Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (Score 2) 52

FTFY. It is a new program and the FAA is trying to avoid mid air collisions. They are working on the rules.

As an interesting sidebar...

The missing piece of technology required to *safely* integrate drones into a country's national airspace is something called "Sense And Avoid" (SAA).

Now for the past year or so, I've been developing an SAA system that does not rely on transponders (as most existing SAA systems do) and so far the test results are very encouraging. In effect, this SAA creates a virtual sphere around the craft to which it is fitted and then tracks any objects entering that sphere - plotting and extrapolating their course while constantly checking to see if it is convergent with the host craft. Also, unlike other SAA systems, this unit is small, light and cheap (under 250g and could be mass-produced for around US$300 each).

The next phase of testing is to strap the hardware to a small foam RC model and fly it over a grassy meadow so as to generate some "real world" datasets for refining the software algorithms and coding.

You'd think that would be simple right? You'd think that the authority responsible for ensuring the safety of the national airspace would be pulling out the stops to support such a valuable piece of safety technology -- right?

Well in a world free of politics and bureaucracy it would be -- however, that's not the world in which we live.

Here in NZ, the CAA (our version of the FAA) has declared that because my development work is "commercial" in nature (even though it's entirely self-funded), I must get a "commercial operating authority" before I can fly my toy plane over a grassy meadow.

If I do not get this authority, which they tell me involves gaining various full-sized pilot qualifications at significant cost, before flying my toy plane, they will take "enforcement action" against me (stiff fines and/or a term of imprisonment).


CAA has openly acknowledged that this device has huge potential to increase the safety of the national airspace by reducing the risks of mid-air collisions between UAVs and full-sized, and even between full-sized and full-sized (there were 10 reported "near misses" at an airfield near here last year alone).

However, because *they* have deemed my project (despite my suggestions I might eventually open-source it) to be "commercial", I am now unable to continue working on this device.

I can fly a 7Kg gas-powed model with a 5hp engine up front over the grassy meadow quite legally. I can fly a 200mph jet-powered RC model over that grassy meadow without fear of prosecution. But... if I strap 300g of passive electronics to a 900g RC model made of foam while developing technology to dramatically improve air-safety then it's "do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to jail".


Comment Re:How do they plan to do that if I own the kernel (Score 1) 244

3. Copying is not theft. theft requires depriving someone of something.

Uh wrong!

Copying something that someone owns and chooses to *sell* (ie: a book, software, music or whatever) *does* deprive someone of something -- the revenue that they would have received when they sold that to you.

Of course the argument is that most of those doing the copying would not have actually purchased (paid for) the material anyway so there's no loss of revenue -- but even that is flawed. If the copier believes that the material isn't worth paying for then they ascribe a lower value to it than the owner. In that case, if they truly believe it has a low value, why copy it?

If you take the time to copy something then you *do* ascribe a value to it. At the very least, *this* sum is the amount you have *stolen* from the legitimate owner and copyright holder.

If you still claim it has no value then one must ask, why are you wasting your time and bandwidth copying stuff that you don't want?

Submission + - Can the Slashdot effect save Ed Snowden? 1

NewtonsLaw writes: I read that Iceland has refused asylum and citizenship to whistleblower Ed Snowden.

In response to this, I wrote a very polite, email to the office of the Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson (details on this webpage) expressing my disappointment at the decision and my sympathy for a once-proud nation that seems to have lost its nerve when faced with the might of the USA.

If anyone else wants to do the same then perhaps it's not too late to alert the Icelandic government to the fact that they could win millions of new friends from all over the world if they were to show their courage and bravery by helping Snowden, as they have with others in the past.

Of course any such communication needs to be polite, concise and focused on showing Iceland that the internet community supports Ed Snowden and those who are prepared to help him.

Maybe the Slashdot community can help. Why not spend a few quick minutes firing off an email so we can find out for sure.

