By BeauHD from Slashdot's problem-solved department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Deep learning has a DRAM problem. Systems designed to do difficult things in real time, such as telling a cat from a kid in a car's backup camera video stream, are continuously shuttling the data that makes up the neural network's guts from memory to the processor. The problem, according to startup Flex Logix, isn't a lack of storage for that data; it's a lack of bandwidth between the processor and memory. Some systems need four or even eight DRAM chips to sling the 100s of gigabits to the processor, which adds a lot of space and consumes considerable power. Flex Logix says that the interconnect technology and tile-based architecture it developed for reconfigurable chips will lead to AI systems that need the bandwidth of only a single DRAM chip and consume one-tenth the power.
Mountain View-based Flex Logix had started to commercialize a new architecture for embedded field programmable gate arrays (eFPGAs). But after some exploration, one of the founders, Cheng C. Wang, realized the technology could speed neural networks. A neural network is made up of connections and "weights" that denote how strong those connections are. A good AI chip needs two things, explains the other founder Geoff Tate. One is a lot of circuits that do the critical "inferencing" computation, called multiply and accumulate. "But what's even harder is that you have to be very good at bringing in all these weights, so that the multipliers always have the data they need in order to do the math that's required. [Wang] realized that the technology that we have in the interconnect of our FPGA, he could adapt to make an architecture that was extremely good at loading weights rapidly and efficiently, giving high performance and low power."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
Engineers are building a prototype of a robotic factory that will create water, oxygen, and fuel on the surface of Mars. From a report: The year is 2038. After 18 months living and working on the surface of Mars, a crew of six explorers boards a deep-space transport rocket and leaves for Earth. No humans are staying behind, but work goes on without them: Autonomous robots will keep running a mining and chemical-synthesis plant they'd started years before this first crewed mission ever set foot on the planet. The plant produces water, oxygen, and rocket fuel using local resources, and it will methodically build up all the necessary supplies for the next Mars mission, set to arrive in another two years. This robot factory isn't science fiction: It's being developed jointly by multiple teams across NASA. One of them is the Swamp Works Lab at NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, where I am a team lead. Officially, it's known as an in situ resource utilization (ISRU) system, but we like to call it a dust-to-thrust factory, because it turns simple dust into rocket fuel. This technology will one day allow humans to live and work on Mars -- and return to Earth to tell the story. But why synthesize stuff on Mars instead of just shipping it there from Earth? NASA invokes the "gear-ratio problem." By some estimates, to ship a single kilogram of fuel from Earth to Mars, today's rockets need to burn 225 kilograms of fuel in transit -- launching into low Earth orbit, shooting off toward Mars, slowing down to get into Mars orbit, and finally slowing to a safe landing on the surface of Mars. We'd start with 226 kg and end with 1 kg, which makes for a 226:1 gear ratio. And the ratio stays the same no matter what we ship. We would need 225 tons of fuel to send a ton of water, a ton of oxygen, or a ton of machinery. The only way to get around that harsh arithmetic is by making our water, oxygen, and fuel on-site. Different research and engineering groups at NASA have been working on different parts of this problem. More recently, our Swamp Works team began integrating many separate working modules in order to demonstrate the entire closed-loop system. It's still just a prototype, but it shows all the pieces that are necessary to make our dust-to-thrust factory a reality. And although the long-term plan is going to Mars, as an intermediate step NASA is focusing its attention on the moon. Most of the equipment will be tried out and fine-tuned on the lunar surface first, helping to reduce the risk over sending it all straight to Mars.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's lithium-batteries-doing-things department
Lime has recalled 2,000 of its electric scooters from the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe, the company said Wednesday, after the Washington Post contacted it about some catching on fire. From a report: In a statement, Lime said it was investigating the "unconfirmed" reported and had pulled the vulnerable models, manufactured by the Chinese company Segway Ninebot, from circulation. "At no time were riders or members of the public put at risk," Lime said. "Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we've recently received an unconfirmed report that another Segway Ninebot scooter model may also be vulnerable to battery failure, which we are currently investigating." Until the problem is solved, scooters will only be charged in Lime facilities and not available to "juicers," people who are paid by the company charge scooters after-hours. These facilities will be monitored 24/7, the company said, and all scooters in Lime's fleet, regardless of manufacturer, will undergo a "new daily diagnostic training program."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The world's oceans have been soaking up far more excess heat in recent decades than scientists realized, suggesting that Earth could be set to warm even faster than predicted in the years ahead, according to new research published Wednesday.
