinetic energy from the front and rear wheels under braking. To balance things out, cars that recover and deploy 8MJ carry less fuel, and the flow rate at which they can feed it to the engine decreases. Audi's R18, with its mix of turbo diesel and flywheel hybrid technology, was king of the hill for several years, but the hybrid systems were much less powerful. Last year, Toyota's gasoline V8 and supercapacitor-powered TS040 was the car to beat. But 2015 is the year of the Porsche 919 Hybrid. Porsche chose lithium-ion batteries to hybridize the 919's turbocharged gasoline V4, and this year is able to capture and deploy the full 8MJ (Toyota is in the 6MJ class and Audi 4MJ). The article spends more space on Audi's approach than the others, but offers a cool glimpse at all three of these companies' niches within the field, as represented at the Texas' Lone Star Le Mans.

Some Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Smartphones Mysteriously Powering Down 59

MojoKid writes: Apple's iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were two of the most highly anticipated smartphones to launch so far this year. The excitement surrounding Apple's new refresh cycle flagships was so great that Apple reported record first weekend sales, with 13 million devices finding their way to customers. However, it appears that some of those customers are having a puzzling issue with their brand new iPhones. Owners are reporting that their phones are turning off randomly when left alone — even when the smartphones have sufficient battery remaining. "New Phone 6s 128GB turned off for no reason the last two nights," wrote Joachim Frey in an Apple discussion thread. "In the morning you then have to push the power-on button for a long time to get it started."

SolarCity Says It Has Produced the World's Highest Efficiency Solar Panel 182

Lucas123 writes: SolarCity, one of the country's leading solar panel makers and installers, today said it has been able to create a product that has a 22.04% efficiency rating, topping its closest competitor SunPower, by about one percent. While the percentages may appear small, SolarCity said the new panels, which will go into pilot production later this month, will produce 30% to 40% more energy with the same footprint as its current panels, and they will cost no more to make.

DARPA Is Looking For Analog Approaches To Cyber Monitoring 41

chicksdaddy writes: Frustrated by adversaries continued success at circumventing or defeating cyber defense and monitoring technologies, DARPA is looking to fund new approaches, including the monitoring of analog emissions from connected devices, including embedded systems, industrial control systems and Internet of Things endpoints, Security Ledger reports.

DARPA is putting $36m to fund the Leveraging the Analog Domain for Security (LADS) Program (PDF). The agency is looking for proposals for "enhanced cyber defense through analysis of involuntary analog emissions," including things like "electromagnetic emissions, acoustic emanations, power fluctuations and thermal output variations." At the root of the program is frustration and a lack of confidence in digital monitoring and protection technologies developed for general purpose computing devices like desktops, laptops and servers.

The information security community's focus on "defense in-depth" approaches to cyber defense are ill suited for embedded systems because of cost, complexity or resource limitations. Even if that were possible, DARPA notes that "attackers have repeatedly demonstrated the ability to pierce protection boundaries, exploiting the fact that any security logic ultimately executes within the same computing unit as the rest of the (compromised) device software and the attacker's code."

EU Probes TVs Over Energy Test Scores 93

joesreviewss writes: The European Commission says it will follow up on evidence that Samsung and another TV-maker use software that alters their screens' power use during tests. The BBC reports: "One study indicates that some Samsung TVs nearly halve their power consumption when a standardised test is carried out. Another accuses a different unnamed manufacturer of adjusting the brightness of its sets when they "recognise" the test film involved. Samsung has denied any wrongdoing. It acknowledged that it used software that altered its televisions' performance during tests, but said this was the effect of a general energy efficiency feature that came into effect during normal use and had nothing to do with the testing process."

Advance In Super/Ultra Capacitor Tech: High Voltage and High Capacity 147

fyngyrz writes: Ultracaps offer significantly faster charge and discharge rates as well as considerably longer life than batteries. Where they have uniformly fallen short is in the amount of energy they can store as compared to a battery, and also the engineering backflips required to get higher voltages (which is the key to higher energy storage because the energy stored in a cap scales with the square of the cap's voltage, whereas doubling the cap's actual capacitance only doubles the energy, or in other words, the energy increase is linear.) This new development addresses these shortcomings all at once: considerably higher voltage, smaller size, higher capacitance, and to top it off, utilizes less corrosive internals. The best news of all: This new technology looks to be easy, even trivial, to manufacture, and uses inexpensive materials — and that is something neither batteries or previous types of ultracaps have been able to claim. After the debacle of EEStor's claims and failure to meet them for so long, and the somewhat related very slow advance of other ultracap technology, it's difficult not to be cynical. But if you read TFA (yes, I know, but perhaps you'll do it anyway) you may decide some optimism might actually be called for.

