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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Privacy

Judge Allows L.A. Cops To Keep License Plate Reader Data Secret 14

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department is not required to hand over a week's worth of license plate reader data to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He cited the potential of compromising criminal investigations and giving (un-charged) criminals the ability to determine whether or not they were being targeted by law enforcement (PDF). The ACLU and the EFF sought the data under the California Public Records Act, but the judge invoked Section 6254(f), "which protects investigatory files." ACLU attorney Peter Bibring notes, "New surveillance techniques may function better if people don't know about them, but that kind of secrecy is inconsistent with democratic policing."
Government

US Government Fights To Not Explain No-Fly List Selection Process 236

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: On August 6, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga ordered the federal government to "explain why the government places U.S. citizens who haven't been convicted of any violent crimes on its no-fly database." Unsurprisingly, the federal government objected to the order, once more claiming that to divulge their no-fly list criteria would expose state secrets and thus pose a national security threat. When the judge said he would read the material privately, the government insisted that reading the material "would not assist the Court in deciding the pending Motion to Dismiss (PDF) because it is not an appropriate means to test the scope of the assertion of the State Secrets privilege." The federal government has until September 7 to comply with the judge's order unless the judge is swayed by the government's objection.
Microsoft

Microsoft Releases Replacement Patch With Two Known Bugs 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the second-time-is-usually-a-charm dept.
snydeq writes Microsoft has re-released its botched MS14-045/KB 2982791 'Blue Screen 0x50' patch, only to introduce more problems, InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard reports. "Even by Microsoft standards, this month's botched Black Tuesday Windows 7/8/8.1 MS14-045 patch hit a new low. The original patch (KB 2982791) is now officially 'expired' and a completely different patch (KB 2993651) offered in its stead; there are barely documented revelations of new problems with old patches; patches that have disappeared; a 'strong' recommendation to manually uninstall a patch that went out via Automatic Update for several days; and an infuriating official explanation that raises serious doubts about Microsoft's ability to support Windows 9's expected rapid update pace."
Transportation

How the World's Fastest Electric Car Is Pushing Wireless Charging Tech 47

Posted by timothy
from the amping-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes With the first ever season of Formula E revving up in China next month, it's clear there's more to electric cars than Tesla. But the race cars hitting the track in Beijing don't have anything on the speed of Drayson Racing Technology's Lola B12 69/EV, which holds the record for the world's fastest lightweight electric car, and which uses the kind of power technologies that could one day have applications off the track too—like charging your phone wirelessly.
United States

The Executive Order That Led To Mass Spying, As Told By NSA Alumni 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-see-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this Ars piece about the executive order that is the legal basis for the U.S. government's mass spying on citizens. One thing sits at the heart of what many consider a surveillance state within the US today. The problem does not begin with political systems that discourage transparency or technologies that can intercept everyday communications without notice. Like everything else in Washington, there's a legal basis for what many believe is extreme government overreach—in this case, it's Executive Order 12333, issued in 1981. “12333 is used to target foreigners abroad, and collection happens outside the US," whistleblower John Tye, a former State Department official, told Ars recently. "My complaint is not that they’re using it to target Americans, my complaint is that the volume of incidental collection on US persons is unconstitutional.” The document, known in government circles as "twelve triple three," gives incredible leeway to intelligence agencies sweeping up vast quantities of Americans' data. That data ranges from e-mail content to Facebook messages, from Skype chats to practically anything that passes over the Internet on an incidental basis. In other words, EO 12333 protects the tangential collection of Americans' data even when Americans aren't specifically targeted—otherwise it would be forbidden under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.
Cellphones

