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Privacy

Should Cops Wear Google Glass? 223

Nerval's Lobster writes "Over at The Kernel, staff writer Greg Stevens wonders whether police departments around the world should outfit their officers with Google Glass. There's some logic behind the idea. A cop with wearable electronics constantly streaming audio and video back to a supervisor (or even a Website) would be less likely, at least in theory, to take liberties with civilians' civil liberties. But not everybody thinks it's such a good idea. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, wrote in a recent blog posting that society needs to make choices 'about the extent to which we want to allow the government to store up that data so that it has the power to hit 'rewind' on everybody's lives.' In the view of that organization, 'that's just too much power.' That being said, law enforcement wearing electronics that streams constant video and audio data would still be subject to the law. 'If the officer is recording a communication he has in public with someone, there's probably no wiretap problem since there's at least the consent of one party and no expectation of privacy,' Hanni M. Fakhoury, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in an email to Slashdot. 'But if he's recording peripheral communications between two separate individuals, than there's potential wiretap liability depending on the circumstances.' What do you think? Are cops wearing Google Glass (or similar wearable electronic) a good idea?"
Sci-Fi

Should the Next 'Doctor Who' Be a Woman? 772

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jennifer Finney Boylan writes in the NYT that for those who did not get beaten up in high school, 'Doctor Who' is a beloved British sci-fi series about a character called the Doctor who is able to regenerate into a new body whenever a mortal would die or whenever an actor grows tired of the gig. The Doctor has been played by 11 different men since the show went on the air in 1963 and with Matt Smith, stepping down this Christmas, many fans had hoped that this time, a dozen cycles in, the Doctorship would finally go to a woman. 'Maybe it was the election of Barack Obama that made it seem, fleetingly, as if there were no more glass ceilings, for offices from president to pontiff,' writes Boylan. 'Whether the 45th president is a woman (Hillary Rodham Clinton?) or a Latino (Marco Rubio?), it still feels, on a good day, as if we've entered a time when there are fewer limits on what men and women can aspire to.' But unlike presidents or popes, we may not get that many more chances at a glass-shattering Doctor. According to long-held Doctor Who mythology, the character's 13th regeneration could be his last. 'As the producers think about whom they want to take on the role next, they should keep in mind the way people's hopes are lifted when they see someone breaking the glass ceiling, even when it's for something as seemingly trivial as a hero on a science-fiction program. Equal opportunity matters — in Doctor Who's universe as well as our own.'"
The Almighty Buck

Study Finds 3D Printers Pay For Themselves In Under a Year 322

Lucas123 writes "Researchers using a RepRap open source 3D printer found that the average household could save as much as $2,000 annually and recoup the cost of the printer in under a year by printing out common household items. The Michigan Technical University (MTU) research group printed just 20 items and used 'conservative' numbers to find that the average homeowner could print common products, such as shower rings or smartphone cases, for far less money than purchasing them online at discount Websites, such as Google Shopper. 'It cost us about $18 to print all [20] items... the lowest retail cost we could find for the same items online was $312 and the highest was $1,943,' said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MTU. 'The unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap [3D printers] is an economically attractive investment for the average U.S. household already.'"
Education

Texas School District Drops Embattled RFID Student IDs; Opts For Cameras 244

The Northside Independent School District (NISD) of Texas, has decided to drop their controversial student RFID card plans and settle on hundreds of cameras to monitor students. Apparently, the technology wasn't quite the attendance silver bullet administration thought it would be, as Slate's Will Oremus discovered. 'Northside Independent School District spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told me that the microchip-ID program turned out not to be worth the trouble. Its main goal was to increase attendance by allowing staff to locate students who were on campus but didn't show up for roll call. That was supposed to lead to increased revenue. But attendance at the two schools in question a middle school and a high school barely budged in the year that the policy was in place. And school staff found themselves wasting a lot of time trying to physically track down the missing students based on their RFID locators. "We're very confident we can still maintain a safe and secure school because of the 200 cameras that are installed at John Jay High School and the 100 that are installed at Jones Middle School. Plus we are upgrading those surveillance systems to high-definition and more sophisticated cameras. So there will be a surveillance-camera umbrella around both schools," Gonzalez said."'
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Sues NSA, Justice Department, FBI 333

