theodp writes "'The lack of interest, the disdain for history is what makes computing not-quite-a-field,' Alan Kay once lamented. And so it should come as no surprise that the USPTO granted Google a patent Tuesday for the Automatic Deletion of Temporary Files, perhaps unaware that the search giant's claimed invention is essentially a somewhat kludgy variation on file expiration processing, a staple of circa-1970 IBM mainframe computing and subsequent disk management software. From Google's 2013 patent: 'A path name for a file system directory can be "C:temp\12-1-1999\" to indicate that files contained within the file system directory will expire on Dec. 1, 1999.' From Judith Rattenbury's 1971 Introduction to the IBM 360 computer and OS/JCL: 'EXPDT=70365 With this expiration date specified, the data set will not be scratched or overwritten without special operator action until the 365th day of 1970.' Hey, things are new if you've never seen them before!"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
ananyo writes "Monsanto and other biotechnology firms could be looking to bring back 'terminator' seed technology. The seeds are genetically engineered so that crops grown from them produce sterile seed. They prompted such an outcry that, as Slashdot noted, Monsanto's chief executive pledged not to commercialize them. But a case in the U.S. Supreme Court could allow farmers to plant the progeny of GM seeds rather than buying new seeds from Monsanto, making the technology attractive to biotech companies again. Some environmentalists also see 'terminator' seeds as a way of avoiding GM crops contaminating organic/non-GM crops." Reader 9gezegen adds that Monsanto is getting support, oddly, from parts of the software industry. From the NY Times: "BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might 'facilitate software piracy on a broad scale' because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file." The case was heard today; here is a transcript (PDF), and a clear explanation of what the case is about.
judgecorp writes "The Chinese government has been accused of backing the APT1 hacking group, which appears to be part of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), according to the security firm which worked with the New York Times when it fell victim to an attack. The firm, Mandiant, says that APT1 is government sponsored, and seems to operate from the same location as PLA Unit 61398." Unsurprisingly, this claim is denied by Chinese officials. You can read the report itself online (PDF), or skim the highlights.
An anonymous reader writes "Hollywood crime dramas are infamous for the scene when an accused is taken to a local police station and permitted a single phone call to contact a relative or lawyer. While the storyline is myth — there is no limit on the number of phone calls available to an accused or detainee — Michael Geist reports on a recent Canadian case establishing a new, real requirement for law enforcement. After a 19-year old struggled to find a lawyer using the telephone, the court ruled that police must provide an accused with Internet access in order to exercise their right to counsel."
Last week, a Finnish anti-piracy agency copied the CSS and HTML of The Pirate Bay. Today, TPB announced that they have filed a police report and are preparing to sue for copyright infringement: "The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest site for cultural diversity and file sharing, has today (Monday 2013-02-18) reported a suspected crime to the Finnish police. The suspected criminals are the Finnish anti-piracy organization CIAPC (locally known as TTVK). The reason is that CIAPC have copied files from which The Pirate Bay is built, to produce a fraudulent parody site. While The Pirate Bay may have a positive view on copying, it will not stand by and watch copyright enforcing organizations disrespect copyright." The Pirate Bay is also arguing that parody laws do not apply thanks to recent legal precedent.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Decades after the space race pitted the United States against Russia, a new race has emerged: the race to map the human brain. The New York Times reported Feb. 18 that the Obama administration is gearing up to announce the Brain Activity Map project, an effort to map an active human brain that could give new insight into how neurons interact with each other, providing new avenues of research for diseases such as Alzheimer's. The U.S. will apparently pit itself against a collection of European research agencies that have announced similar projects. The U.S. effort, however, will apparently involve U.S. businesses, which would naturally benefit from the high-profile nature of the effort; in theory, the latter could also apply the resulting discoveries to their own computing efforts. The Times reported that representatives from Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm met with government representatives at the California Institute of Technology to try and figure out whether or not there are sufficient computing resources to process the vast amounts of data that the experiments are expected to produce, or whether new ones would need to be built."
sfcrazy writes "Mark Shuttleworth has for the first time talked about the privacy issues in Ubuntu Dash after being criticized by EFF and FSF. He mentioned some changes in the way use can 'disable' the search results. However the company has showed that under no circumstances they will disable the online search by default as demanded by EFF and FSF. Shuttleworth was simply spinning the wheel moving things around to give an impression that something has been done where as the core problem remains — Dash sends keystrokes by default and legally every user agrees to send such keystrokes to PRODUCT.canonical.com server to be shared with partners like Facebook."
rbrandis writes "Google is in discussions with payment companies including Visa, MasterCard and PayPal to put illegal download websites out of existence by cutting off their funding. If Google goes ahead with the radical move, it would not mark the first time that illegal websites have been diminished or driven out of business by having a block put on their source of money."