Submission + - Google paid AdBlock Plus to get its ads whitelisted

recoiledsnake writes: German site Horizont Online reports that [translate link] Google paid AdBlock Plus to unblock it's own ads. According to their tests, Google's text ads show up with AdBlock Plus installed, but Bing's and Yahoo's are blocked even though they are similarly less intrusive. This creates a conflict of interest for AdBlock Plus since it encourages companies to pay them to get whitelisted. Note, Adblock Plus is not directly related to Adblock. We previously covered the FTC was making new rules to prevent search results from looking like ads and how 62% of folks didn't even realize there were ads on search result pages because of search engines reducing background contrast to increase ad clicks.

Comment Re:Internet Explorer (Score 5, Insightful) 391

Yes, but how do you know that MS hasn't inserted a nice big back-door for the spooks?

From a "security" perspective, you'll have to go with an open-source browser -- but even that's not a guarantee.

To be sure, you'll have to compile it yourself from a set of source files that you have gone through with a fine-toothed comb, checking each line for any chance of hidden functionality.

Oh, come to think of it -- you'll also have to assemble all the libraries from similarly vetted sources -- oh, and that means you'll need to use a compiler you've built from vetted sources -- but hey, that would involve using another compiler that could already be compromised so...

You'll have to hand-code (from source to binary) every bite of the compiler you use and then type it in through a BIOS that you've also hand coded -- entering the BIOS code through a set of toggle switches on the front panel.

Bottom line -- you don't *know* for sure that *any* browser is going to be secure.

Comment I remember when... (Score 5, Insightful) 134

I'm probably one of the older readers/posters here and I'll tell you why I hate TV.

Back when I was a kid, there was no TV.

People and communities were far different.

Everyone knew their neighbours and interacted with them on a daily basis.

We'd have card or board-game evenings on a Tuesday night, whereupon most everyone in the street would roll up at someone's house and enjoy a very social time together, enjoying each other's company and having fun. We kids would play out in the yard (in summer) or inside (in winter), sharing our comics and also playing games.

When Mrs Brown 5 doors down was ill, someone would go mow her lawns every weekend and the women would take turns making sure she had a nutritious meal three times a day.

Most Saturday nights the guy who lived next to us would get out his 16mm film projector and a movie would be screened on his garage door. The adults would all sit around watching and drinking beer -- while we kids also watched or just went and played ball in the yard out back.

Because of this tight bonding between neighbors, those were days when you could leave your car parked in the driveway (or on the road outside your house) with the keys in it and when folk went on vacation, they never bothered to lock their doors -- otherwise the people next door couldn't get in to water the plants while you were away.

Perhaps my glasses of retrospect are rose-tinted, but they were wonderful, carefree, crime-free days where I lived.

Then TV came along.

Once everyone had their own set, people no longer got together and socialised of an evening. Instead, they stayed in their own houses and after a few years (as some folk sold up and others moved in), it quickly became apparent that we didn't even know some of those who lived in the street.

A little later, after a few car-thefts and burglaries, people started locking their cars and doors.

You see, once the fabric of the community was torn by the isolating effect of television, most folk no longer had the close bond that once existed with the others in their neighborhood -- in fact people became anonymous. Once folk are anonymous their inhibitions tend to drop and they're far more likely to submit to temptation (such as theft or other crimes). Just look at how differently many people behave when they're on vacation in a different part of the country and you'll see the proof of that. If the people around you know who you are you tend to be far more conservative and circumspect in your behavior. Go somewhere where nobody knows you and it's easier to behave badly.

Anyway, TV has now become opiate of the masses. Far too many people spend a huge percentage of their life passively sitting in front of the box, soaking up everything that's thrown at them.

If you'd tried to describe why the Kardashians would be celebrities back when I was a kid, people would simply not understand -- and I have to admit, I still don't get it.

The best thing we could do for any nation is to switch off TV and show people that "reality" is a much better option than "reality TV".

