An anonymous reader writes "Today, tens of thousands of license plate readers (LPRs) are being used by law enforcement agencies all over the country—practically every week, local media around the country report on some LPR expansion. But the system's unchecked and largely unmonitored use raises significant privacy concerns. License plates, dates, times, and locations of all cars seen are kept in law enforcement databases for months or even years at a time. In the worst case, the New York State Police keeps all of its LPR data indefinitely. No universal standard governs how long data can or should be retained."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
jrepin writes "Awareness has been spreading among individuals, businesses and other organizations that DRM is a completely unnecessary restriction of freedom, and it drives people away. As that awareness spreads, going 'DRM-Free' becomes more and more valuable for patrons. To really build upon that image and to provide a resource for people to learn about why being DRM-Free matters, a logo was created for suppliers to proudly advertise that their files all come unencumbered by restrictive technologies. Some among early adopters are O'Reilly Media, ClearBits, Momentum Books, and ccMixter."
paulmac84 writes "According to the BBC, the UK have issued a threat to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy to arrest Julian Assange. Under the terms of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 the UK has the right to revoke the diplomatic immunity of any embassy on UK soil. Ecuador are due to announce their decision on Assange's asylum request on Thursday morning."
Quince alPillan writes "The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman is once again collecting money for a good cause. This time, he's collecting money for the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe to purchase the original location of the Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham, New York so that it can be rebuilt into a Tesla Museum. The fundraiser, titled Let's Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum has already started."
jjslash writes "Microsoft's PR machine has been hard at work over the past few months, trying to explain the numerous improvements Windows 8 has received on the backend. But are there real tangible performance differences compared to Windows 7? TechSpot has grabbed the RTM version of Windows 8, measuring and testing the performance of various aspects of the operating system including: boot up and shutdown times, file copying, encoding, browsing, gaming and some synthetic benchmarks." Lots of other sites are running reviews including: Infoworld, CNET, Computerworld, and Gizmodo, with very mixed opinions.
Windows 8 is drawing near, and with it comes tighter integration with Microsoft's cloud storage service SkyDrive. Because of its increased visibility, Microsoft is revamping SkyDrive to a more modern design, and is updating the SkyDrive apps for desktop PCs and Android devices. "SkyDrive’s revamped home page embraces the same tile-based design aesthetic as Microsoft’s other new and upcoming products, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Microsoft previously referred to that aesthetic as 'Metro,' but plans on giving it a new name at an unannounced future point. ... SkyDrive users can flick for a more detailed view of files, including dates modified, sharing status, and size. In terms of features, there’s the ability to search within SkyDrive for pretty much any term, including content within Word and other Office documents. Microsoft has also shifted common commands (creating and sharing folders, for example) to the toolbar that runs along the top of the SkyDrive interface.
coondoggie writes "Let's say that for whatever reason, you'd rather your telephone number not be published. If you are a Verizon customer, that privacy privilege will cost you $5 a month. And how does Verizon justify such a significant fee for such an insignificant service? 'The cost charged to offer unlisted phone numbers is chiefly systems and IT based,' a media relations spokesman for the company tells Network World. (Asking the same question of online customer service elicited a predictably unenlightening response.) Sixty dollars a year to keep an unpublished number unpublished? Does that seem plausible?"
gbrumfiel writes "Before there were lasers, there were masers: systems that amplified microwaves instead of light. Solid state masers are used in a variety of applications, including deep space communication, but they've never been as popular as lasers, in part because they have to be cooled to near absolute zero in order to work. Now a team of British physicists have built a room-temperature maser using some spare chemicals and a laser they bought off of eBay. The new device is 100 million times as powerful as existing masers and might revolutionize telecommunications."