$20 Million XPRIZE Takes On Carbon Emissions 47

An anonymous reader writes: XPRIZE has announced a new, $20 million competition that aims to tackle carbon emissions. They're not looking to reduce emissions, but rather to convert them into something useful. They provide examples: "products like new and sustainable building materials; low-emission transportation fuels; and alternative chemical products that can be used to make everything from clothing and running shoes, to safer, stronger automobiles and breakthrough medicines." Awards will be given for making use of emissions from two different sources: coal power plants and natural gas power plants. "The winning team will convert the most CO2 emissions into the highest value products. To be competitive, teams will have to make the business case for their approach as well as minimize their use of energy, water, land, and other inputs that have consequences for the environment."

Carly Fiorina: I Supplied HP Servers For NSA Snooping 488

MFingS writes: According to an article at Motherboard, shortly after 9/11, NSA director Michael Hayden requested extra computing power and Carly Fiorina, then CEO of HP, responded by re-routing truckloads of servers to the agency. Fiorina acknowledged providing the servers to the NSA during an interview with Michael Isikoff in which she defended warrantless surveillance (as well as waterboarding) and framed her collaboration with the NSA in patriotic terms. Fiorina's compliance with Hayden's request for HP servers is but one episode in a long-running and close relationship between the GOP presidential hopeful and U.S. intelligence agencies.

When Schools Overlook Introverts 307

Esther Schindler writes: A few years ago, Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking seemed to give the world a bit of enlightenment about getting the most out of people who don't think they should have to be social in order to succeed. For a while, at least some folks worked to respect the needs and advantages of introversion, such as careful, reflective thinking based on the solitude that idea-generation requires.

But in When Schools Overlook Introverts, Michael Godsey writes, "The way in which certain instructional trends — education buzzwords like "collaborative learning" and "project-based learning" and "flipped classrooms" — are applied often neglect the needs of introverts. In fact, these trends could mean that classroom environments that embrace extroverted behavior — through dynamic and social learning activities — are being promoted now more than ever." It's a thoughtful article, worth reading. As I think many people on slashdot will agree, Godsley observes, "This growing emphasis in classrooms on group projects and other interactive arrangements can be challenging for introverted students who tend to perform better when they're working independently and in more subdued environments."

Ditch Linux For Windows 10 On Your Raspberry Pi With Microsoft's IoT Kit 308

An anonymous reader writes: Partnering with Adafruit, Microsoft has announced the Windows IoT Core Starter Kit. The $75 kit comes comes with an SD card preloaded with Windows 10 IoT. According to the Raspberry Pi blog: "The pack is available with a Pi 2 for people who are are new to Raspberry Pi or who'd like a dedicated device for their projects, or without one for those who'll be using a Pi they already own. The box contains an SD card with Windows 10 Core and a case, power supply, wifi module and Ethernet cable for your Pi; a breadboard, jumper wires and components including LEDs, potentiometers and switches; and sensors for light, colour, temperature and pressure. There's everything you need to start building."

Researchers Identify Newer and More Precise System For Genome Editing 33

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists have identified a new advanced molecular system for human genome editing with potential to increase power and precision of genome engineering. The team, including the scientist who first harnessed the CRISPR-Cas9 system for mammalian genome editing, described the features of the new system and demonstrated that it can be engineered to edit the genomes of human cells.

Paralyzed Man Uses Own Brainwaves To Walk Again -- No Exoskeleton Required 35

Zothecula writes: A man suffering complete paralysis in both legs has regained the ability to walk again using electrical signals generated by his own brain. Unlike similar efforts that have seen paralyzed subjects walk again by using their own brainwaves to manually control robotic limbs, the researchers say this is the first time a person with complete paralysis in both legs due to spinal cord injury was able to walk again under their own power and demonstrates the potential for noninvasive therapies to restore control over paralyzed limbs.
United States

Nuclear Energy: The Good News and the Bad News In the EPA Clean Energy Plan 121

Lasrick writes: Peter Bradford explains what the EPA's new Clean Power Plan has in store for nuclear energy. He provides an excellent explanation of the details of the plan, and how the nuclear industry benefits (or doesn't). "The competitive position of all new low-carbon electricity sources will improve relative to fossil fuels. New reactors (including the five under construction) and expansions of existing plants will count toward state compliance with the plan's requirements as new sources of low-carbon energy. Existing reactors, however, must sink or swim on their own prospective economic performance—the final plan includes no special carbon-reduction credits to help them."