theodp writes "His old day job at Gawker entailed calling BS on tech's high-and-mighty, but Ryan Tate still found things to like about Silicon Valley. In The 20% Doctrine, Tate explores how tinkering, goofing off, and breaking the rules at work can drive success in business. If you're lucky, your boss may someday find Tate's book in his or her conference schwag bag and be inspired enough by the tales of skunkworks projects at both tech (Google, Flickr, pre-Scott Thompson Yahoo) and non-tech (Bronx Academy of Letters, Huffington Post, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group) organizations to officially condone some form of 20% time at your place of work. In the meantime, how do you manage to find time to goof off to get ahead?"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Hugh Pickens writes "Although a fully operation city with no people sounds like the setup for a dystopian sci-fi novel, the Boston Globe reports that the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation will develop a $1 billion scientific ghost town near Hobbs, New Mexico to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets on existing infrastructure without interfering in everyday life. Bob Brumley, senior managing director of Pegasus Holdings, says the town will be modeled after the real city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, complete with highways, houses and commercial buildings, old and new. Unlike traditional cities, City Labs will start with its underground 'backbone' infrastructure that will allow the lab to monitor activity throughout the 17-mile site. Since nobody lives in the Center's buildings, computerized systems will mimic human behavior such as turning thermostats up and down, switching lights off and on, or flushing toilets. The Center's test facilities and supporting infrastructure may require as much as 20 square miles of open, unimproved land where the controlled environment will permit evaluation of the positive and negative impacts of smart grid applications and integration of renewable energies for residential, commercial and industrial sectors of the economy. 'It's an amusement park for the scientists,' adds Brumley."
CWmike writes "CNET's Declan McCullagh reported last week on the FBI's argument that the massive shift of communications from the telephone system to the Internet 'has made it far more difficult for the agency to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities.' The law has already been expanded once, in 2004, to include broadband networks, but still excludes Web companies. The FBI says its surveillance efforts are in danger of 'going dark' if it is not allowed to monitor the way people communicate now. Not surprisingly, a range of opponents, from privacy advocates to legal experts, disagree — strongly. On key tech hitch with the plan, per ACLU attorney Mark Rumold and others: There is a difference between wiretapping phones and demanding a backdoor to Internet services. 'A backdoor doesn't just make it accessible to the FBI — it makes it vulnerable to others,' Rumold says."
skipkent writes with news that Britain is planning to use high-tech, non-lethal sonic weapons to provide security at the Olympics this summer. The Ministry of Defense says they intend to use the devices primarily as giant loudspeakers. But if they find themselves in need of a way to disperse crowds, the weapons can project sound up to 150 decibels, causing physical pain within a few hundred meters. "It has been successfully used aboard ships to repel Somali pirates." The maximum range for alarms and warnings is 3km. "Police and military planners say they are preparing for a range of security threats at the Olympics including protesters trying to disrupt events and attacks using hijacked airliners."
An anonymous reader tips an article at CNN about the development of technology that automates the process of writing news articles. It started with simple sports reporting, but now at least one company is setting its sights on more complicated articles. Quoting: "Narrative Science then began branching out into finance and other topics that are driven heavily by data. Soon, Hammond says, large companies came looking for help sorting huge amounts of data themselves. 'I think the place where this technology is absolutely essential is the area that's loosely referred to as big data,' Hammond said. 'So almost every company in the world has decided at one point that in order to do a really good job, they need to meter and monitor everything.' ... Meanwhile, Hammond says Narrative Science is looking to eventually expand into long form news stories. That's an idea that's unsettling to some journalism experts."
An anonymous reader writes "A legal paper (PDF), commissioned by Google and written by Eugene Volokh and Donald Falk, makes the case that search results should be protected under the First Amendment, thereby making regulation of search results illegal. The authors say a search engine 'uses sophisticated computerized algorithms, but those algorithms themselves inherently incorporate the search engine company engineers' judgments about what material users are likely to find responsive to these queries.' Cory Doctorow's reaction: 'I think that the editorial right to exercise judgment is much more widely understood than the sacred infallibility of robotic sorting. I certainly support it more. But I wonder if Google appreciates that it will now have to confront people who are angry about their search rankings by saying, "I'm sorry, we just don't like you very much" instead of "I'm sorry, our equations put you where you belong." And oy, the libel headaches they're going to face.'"
