An anonymous reader writes "The Information Commissioner's Office has filed a suit for £120,000 against the Greater Manchester Police because officers regularly used memory sticks without passwords to copy data from police computers and work on it away from the department. In July 2011, thousands of peoples' information was stolen from a officer's home on an unencrypted memory stick. A similar event happened at the same department in September 2010. 'This was truly sensitive personal data, left in the hands of a burglar by poor data security. The consequences of this type of breach really do send a shiver down the spine,' said ICO deputy commissioner David Smith."
New submitter ChronoEngineer writes "Recently the Free Software foundation launched a new fund-raising system starting with the GNU MediaGoblin project. Rewards from its new tiered donation reward system include physical objects such as a 3D print of the project's mascot as well as digital ones (Rewards List). This gives free software projects an alternative crowd-funding source where all of their contributions go to advancing free software, since the administrative cut taken from the earnings goes to the Free Software Foundation. Chris Webber, of GNU Mediagoblin, mentions this as one of the reasons he chose the FSF over Kickstarter for his project."
cylonlover writes "A trip on public transport or to the local coffee shop might give the impression that touchscreens are everywhere, but scientists at Autodesk Research of the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto are looking to take the ubiquity of touch interfaces to the next level. They are developing a 'Magic Finger' that allows any surface to detect touch input by shifting the touch technology from the surface to the wearer's finger. It's a proof-of-concept prototype made up of a little Velcro ring that straps to the wearer's fingertip with a trail of wires leading to a box of electronics. On the ring there are a pair of optical sensors. One is a low resolution, high-speed sensor for tracking movement, the other a high-resolution camera, which is able to detect 32 different surface textures with 98 percent accuracy."
The second U.S. Presidential debate kicks off in about a half-hour (9PM ET, 6PM PT, 0100 UTC) from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will take questions from an audience of allegedly undecided voters. A live stream of the event will be available from a number of sources (C-SPAN, CNN, ABC, and PBS), and it will be broadcast nationally on the major networks. The flash-less and television-less can use rtmpdump to catch the debate from C-SPAN. It won't preempt the more important telecasts, like playoff baseball. Candidates from smaller parties again went uninvited (e.g. Gary Johnson from the Libertarians, Jill Stein from the Greens, Virgil Goode from the Constitution Party, and Rocky Anderson from the Justice Party). In fact, Jill Stein was arrested for attempting to enter without credentials (her side of the story). Assuming she's out of jail by Thursday, she and Gary Johnson will be participating in an online debate hosted by IVN.us. While tonight's debate is in progress, Politifact will be fact-checking the candidates in real-time (while CNN has demonstrated their journalistic capabilities with a debate drinking game). Feel free to weigh in with your commentary on the debate below — it would be helpful to provide timestamps or other context when referring to particular statements. As before, we're posting this here in a vain attempt to keep the political discussion out of other story threads tonight. If either of the candidates spontaneously concedes the election or catches fire, we'll do our best to update you.
The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers have announced that the nearest star system in the sky — Alpha Centauri — has an Earth-sized planet orbiting one of its stars. Alpha Cen is technically a three-star system: a binary composed of two stars very much like the Sun, orbited by a third, a red dwarf, much farther out. Using the Doppler technique (looking for very small changes in the velocities of the stars) astronomers detected a planet orbiting the smaller of the two stars in the binary, Alpha Centauri B. The planet has a mass only 1.13 times that of the Earth, making it one of the smallest yet detected.However, it orbits the star only 6 million kilometers out, so it's far too hot to be habitable. The signal from the planet is extremely weak but solidly detected (PDF), giving astronomers even greater hope of being able to find an Earth-like planet orbiting a star in its habitable zone."
