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Communications

Docs: Responding To Katrina, FBI Made Cell Phone Surveillance Its Priority 9

v3rgEz writes: There's a lot of lessons that the federal government should have learned in the aftermath of Katrina. Increased domestic surveillance, however, appears to be the one the FBI took to heart, using the natural disaster as a justification for ramping up its use of Stingray cell phone tracking throughout Louisiana after the storm, according to documents released under FOIA to MuckRock.
Software

Open Source, Collaborative Rich-Text, Web-Based Editor Almost Available 14

johanneswilm writes: Open source web-based editors such as CKEditor and TinyMCE have been available for more than a decade, and some closed source collaborative editors such as Google Docs have been available since 2007. Creating open source, collaborative, rich-text, web-based editors has proven difficult due to lack of standardization of the lower-level browser features. Now Marijn Haverbeke, the developer behind the popular CodeMirror has started such an editor, called Prosemirror, financed through a crowd-funding campaign. Meanwhile the W3C has installed a task force to rapidly standardize and fix the features needed in browsers to easily create richtext and semantic editors.
Government

Kansas Secretary of State Blocks Release of Voting Machine Tapes 92

PvtVoid writes: Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson has filed a lawsuit under Kansas' open records law to force the state to release paper tape records from voting machines, to be used as data in her research on statistical anomalies in voting patterns in the state. Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a Ph.D. in statistics, has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate 'a statistically significant' pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct. The pattern could be voter fraud or a demographic trend that has not been picked up by extensive polling. Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued that the records sought by Clarkson are not subject to the Kansas open records act, and that their disclosure is prohibited by Kansas statute.
Biotech

UNC Scientists Open Source Their Genomic Research 7

ectoman writes: The human genome specifies more than 500 "kinases," enzymes that spur protein synthesis. Four hundred of them are still mysteries to us, even though knowledge about them could spark serious medical innovations. But scientists at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have initiated an open source effort to map them all—research they think could pioneer a new generation of drug discovery. As members of the Structural Genomics Consortium, the chemical biologists are spearheading a worldwide community project. "We need a community to build a map of what kinases do in biology," one said. "It has to be a community-generated map to get the richness and detail we need to be able to move some of these kinases into drug facilities. But we're just doing the source code. Until someone puts the source code out there and makes it available to everybody, people won't have anything to modify."
Government

North Dakota Legalizes "Less Than Lethal" Weapon-Equipped Police Drones 117

According to the Daily Beast, writes reader schwit1, North Dakota police will be free to fire 'less than lethal' weapons from the air thanks to the influence of a pro-police lobbyist. That means beanbags, tear-gas, and Tasers, at the very least, can be brought to bear by remote. It's worth noting that "non-lethal" isn't purely true, even if that's the intent behind such technologies. From the article, based partly on FOIA requests made by MuckRock into drone use by government agencies: The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones. Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones.
Operating Systems

Contiki 3.0 Released, Retains Support For Apple II, C64 31

An anonymous reader writes that on Wednesday the Contiki team announced the release of Contiki 3.0, the latest version of the open source IoT operating system. The 3.0 release is a huge step up from the 2.x branch and brings support for new and exciting hardware, a set of new network protocols, a bunch of improvements in the low-power mesh networking protocols, along with a large number of general stability improvements. And, yes, the system still runs on the Commodore 64/128, Apple II, Atari.
Earth

The Nations That Will Be Hardest Hit By Water Shortages By 2040 152

merbs writes: Water access is going to be one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. As climate change dries out the already dry areas and makes the wet ones wetter, we're poised to see some radical civilizational shifts. For one, a number of densely populated areas will come under serious water stress—which analysts fear will lead to strife, thirst, and even violent conflict. With that in mind, the World Resource Institute has assembled a new report projecting which nations are most likely to be hardest hit by water stress in coming decades—nations like Bahrain, Israel, Palestine, and Spain lead the pack.
Government

More Cities Use DNA To Catch Dog Owners Who Don't Pick Up Waste 153

dkatana writes: For many cities one of the biggest cleaning expenses is dealing with dog poop. While it is impossible to ask the birds to refrain from splattering the city, dogs have owners and those owners are responsible for disposing of their companion's waste. The few who shirk their duty create serious problems for the rest. Poop is not just a smelly inconvenience. It's unsanitary, extra work for cleaning crews, and in the words of one Spanish mayor, on a par with vandalism. Cities have tried everything from awareness campaigns with motorized poo videos, to publishing offenders names to mailing the waste back to the dog owner. In one case, after a 147 deliveries, dog waste incidents in the town dropped 70 percent. Those campaigns have had limited effect and after an initial decline in incidents, people go back to their old ways. Which has left many cities resorting to science and DNA identification of waste. Several European cities, including Naples and one borough in London, are building DNA registries of pets. Offending waste will then be tested and the cost of the analysis charged to the dog owner, along with a fine.
Businesses