Alt-kun writes "This past week has seen a couple of interesting articles about Research In Motion's strategic plans for BlackBerry 10. The Globe and Mail thinks that by pushing HTML5 for app development, they want to make mobile applications platform-neutral, which would let them sell devices purely on the strength of the hardware and OS, rather than on the ecosystem. And the Guelph Mercury notes that they also plan to push BB10 as the basis for a whole range of mobile and embedded devices, not just phones and tablets. One example shown off at the recent developer conference was a Porsche with a BlackBerry entertainment system."
Fluffeh writes "A while back, Dutch Telcos started to sing the 'We are losing money due to internet services!' song and floated new plans that would make consumers pay extra for data used by apps that conflicted with their own services — apps like Skype, for example. The politicians stepped in, however, and wrote laws forbidding this. Now, the legislation has finally passed through the Senate and the Netherlands is an officially Net Neutral country, the second in the world — Chile did this a while back."
bonch writes "DVDs and Blu-Rays will begin displaying two unskippable anti-piracy screens, each 10 seconds long, shown back-to-back. Six studios have agreed to begin using the new notices. Of course, pirated versions won't contain these 20-second notices; however, an ICE spokesman says the intent isn't to deter piracy but to educate the public."
halfEvilTech writes "Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's own words have now become a victim of Iran's massive online censorship infrastructure. Khamenei, according to a translation by RFE, replied [to a question about the censorship laws themselves]: 'In general, the use of antifiltering software is subject to the laws and regulations of the Islamic republic, and it is not permissible to violate the law.' However, his own use of the word 'antifiltering' apparently triggered Iran's own filtering system, making Khamenei's words inaccessible to most Iranians." Which seems to be a universal problem with such filters: even for proponents, they tend to backfire.
judgecorp writes "On the day the so-called snooper's charter was included in proposed UK legislation, as part of the Queen's Speech, it has emerged that the government is already backtracking on the controversial idea of making ISPs install black boxes to collect traffic and pass it to the authorities. The bill is not yet in a draft form, and TechWeek has learned there is a lot of maneuvering behind the scenes."
TheGift73 writes with a Techdirt story about a House Oversight Committee report that is very critical of the TSA's handling of money. "The House Oversight Committee has come out with a report slamming the TSA for tremendous amounts of waste, specifically in the 'deployment and storage' of its scanning equipment. Basically, it sounds like the TSA likes to go on giant spending sprees, buying up security equipment and then never, ever using it." Earlier this month Rand Paul laid out his plan for dealing with the TSA.
concertina226 writes "Yahoo has announced that board member Patti Hart, who led the committee that hired CEO Scott Thompson, will be stepping down. Hart has been under fire for overseeing the hiring of Thompson, whose resume wasn't fully vetted. I know some of you on Slashdot think that Scott Thompson didn't do anything wrong by claiming he had a computer science degree on his CV when he doesn't, but don't you think it's kind of weird that the guy who lied gets to keep his job as CEO, yet this director is being made a scapegoat? It just sends out the message that it's cool to pretend to have qualifications that you don't have."
colinneagle sends this quote from an article about the ever-growing patent racket in the tech industry: "The lawsuits are raging all across the tech world. Oracle sues Google, Yahoo sues Facebook, they counter-sue. Others threaten, others buy more patents and the circle goes round and round. Don't be fooled by the lawsuits between these tech titans though. The real cost that the patent mafia extracts from the tech world is on the smaller companies who can't afford to battle the Apples and Microsofts of the world. Their choices are far simpler. They can abandon their innovations or they can choose to pay and allow the Mafiosos to wet their beaks. Also, don't be fooled about who the real losers are here. The the real losers are you and me. ... So what do do? Here is my opinion. I would make it just as expensive for the offensive patent prosecutors. Just as the government put in the RICO act to combat organized crime, I would put a similar law in place on patents. RICO calls for treble damages. I would have treble awards of costs and legal fees. If a patent holder sues another entity for patent violation and that suit fails, the plaintiff who brought the suit should pay treble damages to the defendant. Three times what the defendant paid to defend."