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Android

Do We Need The Moto Z Smartphones' New Add-On Modules? (hothardware.com) 56

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) 120

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."
Advertising

Google Tests Ads That Load Faster and Use Less Power (bbc.co.uk) 115

Slashdot reader Big Hairy Ian quotes a report from the BBC: Google says it has found a way to make ads load faster on web pages viewed on smartphones and tablets. The company said the ads would also be less taxing on the handsets' processors, meaning their batteries should last longer. The technique is based on work it has already done to make news publishers' articles load more quickly. But it is still in development, and one expert said Google still had questions to answer. The California-based company's online advertising revenue totalled $67.4 billion last year...
The technique limits the scope of JavaScript, and "provides its own activity measurement tools, which are said to be much more efficient," according to article. A Google software engineer explains that this technique "only animates things that are visible on the screen," and throttles animation to fewer frames per second for weaker devices -- or disables the animations altogether. "This ensures that every device gets the best experience it can deliver and makes sure that ads cannot have a negative impact on important aspects of the user experience such as scrolling."
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.'"
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.
Privacy

Edward Snowden's New Research Aims To Keep Smartphones From Betraying Their Owners (theintercept.com) 106

Smartphones become indispensable tools for journalists, human right workers, and activists in war-torn regions. But at the same time, as Intercept points out, they become especially potent tracking devices that can put users in mortal danger by leaking their location. To address the problem, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and hardware hacker Andrew "Bunnie" Huang have been developing a way for potentially imperiled smartphone users to monitor whether their devices are making any potentially compromising radio transmissions. "We have to ensure that journalists can investigate and find the truth, even in areas where governments prefer they don't," Snowden told Intercept. "It's basically to make the phone work for you, how you want it, when you want it, but only when." Snowden and Huang presented their findings in a talk at MIT Media Lab's Forbidden Research event Thursday, and published a detailed paper. From the Intercept article: Snowden and Huang have been researching if it's possible to use a smartphone in such an offline manner without leaking its location, starting with the assumption that "a phone can and will be compromised." [...] The research is necessary in part because most common way to try and silence a phone's radio -- turning on airplane mode -- can't be relied on to squelch your phone's radio traffic. Fortunately, a smartphone can be made to lie about the state of its radios. The article adds: According to their post, the goal is to "provide field-ready tools that enable a reporter to observe and investigate the status of the phone's radios directly and independently of the phone's native hardware." In other words, they want to build an entirely separate tiny computer that users can attach to a smartphone to alert them if it's being dishonest about its radio emissions. Snowden and Haung are calling this device an "introspection engine" because it will inspect the inner-workings of the phone. The device will be contained inside a battery case, looking similar to a smartphone with an extra bulky battery, except with its own screen to update the user on the status of the radios. Plans are for the device to also be able to sound an audible alarm and possibly to also come equipped with a "kill switch" that can shut off power to the phone if any radio signals are detected.Wired has a detailed report on this, too.
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."
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.
Google

Google Testing AI System To Cool Data Center Energy Bills 52

An anonymous reader writes: Google is looking at artificial intelligence technology to help it identify opportunities for data center energy savings. The company is approaching the end of an initial 2-year trial of the machine learning tool, and hopes to see it applied across the entire data center portfolio by the end of 2016. The new AI software, which is being developed at Google's DeepMind, has already helped to cut energy use for cooling by 40%, and to improve overall data center efficiency by 15%. DeepMind said that the program has been an enormous help in analyzing data center efficiency, from looking at energy used for cooling and air temperature to pressure and humidity. The team now hopes to expand the system to understand other infrastructure challenges, in the data center and beyond, including improving power plant conversion, reducing semiconductor manufacturing energy, water usage, and helping manufacturers increase throughput.
The Internet

BT Internet Outage Was Our Fault, Says Equinix (theregister.co.uk) 61

Kat Hall, reporting for The Register: Telecity's owner, Equinix, has 'fessed up to a "brief outage" which subsequently knocked 10 per cent of BT internet users offline this morning as well as a number of other providers. A spokesman from the group, which slurped up Telecity for 2.3bn euro last year, confirmed that the outage occurred at its LD8 site in the Docklands. The company has nine London sites which service more than 600 businesses.The outage occurred due to power failure, which lasted for around 75 minutes. ( Update: Some readers note that the outage lasted for as long as three hours. ) BT wasn't the only ISP that suffered an outage earlier this morning. All services have been restored, according to Ars Technica. Update: 07/20 14:57 GMT: It was apparently a faulty UPS that caused the outage.
Power

The Flux Capacitor Becomes World's Fastest Street-Legal Electric Car (arstechnica.com) 183

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Jonny Smith now has the world's fastest street-legal electric car, called the Flux Capacitor. Previously, the Flux Capacitor was only Europe's fastest street-legal electric vehicle, with a less than 11 second, 1/4-mile time under it's belt. Now it can run the quarter-mile in 9.87 seconds, thanks to the extra 44 cells added to the existing 144-cell Hyperdrive Innovation lithium-ion battery pack. That has boosted the car from 370v to 400v and the range from about 30 miles (48km) to about 50 miles (80km). "The combination of big voltage, amps, and phenomenal grip gave us early ten-second quarter miles, and when we braved the RPM limit of the motors, we managed a nine [second run]," Smith told Ars Technica. "Despite all of this power and speed, the little Enfield still felt smooth, stable, and happy, which is unbelievable given that it was designed to do 40 miles an hour."
Communications

Facebook Pitches Laser Beams As The High-Speed Internet Of The Future (pcworld.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: Facebook says it has developed a laser detector that could open the airwaves to new high-speed data communications systems that don't require dedicated spectrum or licenses. The component, disclosed on Tuesday in a scientific journal, comes from the company's Connectivity Lab, which is involved in developing technology that can help spread high-speed internet to places it currently doesn't reach. At 126 square centimeters, Facebook's new laser detector is thousands of times larger. It consists of plastic optical fibers that have been "doped" so they absorb blue light. The fibers create a large flat area that serves as the detector. They luminesce, so the blue light is reemitted as green light as it travels down the fibers, which are then bundled together tightly before they meet with a photodiode. It's described in a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Optica. Facebook says there are applications for the technology both indoors and outdoors. Around the home, it could be used to transmit high-definition video to mobile devices. Outdoors, the same technology could be used to establish low-cost communications links of a kilometer or more in length. In tests, the company managed to achieve a speed of 2.1Gbps using the detector, and the company thinks it can go faster. By using materials that work closer to infrared, the speed could be increased. And using yet-to-be developed components that work at wavelengths invisible to the human eye, the speed could be increased even more. If invisible to humans, the power could also be increased without danger of harming someone, further increasing speed and distance.
Windows

Windows 10 Warns Chrome and Firefox Users About Battery Drain, Recommends Switching To Edge (venturebeat.com) 372

A month after Microsoft claimed that its Edge web browser is more power efficient than Google Chrome and Firefox, the company is now warning Windows 10 users about the same. VentureBeat reports: Microsoft has turned on a new set of Windows Tips that warn Windows 10 users that Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox is draining their laptop's battery. The solution, according to the notification, is to use Microsoft Edge.In a statement to the publication, the company said: "These Windows Tips notifications were created to provide people with quick, easy information that can help them enhance their Windows 10 experience, including information that can help users extend battery life. That said, with Windows 10 you can easily choose the default browser and search engine of your choice."
Businesses

Volkswagen Sued For Violating State Environmental Statutes With Dieselgate (theverge.com) 123

The attorneys general of New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland are suing Volkswagen for violating state environmental regulations with its diesel emissions cheating scandal. The states say that the car company has violated their air quality laws, combined with some sort of anti-fraud measure for the defeat mechanisms to bypass emissions testing. The move comes after many states agreed to a $14.7 billion settlement for violating consumer protection and EPA and California state environmental regulations. The Verge reports: "Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche defrauded thousands of Massachusetts consumers, polluted our air, and damaged our environment and then, to make matters worse, plotted a massive cover-up to mislead environmental regulators," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a statement. This was echoed by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who released his own statement saying "the allegations against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche reveal a culture of deeply-rooted corporate arrogance, combined with a conscious disregard for the rule of law and the protection of public health and the environment."
Hardware