Judge Lucy Koh Rejects Apple's Quest For Anti-Samsung Injunction 30

Posted by timothy
from the sound-reasoning dept.
The Associated Press, in a story carried by The Financial Express, reports that Federal Judge Lucy Koh has has rejected Apple's attempt to block the sale of several older Samsung smartphones that copied features in the iPhone. Wednesday's rebuff comes nearly four months after a jury awarded Apple Inc. $119 million in damages for Samsung's infringements on technology used in the trend-setting iPhone. The amount was well below the $2.2 billion in damages that Apple had been seeking in the latest round of legal wrangling between the world's two leading smartphone makers since the tussle began four years ago. The Register also carries the story, and notes Perhaps because the ongoing battle was turning the two companies into law firms rather than tech titans, the two agreed to abandon all patent lawsuits outside the USA earlier this month. However, Apple still wanted the infringing features extirpated from American stores, and was seeking to have phones nobody bought banned as ammo for future battles.
The Military

No, a Stolen iPod Didn't Brick Ben Eberle's Prosthetic Hand 121

Posted by timothy
from the too-bad-to-be-true dept.
New submitter willoremus writes A wounded Army vet had his $75k prosthetic hand bricked when someone stole his iPod Touch? Yeah, not so much. I'm a tech reporter for Slate.com, and a Slashdot post earlier this week prompted me to look into this story and ultimately debunk some of the key info. Sorry for self-posting, but I thought folks here might be interested in the truth since the false story was one of the top posts earlier this week.
Windows

Microsoft Dumps 1,500 Apps From Its Windows Store 125

Posted by timothy
from the bad-actors dept.
redletterdave writes: Microsoft announced on its Windows blog Wednesday that it's removed more than 1,500 apps from its Windows Store in a bid to clean up the store and restore trust with Windows 8 and Windows Phone users. Microsoft's new certification process, in particular, asks for clear and accurate names that "reflect the functionality of the app," more accurate categories, and differentiated icons to ensure apps aren't confused with one another. Microsoft reached out to developers with apps that violated its policies; some agreed to make changes to their software, while those who were "less receptive" saw their apps removed from the Windows Store. That might be just the beginning.
Google

Google Wins $1.3 Million From Patent Troll 35

Posted by timothy
from the may-the-bridge-collapse-upon-you-and-your-family dept.
An anonymous reader writes Earlier this year, Google sued Beneficial Innovations for breach of contract, ostensibly in defense of its Doubleclick ad technology clients against whom Beneficial Innovations had filed suits despite Google having already paid licensing fees for the technology. Following Google's jury trial win, the company was originally awarded only 'nominal damages of $1 and a judicial order stopping Beneficial from going after more Doubleclick customers.' Now, however, the presiding judge has ruled that Google is entitled to some attorneys' fees in the amount of $1.3 million (PDF).
The Internet

Net Neutrality Is 'Marxist,' According To a Koch-Backed Astroturf Group 523

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the toll-road-ahead dept.
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes American Commitment, a conservative group with strong ties to the Koch brothers has been bombarding inboxes with emails filled with disinformation and fearmongering in an attempt to start a "grassroots" campaign to kill net neutrality — at one point suggesting that "Marxists" think that preserving net neutrality is a good idea. American Commitment president Phil Kerpen suggests that reclassifying the internet as a public utility is the "first step in the fight to destroy American capitalism altogether" and says that the FCC is plotting a "federal Internet takeover," a move that "sounds more like a story coming out of China or Russia."
Data Storage

Dropbox Caught Between Warring Giants Amazon and Google 273

Posted by Soulskill
from the rsync-is-still-pretty-cheap dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Google and Amazon are both aggressively pursuing the cloud storage market, constantly increasing available storage space and constantly dropping prices. On its face, this looks great for the consumer — competition is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, many smaller companies like Box, Dropbox, and Hightail simply aren't able to run their services at a loss like the giants can. Dropbox's Aaron Levie said, "These guys will drive prices to zero. You do not want to wait for Google or Amazon to keep cutting prices on you. 'Free' is not a business model."