Will a Tighter Economy Rein In Startups? 101

Nerval's Lobster writes: It's been quite a ride for the stock market this week. In China, markets cratered; in the U.S., stocks dove for two days, only to rebound on Wednesday. That made many tech firms nervous, both about the Chinese economy (which some of them depend upon) and the continuing flow of money from VCs and investors. While the economic jitters don't seem to be affecting some tech firms' ability to implode themselves, more than one pundit is wondering whether the tech industry will shift into 'fear mode,' which could be bad for the so-called 'unicorns' that need funders to keep partying like it's 1999. Are we going to see money start drying up for startups?
Google

Meet YouTube Gaming, Twitch's Archenemy 92

An anonymous reader writes: As expected Google has launched its answer to Twitch, YouTube Gaming available on the web, Android and iOS. Techcrunch reports: "We played with the Android app before the launch, and here's how it works. When you open the app, you are presented with a search bar at the top, a few featured channels at the top and then a feed of the most popular channels. The current featured channels don't focus on esports like most Twitch channels. Right now, you can find a 12-hour stream of NBA 2K15, and official stream of Metal Gear Solid V, a speed run of Until Dawn and an Eve Online live show."
Earth

Countries Gaming Carbon Offsets May Have Dramatically Increased Emissions 130

schwit1 writes: Abuse of the carbon offset system may have caused emissions to increase by as much as 600 million tons. That's the finding of a new report from the Stockholm Environment Institute, which investigated carbon credits used to offset greenhouse gas emissions under a UN scheme. As one of the co-authors of the report put it, issuing these credits "was like printing money." From the article: "In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash. As a result of political horse trading at UN negotiations on climate change, countries like Russia and the Ukraine were allowed to create carbon credits from activities like curbing coal waste fires, or restricting gas emissions from petroleum production. Under the UN scheme, called Joint Implementation, they then were able to sell those credits to the European Union's carbon market. Companies bought the offsets rather than making their own more expensive, emissions cuts. But [the studey] says the vast majority of Russian and Ukrainian credits were in fact, "hot air" — no actual emissions were reduced.
Education

Buzzwords Are Stifling Innovation In College Teaching 93

jyosim writes: Tech marketers brag about the world-changing impact of 'adaptive learning' and other products, but they all mean something different by the buzzword. On the other side of it, professors are notoriously skeptical of companies, and crave precise language. Richard Culatta, director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, says the buzzwords have thus become a major obstacle to improving teaching on campuses, since these tribes (professor and ed-tech vendors) must work together.
Education

Wired: IBM's School Could Fix Education and Tech's Diversity Gap 171

theodp writes: Wired positively gushes over IBM's Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), saying it could fix education and tech's diversity gap. Backed by IBM, the P-TECH program aims to prepare mainly minority kids from low-income backgrounds for careers in technology, allowing them to earn a high school diploma and a free associate degree in six years or less. That P-TECH's six inaugural graduates completed the program in four years and were offered jobs with IBM, Wired reports, is "irrefutable proof that this solution might actually work" (others aren't as impressed, although the President is drinking the Kool-Aid). While the program has only actually graduated six students since it was announced in 2010, Wired notes that by fall, 40 schools across the country will be designed in P-TECH's image. IBM backs four of them, but they'll also be run by tech giants like Microsoft and SAP, major energy companies like ConEdison, along with hospital systems, manufacturing associations, and civil engineering trade groups. They go by different names and are geared toward different career paths, but they all follow the IBM playbook.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Technical Resources For Non-Technical Disciplines? 86

New submitter nashpt writes: An accountant friend has recently joined a startup looking at developing a web platform. My friend is now dealing with developers directly where he would not have done so previously and feels he is at somewhat of a disadvantage. He asked me if I could advise on how he could get knowledgeable in the relevant technologies, HTML and JavaScript, in order to better interact with their developers. While there are numerous resources available to learn to program both of these, I didn't feel that would be the best approach; if nothing else, because he will have significant constraints on his time. Instead I looked for any primers that focus on technical subjects for non-technical disciplines. I haven't found much I think would be suitable for his needs. I appreciate this is a broad subject but can you recommend any resources that would be suitable in general or specific to these technologies? Do you even agree that this is an appropriate approach or should he look to develop a working knowledge of these languages instead? Any other suggestions on how to approach this?
Wireless Networking

