• UK Roadside cameras suffer from large gaps in coverage, police admit

    posted by Keito
    2012-08-29 21:29:01
    'Police chiefs have admitted there are flaws in a "big brother" surveillance system that enables them to track and store the daily journeys of millions of motorists.

    The police chief who co-ordinates the growing network of more than 5,000 roadside cameras, which records the whereabouts of 16m vehicles, said the network was patchy and left"large gaps in coverage in various parts of the country".

    Police made the admissions as they won a freedom of information tribunal to keep secret the locations of the the cameras, arguing that disclosure would allow criminals to evade detection.

    For the past 10 years, police chiefs have pushed the expansion of the network, saying the cameras have become one of their most valuable tools to catch criminals in investigations ranging from terrorism to low-level crime.

    The cameras, located on motorways and main roads and at airports and town centres, automatically record the number plates and fronts of cars, noting the time, date and location of the images taken.

    Each camera, be it fixed on a pole, gantry or mounted in a police car, can log up to 3,600 images an hour.

    The images are transmitted to a central database in Hendon, north London, which holds more than 7bn records of the movement of stretching back six years. Police hope the database will be able to record up to 50m licence plates a day.

    The home secretary, Theresa May, has ordered that regulation of the Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras should be tightened up, amid civil liberties concerns. No other democratic country routinely tracks innocent motorists in this way.

    Weaknesses in the system were admitted by John Dean, who co-ordinates the system for the Association of Chief Police Officers, and other officers during a test case brought by the Guardian to find out the locations of 45 cameras in Devon and Cornwall.

    Dean said: "This network of ANPR cameras has been established at local level to reflect the needs of local policing priorities. There has therefore been no national deployment plan, and this has resulted in significant gaps of coverage throughout the country.

    "The disclosure of the locations of existing ANPR cameras could therefore put some areas at greater risk, the criminals becoming aware of these gaps of coverage."

    DS Neil Winterbourne, in charge of the ANPR cameras for Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command, told the tribunal criminals could evade the cameras by adopting "a particular driving style", which he did not describe.

    "I will not go into the conduct of such tactics herein," he said, "but it is true to say that a properly trained driver can adopt a particular driving style that will greatly reduce the chance of the vehicle being detected by ANPR.

    "These tactics are only effective in the short term, when in close proximity to a camera, and it would be impracticable for anyone to permanently drive around in such a fashion."

    He added: "There are numerous ways in which the appearance of a number plate can be modified to reduce the chances of detection by ANPR, but these are mostly apparent when the vehicle is inspected and run the risk of attracting the attention of police, which may be counter-productive from the terrorist standpoint".

    Police said criminals were steering clear of the cameras when they knew the locations. They cited the case of Danny Speed, who was jailed for a string of robberies on vans carrying cash. A secret bug in his car recorded him saying: "They are the ANPR ones … I am going to [go] round the outside."

    Jeremy Harris, an assistant chief constable in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said there had been more than 30 incidents in the region "of cameras being moved and pushed out of alignment so they are not reading registration plates and have been rendered inoperative". There had been a "concentrated effort by criminals" to damage or set fire to cameras, he added.

    After a three-year battle by the Guardian, the tribunal ruled in favour of police, who argued that disclosure of the cameras' locations would compromise the effectiveness of a weapon that has contributed to more than 50,000 arrests.'
  • Diaspora now open for sign-up!

    posted by Keito
    2012-08-28 19:10:18
    After 2 years of development in closed beta, the open-source social network Diaspora is now open for sign-up.

    A direct alternative to Facebook, it operates a model that leaves the user in control of their data, instead of the user being locked in and data-mined like on Facebook.