From a report: Over the past quarter-century, the Earth's oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than scientists previously had thought, said Laure Resplandy, a geoscientist at Princeton University who led the startling study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The difference represents an enormous amount of additional energy, originating from the sun and trapped by the Earth's atmosphere -- more than 8 times the world's energy consumption, year after year. In the scientific realm, the new findings help to resolve long-running doubts about the rate of the warming of the oceans before 2007, when reliable measurements from devices called "Argo floats" were put to use worldwide. Before that, different types of temperature records -- and an overall lack of them -- contributed to murkiness about how quickly the oceans were heating up. The higher-than-expected amount of heat in the oceans means more heat is being retained within the Earth's climate system each year, rather than escaping into space. In essence, more heat in the oceans signals that global warming itself is more advanced than scientists thought. "We thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of CO2 that we emitted," said Resplandy, who published the work with experts from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and several other institutions in the U.S., China, France and Germany. "But we were wrong. The planet warmed more than we thought. It was hidden from us just because we didn't sample it right. But it was there. It was in the ocean already."
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By msmash from Slashdot's fair-ask department
If a multimillion dollar class-action settlement basically doesn't pay a single consumer, is it fair? That's not the start of a lawyer joke; it's the crux of a case being argued Wednesday in the U.S. Supreme Court that, advocates say, has serious implications for the ways consumers benefit from duels with businesses in large-scale litigation. From a report (paywalled): "This is potentially billions of dollars going from everyday consumers to lawyers' slush funds," said Ted Frank, the litigation director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who's disputing the $8.5 million settlement between Google and 129 million class members before the Supreme Court. The case, Frank v. Gaos, focuses on the question of whether it's fair and reasonable to ever have class action settlements that give money to outside groups instead of the class members themselves. A decision for Frank -- who also happens to be a class member in the Google case and is a longtime gadfly questioning class action settlements -- could require the money go directly to consumers and upend a class action pay out method that's been around for decades. The underlying case has to do with Google's 2013 agreement to pay $8.5 million to settle a case claiming widespread privacy rights violations. When any web surfer looked up topics on Google, the search engine beamed the search terms -- like "depression" and "medical leave" -- in the URL string to the third-party websites. The search term revelations broke various state and federal laws, plaintiffs said. After about three years of litigation, the parties settled. Google added more online disclosures and opened its wallet without admitting liability. The settlement's payouts included a $5,000 award for each of the three named plaintiffs and $2.12 million for the legal fees of the plaintiffs' lawyers. The remaining $5.3 million was divvied up among six universities and organizations pledging to put the money towards improving internet privacy. Lawyers for both Google and the class members say Frank's objections to the settlement are unfounded.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
People are still eating restaurant food -- they're just not doing it at restaurants as much. From a report: Delivery apps from DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub and UberEats have made ordering in easier, and have changed the way food chains think about their business. The number of food delivery app downloads is up 380 percent compared with three years ago, according to market-data firm App Annie, and research firm Cowen and Co. predicts that U.S. restaurant delivery sales will rise an average of 12 percent a year to $76 billion in the next four years. At Firehouse, revenue has increased 7 percent this year, mainly from orders placed online and through delivery apps, Fox said. More than half of his sales are for food eaten elsewhere. [...] Some new restaurant owners are skipping tables and chairs altogether and just leasing kitchen space to prepare food for couriers. Those are called cloud kitchens or virtual restaurants because they have no dining rooms or wait staff and sell their meals through the internet and mobile apps like DoorDash or UberEats. Mark Chase, the founder of Restaurant Real Estate Advisors, a consulting group that helps restaurant entrepreneurs find space and negotiate leases, said that the majority of his clients are interested in the kitchen-only business model. "There is a general scaling down on seating space and scaling up on kitchen space, as people just want to eat at home, on the couch," Chase said.