An anonymous reader writes "Uber, the startup behind a mobile app for connecting transportation services with people who need rides, has halted its efforts to partner with New York cab drivers. They've been fighting an uphill battle against regulators, who have warned drivers that they could face fines or loss of license if they worked with Uber. The company's CEO wrote, 'Demand far out-stripped supply, making you feel pretty lucky when you got a yellow from your iPhone. We did the best we could to get more yellows on the road but New York's TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) put up obstacles and roadblocks in order to squash the effort around e-hail, which they privately have said is legal under the rules. We'll bite our tongues and keep our frustration here to ourselves.'" Update: 10/17 00:48 GMT by S : Here's TLC's perspective, in the words of Commissioner David Yassky: "In recent months, as e-hail apps have emerged, TLC has undertaken serious diligence and is moving toward rule changes that will open the market to app developers and other innovators. Those changes cannot legally take place until our existing exclusive contracts expire in February. We are committed to making it as easy as possible to get a safe, legal ride in a New York City taxi, and are excited to see how emerging technology can improve that process. Our taxis have always been on the cutting edge of technological innovation, from GPS systems to credit card readers."
Kethinov writes "Will the computers of the future be tools for freedom or for censorship? An insightful Ars editorial examines this question in depth, concluding that Apple's walled garden approach to iOS is fundamentally flawed and thus Microsoft should reconsider their plans to apply the same model to WinRT. The authors are careful to present a nuanced analysis that adequately weighs the competing interests of security, convenience, and user freedom, ultimately concluding that Mac OS X and Android offer better models because while their walled gardens are on by default, they offer supported mechanisms to opt-out if desired, thereby offering users the same security and convenience benefits without sacrificing user freedom in the process." A similar article by software engineer Casey Muratori looks at the effect Windows 8's closed distribution system will have on game development. The restrictions involved in getting approval for the Windows Store would preclude 2011's game of the year, Skyrim, from appearing there, as well as 2012's top candidates. The requirements contain clauses that would cut out huge swathes of the video game industry, like this one: "Your app must not contain content or functionality that encourages, facilitates, or glamorizes illegal activity."
MightyMartian writes "From the CBC: 'The tragic story of B.C. teen suicide victim Amanda Todd has taken another bizarre twist as the internet hacking and activist group Anonymous has named a man the group says was the girl's primary tormentor. Todd, 15, of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, died last Wednesday, a month after posting a haunting video on YouTube that cited the sexualized attack that set her down a path of anxiety, depression and drug and alcohol abuse.' This raises a whole nest of issues surrounding the presumption of innocence and vigilantism. Should the police and the courts be given the appropriate amount of time to determine if there is sufficient evidence, or if a crime has in fact been committed, or is Anonymous right in short-circuiting what might in fact be a lengthy process with no guarantee that anyone will face charges?"
Baldrson writes "The Guardian reports that a massive geoengineering project has been detected off the west coast of Canada that violates UN regulations. An Amerindian tribe in the Pacific NW that depends on salmon teamed with an entrepreneur and a group of scientists to have 100 tons of iron sulphate spread across a huge area of the ocean in order to spur plankton growth. 'Satellite images appear to confirm the claim ... that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometers. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilization that he hopes will net lucrative carbon credits.' The entrepreneur, Russ George, hopes to cash in on the carbon credits and the Amerindian tribe on an increased salmon harvest. The situation has sparked outcry from environmentalists and civil society groups. Oceanographer John Cullen said, 'It is difficult if not impossible to detect and describe important effects that we know might occur months or years later. Some possible effects, such as deep-water oxygen depletion and alteration of distant food webs, should rule out ocean manipulation. History is full of examples of ecological manipulations that backfired.'"
New submitter Ian Paul Freeley writes "Controversy has erupted after a departmental email from faculty to astrophysics graduate students was leaked. Key tips for success in grad school include: 'However, if you informally canvass the faculty (those people for whose jobs you came here to train), most will tell you that they worked 80-100 hours/week in graduate school. No one told us to work those hours, but we enjoyed what we were doing enough to want to do so...If you find yourself thinking about astronomy and wanting to work on your research most of your waking hours, then academic research may in fact be the best career choice for you.' Reactions from astronomy blogs has ranged from disappointment to concern for the mental health of the students. It also seems that such a culture, coupled with the poor job prospects for academics, is continuing to drive talent away from the field. This has been recognized as a problem for over 15 years in the astronomy community, but little seems to have changed. Any tips for those of us looking to instigate culture change and promote healthy work-life balance?"
