Latest Computer and IT Support Industry News
You know Qualcomm is dominating the mobile processor landscape when the mere mention of a company using something other than a Snapdragon draws attention. HP has launched three new tablets for the holiday season, all packing Nvidia SoCs.
We'll start with the Slate7 Extreme, which looks to be a rebadged version of the Nvidia-made Tegra Note. The Tegra Note is Nvidia's first try at becoming an original design manufacturer, a manufacturer that designs and manufactures a finished product for other companies to rebrand and distribute. Nvidia hopes handling everything except distribution will help boost the struggling Tegra 4 platform, and with HP participating, that strategy may be paying off
The Slate7 Extreme has a 1280×800 display, a quad-core 1.8GHz Tegra 4, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and—disappointingly—Android 4.2.2. Just like the Tegra Note, the Slate7 has a stylus and Nvidia's DirectStylus input. The Slate7 Extreme will run $199.99. As usual with 7-inch Android tablets, it's hard to imagine why anyone would choose this offering over the Nexus 7, which has a higher-resolution screen, twice as much RAM, and a newer version of Android for just $20 more. Perhaps HP hopes the stylus support will move units.
Neutron stars—the tiny collapsed remains of the cores of stars much more massive than the Sun—are remarkably complex systems. The inner layers are composed of a form of matter that exists nowhere else in the Universe, while the outermost layer is a "crust" of heavy atomic nuclei. When any matter falls onto the neutron star's surface, it can result in thermonuclear explosions and other, stranger energetic events.
A new study of neutron star nuclear physics showed that these objects might be even weirder than previously thought. H. Schatz and colleagues modeled reactions in the crust and found that much of the energy there is carried away by neutrinos. This involves processes known from exploding white dwarfs (the type Ia supernovas) but which had never been thought to take place in neutron stars. The surprising result is a decoupling between thermonuclear explosions outside the neutron star and reactions deep inside the crust.
When a star roughly 8 times more massive than the Sun runs out of nuclear fuel, its core collapses while the outer layers are blown out in a supernova explosion. If the star is not too massive, the core remnant will stabilize before becoming a black hole. The object's self-gravity is strong enough to crush atoms and nuclei into a dense material that we don't think is found anywhere else in the cosmos. Because much of this material is composed of neutrons, the core remnant is known as a neutron star.
This past weekend, just in time for Cyber Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed plans on 60 Minutes for delivery drones for Amazon Prime shipments weighing up to five pounds. While the target of getting drones involved in the next five years sounds ambitious, there are many questions and technological obstacles that need to be overcome first. Taken at a high level, Amazon states that the drones could handle up to 86% of all Amazon shipments, getting product to your door as quickly as 30 minutes after you place your order. If that sounds too good to be true, it probably is for most of us. People that live in densely populated areas would be the first target I would guess, with the service potentially spreading to other areas as it becomes feasible. Amazon would need to have warehouse locations within 10 miles of your office/residence to be within range, and they would need dozens if not hundreds of the drones at each location to handle the packages.
The timing of the broadcast is particularly telling, as Bezos noted that they have around 300 items ordered every second on Cyber Monday. That creates a lot of work for the shipment side of the business, but even if Amazon only tried to ship 10% of the packages by drone on such a busy day we'd be looking at 30 packages per second, an average delivery time of perhaps 20 minutes (1200 seconds), probably another 10 minutes for “refueling” (600 more seconds), and thus a drone fleet numbering 54,000 would be needed. If all orders were to be delivered by drones, we'd be looking at ten times that number – over half a million drones.
Even assuming the physical presence could happen (at least for some areas), there remain many other obstacles: weather, operating cost, reliability, potential for vandalism/theft, FAA regulations, etc. The drones are technically octocopters, and they're already being used for taking pictures and filming. Pricing for an octocopter large enough to carry a five pound package is going to be pretty obscene as well – around $10,000 seems like a reasonable baseline, though with mass production it might be lower. Of course there's still the need for the facilities and personnel to run the operation, so $20,000-$30,000 per drone might be a more reasonable estimate.
I know Amazon ships a lot of packages, but the changes in infrastructure alone make this something that will likely take much longer than five years before we see it widely used. I suspect more likely is that the first use of the service by Amazon will be as an optional shipping method that will cost a premium. Amazon Prime members currently get free 2-day shipping on qualifying orders, with discounted 1-day shipping as well. How much would people pay for 30-minute shipping if it were available? In some cases, it might be $100 or more. If Amazon were to charge $100 for drone shipping, and a drone could make on average 15 deliveries per day (seven days per week), each drone could potentially pay for itself within a month...or at $50 per delivery, two months. If on the other hand this is a “free for Amazon Prime” service, we'd likely be looking at a year or two just to cover the cost of the drone (and assuming no equipment failures).
Regardless of when or how drone shipments take place, there's no arguing with the fact that it's a really cool idea. It's the sort of thing we see and read about in sci-fi, and as is often the case it's more a question of “when” rather than “if”. Having just traveled over 2000 miles via car for Thanksgiving to be with family, it's in the same category as fully automated vehicles. I personally hope to live to see the day where I can hop in a car, tell it to “take me to my mom's house”, and then sit back and relax (or work) as the vehicle zips along at 100MPH, coordinating travel with satellite monitoring and nearby vehicles so as to avoid slow-downs, accidents, and other potential problems. I think it's inevitable that the day will come when computer-controlled vehicles take over for humans, and Amazon's drones are yet another herald of such advancements. I for one welcome our new electronic overlords. :-)
After selling a million PlayStation 4 units in just 24 hours after launching in the US, Sony has announced that it has sold 2.1 million PS4s worldwide as of December 1.
The bulk of those additional sales came from the system’s launch in the Europe and Australasia, which resulted in 700,000 sales in the two days after the November 29 launch. Some basic math leaves just 400,000 units sold in the US and Latin America following the million-selling November 15 US launch (Sony did not give any further regional or country-based sales breakdown).
You might look at that post-launch number and think that record-breaking launch day satisfied a sizable chunk of the initial US demand for the system, but Sony suggests that sales are limited by production capacity and not consumer desire.
The standard issue tool for the oceanographer at sea is the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth instrument (or CTD). These sensors are repeatedly lowered into the water to record vertical profiles of—you guessed it—temperature and electrical conductivity (to measure salinity). This work is expensive, requiring a properly outfitted ship and crew.
But what if you could get a decidedly low-tech piece of equipment to do most of the work for you? Researchers in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica (and elsewhere) have developed a sealCTD—a (small) CTD instrument strapped to a seal, which then gathers data that is otherwise quite hard to come by.
It might seem like the Argo array—an armada of automated floats that carry CTDs throughout the ocean—has already been set up to gather this data. But sea ice and the current that circles Antarctica keep the floats at a distance. Seals, on the other hand, make their living navigating the sea ice in the region.
Sitting in front of my computer in my office on the East Coast, I am controlling a robot in Palo Alto, California.
"Push down your up arrow key and follow me," says an employee of Suitable Technologies, the maker of these Beam telepresence robots. I do what I'm told.
The 100-pound Beam is outfitted with wheels, a wide-angle camera, and 17-inch video screen, and I can control it all from an application on my desktop. My keyboard's arrow keys let me drive forward and backward and make turns, while virtual lines superimposed on the ground help me avoid hitting people and objects. Soon enough, I am chatting with Suitable founder and CEO Scott Hassan, who greets me with a fist bump and then sits down on a comfortable-looking chair in the office lounge. Hassan previously founded Willow Garage, which develops hardware and open source software for robotics applications.