Why Is RAM Suddenly So Cheap? It Might Be Windows 118

jfruh writes: The average price of a 4GB DDR3 memory DIMM at the moment $18.50 — a price that's far lower than at this time last year. Why is it so cheap? The memory business tends to go in boom and bust cycles, but the free availability of Windows 10 means that fewer people are upgrading their PCs, reducing RAM demand. Analyst Avril Wu said, "Notebook shipments in the third quarter fall short of what is expected for a traditional peak season mainly because Windows 10 with its free upgrade plan negatively impacted replaced sales of notebooks to some extent rather than driving the demand for these products." And prices might stay low for another two years.

Team Constructs Silicon 2-qubit Gate, Enabling Construction of Quantum Computers 84

monkeyzoo writes: A team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney has made a crucial advance in quantum computing. Their advance, appearing in the journal Nature (abstract), demonstrated a two-qubit logic gate — the central building block of a quantum computer — and, significantly, did it in silicon. This makes the building of a quantum computer much more feasible, since it is based on the same manufacturing technology as today's computer industry. Until now, it had not been possible to make two quantum bits 'talk' to each other — and thereby create a logic gate — using silicon. But the UNSW team — working with Professor Kohei M. Itoh of Japan's Keio University — has done just that for the first time. The result means that all of the physical building blocks for a silicon-based quantum computer have now been successfully constructed, allowing engineers to finally begin the task of designing and building a functioning quantum computer.

From Microsoft, HoloLens VR Dev Kit, New Phones, Continuum 85

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 38

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? 241

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?

On-Chip Liquid Cooling Permits Smaller Devices With No Heatsinks Or Fans 44

An anonymous reader writes: DARPA-funded research into on-chip liquid cooling has resulted in a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) liquid-cooled device that can operate at 24 degrees Celsius, versus 60 degrees Celsius for an equivalent air-cooled device. The cooling fluid resides only nanometers from the heat it must address, and operates so efficiently as to offer potential to stack CPUs and GPUs using copper columns, as well as dispensing with heat-sinks and fan systems. With those components removed, the system can facilitate far more compact designs than are currently feasible.
Hardware Hacking

Sensor Network Makes Life Easier For Japan's Aging Rice Farmers 89

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.

Nissan Creates the Ultimate Distracted Driving Machine 138

jfruh writes: More and more research is suggesting that it isn't safe to text or even talk on our phones hands-free while driving, but one brave car company is pushing full-speed in the other direction. Nissan has created a concept car in which every surface, including the entire dashboard and even the seats, is a display device. The car is the result of "extensive" surveys with the younger generation that came to the conclusion that, according to Nissan, young people "feel that time spent in a car should be time for connecting and sharing experiences with friends."

Japan Display Squeezes 8K Resolution Into 17-inch LCD, Cracks 510 PPI At 120Hz 176

MojoKid writes: By any metric, 8K is an incredibly high resolution. In fact, given that most HD content is still published in 1080p, the same could be said about 4K. 4K packs in four times the pixels of 1080p, while 8K takes that and multiplies it by four once again; we're talking 33,177,600 pixels. We've become accustomed to our smartphones having super-high ppi (pixels-per-inch); 5.5-inch 1080p phones are 401 ppi, which is well past the point that humans are able to differentiate individual pixels. Understanding that highlights just how impressive Japan Display's (JDI) monitor is, as it clocks in at 510 ppi in a 17-inch panel. Other specs include a 2000:1 contrast ratio, a brightness of 500cd/m2, and a 176 degree viewing angle. While the fact that the company achieved 8K resolution in such a small form-factor is impressive in itself, also impressive is the fact that it has a refresh rate of 120Hz.
Hardware Hacking

Desktop Turing-Welchman Bombe Build 67

An anonymous reader writes: I completed a months long project to build my own version of the Turing-Welchman Bombe. My machine uses a Raspberry Pi2 and an Arduino to drive stepper motors to turn the three output indicator drums and to drive an LCD display, to work like the indicator unit on the real Bombe. Everything was custom made by me at home. The unit is built to reflect the style of the real Bombe at Bletchley Park and to run in a similar way but as a portable, desktop sized unit. To demonstrate it I use the same Weather Report Menu as used at BP to demonstrate their real Bombe. The entire build was painstakingly documented over many months but the link given shows an overview and a film of the completed machine in action.