The result is that the smaller companies are pivoting to win market share, relying on specific submarkets or stronger feature sets rather than available space or price. "Box is trying to cater to special data storage needs, like digital versions of X-rays for health care companies and other tasks specific to different kinds of customers. Hightail is trying to do something similar for customers like law firms. And Dropbox? It is trying to make sure that its consumer-minded service stays easier to use than what the big guys provide." It's going to be tough for them to hold out, and even tougher for new storage startups to break in. But that might be the only thing keeping us from choosing between the Wal-Mart-A and Wal-Mart-B of online storage.
Crime

Ross Ulbricht Faces New Drug Charges 102

Posted by timothy
from the there's-laws-and-there's-laws dept.
Alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht now faces additional drug-related charges. Ars Technica gives a run-down on the run-down, and shows an array of driver's licenses that can't look good to a jury: According to a 17-page amended indictment filed late Thursday night, the government introduced one count of “narcotics trafficking,” of “distribution of narcotics by means of the Internet,” and of "conspiracy to traffic in fraudulent identification documents." Previously, Ulbricht was indicted in February 2014 on four formal criminal offenses: narcotics trafficking conspiracy, continuing criminal enterprise, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. Ulbricht pleaded not guilty to the previous charges, and he seems likely to plead not guilty to the new ones as well.
Education

ACM Blames the PC For Driving Women Away From Computer Science 329

Posted by timothy
from the how-you-slice-and-dice-the-factors dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Over at the Communications of the ACM, a new article — Computing's Narrow Focus May Hinder Women's Participation — suggests that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs should shoulder some of the blame for the dearth of women at Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and other tech companies. From the article: "Valerie Barr, chair of ACM's Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W), believes the retreat [of women from CS programs] was caused partly by the growth of personal computers. 'The students who graduated in 1984 were the last group to start college before there was personal computing. So if you were interested in bioinformatics, or computational economics, or quantitative anthropology, you really needed to be part of the computer science world. After personal computers, that wasn't true any more.'" So, does TIME's 1982 Machine of the Year deserve the bad rap? By the way, the ACM's Annual Report discusses its participation in an alliance which has helped convince Congress that there ought to be a federal law making CS a "core subject" for girls and boys: "Under the guidance of the Education Policy Committee, ACM continued its efforts to reshape the U.S. education system to see real computer science exist and count as a core graduation credit in U.S. high schools. Working with the CSTA, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, NSF, Microsoft, and Google, ACM helped launch a new public/private partnership under the leadership of Code.org to strengthen high school level computing courses, improve teacher training, engage states in bringing computer science into their core curriculum guidelines, and encourage more explicit federal recognition of computer science as a key discipline in STEM discussions.""
Space

Spot ET's Waste Heat For Chance To Find Alien Life 80

Posted by timothy
from the especially-if-they've-got-grow-lights dept.
mdsolar passes along this selection from New Scientist describing a (comparatively) low-tech means of scanning the skies for extraterrestrial civilizations: The best-known technique used to search for tech-savvy aliens is eavesdropping on their communications with each other. But this approach assumes ET is chatty in channels we can hear. The new approach, dubbed G-HAT for Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies, makes no assumptions about what alien civilisations may be like.

"This approach is very different," says Franck Marchis at the SETI Institute in California, who was not involved in the project. "I like it because it doesn't put any constraints on the origin of the civilisation or their willingness to communicate." Instead, it utilises the laws of thermodynamics. All machines and living things give off heat, and that heat is visible as infrared radiation. The G-HAT team combed through the catalogue of images generated by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, which released an infrared map of the entire sky in 2012. A galaxy should emit about 10 per cent of its light in the mid-infrared range, says team leader Jason Wright at Pennsylvania State University. If it gives off much more, it could be being warmed by vast networks of alien technology – though it could also be a sign of more prosaic processes, such as rapid star formation or an actively feeding black hole at the galaxy's centre.
PlayStation (Games)

The Tech Fixes the PS3 Still Needs, Eight Years On 99

Posted by timothy
from the needs-a-cupholder-for-metamucil dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The PlayStation 4 has well and truly arrived, but Sony's still selling its last-gen console by the pallet-load, eight years after first going on sale. Of course, as a new article points out, that's nothing compared to the PS2's astonishing 13 year manufacturing run. To help achieve that, the author outlines some tech fixes the PS3 could still do with, even after all this time, from tighter PS Vita integration, to yes, cross game chat. Can it make it past a decade, too?"

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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