Back in 2006, we discussed Jonathan Coulton's 'Code Monkey,' a song about the plight of under-appreciated developers. In the years since, Coulton's efforts to produce geek-oriented songs have propelled him to a successful music career. To mark Slashdot's 15th anniversary, he was kind enough to do a brand new recording of 'Code Monkey' for us. The video is embedded below, and here's a description from the email he sent to CmdrTaco: "It seemed fitting to do a new version of that song. I have all these gadgets that I buy and barely learn how to play, and when I heard you guys were looking for videos and things, it inspired me to sit down and actually try to get some of them working. What you see is me doing a version of Code Monkey performed live on electric guitar and laptop. The grid with lights is a monome running Pages, Polygomé and mlrv on my mac. You’re also hearing some loops and noises from Ableton Live, controlled by footswitches, the monome, and the little keyboard, which is an OP-1. Back in 2006 I didn’t know what I was doing, and with all these gizmos, I still don’t. So that’s a relief." Thanks, Jonathan.
dcblogs writes "The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has begun has begun using a 1.5 petaflop IBM system, called Yellowstone. For NCAR researchers it is an enormous leap in compute capability — a roughly 30x improvement over its existing 77 teraflop supercomputer. Yellowstone is capable of 1.5 quadrillion calculations per second using 72,288 Intel Xeon cores. The supercomputer gives researchers new capabilities. They can run more experiments with increased complexity and at a higher resolution. This new system may be able to reduce resolution to as much as 10 km (6.2 miles), giving scientists the ability to examine climate impacts in greater detail. Increase complexity allows researchers to add more conditions to their models, such as methane gas released from thawing tundra on polar sea ice. NCAR believes it is the world's most powerful computer dedicated to geosciences."
Trailrunner7 writes "Attacks against SCADA and industrial-control systems have become a major concern for private companies as well as government agencies, with executives and officials worried about the potential effects of a major compromise. Security experts in some circles have been warning about the possible ramifications of such an attack for some time now, and researchers have found scores of vulnerabilities in SCADA and ICS systems in the last couple of years. Now, engineers at Kaspersky Lab have begun work on new operating system designed to be a secure-by-design environment for the operation of SCADA and ICS systems. 'Well, re-designing ICS applications is not really an option. Again, too long, too pricey and no guarantees it will fit the process without any surprises. At the same time, the crux of the problem can be solved in a different way. OK, here is a vulnerable ICS but it does its job pretty well in controlling the process. We can leave the ICS as is but instead run it in a special environment developed with security in mind! Yes, I'm talking about a highly-tailored secure operating system dedicated to critical infrastructure,' Eugene Kaspersky said in an interview."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft has finally revealed the pricing of its upcoming Surface tablet to a small group of journalists, including Time's Harry McCracken, who wrote in an Oct. 16 posting that the device's 32GB version will retail for $499 (or $599 with the flexible keyboard cover) and the 64GB one for $699 (cover included). Preorders will apparently begin by midday Oct. 16. Microsoft unveiled Surface over the summer but kept the pricing a secret until now. That information vacuum led some to hope against hope that Microsoft would attempt something radical and price Surface extraordinarily low—$199, perhaps—in an attempt to undercut Apple's iPad. While that didn't happen, Surface at least matches its biggest rival's low- and high-end price points. The WiFi-only, 16GB version of the iPad retails for $499, while the WiFi-only, 64GB version costs $699 (iPads with a cellular connection cost a bit more)." A related article at BGR explains why the Surface is Microsoft's latest attempt to re-invent itself.
ITEXPO West in Austin, TX, Slashdot editor Timothy Lord met Ivan Kohler, the "President, Founder and Head Geek" of a company called Freeside Internet Services that is 100% open source (no dual-licensing) and makes its living supporting software Ivan says is used to manage some of the very unsexy backend tasks that ISPs and VoIP providers need to do, like track usage and send bills to customers. Freeside uses the AGPL license, which Ivan calls "a GPL variant for web applications" that, he says, "prevents people from taking our software, modifying it, and selling it in a hosted capacity as proprietary software."