Qedward writes with this except from Computerworld UK: "Germany should change a law to enable public administrations to make their software available as free and open source, a German parliamentary committee has advised. German public administrations currently are not allowed to give away goods, including software, said Jimmy Schulz, a member of Parliament and chairman of the Interoperability, Standards and Free Software Project Group. The current law prohibits governments from being part of the development process in the free software community, he said. 'This is a clear disadvantage because it cuts off all benefits obtained from free software, such as being cost-efficient and state-of-the-art,' he said. Besides a recommendation that the government should explore whether the law can be changed for software, the group also called for the use of open standards in order to make sure that everybody can have access to important information, Schulz said. 'We also called for public administrations in general to make sure that new software is created as platform independent as possible,' he added. While the project group is not in favour of giving priority to one type of software over another, it said in its recommendation to the Parliament earlier this week that free and open source software could be a viable alternative to proprietary software." I think a fair rule is that, barring extraordinary and demonstrated need, all tax dollars for software should go only for the development of software for which source is available gratis to all taxpayers, and that secret-source software makers are free to change to fit this requirement any time they'd like to have their software considered for a bid.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes with some strong cautions on a Facebook "feature" that lets you search for random phone numbers and find the accounts of users who have registered that number on their Facebook profile. This has privacy implications that are more serious than searching by email address. Especially in light of the expanding emphasis that Facebook is putting both on search qua search and on serving as a VoIP intermediary (not to mention the stream of robocalls that the FCC is unable to stop), this might make you think twice about where your phone number ends up. Read on for Bennett's description of the problem and some possible solutions.
mask.of.sanity writes "The Department of Homeland Security has taken charge of pushing medical device manufacturers to fix vulnerable medical software and devices after researchers popped yet another piece of hospital hardware. It comes after the agency pushed Philips to move to fix critical vulnerabilities found in its popular medical management platform that is used in a host of services including assisting surgeries and generating patient reports. To date, no agency has taken point on forcing the medical manufacturers to improve the information security profile of their products, with the FDA even dubbing such a risk unrealistic (PDF)."
Nerdolicious writes "Ars Technica reports that the ACLU has received a response from the FBI after a formal legal complaint was filed to release documents related to warrantless GPS tracking data. But, as you can see from the two memos the ACLU posted to its website, they have unsurprisingly been redacted to uselessness, consisting almost entirely of large black blocks covering full pages."
Marcion writes "Journalists and commentators are now questioning the role of Massachusetts prosecutors Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann in the suicide of Aaron Swartz and whether they levied disproportionate charges in order to boost their own political profiles, despite being warned he was a suicide risk. Meanwhile White House petitions to remove Ortiz and Heymann have already received tens of thousands of signatures. Should these prosecutors be investigated for their actions regarding Swartz?"
New submitter schneidafunk writes with news that the White House is raising the signature requirement for petitions from 25,000 to 100,000. From the source: "When we first raised the threshold — from 5,000 to 25,000 — we called it 'a good problem to have.' Turns out that 'good problem' is only getting better, so we're making another adjustment to ensure we’re able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve. ... In the first 10 months of 2012, it took an average of 18 days for a new petition to cross the 25,000-signature threshold. In the last two months of the year, that average time was cut in half to just 9 days, and most petitions that crossed the threshold collected 25,000 signatures within five days of their creation. More than 60 percent of the petitions to cross threshold in all of 2012 did so in the last two months of the year."
Lasrick writes "Physicist Lawrence Krauss has a great piece in the NY Times today about the lack of influence scientists wield on global security issues, to the world's detriment. He writes, 'To our great peril, the scientific community has had little success in recent years influencing policy on global security. Perhaps this is because the best scientists today are not directly responsible for the very weapons that threaten our safety, and are therefore no longer the high priests of destruction, to be consulted as oracles as they were after World War II. The problems scientists confront today are actually much harder than they were at the dawn of the nuclear age, and their successes more heartily earned. This is why it is so distressing that even Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world’s most famous living scientist, gets more attention for his views on space aliens than his views on nuclear weapons. Scientists' voices are crucial in the debates over the global challenges of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the potential creation of new and deadly pathogens. But unlike in the past, their voices aren't being heard.'"
hcs_$reboot writes "The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has already occupied some of Slashdot news space recently: FAA to investigate the 787 (Jan 11) or 787 catches fire in Boston (Jan 08). Today (Jan 16 JST) another incident happened that led to Japan grounding its entire 787 fleet until an internal investigation gives more information about the problem. A 787 from ANA had a battery problem and smoke was detected in the electronics. The plane had to make an emergency landing and passengers were evacuated. "
An anonymous reader writes "Nearly one year ago, the U.S. government launched a global takedown of Megaupload.com, with arrests of the leading executives in New Zealand and the execution of search warrants in nine countries. Canada was among the list of participating countries as the action included seizure of Megaupload.com servers. Last week, a Canadian court rejected a request to send mirror-imaged copies of 32 computer servers to authorities in the U.S., indicating that a more refined order is needed. Megaupload successfully argued 'that there is an enormous volume of information on the servers and that sending mirror image copies of all of this data would be overly broad, particularly in light of the scantiness of the evidence connecting these servers to the crimes alleged by the American prosecutors.'"
