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China

Chinese Scientists Plan Solar Power Station In Space 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the or-you-know-stop-polluting-so-much dept.
knwny points out this lofty proposed power plan in China. "The battle to dispel smog, cut greenhouse gases and solve the energy crisis is moving to space. If news reports are to be believed, Chinese scientists are mulling the construction of a solar power station in a geosynchronous orbit 36,000 kilometres above ground. The electricity generated would be converted to microwaves or lasers and transmitted to a collector on Earth. If realized, it will surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station and be the largest-ever space project."
Transportation

At the Track With Formula E, the First e-Racing Series 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the fast-and-quiet dept.
An anonymous reader writes Ars is running a story about the new all-electric racing car series first visit to the U.S.. "The pit lane we're standing in is unusual, and not only because it's a temporary setup placed in the shadow of American Airlines Arena (home of the NBA's Miami Heat). Garages are set up on both sides rather than being limited to one. A few things also appear to be missing. To start, a familiar smell from the usual mix of burning hydrocarbons is absent. And it's remarkably quiet. The occasional impact wrench bursts out in a mechanical staccato, generators drone here and there, but there are no V8s burbling, no V6s screaming....Welcome to Formula E, the world's first fully electric racing series. Miami is playing host to the first of two US rounds—the next being held in Long Beach, CA, on April 4—and it's the fifth race in this ePrix's inaugural season. Given we've got a bit of a thing about racing at Cars Technica, as well as an obvious interest in electric vehicles, we had to be on the ground in Miami to experience this for ourselves."
Government

FCC Chairman: Net Rules Will Withstand Court Challenge 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-to-stay dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story about FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's confidence that the net neutrality rules the agency passed last month will stand up to upcoming challenges in court."Now that the FCC is the subject of several lawsuits, and its leader, Chairman Tom Wheeler, was dragged in front of Congress repeatedly to answer the same battery of inanity, it's worth checking in to see how the agency is feeling. Is it confident that its recent vote to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act will hold? Yes, unsurprisingly. Recently, Wheeler gave a speech at Ohio State University, laying out his larger philosophy regarding the open Internet. His second to last paragraph is worth reading: "One final prediction: the FCC's new rules will be upheld by the courts. The DC Circuit sent the previous Open Internet Order back to us and basically said, 'You're trying to impose common carrier-like regulation without stepping up and saying, "these are common carriers.'" We have addressed that issue, which is the underlying issue in all of the debates we've had so far. That gives me great confidence going forward that we will prevail.""
Chrome

Chrome OS Receives Extreme Makeover With Material Design and Google Now 68

Posted by samzenpus
from the latest-and-greatest dept.
MojoKid writes Late last week, Google quietly began inviting people to opt into the beta channel for ChromeOS to help the company "shape the future" of the OS. Some betas can be riskier than others, but Google says that opting into this one is just a "little risk", one that will pay off handsomely for those who crave new features. New in this version is Chrome Launcher 2.0, which gives you quick access to a number of common features, including the apps you use most often (examples are Hangouts, Calculator, and Files). Some apps have also received a fresh coat of paint, such as the file manager. Google notes that this is just the start, so there will be more updates rolling out to the beta OS as time goes on. Other key features available in this beta include the ability to extract pass protected Zip archives, as well as a perk for travelers. ChromeOS will now automatically detect your new timezone, and then update the time and date accordingly.
Twitter

SeaWorld and Others Discover That a Hashtag Can Become a Bashtag 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-hit-with-your-own-stick dept.
HughPickens.com writes Alison Griswold writes that in an effort to improve its tanking image, SeaWorld launched a new advertising campaign this week to educate the public about its "leadership in the care of killer whales" and other work to protect whales in captivity and in the wild. As part of that head-on initiative, someone at SeaWorld decided to invite Twitter users to pose their questions to the company directly using the hashtag #AskSeaWorld. That was not a good idea as twitter users bashed Sea World relentlessly.. "As easy as it is to make fun of SeaWorld here, the real question is why any company still thinks hosting an open Twitter forum could be good for public relations," writes Griswold. "So maybe SeaWorld's social and PR folks just really have no idea what they're doing. Even so, you'd think they'd have learned from the corporate failures before them."