New submitter Blindman writes "The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that it is okay for police to track your cellphone signal without a warrant. Using information about the cell tower that a prepaid cell phone was connected to, the police were able to track a suspected drug smuggler. Apparently, keeping your cellphone on is authorization for the police to know where you are. According to the ruling (PDF), '[The defendant] did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data emanating from his cell phone that showed its location.' Also, 'if a tool used to transport contraband gives off a signal that can be tracked for location, certainly the police can track the signal.'"
tmjva writes "Per BBC's Entertainment page, author Harry Harrison died today at the age of 87. His body of work included Make Room! Make Room!, (the inspiration for Soylent Green), The Stainless Steel Rat, and Bill the Galactic Hero. From the article: 'Harrison's first novel, Deathworld, was published in 1960, while the first book in the Stainless Steel Rat series was published a year later. The last of the series was published just two years ago in 2010 and the books are widely regarded as producing one of science fiction's great anti-heroes, Slippery Jim diGriz, aka The Stainless Steel Rat. The author also parodied the sci-fi genre in his seven Bill the Galactic Hero books, which were first seen in 1965. He saw his work as anti-war and anti-militaristic.'"
Trailrunner7 writes "A team of researchers has discovered a weakness in the command-and-control infrastructure of one of the major DDoS toolkits, Dirt Jumper, that enables them to stop attacks that are in progress. The discovery gives the researchers the ability to access the back-end servers that control the attack tool, as well as the configuration server, and key insights into the way that the tool works and how attackers are using it. Dirt Jumper is not among the more well-known of the DDoS attack toolkits, but it's been in use for some time now and has a number of separate iterations. The bot evolved from the older RussKill bot over time, and various versions of the tool's binary code and back end configuration files have been made public. Researchers have watched as the bot has been used in attacks around the world against a variety of targets, and now they've been able to find a crack in the malware's control infrastructure."
An anonymous reader writes "Boeing's experimental hypersonic X-51 WaveRider aircraft crashed today during an attempt to hit Mach 6 while traveling over the Pacific Ocean. The cause of the crash was a faulty control fin, which compromised the test before the Scramjet engine could be lit. A vehicle traveling at Mach 6 (six times the speed of sound) would be able to travel from New York to London in just one hour."
Qedward writes "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has objected to a variety of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) ranging from .porn and .sexy to .wine and .bar and .bible, according to records of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The organisation said in June it had received 1930 applications for gTLD 'strings,' of which 911 came from North America and 675 from Europe. Saudi Arabia's Communication and Information Technology Commission, the IT and communications regulator, has objected to the .gay string and asked ICANN to refuse the application for the new gTLD. 'Many societies and cultures consider homosexuality to be contrary to their culture, morality or religion,' CITC said. 'The creation of a gTLD string which promotes homosexuality will be offensive to these societies and cultures,' it added."
cylonlover writes "Scientists may have hit upon a new means of predicting solar flares more than a day in advance, which hinges on a hypothesis dating back to 2006 that solar activity affects the rate of decay of radioactive materials on Earth. Study of the phenomenon could lead to a new system which monitors changes in gamma radiation emitted from radioactive materials, and if the underlying hypothesis proves correct (abstract), this could lead to solar flare advance warning systems that would assist in the protection of satellites, power systems and astronauts."
MrSeb writes "Utilizing neuroscience, gene therapy, and optogenetics, a pair of researchers from Cornell University have created a bionic prosthetic eye that can restore almost-normal vision to animals blinded by destroyed retinas. Prosthetic eyes have been created before, but for the most part these have been dumb prosthetics — chips that wire themselves into the ganglion cells behind the retina, which are the interface between the retina and optic nerve. These chips receive optical stimuli (via a CMOS sensor, for example), which they transmit as electrical signals to the ganglion cells. These prosthetic eyes can produce a low-resolution grayscale field that the brain can then interpret — which is probably better than being completely blind — but they don't actually restore sight. The Cornell prosthetic eye however, developed by Sheila Nirenberg and Chethan Pandarinath, is a much closer analog to a real eye, almost completely restoring sight in mice — and within 1 or 2 years, humans (PDF)."