New submitter Jawnn writes "The Washington Post reports that the EFF has filed suit against the NSA in Federal Court in San Francisco, on behalf of multiple groups (court filing). Those groups include, 'Rights activists, church leaders and drug and gun rights advocates.' EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said, 'The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA's mass, untargeted collection of Americans' phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties. Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information – especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time – violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years.' Apparently, not everyone out there is believing the 'If you have nothing to hide' excuses being offered up from various government quarters."
Businesses

Say What? Wading Through the Nonsense In Microsoft's Re-Org Memo 165

curtwoodward writes "Steve Ballmer's attempt to reorganize Microsoft into a more focused company will define his legacy as CEO. So you'd think the wordsmiths in Redmond would take a little time ensuring their message was crystal-clear, right? Not exactly. Ballmer's big, gung-ho memo to Microsofties, posted on the company's website, is chock full of nonsense and corporate executive doublespeak — or, as Ballmer might say, `high-value experiences' that will `involve repartitioning the work' and `drive partners across our integrated strategy and its execution.' Huh?" Honest language in corporate communications is a rare quality. I suspect there's a special language-butchering training course that most C-level executives enthusiastically complete.
Microsoft

Maybe Steve Ballmer Doesn't Deserve the Hate 240

Nerval's Lobster writes "Who could forget Steve Ballmer's defining moment, that infamous 'Developers! Developers! Developers!' rant that became a YouTube hit? Or the reports of frighteningly accurate chair-throwing? Who could miss the tech media and investors blaming him for everything from Microsoft's largely stagnant stock price over the past decade to its inability to get in front of trends such as mobile devices? But tech columnist (and Kernel editor-in-chief) Milo Yiannopoulos talked to a bunch of Ballmer's friends and colleagues, picked through Microsoft's history, and came away with the argument that the man deserves a second look as an effective leader. 'He stands accused of running one of the greatest companies in American history into the ground, even as its stock price remains remarkably resilient and the company continues to turn a healthy profit,' he writes. 'The mature verdict on Steve Ballmer is that he has made only one major strategic error: not combining his own brilliance for sales and detail with a visionary product leader who has the authority to create bold new revenue streams for the company.' Do you agree? Or does Ballmer deserve his reputation as a bad CEO?"
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Development Requirements Change But Deadlines Do Not? 221

cyclomedia writes "Over a number of years my company has managed to slowly shift from a free-for-all (pick a developer at random and get them to do what you want) to something resembling Agile development with weekly builds. But we still have to deal with constant incoming feature changes and requests that are expected to be included in this week's package. The upshot is that builds are usually late, not properly tested and developers get the flak when things go wrong. I suspect the answer is political, but how do we make things better? One idea I had was that every time a new request comes in — no matter how small — the build gets pushed back by 24 or even 48 hours. I'd love to hear your ideas or success stories. (Unfortunately, quitting is not an option)"
Moon

House Democrats Propose National Park On the Moon 255

MarkWhittington writes "Two House Democrats, Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), have proposed a bill called Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, H.R. 2617 (PDF), that would establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park at all the Apollo lunar landing sites, according to a story in The Hill. 'The park would be comprised of all artifacts left on the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 through 17 missions. The bill says these sites need to be protected because of the anticipated increase in commercial moon landings in the future.'"
Education

How Facial Analysis Software Could Help Struggling Students 90

moon_unit2 writes "Tech Review has a story on research showing that facial recognition software can accurately spot signs that programming students are struggling. NC State researchers tracked students learning java and used an open source facial-expression recognition engine to identify emotions such as frustration or confusion. The technique could be especially useful for Massive Open Online Courses — where many thousands of students are working remotely — but it could also help teachers identify students who need help in an ordinary classroom, experts say. That is, as long as those students don't object to being watched constantly by a camera."
Privacy