Let's review some of the times this has backfired, starting with the infamous McDonald's #McDStories Twitter campaign of January 2012. Rather than prompting customers to share their heart-warming McDonald's anecdotes, the hashtag gave critics a highly visible forum to share their top McDonald's horror stories. MacDonalds pulled the campaign within two hours but they discovered that crowd-sourced campaigns are hard to control. Three years later the #McDStories hashtag is still gathering comments. "Twitter Q&As are a terrible idea.," concludes Griswold. "A well-meaning hashtag gives critics an easy way to assemble and voice their complaints in a public forum. Why companies still try them is a great mystery. Maybe they'll all finally learn from SeaWorld and give this one horrible PR trick up for good."
Robotics

Festo Reveals New Robotic Ants and Butterflies 18

Posted by samzenpus
from the metal-swarm dept.
mikejuk writes "Every year around this time of year Festo builds some amazing robot or other — last year it was a kangaroo. What could it possibly do to top previous amazing devices? What about some even more amazing robotic insects. BionicANT is designed not only look good but to demonstrate swarm intelligence. The robot not only looks like an ant, but it works like one. The design makes use of piezo bending transducers rather than servos to move. As well as being able to move its six legs, it also has a piezo-activated pair of pincers. The second insect robot is a butterfly — eMotion. For flying machines these are incredibly lightweight at 32 grams. The bodies are laser sintered and the wings use carbon fiber rods. Two miniature servo motors are attached to the body and each wing. The electronics has a microcontroller, an inertial sensor consisting of gyro, accelerometer and compass and two radio modules. Flying time is around 3 or 4 minutes."
Space

SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the try-this-one dept.
An anonymous reader shares this story that takes a look at some of the advances SpaceX is working on. "Getting a small group of human beings to Mars and back is no easy task, we learned at the recent GPU Technology Conference in San Jose hosted graphics chip and accelerator maker Nvidia. One of the problems with such a mission is that you need a very large and efficient rocket engine to get the amount of material into orbit for the mission, explained Adam Lichtl, who is director of research at SpaceX and who with a team of a few dozen programmers is try to crack the particularly difficult task of better simulating the combustion inside of a rocket engine. You need a large engine to shorten the trip to Mars, too....Not only do you need a lot of stuff to get to Mars and sustain a colony there, but you also need a way to generate fuel on Mars to come back to Earth. All of these factors affect the design of the rocket engine....As if these were not problems enough, there is another really big issue. The computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software that is used to simulate the movement of fluids and gases and their ignition inside of all kinds of engines is particularly bad at assisting in rocket engine design. 'Methane is a fairly simple hydrocarbon that is perfectly good as a fuel,' Lichtl said. 'The challenge here is to design an engine that works efficiently with such a compound. But rocket engine CFD is hard. Really hard.'"
Transportation

Why the Final Moments Inside a Cockpit Are Heard But Not Seen 391

Posted by Soulskill
from the keeps-crash-investigators-employed dept.
jones_supa writes: There's no video footage from inside the cockpit of the Germanwings flight that left 150 people dead — nor is such footage recorded from any other commercial airline crash in recent years. Unlike many other vehicles operating with heightened safety concerns, airline cockpits don't come with video surveillance. The reason, in part, is that airline pilots and their unions have argued vigorously against what they see as an invasion of privacy that would not improve aviation safety. The long debate on whether airplane cockpits in the U.S. should be equipped with cameras dates back at least 15 years, when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) first pushed regulators to require video monitoring following what the agency called "several accidents involving a lack of information regarding crewmember actions and the flight deck environment." The latest NTSB recommendation for a cockpit image system (PDF) came in January 2015. Should video streams captured inside the plane become a standard part of aviation safety measures?
Australia

Australian Government Outlines Website-Blocking Scheme 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the failing-to-learn-from-the-mistakes-of-others dept.
angry tapir writes: The Australian government has revealed its (previously mooted) proposed legislation that will allow copyright holders to apply for court orders that will force ISPs to block access to pirate websites. It forms part of a broader Australian crackdown on online copyright infringement, which also includes a warning notice scheme for alleged infringers. They're not the only ones getting on board with website blocking — a judge in Spain ruled that local ISPs must block access to The Pirate Bay.
United Kingdom