Hell, imagine how much better off we'd all be if we spent an hour less each day watching TV and instead, used that time to improve our education, earn a little extra money -- or just spend quality time with our friends and families.

I doubt very much whether *anyone's* last words will ever be "Darn, I wish I'd spent more time watching TV".

But hey, I'm old enough to know I'm wrong more often than I'm right -- so feel free to ignore this rant :-)

Comment Re:Year of Linux is Finally Here (Score 1) 1215

I switched from Ubuntu 10.4 when the LTS was dropped for that version and I didn't want to fart around with a new UI, advertising (oops, sorry -- purchase recommendations), etc so I went to Mint.

Mint has some nice aspects when compared to U10.4 and some not so nice.

Still undecided at this stage which I prefer.

But both flavors of Linux are better than Windows (IMHO) which I only keep around for video rendering (with Vegas). If Sony did a version of Vegas for Linux (which they never will), I could toss my Windows box.

Comment Re:Cost (Score 2) 111

Now, if the citizens of NZ decided to sue their government for wasting so many resources on a personal vendetta against a single individual... THAT I can see making it to court.

Never going to happen.

NZers have a "she'll be right" attitude to everything.

No matter how shocking or horrifying the actions of their government, Kiwis just sit back and say "oh well, never mind" and then ask "what's for dinner, where's my beer?"

The government(s) of this country have forgotten that that their job is to *represent* the citizens, not rule over them like some despot dictator.

In just the past year or three we've had a raft of instances where the courts have ruled that the government or its agencies (such as the police or GCSB) have acted illegally/unlawfully.

In the case of Kim Dotcom, they raided the man's house, held him and his family at gunpoint then took away virtually everything he owned. The courts said "that was unlawful".

Now if *you* or *I* did such a thing it would be called armed robbery and we'd be playing "find the soap" with Bubba in the big house by now -- but when the government or its agencies do it -- they simply sweep the whole damned thing under the carpet and citizens are supposed to accept it.

We've also had armed police in black riot gear invade a small town, hold its people at gunpoint and carry out searches, interrogations and detainments which the courts have again ruled to be "unlawful". And yet again, nobody is held to account for this. Nobody is censured. Nobody is fined imprisoned or even loses their job.

The GCSB (our version of the NSA) was found to have unlawfully spied on over 80 NZ citizens or residents (including Kim Dotcom) in recent years, despite laws that prohibit such activities. The government's excuse was that people were apparently building weapons of mass destruction here and needed to be monitored. Really??? Nobody censured, nobody fined, nobody imprisoned for these breaches of the law.

In the latest fiasco, the courts have ruled that government moves to unilaterally change the way that accused citizens are entitled to legal aid (a public defender) is also illegal. So what was the government's response? "Too bad -- we're sticking with those changes anyway."

And they call this a free democracy?

Surely no government should be above the law and all must answer to the courts for their actions.

You may think that all the above is a horrible crime against the people -- but ultimately, the biggest crime of all is that the people of this country just sit back and take it. Aside from a few "radicals", nobody seems concerned that the government(s) of the day hold themselves and their agencies to be above the laws that have been created to control them. Unbelievable!

Comment Sense and avoid (Score 1) 166

This is why I have been working on a practical "sense and avoid" (SAA) system for UAVs and FPV RC models.

So far so good (very good in fact) and I expect to start the airborne testing of a prototype very shortly.

The goal was to have the reliable detection of full-sized aircraft at a minimum range of 1.5Km and not rely on transponders or other equipment in those aircraft and it appears that this objective is attainable.

It's been a lot of fun developing this thing and it's something that has really only become possible recently, now that we've got some seriously powerful processors capable of handling the signal processing involved without the need for a rack-sized box and an appetite for watts.

If it works "as planned", odds are that I'll be releasing this as an open-source, copyleft project so hobbyists can use it instead of it becoming the sole domain of the "drone" companies.

Slashdot Top Deals

A freelance is one who gets paid by the word -- per piece or perhaps. -- Robert Benchley