Massachusetts Boarding School Sued Over Wi-Fi Sickness 557

alphadogg writes: The parents of an anonymous student at the Fay School in Southborough, Mass., allege that the Wi-Fi at the institution is making their child sick, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court earlier this month (PDF). The child, identified only as "G" in court documents, is said to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome. The radio waves emitted by the school's Wi-Fi routers cause G serious discomfort and physical harm, according to the suit. "After being continually denied access to the school in order to test their student's classroom, and having their request that all classrooms in which their child is present have the WiFi network replaced with a hard-wired Ethernet denied, the parents sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act."
Hardware Hacking

'Gynepunks' DIY Gynecology For Underserved Women 59

New submitter Alien7 sends an article about a group of bio-hackers who are out to bring DIY gynecological medicine to women who don't have easy access to it. Under the name GynePunks, they're assembling an arsenal of open-source tools for DIY diagnosis and first-aid care—centrifuges made from old hard drive motors; microscopes from deconstructed webcams; homemade incubators; and 3D printable speculums. ... So far the work is largely focused on diagnosis, and members of the collective are quick to note that what they’re creating is far from a comprehensive solution. It’s limited by some obvious factors—access to materials, a place to put them together, and the time to do it. But where the infrastructure does exist, and people are motivated to do so, it is very possible to establish some useful alternatives for self-care. As an example, Klau pointed to a pilot vinegar test program that’s lowered cervical cancer deaths by some 31 percent among poor women in Mumbai’s slums.
Education

The Case For Teaching Ignorance 232

HughPickens.com writes: In the mid-1980s, a University of Arizona surgery professor, Marlys H. Witte, proposed teaching a class entitled "Introduction to Medical and Other Ignorance." Far too often, she believed, teachers fail to emphasize how much about a given topic is unknown. "Textbooks spend 8 to 10 pages on pancreatic cancer," said Witte, "without ever telling the student that we just don't know very much about it." Now Jamie Holmes writes in the NY Times that many scientific facts simply aren't solid and immutable, but are instead destined to be vigorously challenged and revised by successive generations. According to Homes, presenting ignorance as less extensive than it is, knowledge as more solid and more stable, and discovery as neater also leads students to misunderstand the interplay between answers and questions.

In 2006, a Columbia University neuroscientist named Stuart J. Firestein, began teaching a course on scientific ignorance after realizing, to his horror, that many of his students might have believed that we understand nearly everything about the brain. "This crucial element in science was being left out for the students," says Firestein."The undone part of science that gets us into the lab early and keeps us there late, the thing that "turns your crank," the very driving force of science, the exhilaration of the unknown, all this is missing from our classrooms. In short, we are failing to teach the ignorance, the most critical part of the whole operation." The time has come to "view ignorance as 'regular' rather than deviant," argue sociologists Matthias Gross and Linsey McGoey. Our students will be more curious — and more intelligently so — if, in addition to facts, they were equipped with theories of ignorance as well as theories of knowledge.
Education

As Coursera Evolves, Colleges Stay On and Investors Buy In 44

An anonymous reader writes: The hype over online academics has diminished as it became clear that it wasn't a panacea for cheap, global education. While many organizations are struggling with the realization that online courses don't fit in everywhere, Coursera has found out they definitely fit in somewhere. The colleges partnering with Coursera are sticking around, and the company has drawn fresh investments totaling $60 million from venture capitalists. Rather than shoehorning traditional college courses into an online format, they've begun experimenting with different ways to structure education. "The company has created a series of courses that add up to mini-degrees that students can earn quickly, and pay a small fee to certify that they successfully completed them." Other students are using it as a stepping stone to traditional universities: "Rice University, for instance, reports that it is getting more applicants — and higher-quality applicants — for its computer-science masters' degree after offering a CS course on Coursera."
Networking

Virgin Media To Base a Public Wi-Fi Net On Paying Customers' Routers 112

An anonymous reader writes with a story that Virgin Media "announced this month its plans to roll out a free public WiFi network this autumn, using subscribers' personal routers and existing infrastructure to distribute the service across UK cities." And while regular customers' routers are to be the basis of the new network, the publicly viewable overlay would operate over "a completely separate connection," and the company claims subscribers' performance will not be hindered. Why, then, would customers bother to pay? For one thing, because the free version is slow: 0.5Mbps, vs. 10Mbps for Virgin's customers.
Open Source

KDE Plasma 5.4 Released 43

jrepin writes: KDE have announced the release of Plasma 5.4 desktop. This release of Plasma brings many nice touches for our users such as new fullscreen application launcher, much improved high DPI support, KRunner auto-completion and many new beautiful Breeze icons. It also lays the ground for the future with a tech preview of Wayland session available. We're shipping a few new components such as an Audio Volume Plasma Widget, monitor calibration tool and the User Manager tool comes out beta.