Graphene Light Bulbs Coming To Stores Soon 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the double-as-a-minature-space-elevator dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A light bulb made from graphene — said by its UK developers to be the first commercially viable consumer product using the super-strong carbon — is to go on sale later this year. The dimmable LED bulb with a graphene-coated filament was designed at Manchester University, where the material was discovered in 2004. It is said to cut energy use by 10% and last longer owing to its conductivity. It is expected to be priced lower than current LED bulbs, which cost about £15 (~$22) each.
Technology

Commercial Flamethrower Successfully Crowdfunded 176

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-clearing-that-stubborn-ice-off-your-roof-and-that-stubborn-roof-off-your-house dept.
ColdWetDog writes: You've always wanted one, of course. Zombies, the occasional alien infestation. The neighbor's smelly roses. You just need to be prepared for things. You can get freeze dried food, AR15's, enough ammo to start a small police action (at least here in the U.S. -- YMMV), but it has been difficult to get a modern, portable flamethrower until now. CNET has a brief explanation on the XM42, which doubled its Indiegogo funding target in just a few days.
Graphics

Another Patent Pool Forms For HEVC 68

Posted by Soulskill
from the money-to-be-squeezed dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A new patent pool, dubbed HEVC Advance, has formed for the HEVC video codec. This pool offers separate licensing from the existing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. In an article for CNET, Stephen Shankland writes, "HEVC Advance promises a 'transparent' licensing process, but so far it isn't sharing details except to say it's got 500 patents it describes as essential for using HEVC, that it plans to unveil its license in the third quarter, and that expected licensors include General Electric, Technicolor, Dolby, Philips and Mitsubishi Electric. The group's statement suggested that some patent holders weren't satisfied with the money they'd make through MPEG LA's license. One of HEVC Advance's goals is 'delivering a balanced business model that supports HEVC commercialization.' ... HEVC Advance and MPEG LA aren't detailing what led to two patent pools, an outcome that undermines MPEG LA's attempt to offer a convenient 'one-stop shop' for companies needing a license." Perhaps this will lead to increased adoption of royalty-free video codecs such as VP9. Monty Montgomery of Xiph has some further commentary.
Technology

Ikea Refugee Shelter Entering Production 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the ships-with-9-randomly-chosen-and-superfluous-bolts,-screws,-and-dowels dept.
jones_supa writes: Ikea's line of flatpack refugee shelters are going into production, the Swedish furniture maker announced this week. The lightweight Better Shelter was developed under a partnership between the Ikea Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and beta tested among refugee families in Ethiopia, Iraq, and Lebanon. Each unit takes about four hours to assemble and is designed to last for three years — far longer than conventional refugee shelters, which typically last about six months. The product is an important tool in the prolonged refugee crisis that has unfolded across the Middle East. The war in Syria has spurred nearly 4 million people to leave their homes. The UNHCR has agreed to buy 10,000 of the shelters, and will begin providing them to refugee families this summer.
Security

Startups Increasingly Targeted With Hacks 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the waiting-for-the-easy-marks-to-ripen dept.
ubrgeek writes: Slack, makers of the popular communications software, announced yesterday that they'd suffered a server breach. This follows shortly after a similar compromise of Twitch.tv, and is indicative of a growing problem facing start-up tech companies. As the NY Times reports, "Breaches are becoming a kind of rite of passage for fledgling tech companies. If they gain enough momentum with users, chances are they will also become a target for hackers looking to steal, and monetize, the vast personal information they store on users, like email addresses and passwords."
Open Source

European Commission Will Increase Use of Open Source Software 37

Posted by Soulskill
from the leading-by-example dept.
jrepin writes: The European Commission has updated its strategy for internal use of Open Source Software. The Commission, which is already using open source for many of its key ICT services and software solutions, will further increase the role of this type of software internally. The renewed strategy puts a special emphasis on procurement, contribution to open source software projects, and providing more of the software developed within the Commission as open source.
United Kingdom

UK Licensing Site Requires MSIE Emulation, But Won't Work With MSIE 155

Posted by timothy
from the strange-circlings-back dept.
Anne Thwacks writes The British Government web site for applying for for a licence to be a security guard requires a plugin providing Internet Explorer emulation on Firefox to login and apply for a licence. It won't work with Firefox without the add-on, but it also wont work with Internet Explorer! (I tried Win XP and Win7 Professional). The error message says "You have more than one browser window open on the same internet connection," (I didn't) and "to avoid this problem, close your browser and reopen it." I did. No change.

