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Data Storage

Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive 275

An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing.

Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."
Robotics

Robots Are Coming For Our Jobs, Just Not All of Them 319

szczys writes: There was a video published on YouTube about a year ago called Humans Need Not Apply which compared human labor now to horse labor just before industrialization. It's a great thought-exercise, but there are a ton of tasks where it's still science-fiction to think robots are taking over anytime soon. Kristina Panos makes a great argument for which jobs we all want to see taken by robots, others that would be very difficult to make happen, and some that would just creep everyone out.
Input Devices

Ask Slashdot: Do You Press "6" Key With Right Or Left Hand? 240

New submitter ne0phyte73 writes: In some countries and in some touch typing books key "6" is pressed with right hand and in some others with left. It's not a big issue until you have a split keyboard. Guys at UHK are putting it on the left side. Do you agree? What hand do you use to press "6"? Left hand here, but it's not a strong preference; I'll take a keyboard that omits Caps Lock wherever they put the 6.
DRM

Regionally Encoded Toner Cartridges 'to Serve Customers Better' 378

sandbagger writes: The latest attempt to create artificial scarcity comes from Xerox, according to the editors at TechDirt, who cite German sources: "Xerox uses region coding on their toner cartridges AND locks the printer to the first type used. So if you use a North America cartridge you can't use the cheaper Eastern Europe cartridges. The printer's display doesn't show this, nor does the hotline know about it. When c't reached out to Xerox, the marketing drone claimed, this was done to serve the customer better..."
Desktops (Apple)

Could the Best Windows 10 Laptop Be a Mac? 435

dkatana writes: Now that Windows 10 is finally out there many people are looking for the best laptop with the power to make the new OS shine. The sweet spot appears to be in $900-$1500 machines from Dell, Asus and HP. But Apple, the company that has been fighting Windows for ever, has other options for Windows 10: the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. According to InformationWeek there are many reasons to consider purchasing a MacBook as the next Windows machine, including design, reliability, performance, battery life, display quality and better keyboard. Also MacBooks have a higher resell value, retaining up to 50% of their price after five years.
Google

Google Announces a Router: OnHub 278

An anonymous reader writes: Google has announced they're working with TP-LINK to build a new router they call OnHub. They say it's designed for the way we tend to use Wi-Fi in 2015, optimizing for streaming and sharing in a way that older routers don't. The router has a cylindrical design and comes with a simple, user-friendly mobile app. They say, "OnHub searches the airwaves and selects the best channel for the fastest connection. A unique antenna design and smart software keep working in the background, automatically adjusting OnHub to avoid interference and keep your network at peak performance. You can even prioritize a device, so that your most important activity — like streaming your favorite show — gets the fastest speed." The device will cost $200, it supports Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, and 802.15.4, and it will automatically apply firmware updates.
Upgrades

Revisiting How Much RAM Is Enough Today For Desktop Computing 350

jjslash writes: An article at TechSpot tests how much RAM you need for regular desktop computing and how it affects performance in apps and games. As it turns out, there's not much benefit going beyond 8 GB for regular programs, and surprisingly, 4GB still seems to be enough for gaming in most cases. Although RAM is cheap these days, and they had to go to absurdly unrealistic settings to simulate high demand for memory outside of virtualization, it's a good read to confirm our judgment calls on what is enough for most in 2015.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Best Big Battery Phone? 208

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung's announcement today of the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6+ was a disappointment to a lot of power users. The phones both use a 3,000 mAh, non-removable battery. This is presumably part of Samsung's quest for thinner and thinner phones, but it's bad news for those who prize function over form — particularly from a phone line that is ostensibly made for power users. So, those of you who have the pulse of the mobile industry: what's my best bet for a high end phone that doesn't compromise on battery life? Are there any devices on the horizon that are likely to have big batteries? I'm also wondering if I should just get a cheap phone to tide me over to the next generation of flagships. My current device is old and doesn't have the fast/quick-charge tech that modern ones do — does that work as advertised?
Power

MIT Designs Less Expensive Fusion Reactor That Boosts Power Tenfold 337

jan_jes writes: Advances in magnet technology have enabled researchers at MIT to propose a new design for a practical compact tokamak (donut-shaped) fusion reactor. The stronger magnetic field makes it possible to produce the required magnetic confinement of the superhot plasma — that is, the working material of a fusion reaction — but in a much smaller device than those previously envisioned (abstract). The reduction in size, in turn, makes the whole system less expensive and faster to build, and also allows for some ingenious new features in the power plant design.
Japan