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Carolyn Kormann, writing for The New Yorker: Steyer [billionaire Tom Steyer, who for years has tried to pass Proposition 127, an amendment to Arizona's constitution that would require power companies to generate fifty per cent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030] and his coalition say that the problem is simple: A.P.S. (state's largest utility, Arizona Public Service) is an investor-owned company, motivated primarily by its responsibility to protect profits for its shareholders, many of whom reside out of state. In 2017, the company made four hundred and eighty-eight million dollars, an increase of forty-six million from the previous year. The Arizona Corporation Commission (A.C.C.), a five-member elected "fourth branch" of state government, is supposed to keep the utility's monopoly in check -- setting limits on capital investments and pricing, while guaranteeing a certain margin of profit. But critics have long argued that the arrangement incentivizes utilities to "gold-plate," or make inessential investments. (The phenomenon even has a name: the Averch-Johnson effect.) For A.P.S., a two-hundred-million-dollar gas-fuel plant would be more lucrative than a twenty-million-dollar solar array because the utility can charge higher rates to recoup its investment costs. Kris Mayes, a former Republican A.C.C. commissioner, who helped write the language of Prop 127, told me the Averch-Johnson effect explains why, in 2017, A.P.S. called for more than five thousand megawatts of new natural-gas additions, and almost no utility-scale renewables. "If they were truly acting in public interest," Kris Mayes, a former Republican A.C.C. commissioner, said, "they would not be proposing fifty-four hundred megawatts of new natural-gas plants."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's quick-primer department
Donald Fischer, who served as a product manager for Red Hat Enterprise Linux during its creation and early years of growth, writes: Red Hat saw, earlier than most, that the ascendance of open source made the need to pay for code go away, but the need for support and maintenance grew larger than ever. Thus Red Hat was never in the business of selling software, rather it was in the business of addressing the practical challenges that have always come along for the ride with software. [...] As an open source developer, you created that software. You can keep your package secure, legally documented, and maintained; who could possibly do it better? So why does Red Hat make the fat profits, and not you? Unfortunately, doing business with large companies requires a lot of bureaucratic toil. That's doubly true for organizations that require security, legal, and operational standards for every product they bring in the door. Working with these organizations requires a sales and marketing team, a customer support organization, a finance back-office, and lots of other "business stuff" in addition to technology. Red Hat has had that stuff, but you haven't. And just like you don't have time to sell to large companies, they don't have time to buy from you alongside a thousand other open source creators, one at a time. Sure, big companies know how to install and use your software. (And good news! They already do.) But they can't afford to put each of 1100 npm packages through a procurement process that costs $20k per iteration. Red Hat solved this problem for one corner of open source by collecting 2,000+ open source projects together, adding assurances on top, and selling it as one subscription product. That worked for them, to the tune of billions. But did you get paid for your contributions?Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's given-the-go-ahead department
Applehu Akbar shares a report from Hawaii News Now: After years of legal wrangling and protests, the Thirty Meter Telescope got a green light Tuesday from the state Supreme Court. In a 4-to-1 decision, the state's highest court ruled in favor of the telescope's construction atop Mauna Kea, effectively ending all legal avenues for contesting the controversial project unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case. In a statement, TMT International Observatory Board of Governors Chairman Henry Yang said the body is "grateful" for the ruling and "committed to being good stewards on the mountain."
Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar adds: "Green anti-science organizations, such as Deep Green Resistance and Sierra Club, have been trying to stop TMT construction for years, in an expanded version of an earlier campaign to halt the construction of large research telescopes in southeastern Arizona. As in Arizona, their excuse was at first endangered species on the construction site, and subsequently native rights. "TMT is an advanced world-class telescope designed to investigate and answer some of the most fundamental questions regarding our universe, including the formation of stars and galaxies after the Big Bang and how the universe evolved to its present form. Native Hawaiians will also be included in other direct benefits from the TMT," the court wrote. "Thus, use of the land by TMT is consistent with conservation and in furtherance of the self-sufficiency of the state."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's say-it-ain't-so department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: The U.S. Justice Department has charged two Chinese intelligence officers, six hackers, and two aerospace company insiders in a sweeping conspiracy to steal confidential aerospace technology from U.S. and French companies. For more than five years, two Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) spies are said to have run a team of hackers focusing on the theft of designs for a turbofan engine used in U.S. and European commercial airliners, according to an unsealed indictment dated October 25. In a statement, the DOJ said a Chinese state-owned aerospace company was simultaneously working to develop a comparable engine.
The MSS officers involved were identified as Zha Rong, a division director in the Jiangsu Province regional department (JSSD), and Chai Meng, a JSSD section chief. At the direction of the MSS officers, the hackers allegedly infiltrated a number of U.S.-based aerospace companies, including California-based Capstone Turbine, among others in Arizona, Massachusetts, and Oregon, the DOJ said. The officers are also said to have recruited at least two Chinese employees of a French aerospace manufacturer -- insiders who allegedly aided the conspiracy by, among other acts, installing Sakula, a remote access trojan, onto company computers.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bizarre-incidents department
dmoberhaus writes: In one of the strangest system admin tales of all time, one IT guy details how a new MRI machine managed to disable every single iPhone, Apple watch and iPad in a medical facility while leaving the rest of the devices untouched. Eric Woolridge, a system administrator at Morris Hospital in Illinois, said in a detailed post on the r/sysadmin subreddit that helium was to blame for the malfunctioning iPhones. "[T]he MRI installation involves supercooling the giant magnet in the machine by boiling off liquid helium," reports Motherboard. "This evaporated helium is usually pumped out of the facility through a vent, but this vent was leaking the helium into the rest of the facility. In all, about 120 liters of helium (or about 90,000 cubic meters in its gaseous state) was pumped out of the MRI room and an untold amount leaked into the rest of the hospital."
In a blog post, iFixit notes that helium atoms can wreak havoc on MEMS silicon chips. "MEMS are microelectromechanical systems that are used for gyroscopes and accelerometers in phones, and helium atoms are small enough to mess up the way these systems function," reports Motherboard. What's odd is that Android phones were not affected. Apparently, the reason "is because Apple recently defected from traditional quartz-based clocks in its phones in favor of clocks that are also made of MEMS silicon," reports Motherboard. "Given that clocks are the most critical device in any computer and are necessary to make the CPU function, their disruption with helium atoms is enough to crash the device."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-set-go department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, has been granted permission to operate fully driverless cars without human drivers behind the steering wheel on public roads in California. The company is the first to receive a driverless permit in the state. Waymo will restrict its driverless test cars to the neighborhoods of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. "We know this area well," the company said in a statement, noting it includes its own headquarters (housed within Google's X lab) as well as Alphabet's main campus. If it seeks to expand its testing, Waymo says it will notify the new communities first and obtain permission from the DMV.
Waymo's permit includes day and night testing on city streets, rural roads, and highways with posted speed limits of up to 65 mph. "Our vehicles can safely handle fog and light rain, and testing in those conditions is included in our permit," the company says. "We will gradually begin driverless testing on city streets in a limited territory and, over time, expand the area that we drive in as we gain confidence and experience to expand." Waymo won't offer rides to the public right off the bat; the company is close to launching its first commercial taxi service using its fleet of autonomous minivans in Phoenix, Arizona. "Eventually, we'll create opportunities for members of the public to experience this technology, as we've done in Arizona with our early rider program," Waymo says.Read Replies (0)