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


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Submission + - DNC Email Hack Strengthens Case For Paper Ballots (

YIAAL writes: In USA Today, a writer argues that the DNC hack raises questions about the security of voting machines, as well as computers used to tabulate votes, record voter registries, etc.:

Are paper ballots really a superior technology to voting machines? Absolutely. When you vote electronically, the only data recorded is the vote itself. Compare that to a paper ballot where you mark an "X" next to the candidate’s name. When you cast a paper ballot, all sorts of other information is captured along with your vote: The color of ink you used, individual variations in handwriting, even the condition of the paper you’re writing on. Changing that across large numbers of ballots without being obvious is hard, and requires physical access to the ballots; doing it on a computer is a matter of a few keystrokes, and can be done from Minsk or Shanghai.

What do Slashdot readers think? Is paper a more secure technology than computerized voting?

Submission + - Donâ(TM)t Fear The Leaker: Making Ethical Leaks A Tool For Transparent Gov (

An anonymous reader writes: This paper by law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds argues that we instead of just fighting leaks, we should be institutionalizing whistleblowing to promote transparency in a post-Snowden era:

Leaks are inevitable. So, it seems, is a government too large and complex to be overseen properly by either the President or Congress. Rather than trying to overcome either of these problems by main force, perhaps it makes sense to address one of these phenomena via the other. While top-down oversight will never be sufficient to do the job, empowering the “little people” of government to blow the whistle on illegalities is likely to limit the worst excesses.

Also, more cowbell. (Via Reason. )

Submission + - Don't Get Too Comfortable—Nationwide License Plate Tracking Will Be Back (

YIAAL writes: In Popular Mechanics, a report on how the Department of Homeland security has withdrawn its bid-request on a nationwide license-plate scanning system, with this warning:

The federal government's retreat in the face of pressure from its citizens is a good thing. But let's not stop there. We should not rely on public outcry to beat back this national plate-scanning idea when it inevitably resurfaces, perhaps under the cover of secrecy next time. And there's no need to wait to find out whether the courts get this issue right—or wrong. . . If Americans want to protect their privacy, we need strong legislation that limits the kind of data the government can gather, how long they can keep it, and what they can do with it. And if I had my druthers, the law would be backed up by substantial civil and criminal penalties for violations, with civil damages to be borne by the offending officials, not the government. Fear of personal liability may be what it takes to discourage abuse. How much privacy and freedom will Americans have in the 21st Century? The answer is the same as for previous centuries: As much as we insist on, and not a bit more.

How much will people insist on?

Submission + - Why The NTSB Is Wrong About Cellphones (

YIAAL writes: After a multi-car pileup involving two school buses, the NTSB is urging states to ban all cellphones and personal electronic devices in cars, even hands-free phones. But on looking at the NTSB report, it appears that the big problem was a school bus driver who was following too closely, and another school bus driver who wasn't watching the road. Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

Submission + - The War On Photography: Legal Analysis (

YIAAL writes: We've seen increasing numbers of stories about photographers facing arrest or assault by police and security officers simply for taking pictures — often pictures of law enforcement misconduct. Although photographers have a legal right to take pictures in pretty much any public place, this article by Morgan Manning concludes that the legal remedies for violations of that right are inadequate and often entirely unworkable. Is law-enforcement education the solution, or do we need new civil rights laws — maybe with attorney fees and heavy damages — to protect photographers from being hassled?

Submission + - The New Era in Space Access (

YIAAL writes: Writing in Popular Mechanics, Rand Simberg reports from the Space Access Society conference, and writes that the new era in space access is starting:

The era is being ushered in by a radical (at least to many) change in space policy by the Obama administration. It is not, as many in the media, and even in Congress have mistakenly and even hysterically characterized it, an "abandonment" of human spaceflight, or a "surrender" to the Chinese or Russians (pick your paranoia). Indeed, that is a bizarre interpretation of a plan that includes the extension of the International Space Station to 2020, and likely beyond; the acceleration and encouragement, with billions of dollars, of near-term commercial human spaceflight; and the development of the myriad technologies required to get humans to the moon, the asteroids and ultimately to Mars and its moons. Rather, it is a recognition that, half a century after the beginning of the space efforts, it has become a technologically mature (in performance and reliability, if not in cost) endeavor, and that NASA should shift its focus from the mundane task of getting people a couple hundred miles up into low Earth orbit, to the much more challenging issues of how to get them beyond, letting private industry pick up the slack, as they've done for the delivery of multi-hundred-million-dollar satellites for a couple of decades now.

Simberg says that there's much more enthusiasm from space activists and space entrepreneurs than most media coverage of the new Obama policy has recognized.

Submission + - Budget Problems Produce Useful Ferment at NASA (

YIAAL writes: Writing on the Popular Mechanics website, Rand Simberg reports from the Space 2009 conference. While NASA's plans for a heavy lift vehicle are looking ever more tenuous, previously excluded players are coming forward with genuinely creative — and commercially oriented — ideas that will do more for less.

ULA's plan is to develop propellant depots, lunar injection stages, and lunar landers derived from the existing Delta IV and Atlas V launchers, and to launch all the pieces with those vehicles (or perhaps slightly larger versions of them). The proposed lunar lander has dual-axis thrusters, allowing it to use main propulsion vertically for most of the descent, and then rotate for a horizontal landing. This puts the astronauts much closer to the lunar surface for safer entry and exits. The depots are placed in low Earth orbit and in the Earth-moon Lagrange point L2. ULA claims that their plan will provide a robust launch architecture, with two human-rated vehicles (rather than depending on one, as NASA has with the shuttle, and with its plans for Ares I) . . . . These ideas, from "A Commercially Based Lunar Architecture," one of the ULA papers, would have been heretical a few months ago . . . These papers may well mark the final nails in the Ares and Constellation coffin, signaling that this fall could see yesterday's heresy become tomorrow's new conventional wisdom.

Will these new ideas catch on? Or will NASA defend existing rice bowls to the end?

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