    It has officially been handed to the community as an open-source project, so any can help develop and improve it!
  • Pop culture references for open source principles

    posted by Keito
    2012-08-27 12:43:16
    From Nine Inch Nails to Star Trek, open source principles are represented in much of pop culture. Ruth Suehle, community marketing leader for the Fedora Project and moderator of the Life channel at, found this to be a great approach when explaining the open source way to people who don't know much (or don't want to know much) about it's humble beginnings in software. covers the ways open source is far-reaching, into the areas of business, education, government, health, law, and life.
  • It's time we started meeting oppression with resistance...

    posted by Keito
    2012-08-24 21:53:04
  • Life is not read-only

    posted by Keito
    2012-08-21 20:48:50
    They say it is piracy. Downright stealing from other people, that's what downloading is. You're taking something for sale and not paying for it. Do you shoplift, or break into houses? Why should you download for free?

    Making media is hard work: it cost three million dollars just to remaster, package, and advertise that latest compilation. How will artists make a living? How will real culture keep going?

    Well. Maybe you didn't exactly take something from someone. Maybe you didn't really discover that stuff on a shelf. Maybe you weren't going to spend all that money on that "copy-protected" thing anyway.

    And these things are sticky. Music you can't copy, films you can't tape, files with restrictions, and collections that vanish when you swap the music player... Some companies even build phones and computers on which they are the ones who decide which programs you may run.

    Things worsen when the law is changed to suit these practices: in several countries, it is illegal to circumvent such restrictions.

    What are you here for? What is really important in life? At the end of the year, what makes it good to you? Good time with friends and relatives? Discovering a great album? Expressing your love, or discontent? Learning new things? Having a great idea? An email from someone special?

    Less important things include: a larger number of pixels - a sleek but already outdated iPod - a "premium" subscription - a quickly absorbed pay rise - lots of high-res TV watching... That's good stuff we all enjoy, but in the end it doesn't quite count much.

    The chances are you are not going to be an exceptional astronaut. You are not going to swim across the Atlantic. You are not going to be a world leader. Life is right now. It is about sharing and expressing thoughts, ideas and feelings.

    Life is not read-only. It is made of bits that cannot be sold with locks on them. If you cannot choose, try, taste, witness, think, discover, make discover, express, share, debate, it's not worth a lot. Life should be read-and-write.

    Perhaps the copyright system isn't as legitimate as some would like you to believe. In fact Martin Luther King's speech I Have a Dream © is still copyrighted. You are not allowed to sing Happy Birthday To You © in a movie without paying rights. The expression Freedom of Expression™ is trademarked.

    File sharing is turned into a crime. People are trialed and jailed for developing technologies that enable others to share files (they call it: "Conspiracy to commit copyright infringement").

    But where are the people who invented and sold video recorders, photocopying machines, and cassette players with a record button? In fact, where are the people who invented digital music players?

    It is a disproportionate joke. While thousands work hard to make our children want to smoke, or to export even more landmines, sharing files -the very same files that are streamed on YouTube- makes you liable for $150,000 compensation per downloaded song.

    And it is said music industry is endangered.

    Who wants an industry for music? Such an industry anyway? Let industries be for canned food and cars - not for creativity.

    Culture is not damaged when you copy something. Creativity is not diminished when you discover something. Whole societies are improved when people learn and express things.

    Participate. Enjoy. Discover. Express. Share.

    So. A reasoned society where artists can make a living and you're not a criminal because you share music is possible. A few suggestions:


    Listen to artists live (not if they charge $200)

    Check out what your favorite artists think and do (you might learn things)

    Buy music the intelligent way

    If the artist is dead now, save the expense of a CD and spend the money otherwise

    Sing along the lyrics

    Don't re-buy your music if you have it as CDs or LPs.


    Add your bit to Wikipedia

    Start a blog and express opinions

    Rip, mix, burn, sample, shuffle, remix your music.


    Go to small theatres (more likely to promote artists not industries)

    Don't buy into restrictive media players and DRM technologies

    Share good movies with your friends, those you believe everyone should see in their lives.


    Learn what free software is

    then: install Firefox, then get Linux

    Write your work files in a standard open format


    Think, read about copyright, and how copyable things differ from material objects

    Learn about Creative Commons. Browse all the good stuff and open your ears

    Keep a copy of your favourite texts

    Get doing things

    Don't let your culture get eaten by big brands

    Keep performing the song Happy Birthday without legal authorisation.