I tried three different computers, with three different OSes. Still no change. I contacted their tech support and they said "Yes ... a lot of users complain about this. We have known about it since September, and are working on a fix! Meanwhile, we have instructions on how to use the "Fire IE" plugin to get round the problem." Eventually, I got this to work on Win7pro. (The plugin will not work on Linux). The instructions require a very old version of the plugin, and a bit of trial and error is needed to get it to work with the current one. How can a government department concerned with security not get this sort of thing right?"
Internet Explorer

New Screenshots Detail Spartan Web Browser For Windows 10 Smartphones 62

Posted by timothy
from the evolution-continues dept.
MojoKid writes One of the most anticipated new features in Windows 10 is the Spartan web browser, which will replace the long-serving Internet Explorer. We've seen Spartan in action on the desktop/notebook front, but we're now getting a closer look at Spartan in action on the mobile side thanks to some newly leaked screenshots. Perhaps the biggest change with Spartan is the repositioning of the address bar from the bottom of the screen to the top (which is also in line with other mobile browsers like Safari and Chrome). The refresh button has also been moved from its right-hand position within the address bar to a new location to the left of the address bar. Reading Lists also make an appearance in this latest build of Spartan along with Microsoft's implementation of "Hubs" on Windows 10 for mobile devices.
Blackberry

Iowa's Governor Terry Branstad Thinks He Doesn't Use E-mail 281

Posted by timothy
from the bizarro-er-and-bizarro-er dept.
Earthquake Retrofit writes The Washington Post reports the governor of Iowa denying he uses e-mail, but court documents expose his confusion. From the article: "Branstad's apparent confusion over smartphones, apps and e-mail is ironic because he has tried to portray himself as technologically savvy. His Instagram account has pictures of him taking selfies and using Skype... 2010 campaign ads show him tapping away on an iPad. 'Want a brighter future? We've got an app for that.' Earlier this month, the governor's office announced that it had even opened an account on Meerkat, the live video streaming app." Perhaps he's distancing himself from e-mail because it's a Hillary thing.
Government

Notel Media Player Helps North Koreans Skirt Censorship 53

Posted by timothy
from the one-day-will-be-on-ebay.nk dept.
An anonymous reader writes A small portable media device, costing roughly $50, is allowing North Koreans to access and view foreign media despite tight government censorship, according to a Reuters report. The 'Notel', a mashup of notebook and television, is being described as a symbol of change in the repressed society. Used to watch DVDs and shared content from USB sticks and SD cards, the media player can be easily concealed and transported among families and friends. According to correspondents in the region, as many as half of all urban North Korean households have a notel and are swapping a broad range of banned media such as soaps and TV dramas from South Korea and China, Hollywood blockbusters, and news clips — all of which is strictly forbidden by Pyongyang law.
Hardware

Toshiba Announces 3D Flash With 48 Layers 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-to-need-an-elevator dept.
Lucas123 writes: Admitting it has bumped up against a 15 nanometer process wall, Toshiba announced it's focusing its efforts on three dimensional NAND using its Bit Cost Scalable technology (PDF) in order to increase capacity. It has dedicated a Japanese fab plant to it and developed 48-level 3D NAND, which bumps density up 33% over previous 3D NAND flash. The new 3D NAND will be able to store 128Gb of data per chip (16GB). Samsung has been mass producing 32-layer, triple-level cell (TLC) 3D NAND since last October and has incorporated it into some of its least expensive SSDs. Yesterday, Micron and Intel announced their own 32-layer 3D TLC NAND, which they claimed will lead to 10TB SSDs. While Toshiba's 3D NAND is multi-level cell (meaning it stores two bits per transistor versus three), the company does plan on developing a TLC version. Toshiba said it's not abandoning 15nm floating gate flash, but it will focus those efforts on lower capacity applications.