Display this news only Students Are Better Off Without a Laptop In the Classroom
07/11/17English
Slashdot Cindi May writes via Scientific American about new research that "suggests that laptops do not enhance classroom learning, and in fact students would be better off leaving their laptops in the dorm during class." From the report: Although computer use during class may create the illusion of enhanced engagement with course content, it more often reflects engagement with social media, YouTube videos, instant messaging, and other nonacademic content. This self-inflicted distraction comes at a cost, as students are spending up to one-third of valuable (and costly) class time zoned out, and the longer they are online the more their grades tend to suffer. To understand how students are using computers during class and the impact it has on learning, Susan Ravizza and colleagues took the unique approach of asking students to voluntarily login to a proxy server at the start of each class, with the understanding that their internet use (including the sites they visited) would be tracked. Participants were required to login for at least half of the 15 class periods, though they were not required to use the internet in any way once they logged in to the server. Researchers were able to track the internet use and academic performance of 84 students across the semester.

participants spent almost 40 minutes out of every 100-minute class period using the internet for nonacademic purposes, including social media, checking email, shopping, reading the news, chatting, watching videos, and playing games. This nonacademic use was negatively associated with final exam scores, such that students with higher use tended to score lower on the exam. Social media sites were the most-frequently visited sites during class, and importantly these sites, along with online video sites, proved to be the most disruptive with respect to academic outcomes. In contrast with their heavy nonacademic internet use, students spent less than 5 minutes on average using the internet for class-related purposes (e.g., accessing the syllabus, reviewing course-related slides or supplemental materials, searching for content related to the lecture). Given the relatively small amount of time students spent on academic internet use, it is not surprising that academic internet use was unrelated to course performance. Thus students who brought their laptops to class to view online course-related materials did not actually spend much time doing so, and furthermore showed no benefit of having access to those materials in class.


Display this news only Only 100 Companies Are Responsible For 71 Percent of Global Emissions, Says Study
07/10/17English
Slashdot An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report. The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) "pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions," says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute. The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 -- the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established -- can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.

Display this news only World's Cheapest Energy Source Will Be Renewables Within Three Years
07/10/17English
Slashdot Morgan Stanley researchers predict renewable energy will become the world's cheapest form of power within three years. An anonymous reader quotes Qz: Renewable energy is simply becoming the cheapest option, fast... "We project that by 2020, renewables will be the cheapest form of new-power generation across the globe," with the exception of a few countries in Southeast Asia, the Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report published Thursday... Globally, the price of solar panels has fallen 50% between 2016 and 2017, they write. And in countries with favorable wind conditions, the costs associated with wind power "can be as low as one-half to one-third that of coal- or natural gas-fired power plants." Innovations in wind-turbine design are allowing for ever-longer wind blades; that boost in efficiency will also increase power output from the wind sector, according to Morgan Stanley.
The researchers also predict America will reach its Paris Climate Accord targets in 2020 -- five years early -- simply because renewables are already becoming the cheapest option for power.

Display this news only Raspberry Pi's Smaller, Cheaper Rival: NanoPi Neo Plus2 Weighs in at $25
07/05/17English
Slashdot FriendlyARM, the maker of compact NanoPi developer boards, has released the NanoPi Neo Plus2 for $25. From a report: This board is an update to the recently released NanoPi Neo 2, a $15 cookie-sized developer board measuring 40mm x 40mm (1.6in) with a 64-bit Allwinner H5 processor, 512MB RAM, and one USB port. The NanoPi Neo Plus2 is slightly larger at 52mm x 40mm (2in x 1.6in) and has two USB ports. It has the same H5 quad-core A53 ARM Cortex processor, but comes with 1GB RAM and 8GB eMMC storage. The NeoPlus2's storage in addition to Gigabit Ethernet puts it ahead of the Raspberry Pi 3 on paper, and at $25 undercuts the better-known board by $10.

Display this news only Raspberry Pi Wins UK's Top Engineering Award
06/30/17English
Slashdot An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: The team behind the device was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert Prize at a ceremony in London last night. The tiny computer launched in 2012. Its designers hoped to introduce children to coding and had modest ambitions. They beat two other finalists, cyber-security company Darktrace and radiotherapy pioneers Vision RT, to win the prize. Previous winners of the innovation award, which has been run since 1969, include the creators of the CT (computerised tomography) scanner; the designers of the Severn Bridge; and the team at Microsoft in Cambridge that developed the Kinect motion sensor.