Japan To Restart Nuclear Power Tomorrow After Energy Prices Soar 338

An anonymous reader writes: After the Fukushima meltdown, all of Japan's nuclear power plants were shut down, the last in late 2013. This week the government plans on starting up reactor No.1 at the Sendai nuclear power plant. Energy prices have risen 30% since 2011, and it is hoped that the plant will soon be producing a surplus of electricity. Not everyone is happy about the plant restarting. This weekend, about 2,000 protesters marched around the plant and voiced their opposition. "Past arguments that nuclear plants were safe and nuclear energy was cheap were all shown to be lies," said writer Satoshi Kamata, one of the demonstration organizers. "Kyushu Electric is not qualified to resume operations because it has not completed an anti-quake structure to oversee a possible accident as well as a venting facility."
Power

Giving Up Alternating Current 466

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday we discussed Soylent, the artificial food substitute created by Rob Rhinehart and his team. As it turns out, this isn't Rhinehart's only unusual sustainability project. In a new post, he explains how he gave up on alternating current — a tough proposition for anyone living in the U.S. and still interested in using all sorts of modern technology. Rhinehart says, "Most power in the US is generated by burning coal, immediately squandering 67% of its energy, then run through a steam turbine, losing another 50%, then sent across transmission lines, losing another 5%, then to charge a DC device like a cell phone another 50% is lost in conversion. This means for 100 watts of coal or oil burned my phone gets a mere 16."

The biggest hindrance was the kitchen. As you might expect for the creator of Soylent, he doesn't cook, and was able to get rid of almost all kitchen appliances because of that. He uses a butane stove for hot beverages. He powers a small computer off batteries, which get their energy from solar panels. For intensive tasks, he remotes to more powerful machines. He re-wired his apartment's LED lighting to run off direct current. Have any of you made similar changes? How much of an effect does this really have?
Printer

Epson Is Trying To Kill the Printer Ink Cartridge 223

An anonymous reader writes: Inkjet printer cartridges have been the bane of many small businesses and home offices for decades. It's interesting, then, that Epson is trying something new: next month, they're launching a new line of printers that come with small tanks of ink, instead of cartridges. The tanks will be refilled using bottles of ink. They're reversing the economics, here: the printer itself will be more expensive, but the refills will be much cheaper. Early reports claim you'll be spending a tenth as much on ink as you were before, but we'll see how that shakes out. The Bloomberg article makes a good point: it's never been easier to not print things. The printer industry needs to innovate if it wants us to keep churning out printed documents, and this may be the first big step.
United States

Obama Unveils Major Climate Change Proposal 413

An anonymous reader writes: Two years in the making, President Obama formally unveiled his plan to cut power plant emissions today, calling it the "single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change." The "Clean Power Plan" includes the first ever EPA standards on carbon pollution from power plants. CNN reports: "Under the plan, the administration will require states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards, based on their individual energy consumption. The plan also includes an incentive program for states to get a head start on meeting standards on early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency."
Earth

Clinton Plan To Power Every US Home With Renewables By 2027 Is Achievable 528

Lucas123 writes: As part of her campaign pledge, Hillary Clinton has said she would make it a priority in her first term to increase the number of solar panels by 500M and U.S. installed solar capacity from 21 gigawatts (GW) today to 140GW by the end of 2020. Her plan, is to increase solar, wind and other renewables so that they'd provide 33% of America's electricity by 2027, enough to power every home. While the plan may sound overly ambitious, experts say, it's not. Today, renewables provide about 15% of America's power. Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM Research, said the Clinton's renewable energy goal is doable, but with caveats. In order to achieve the goal, current programs, such as federal tax breaks for solar installations (set to expire next year), must continue and future initiatives, such as Obama's Clean Power Plan that will begin in 2018, must not be curtailed. Considering that if elected, Clinton wouldn't take office until 2017, the her campaign goals could be more bravado than reality. Clinton, however, is not alone. While most candidates have yet to announce their clean energy plans, Clinton's Democratic contender, Martin O'Malley, also came out with strong support for the end of fossil fuel use and a full clean energy economy by 2050, and creating a national goal of doubling energy efficiency within 15 years.
Robotics

Hitchhiking Robot's Cross-Country Trip Ends In Philadelphia 224

An anonymous reader writes: A hitchhiking robot that successfully traveled across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe, has met its demise in Philly. Created as a "social experiment," hitchBOT started its journey in the U.S. in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on July 17 with its thumb raised up and tape wrapped around its head that read "San Francisco or bust." After about two weeks in the U.S., someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair. "Sadly, sadly it's come to an end," said Frauke Zeller, one of its co-creators. The Independent reports: "The robot was designed to be a talking travel companion and could toss out factoids and carry limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location, and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels."