How a Legacy From the 1800s Is Making Tokyo Dark Today


A strange legacy of the Japanese power system’s infancy in the late 1800s is complicating efforts to keep Tokyo supplied with electricity.

The problem, as explained by IDG News Service’s Martyn Williams, is that half of the country uses power whose current alternates at 60 Hz, while the other half gets its power at 50 Hz.

The discrepancy has to do with the founding of electric power in the country. Tokyo Electric Light Co. used German generators, which operated at 50 Hz, while in the west part of Japan, Osaka Electric Lamp Co. used generators from General Electric, an American company, operating at the same 60 Hz standard that is used in the United States to this day.

Unlike the U.S. grid, the Japanese power grid was never unified on a single standard. While it’s possible to connect the two grids, the frequency-changing stations required can only handle up to 1 gigawatt.

When the quake hit, it shut down 11 reactors including three that were in operation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that is now at the center of Japan’s nuclear problems. With the 11 reactors offline, 9.7 GW was gone from eastern Japan’s electricity production capacity.

And that’s the root of Tokyo’s current electricity problems: Utility companies in west Japan are unable to make up for all of the lost power.

Residents of Japan have faced a crisis of unimaginable proportions, with earthquakes followed by a tsunami followed by a nuclear disaster. The rolling blackouts in Tokyo are, in comparison, a relatively minor problem.

Still, it’s interesting to see how historical decisions from more than a century ago can have unexpected consequences today — all because of a frequency mismatch. Chalk it up to path dependency.

A legacy from the 1800s leaves Tokyo facing blackouts [IT World]

 

How a Legacy From the 1800s Is Making Tokyo Dark Today | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.

How a Legacy From the 1800s Is Making Tokyo Dark Today

Silicon Art Hidden Inside Samsung’s Galaxy Tab

Silicon chips have billions of transistors in every square inch. But sometimes there’s enough room left over for chip engineers to insert a little joke.

While using a scanning electron microscope to examine the microcircuitry of a chip found in Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Galaxy S phone, consulting company Chipworks discovered a surprise.

Underneath six layers of aluminum and silicon dioxide circuitry, almost at the level of the polysilicon wafer that underlies the entire chip, engineers concealed a tiny, tiny message.

Below the letters IFX (the stock symbol for Infineon, the company that makes the chip) is a tiny warning, made out of letters just two microns (2 µm) high:

IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE MUCH TOO CLOSE

“You would never find this message unless you were seriously looking for it,” says Chipworks marketing manager Rob Williamson.

The chip, the Infineon PMB5703, provides radio-frequency transmission and reception functions relating to the devices’ baseband and 3G features.

Chipworks has put many chips under the scanning electron microscope and has discovered dozens of hidden images and messages like this one. Constructed of the same materials as the chip’s circuitry — silicon dioxide, aluminum, copper and the like — the artwork can include cartoons, icons, or merely the initials of the chips’ designers.

In many cases, this artwork is not only tiny, it’s completely invisible unless you are disassembling the chip. Before it found this message, for instance, Chipworks had to delaminate the chip, layer by layer, putting each layer under the microscope. The purpose of that project was to understand the chip’s architecture, not to find hidden messages, but sometimes these Easter eggs pop out.

The makers of the Infineon PMB5703 must have had some extra time on their hands, because Chipworks found no less than four other images on the chip, including a smiley face, a drummer, a baby duck  called Calimero and a smiling dragon named Grisu.

Hidden warning message found in Samsung’s Galaxy tablet

 

Originally published as: Silicon Art Hidden Inside Samsung’s Galaxy Tab | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.

Silicon Art Hidden Inside Samsung’s Galaxy Tab

Sony Touts Console-Like Power of Upcoming NGP

SAN FRANCISCO — Sony is blurring the line between portable game consoles and larger consoles currently trapped inside TV cabinets.

With a high-resolution screen, a powerful processor and graphics card, and massive amounts of memory, the upcoming Sony NGP will be closer to the capabilities of a PC or PS3 than it is to Sony’s current portable, the PSP, according to a Sony executive speaking at the Game Developers Conference Wednesday.

The NGP’s 5-inch screen is substantially bigger than the PSP’s 4.3-inch screen, and has 4 times the resolution, or 960×544 pixels. That’s about midway between the PSP and the PS3, according to David Coombes, a platform designer for Sony Computer Entertainment America.

“People get choked up, they get tears in their eyes when they see that screen,” said Coombes.

Inside, there’s a 4-core, 32-bit ARM9 processor.

There’s also a PowerVR SGX543MP4+ GPU inside, which should deliver impressive video rendering. This is also a multi-core chip with the ability to dynamically load balance between its cores.

The NGP also includes some dedicated chips for media playback.

“It’s very similar to a modern PC” in terms of its processing power, said Coombes. And while Coombes wouldn’t state specifics about memory, he said it’s closer to the PS3 than to the PSP in terms of available RAM.

Games can be loaded via game cards with a capacity of either 2GB or 4GB, giving developers lots of room to create huge, complicated software and datasets.

A big NGP game will take about 4GB, compared to around 9GB for a PS3 game. By contrast, Coombes said, a typical iPhone game occupies only 10MB. The point is that an NGP game can include a lot more data, making it potentially far more complicated, with richer graphics, more detailed and larger worlds, and so forth.

For big games, developers will be able to reuse a lot of assets from existing Xbox or PS3 games, Coombes said, although naturally models, shaders and textures will have to be simplified for the NGP.

A demo of Uncharted for the NGP showed a rich, complicated environment and a variety of ways to control the little man on the screen, from using the analog controls and buttons to swiping on-screen to make him climb from handhold to handhold or to throw enemies into the abysses below. (See below for video.)

Other features included in the NGP include a second analog stick, plus a 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis gyroscope, for 6 axes of motion sensitivity.

There’s a touchscreen on the front and also on the back, which you can manipulate with the fingers you’re using to hold the NGP. Both touchscreens support multitouch, and can register how hard you are pressing them as well. A quick demo with a developer from BigBig studios showed the rear touchscreen being used to deform a cartoon landscape to roll a ball around, while touching the front touchscreen changed the camera angle and position.

Like nearly every other portable device hitting the market this year, the NGP has a camera on the front and one on the back. The cameras are meant for game play, said Coombes.

“We need high frame rate, so we can get sharper images” for fast-moving game play. So the cameras are optimized for high-speed, low-light video, not for taking pictures.

Wi-Fi-only and 3G/Wi-Fi models will be available, although the final configurations are not yet settled. The 3G models will also include GPS support, although the Wi-Fi models can also do positioning via Skyhook Wireless, which uses data about Wi-Fi hotspot locations to get relatively accurate location information.

Originally published on Wired: Sony Touts Console-Like Power of Upcoming NGP | GameLife | Wired.com.

Sony Touts Console-Like Power of Upcoming NGP