Keeping Your Data Private From the NSA (And Everyone Else) 622

Nerval's Lobster writes "If those newspaper reports are accurate, the NSA's surveillance programs are enormous and sophisticated, and rely on the latest in analytics software. In the face of that, is there any way to keep your communications truly private? Or should you resign yourself to saying or typing, 'Hi, NSA!' every time you make a phone call or send an email? Fortunately there are ways to gain a measure of security: HTTPS, Tor, SCP, SFTP, and the vendors who build software on top of those protocols. But those host-proof solutions offer security in exchange for some measure of inconvenience. If you lose your access credentials, you're likely toast: few highly secure services include a 'Forgot Your Password?' link, which can be easily engineered to reset a password and username without the account owner's knowledge. And while 'big' providers like Google provide some degree of encryption, they may give up user data in response to a court order. Also, all the privacy software in the world also can't prevent the NSA (or other entities) from capturing metadata and other information. What do you think is the best way to keep your data locked down? Or do you think it's all a lost cause?"
Education

Ask Slashdot: How Important Is Advanced Math In a CS Degree? 656

AvailableNickname writes "I am currently pursuing a bachelor's in CompSci and I just spent three hours working on a few differential equations for homework. It is very frustrating because I just don't grok advanced math. I can sort of understand a little bit, but I really don't grok anything beyond long division. But I love computers, and am very good at them. However, nobody in the workforce is even going to glance at my direction without a BSc. And to punish me for going into a field originally developed by mathematicians I need to learn all this crap. If I had understood what I was doing, maybe I wouldn't mind so much. But the double frustration of not understanding it and not understanding why the heck I need to do it is too much. So, how important is it?"
Government

UN Says: Why Not Eat More Insects? 626

PolygamousRanchKid writes in with news about a U.N. plan to get more bugs in your belly. "The U.N. has new weapons to fight hunger, boost nutrition and reduce pollution, and they might be crawling or flying near you right now: edible insects. The Food and Agriculture Organization on Monday hailed the likes of grasshoppers, ants and other members of the insect world as an underutilized food for people, livestock and pets. Insects are 'extremely efficient' in converting feed into edible meat, the agency said. Most insects are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases, and also feed on human and food waste, compost and animal slurry, with the products being used for agricultural feed, the agency said. 'Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly,' the agency said, adding they leave a 'low environmental footprint.' The agency noted that its Edible Insect Program is also examining the potential of arachnids, such as spiders and scorpions."
Robotics

How Should the Law Think About Robots? 248

An anonymous reader writes "With the personal robotics revolution imminent, a law professor and a roboticist (called Professor Smart!) argue that the law needs to think about robots properly. In particular, they say we should avoid 'the Android Fallacy' — the idea that robots are just like us, only synthetic. 'Even in research labs, cameras are described as "eyes," robots are "scared" of obstacles, and they need to "think" about what to do next. This projection of human attributes is dangerous when trying to design legislation for robots. Robots are, and for many years will remain, tools. ... As the autonomy of the system increases, it becomes harder and harder to form the connection between the inputs (your commands) and the outputs (the robot's behavior), but it exists, and is deterministic. The same set of inputs will generate the same set of outputs every time. The problem, however, is that the robot will never see exactly the same input twice. ... The problem is that this different behavior in apparently similar situations can be interpreted as "free will" or agency on the part of the robot. While this mental agency is part of our definition of a robot, it is vital for us to remember what is causing this agency. Members of the general public might not know, or even care, but we must always keep it in mind when designing legislation. Failure to do so might lead us to design legislation based on the form of a robot, and not the function. This would be a grave mistake."
Yahoo!

So What If Yahoo's New Dads Get Less Leave Than Moms? 832

Dawn Kawamoto writes "Yahoo rolled out an expanded maternity/paternity policy that doubled the family leave for moms to 16 weeks. But new dads at Yahoo get only 8 weeks. It turns out that Yahoo is not the only Fortune 500 company to short-shrift news dads. But, really, do new dads think it's worth crying over? Hmmm...changing diapers or cleaning up code — both are messy, but one smells less."

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