NVIDIA Launches GeForce GTX 1060 To Take On AMD's Radeon RX 480 (hothardware.com) 88

Reader MojoKid writes: NVIDIA just launched their answer to AMD's Radeon RX 480 mainstream card today, dubbed the GeForce GTX 1060. The GP106 GPU at the heart of the GeForce GTX 1060 has roughly half of the resources of NVIDIA's current flagship GeForce GTX 1080. NVIDIA claims the GTX 1060 performs on par with a previous generation high-end GeForce GTX 980 and indeed this 120W mainstream offers an interesting mix of low-power and high-performance. The new GeForce GTX 1060 features a new Pascal derivative GPU that's somewhat smaller, called the GP106. The GP106 features 10 streaming multiprocessors (SM) with a total of 1280, single-precision CUDA cores and eight texture units. The GeForce GTX 1060 also features six 32-bit memory controllers, for 192-bits in total. GeForce GTX 1060 cards with either 6GB or 3GB of GDDR5 memory will be available and offered performance that just misses the mark set by the pricier AMD Radeon R9 Nano but often outran the 8GB Radeon RX 480. The GeForce GTX 1060 held onto its largest leads over the Radeon RX 480 in the DirectX 11 tests, though the Radeon had a clear edge in OpenCL and managed to pull ahead in Thief and in some DirectX 12 tests (like Hitman). The GeForce GTX 1060, however, consumes significantly less power than the Radeon RX 480 and is quieter too.You may also want to read PCPerspective's take on this.
Android

Slashdot Asks: Do You Install Preview Version Of An OS On Your Primary Device? 149

On Monday, Google released a new -- and also the final -- version of the Android N Developer Preview. Android Nougat, which is the latest version of Google's mobile operating system comes with a range of new features and improvements, including a notification panel redesign and additions to Doze power saving. The fifth preview, which is releasing today offers a "near-final" look at Android 7. Interestingly, Apple also released the public beta versions of iOS 10, and macOS Sierra to users earlier this month. Microsoft continues to offer preview builds of Windows 10 OS to enthusiasts.

We were wondering how many of you choose to live on beta version of an operating system on your primary devices. Does anyone here wait for the final version of an operating system to release before making the switch? Also, what does the setup of your office/work computer look like? Anyone who is still on an older version of an operating system because of reliability and compatibility concerns?
XBox (Games)

Microsoft's New Xbox One S Will Go On Sale On August 2 -- Will You Buy One? (betanews.com) 107

Microsoft announced on Monday that its new Xbox One S console will go on sale on August 2. To recall, the Xbox One S is 40 percent smaller than the original Xbox One (also the power supply packed in the console itself), and has the processing muscle to stream video in 4K Ultra HD with HDR. BetaNews reports: August 2 is the big date which also sees the release of Windows 10 Anniversary Update. The Xbox One S also features up to 2TB of storage. In all, three versions of the console are available. It's the 2TB model that's grabbing the headlines and the attention of keen gamers, and this model will launch in "limited numbers" priced at $399. The console will launch in Australia, Canada, UK and United States among several other regions. For anyone looking for a slightly cheaper option, the 1TB model will cost $349, while $299 will get you a 500GB version. If you want to add to the single Xbox Wireless Controller included as standard, this will set you back a further $59.99.Are you planning to purchase one of these?
Earth

New Zealand Crowdfunds $1.7 Million To Buy A Private Beach (fastcoexist.com) 124

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article from FastCoExist: When debt-troubled businessman Michael Spackman put his private New Zealand beach on sale, Kiwis started a crowdfunding campaign to buy it back for the public... The crowdfunding campaign raised $1.7 million in donations from around 40,000 people. Even the New Zealand government contributed $254,000.
The BBC reports that the campaign "snubbed a businessman who offered them money in exchange for private access to part of the beach," with the campaign's creator calling this an example of technology's power to unite people for a common cause. "Sometimes you can feel powerless, so for us, it's been a marvelous experience... There's been a real feeling of coming together."

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