Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Forgive the rant, but this school district seems out of control. This is a rather poorly written report that creates more questions than it answers... Their process is completely illogical. The laptop was not stolen, they knew who had it but never asked for its return.

Former IT chief’s lawyer attacks Web cam report

May 4, 2010 by Dissent

John P. Martin reports the latest installment in the ongoing dispute over webcam surveillance by the Lower Merion School District:

The lawyer for the former top technology administrator in the Lower Merion School District today attacked a report that broadly blamed his client for the furor over the district’s secret laptop tracking program.

Lawyer Nicholas Centrella, who represents Virginia DiMedio, said he didn’t dispute the facts in the 69-page document, issued at a school board meeting Monday night. But Centrella challenged some of the conclusions, starting with the cover page that described it as an “independent” probe into when and why district tech employees activated Webcams on student-issued laptops.


His point is well-taken. I did not see that as any kind of “independent” investigation. And like Centrella, I read the report as pretty much trying to deflect most of the blame from the board and district to DiMedio. It will be interesting to see what she has to say when she is eventually deposed or under oath.

[I looked at the report on Scribd: Here are a few points...

On October 20, 2009, Blake J. Robbins brought his One-to-One laptop to the HHS Help Desk with a broken screen and was issued a loaner laptop. Later that morning, Building-Level Technician Kyle O’Brien, Desktop Technician Chuck Ginter, and Rhonda Keefer, the teacher liaison to the One-to-One program, conferred and agreed that Mr. Robbins should not have been issued a loaner laptop in light of outstanding insurance fees. [No indication if the broken laptop had been uninsured but was never flagged for retrieval, or if a “loaner” required extra/separate insurance. Bob]

Mr. O’Brien testified at his deposition in the Robbins lawsuit that Ms. Matsko instructed him to have TheftTrack activated; Ms. Matsko testified at her deposition that she did not authorize tracking.

Mr. O’Brien e-mailed Mr. Perbix and directed him to activate TheftTrack on Mr. Robbins’s loaner laptop.119 At 3:55 p.m., Mr. Perbix advised Mr. O’Brien by e-mail that the laptop was “[n]ow currently online at home.”120 [Why didn't they just call the Robbins and ask for the laptop or insurance payment? Bob]

Mr. O’Brien told us that he believed that he needed authorization from Ms. Matsko, which he never requested or received, to terminate tracking. Consequently, the loaner laptop was tracked from October 20, 2009 to November 4, 2009, [Suggests the laptop could have been recovered at any time... Bob] resulting in the capture of 210 webcam photographs and 218 screenshots that were recovered in the investigation. [Apparently there were no policies, procedures or guidelines that covered this... Bob]

On or about October 26, 2009, Mr. Perbix observed a screenshot from the loaner laptop. The screenshot included an on-line chat that concerned him.

On November 2 or 3, 2009, Ms. Matsko and Mr. Kline, in a meeting also attended by HHS Assistant Principal Lauren Marcuson, discussed certain images [I think they mean “screen capture” when they say “image” and use “photo” to refer to images captured by the camera. But they are not consistent. Elsewhere they call them “screenshots” Probably indicates the report had several authors and no consistent editing. Bob] captured from Blake Robbins’s loaner laptop. According to Ms. Matsko, Mr. Kline advised her that unless there was additional evidence that gave them a contextual basis for doing so, school officials should not discuss the images with the student or his parents because they involved off-campus activities. Ms. Matsko ultimately decided, about one week later, that it was appropriate to discuss certain seemingly troubling images with Mr. Robbins and/or his parents. [“Yes, I was told not to do it, but I did it anyway?” And they cite a screen image rather than the photograph Robbins claimed... Bob]

It's for the children!” Actually, now I don't need to pay any attention to the students. I don't need to learn their names or take attendance – I can ignore them like I've always wanted to. Next we should RFID the textbooks to make sure students bring them to class. And we should jam cell phones... And... And... And...

RFID Checks Student Attendance in Arizona

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday May 04, @03:40PM

The student newspaper at UW-Madison is running a piece about the use of RFID to check lecture attendance at Northern Arizona University. One poster to an email discussion list suggested that getting around this system would be simple if "all one has to do is walk into a classroom with 10 RFID-enabled cards in their pocket."

"The new system will use sensors to detect students' university identification cards when they enter classrooms, according to NAU spokesperson Tom Bauer. The data will be recorded and available for professors to examine. [We don't care! Bob] … [The spokesman] added the sensors, paid for by federal stimulus money, initially would only be installed in large freshmen and sophomore classes with more than 50 students. NAU Student Body President Kathleen Templin said most students seem to be against the new system. She added students have started Facebook groups and petitions against the sensor system. ... One of the most popular Facebook groups ... has more than 1,400 members."

What are the odds that the use of tracking RFID will expand over time on that campus?

Cops are government employees, should we treat them like elected officials? Where does your congressman live?

Judge Strikes Down Florida’s Police Privacy Law

May 5, 2010 by Dissent

Julie Montanaro reports that a case involving publication of home addresses of police officers (previously covered on here) has been decided:

A federal judge has struck down a Florida law as unconstitutional and word is spreading quickly among law enforcement officers today.

That law prohibited anyone from publishing an officer’s home address and phone number, but a judge ruled that law violates a Tallahassee man’s right to free speech.


A Tallahassee man filed suit, with the ACLU’s help, after he posted comments about a Tallahassee Police officer on the web site along with her home address, phone number, email address and the fact that she had 7 children.

Robert Brayshaw was arrested for it – twice – but never convicted and now a federal court judge has awarded him 25-thousand dollars in damages after declaring the law invalid.

Read more on WCTV.

Stifling competition by fiat? Implications for Cloud Computing?

EFF fights Facebook’s attempt to criminalize use of other aggregators

May 4, 2010 by Dissent

From EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging a federal judge to dismiss Facebook’s claims that criminal law is violated when its users opt for an add-on service that helps them aggregate their information from a variety of social networking sites.

Power Ventures makes a web-based tool that users can set up to log into their multiple social networking accounts and aggregate messages, friend lists, and other data so they can see all the information in one place. In a lawsuit against Power Ventures, Facebook claims that Power’s tool violates criminal law because Facebook’s terms of service ban users from accessing their information through “automatic means.” By using Power’s tool, Facebook argues that its users are accessing Facebook “without permission” under the California penal code. EFF argues in an amicus brief filed Monday that users have the right to choose how they access their data, and turning any violation of terms of use into a criminal law violation would leave millions of Facebook users unwittingly vulnerable to prosecution.

For the full amicus brief:

To read the entire press release:

Correct, but not optimal.” Does that mean they have the direction (warming) correct but the magnitude (0.00001 vs. 6.8 degrees) is suspect? Is this “good enough for government (grant) work?” And I'd still like to see the data.

Second Inquiry Exonerates Climatic Research Unit

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday May 05, @01:53AM

mvdwege writes

"After being cleared of charges of misconduct by a parliamentary committee, now the CRU has the results of the inquiry (PDF) by a panel of scientists into their scientific methods. Here is the CRU press release. Criticisms: The statistical methods used, though arriving at correct results, are not optimal, and it is recommended futures studies involve professional statisticians if possible; and the CRU scientists are lacking somewhat in organization. A very far cry from the widespread allegations of fraud. It seems 'Climategate' is ending with a whimper."

Research tools

3 Online OCR Services That Let You Intelligently Scan Documents

[See also:

Geek stuff...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Free eBook - Getting Started with Ubuntu

Getting Started with Ubuntu is a free 165 page ebook produced by a team of writers and editors. The manual covers everything an end-user would need to know about how to use Ubuntu. You can download the ebook for free or order it as a bound book from Lulu.

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