An anonymous reader writes "After a huge meteor recently exploded over Chelyabinsk (population 1,130,132), Russia, NASA has approved $5 million for funding for ATLAS project (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System). From the article: '"There are excellent ongoing surveys for asteroids that are capable of seeing such a rock with one to two days' warning, but they do not cover the whole sky each night, so there's a good chance that any given rock can slip by them for days to weeks. This one obviously did," astronomer John Tonry of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii told NBC News Friday.'"
whoever57 writes "Patent trolls like to claim that patent laws provide a way that small inventors can create products and benefit financially from their invention. One such inventor faces selling his house, despite inventing a product that has sold tens of millions worldwide. From the article: 'Inventor Trevor Baylis says he faces having to sell his house after failing to make money from his wind up radio and is now calling for the government to step into to protect inventors. “I’ve got someone coming around in the next couple of weeks to do a valuation on my house,” says Trevor Baylis, as he walks into the sitting room of his home on Eel Pie Island, in Twickenham, south-west London. “I’m going to have to sell it or remortgage it – I’m totally broke. I’m living in poverty here.”'"
McGruber writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education has the news that Herbert Richardson, founder of Edwin Mellen Press is suing McMaster University and University Librarian Dale Askey for $3 Million over Mr. Askey's posts on a personal blog. In 2010 Mr. Askey wrote a blog post about Edwin Mellen Press on his personal Web site, Bibliobrary. Mr. Askey referred to the publisher as 'dubious' and said its books were often works of 'second-class scholarship.' For a few months afterward, several people chimed in in the blog's comments section, some agreeing with Mr. Askey, others arguing in support of the publisher. In a February 11 statement, the McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA) stated that The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) 'and the MUFA Executive agree that this case represents a serious threat to the freedom of academic librarians (pdf) to voice their professional judgement and to academic freedom more generally.'"
hypnosec writes "Kevin Mitnick, who was one of the most wanted computer hacker in the US at one time, is now heading a security consultancy firm – Mitnick Security Consulting, and is entrusted with the task of securing Sunday's presidential elections in Ecuador. Mitnick tweeted, '18 years ago I was busted for hacking. I do the same thing today but with full authorization. How cool is that?' His company will focus on protecting the Net Lock computer system tasked with tabulating Ecuador's elections."
parallel_prankster writes "Amazon users are addressing the drone controversy with sarcasm. Maisto International Inc.'s model Predator drones are selling out on Amazon.com Inc.'s website as parody reviews highlight how the toys can help children hone killing skills, mocking a controversial U.S. practice. The toy is a replica of the RQ-1 Predator, an unmanned aircraft that the U.S. Air Force has used in combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq and Yemen, according to the product description on Amazon. Only one of the $49.99 military-style toy jets is available for purchase on Amazon's site, which is brimming with assessments laced with dark humor. 'You can't spell slaughter without laughter,' one pithy joker wrote."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Suzanne Goldenberg reports that conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120 million to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, helping build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing 'wedge issue' for hardcore conservatives. 'We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,' says Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust. Ball's organization assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes with a guarantee of complete anonymity for donors who wished to remain hidden. The money flowed to Washington think tanks embedded in Republican party politics, obscure policy forums in Alaska and Tennessee, contrarian scientists at Harvard and lesser institutions, even to buy up DVDs of a film attacking Al Gore. 'The funding of the denial machine is becoming increasingly invisible to public scrutiny. It's also growing. Budgets for all these different groups are growing,' says Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, which compiled the data on funding of the anti-climate groups using tax records. 'These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable.'"