New submitter mallyn points out that the state of New York has become the first state to pass a new gun control law since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary last month. "Called the New York Safe Act, the law includes a tougher assault weapons ban that broadens the definition of what constitutes an assault weapon, and limits the capacity of magazines to seven bullets, down from 10. The law also requires background checks of ammunition and gun buyers, even in private sales, imposes tougher penalties for illegal gun use, a one-state check on all firearms purchases, and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods. ... New York's law also aims to keep guns out of the hands of those will mental illness. The law gives judges the power to require those who pose a threat to themselves or others get outpatient care. The law also requires that when a mental health professional determines a gun owner is likely to do harm, the risk must be reported and the gun removed by law enforcement." Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is expected to propose a new federal assault weapons ban later today.
New submitter massivepanic writes "AMD has filed (and been granted) a request for immediate injunctive relief against multiple former employees that it alleges stole thousands of confidential documents. Named in the complaint (PDF) are Robert Feldstein, Manoo Desai, Nicholas Kociuk, and Richard Hagen. All four left AMD to work at Nvidia in the past year. The loss of Feldstein was particularly noteworthy, as he'd been the head of AMD's console initiatives for years. Feldstein was behind the work that landed AMD the Wii U, PS4, and Xbox Durango. He also worked closely with Microsoft during the Xbox 360s development cycle and brought that contract to ATI prior to AMD's acquisition."
New submitter sHr0oMaN writes with news that Diane Franklin, a Republican member of Missouri's state House of Representatives, has proposed a sales tax on violent video games. The proposal, HB0157I, is one of many responses to the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The proceeds from the tax would go toward mental health programs and law enforcement in the hopes that future shootings can be prevented. The total amount taxed would be small — 1% — and would be applied to video games rated Teen, Mature, or Adult-only by the ESRB. Of course, many games earn the "Teen" rating without having violence in them, like Guitar Hero. The Entertainment Software Association responded to Rep. Franklin's bill with a statement: "Taxing First Amendment protected speech based on its content is not only wrong, but will end up costing Missouri taxpayers."
New submitter trekkie314 writes "Reuters reports that a Manhattan District Judge has ruled that AFP and the Washington Post infringed a photographer's copyright by re-using photos he posted on his Twitter account. The judge rejected AFP's claim that a Twitter post was equivalent to making the images available for anyone to use (drawing a distinction between allowing users to re-tweet within the social network and the commercial use of content). The judge also ruled against the photographer's request that he be compensated for each person that viewed the photos, ruling instead that damages would be granted once per infringing image only. This last point might have interesting implications in file-sharing cases — can it set a precedent against massive judgments against peer-to-peer file-sharers?"
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Over the past weekend, Defense Distributed successfully 3D-printed and tested a magazine for an AR semi-automatic rifle, loading and firing 86 rounds from the 30-round clip. That homemade chunk of curved plastic holds special significance: Between 1994 and 2004, so-called 'high capacity magazines' capable of holding more than 10 bullets were banned from sale. And a new gun control bill proposed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein in the wake of recent shootings would ban those larger ammo clips again. President Obama has also voiced support for the magazine restrictions. Defense Distributed says it hopes to preempt any high capacity magazine ban by showing how impossible it has become to prevent the creation of a simple spring-loaded box in the age of cheap 3D printing. It's posted the 3D-printable magazine blueprints on its website, Defcad.org, and gun enthusiasts have already downloaded files related to the ammo holders more than 2,200 times." Update: 01/15 23:15 GMT by T : Mea culpa; please blame my flu for mistakenly letting through that headline with "clip" where it should say "magazine." I know the difference — and I don't own any clips.
Bruce Perens writes "The Codec2 project has developed FreeDV, a program to encode digital voice on two-way radio in only 1.125 KHz of bandwidth. But FCC regulations aren't up-to-speed with the challenges of software-defined radio and Open Source. A 24 page FCC filing created by Bruce Perens proposes that FCC allow all digital modulations and published digital codes on ham radio and switch to bandwidth-based regulation."