Ask Slashdot: Best Country For Secure Online Hosting? 111

An anonymous reader writes: I've recently discovered that my hosting company is sending all login credentials unencrypted, prompting me to change providers. Additionally, I'm finally being forced to put some of my personal media library (songs, photos, etc.) on-line for ready access (though for my personal consumption only) from multiple devices and locations... But I simply can't bring myself to trust any cloud-service provider. So while it's been partially asked before, it hasn't yet been answered: Which country has the best on-line personal privacy laws that would made it patently illegal for any actor, state, or otherwise, to access my information? And does anyone have a recommendation on which provider(s) are the best hosts for (legal) on-line storage there?

Some Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Smartphones Mysteriously Powering Down 53

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."

Ask Slashdot: Is the Gap Between Data Access Speeds Widening Or Narrowing? 91

New submitter DidgetMaster writes: Everyone knows that CPU registers are much faster than level1, level2, and level3 caches. Likewise, those caches are much faster than RAM; and RAM in turn is much faster than disk (even SSD). But the past 30 years have seen tremendous improvements in data access speeds at all these levels. RAM today is much, much faster than RAM 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Disk accesses are also tremendously faster than previously as steady improvements in hard drive technology and the even more impressive gains in flash memory have occurred. Is the 'gap' between the fastest RAM and the fastest disks bigger or smaller now than the gap was 10 or 20 years ago? Are the gaps between all the various levels getting bigger or smaller? Anyone know of a definitive source that tracks these gaps over time?

SolarCity Says It Has Produced the World's Highest Efficiency Solar Panel 180

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.

$50 Fire Tablet With High-capacity SDXC Slot Doesn't See E-books On the SD Card 145

Robotech_Master writes: For all that the $50 Fire tablet has a 128 GB capable SDXC card slot that outclasses every other tablet in its price range, and it evolved out of Amazon's flagship e-book reader, it strangely lacks the ability to index e-books on that card. This seems like a strange oversight, given that every other media app on the tablet uses that card for downloading and storage, and its 5 GB usable internal memory isn't a lot for people who have a large library of picture-heavy e-books—especially if they want to install other apps, too.

NASA Targets Venus, Asteroids With Potential Missions 47

coondoggie writes: NASA this week picked five possible contenders for a relatively low-cost robotic mission to space. The five candidates from a batch of 27 –include Venus, near-Earth object and asteroid operations – will ultimately be whittled down to one or two that will cost approximately $500 million, not including launch vehicle or post-launch operations, NASA stated. The DAVINCI probe would "study the chemical composition of Venus' atmosphere during a 63-minute descent. It would answer scientific questions that have been considered high priorities for many years, such as whether there are volcanoes active today on the surface of Venus and how the surface interacts with the atmosphere of the planet." A longer-range spacecraft called Lucy would "perform the first reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, objects thought to hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system."

Oculus Founder Explains Why the Rift VR Headset Will Cost "More Than $350" 174

An anonymous reader writes: When Oculus took to Kickstarter in 2012, the company sought to create the 'DK1', a development kit of the Rift which the company wanted to eventually become an affordable VR headset that they would eventually take to market as a consumer product. At the time, the company was aiming for a target price around $350, but since then the company, and the scope of the Rift headset, has grown considerably. That's one reason why Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey says that the consumer Rift headset, launching in Q1 2016, will cost more than $350. '...the reason for that is that we've added a lot of technology to this thing beyond what existed in the DK1 and DK2 days,' says Luckey.

EU Probes TVs Over Energy Test Scores 91

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."

IBM Scientists Find New Way To Shrink Transistors 100

MarcAuslander writes that IBM scientists have discovered a way to replace silicon semiconductors with carbon nanotube transistors, an innovation the company hopes will dramatically improve chip performance and get the industry past the limits of Moore's law. According to the Times: In the semiconductor business, it is called the 'red brick wall' — the limit of the industry's ability to shrink transistors beyond a certain size. On Thursday, however, IBM scientists reported that they now believe they see a path around the wall. Writing in the journal Science, a team at the company's Thomas J. Watson Research Center said it has found a new way to make transistors from parallel rows of carbon nanotubes.
Hardware Hacking

Apple Bans iFixit Repair App From App Store After Apple TV Teardown 366

alphadogg writes: iFixit, the fix-it-yourself advocate for users of Apple, Google and other gear, has had its repair manual app banned from Apple's App Store after it conducted an unauthorized teardown of Apple TV and Siri remote. iFixit blogged "we're a teardown and repair company; teardowns are in our DNA -- and nothing makes us happier than figuring out what makes these gadgets tick. We weighed the risks, blithely tossed those risks over our shoulder, and tore down the Apple TV anyway." iFixit does still have Windows and Android apps, and has no immediate plans to rewrite its Apple app to attempt being reinstated.