Display this news only Devuan Jessie 1.0 Officially Released
05/25/17English
Slashdot prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Announced for the first time back in November 2014, Devuan is a Debian fork that doesn't use systemd as init system. It took more than two and a half years for it to reach 1.0 milestone, but the wait is now over and Devuan 1.0.0 stable release is here. Based on the packages and software repositories of the Debian GNU/Linux 8 "Jessie" operating system, Devuan 1.0.0 "Jessie" is now considered the first stable version of the GNU/Linux distribution, which stays true to its vision of developing a free Debian OS without systemd. This release is recommended for production use. As Devuan 1.0.0 doesn't ship with systemd, several adjustments needed to be made. For example, the distro uses a systemd-free version of the NetworkManager network connection manager and includes several extra libsystemd0-free packages in its repository.

Display this news only Switzerland Votes To Abandon Nuclear Power In Favor of Renewables
05/22/17English
Slashdot Slashdot reader bsolar writes: Swiss voters approved a new energy strategy proposed by the government. Under this new policy no new nuclear power plant will be built and the five existing nuclear power plants will continue operating and will be shut down at the end of their operating life (expected to last about 20-30 years). The plan is to offset the missing nuclear energy production by renewables and lower energy consumption.
Though one-third of the country's power comes from nuclear energy, the BBC reports that more than 58% of the voters "backed the move towards greener power sources." One Swiss news site notes that "regions where the country's five nuclear reactors are situated rejected the reform with clear majorities."

Display this news only MP3 Is Not Dead, It's Finally Free
05/16/17English
Slashdot The commentary around IIS Fraunhofer and Technicolor terminating their MP3 licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software has been amusing. While some are interpreting this development as the demise of the MP3 format, others are cheering about MP3s finally being free. Developer and commentator Marco Arment tries to prevail sense: MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year -- the last known MP3 patents have simply expired. So while there's a debate to be had -- in a moment -- about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer's announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format. MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it's good enough for almost anything, and now, over twenty years since it took the world by storm, it's finally free.

Display this news only Germany Sets New National Record With 85 Percent of Its Electricity Sourced From Renewables
05/11/17English
Slashdot Germany was able to set a new national record for the last weekend of April with 85 percent of all electricity consumed in the country being produced from renewables -- wind, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric power. Digital Trends reports: Aided by a seasonal combination of windy but sunny weather, during that weekend the majority of Germany's coal-fired power stations weren't even operating, while nuclear power stations (which the country plans to phase out by the year 2022) were massively reduced in output. To be clear, this is impressive even by Germany's progressive standards. By comparison, in March just over 40 percent of all electricity consumed in the country came from renewable sources. However, while the end-of-April weekend was an aberration, the hope is that it won't be for too much longer. According to Patrick Graichen of the country's sustainability-focused Agora Energiewende Initiative, German renewable energy percentages in the mid-80s should be "completely normal" by the year 2030.

Display this news only Researchers Create Touchpads With a Can of Spray Paint
05/08/17English
Slashdot Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have figured out a way to turn any surface into a touchpad using none other than spray paint. "Walls, furniture, steering wheels, toys and even Jell-O can be turned into touch sensors with the technology, dubbed Electrick," reports Phys.Org. From the report: The "trick" is to apply electrically conductive coatings or materials to objects or surfaces, or to craft objects using conductive materials. By attaching a series of electrodes to the conductive materials, researchers showed they could use a well-known technique called electric field tomography to sense the position of a finger touch. With Electrick, conductive touch surfaces can be created by applying conductive paints, bulk plastics or carbon-loaded films, such as Desco's Velostat, among other materials. Like many touchscreens, Electrick relies on the shunting effect -- when a finger touches the touchpad, it shunts a bit of electric current to ground. By attaching multiple electrodes to the periphery of an object or conductive coating, Zhang and his colleagues showed they could localize where and when such shunting occurs. They did this by using electric field tomography -- sequentially running small amounts of current through the electrodes in pairs and noting any voltage differences. The tradeoff, in comparison to other touch input devices, is accuracy. Even so, Electrick can detect the location of a finger touch to an accuracy of one centimeter, which is sufficient for using the touch surface as a button, slider or other control, Zhang said. You can watch a video about how it works here.


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