Saturday, October 05, 2013

I kind of doubt this one. Why would you rig a train to be remotely operated? If you did, wouldn't you add a few safeguards that required physical access?
The Great Chicago Ghost Train Mystery
During Monday rush hour this week, a Blue Line train that was scheduled for repairs did a very mysterious thing: it took off without a conductor on board. After quietly and slowly maneuvering its way around the curves of the Forest Park train yard after being parked there for a week, the rogue machine passed through the Forest Park station, headed eastbound on a westbound track and climbed a hill before ramming into another train at Harlem station and injuring 30 people. The media is calling it “the ghost train” and investigators are completely baffled.
The incident is unlike any “veteran city rail workers say they have seen” reports The Chicago Tribune, as multiple failsafes that should have stopped the train didn’t.
… To add more to the intrigue, the cameras facing the ghost train when it was parked in the yard the morning of were not working.
… The CTA implemented their SCADA system in 2009 after getting a grant from Homeland Security (pdf) to do so.
… Given the evidence, or lack thereof, a hack is clearly one of the easiest answers to the ghost train mystery. An even bigger, mind-boggling question: why did it take investigators three days to consider the ghost train as hacked?

Entities that do not have the resources of a state behind them will find the best tools they can. Because “Best Tools” attract terrorists they also attract terrorist hunters.
Barton Gellman, Craig Timberg and Steven Rich report:
On Nov. 1, 2007, the National Security Agency hosted a talk by Roger Dingledine, principal designer of one of the world’s leading Internet privacy tools. It was a wary encounter, akin to mutual intelligence gathering, between a spy agency and a man who built tools to ward off electronic surveillance.
According to a top secret NSA summary of the meeting, Dingledine told the assembled NSA staff that his service, called Tor, offered anonymity to people who needed it badly – to keep business secrets, to protect their identities from oppressive political regimes, or to conduct research without revealing themselves. To the NSA, Tor was offering protection to terrorists and other intelligence targets.
The Snowden documents, including a detailed PowerPoint presentation, suggest that the NSA cannot see directly inside Tor’s anonymous network, but it has repeatedly uncloaked users by circumventing Tor’s protections. The documents raise doubts about the reliability of Tor to protect human rights workers, dissidents and journalists who rely on anonymity to avoid threats to their safety and freedom in countries like Libya and Syria.
Read more on Washington Post.

(Related) Bruce is worth reading generally, but one paragraph in particular is for my Ethical Hackers.
How the NSA Thinks About Secrecy and Risk
… According to Snowden, the TAO—that’s Tailored Access Operations—operators running the FOXACID system have a detailed flowchart, with tons of rules about when to stop. If something doesn't work, stop. If they detect a PSP, a personal security product, stop. If anything goes weird, stop. This is how the NSA avoids detection, and also how it takes mid-level computer operators and turn them into what they call "cyberwarriors." It's not that they're skilled hackers, it's that the procedures do the work for them. [That's why it's more fun to be on the tiger team that writes the procedures. Bob]

One of those interesting twists lawyers can think up... Your terms of use apply only to your users.
Adi Robertson reports:
A week after Google failed to convince a judge that Gmail keyword scanning didn’t violate wiretap laws, Yahoo has also been slapped with a class-action privacy lawsuit. A pair of non-Yahoo users say that by scanning incoming emails to serve more targeted ads, Yahoo was effectively intercepting and reading their mail. As non-users, they argue that they didn’t agree to the searches, and they’re filing suit on behalf of all other Americans who sent mail to Yahoo.
Read more on The Verge.

I tend to agree with Mr. Buffett.
Understanding the Game Being Played in Washington
Some portray it as a Manichean struggle between good and evil. Warren Buffett says it’s “extreme idiocy.” I’d like to recommend another way of looking at the government shutdown and the looming battle over the debt ceiling in Washington. It’s a game, played by flawed-but-not-crazy human beings under confusing circumstances. In other words, it’s an interaction among “agents” who “base their decisions on limited information about actions of other agents in the recent past, and they do not always optimize.”
That quote is from economist H. Peyton Young’sThe Evolution of Conventions,” one of several works of game theory I plowed my way through this week in an attempt to find a way to think about the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling fight that didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall. My reading made the dynamics at work in Congress and at the White House a bit clearer — and thus slightly less maddening, if not less ominous.

There is no fool like a fool with a little money and an Internet stock trading account.
A Stock Called 'TWTRQ' Was Up As Much As 1,500% Because People Thought It Was Twitter

I expect this to backfire as the funds they were trying to raise go for munchies...

For my students
A dynamic guide to alternate research sources for use during the 2013 Federal Government shutdown
“Mississippi State University Libraries has created a LibGuide to finding government information during the shutdown. You can see it here: This was a team effort by our Reference Department (which now includes our Depository services and Christine Lea Fletcher).”

For my Statistics students. Can we prove that “what you use” is related to “when you started using the Internet?” (It sure looks that way)
Age of Internet Empires: One Map With Each Country's Favorite Website
Two researchers, Mark Graham and Stefano De Stabbata, at the Oxford Internet Institute have depicted the world’s “Internet empires” in a map, below. The map shows each nation’s most popular website, with the size of nations altered to reflect the number of Internet users there.
The map makes for a brief, informative look at how geographic—and universalcertain web tastes and habits are.

Perspective. Cable TV is doomed?
ABC, CBS expand TV apps to more Android devices
Friday, CBS said its app for on-demand viewing of full episodes is available for Android and Windows 8 users and would be coming to BlackBerry 10 before the end of the year.
The app will include more programming, with every episode of CBS' prime-time series eight days after broadcast, as well as classic shows like "MacGyver," "Star Trek," and "Perry Mason." Daytime and late-night programming is available within 24 hours after initial airing
ABC said its Watch ABC live-streaming app is available on Android phones running Ice Cream Sandwich versions of the operating system or higher. Disney rolled out the Watch ABC app on iOS and Kindle Fire devices, as well as some Android tablets, including Samsung Galaxy devices.

Time saving tools.
– is a site that converts PDF files into Microsoft Excel files. All you need to do is upload the PDF file onto the website, and the converted Excel file will be emailed to you. The table data in the PDF will be accurately represented in both row and column structure in the Excel format.

Dang! Why didn't we think of that? Get them in the door. Let them meet the instructors. Learn that they can do college level work. Something we could do every couple of years (unfortunately)
Georgetown Offers Free Classes to Furloughed Workers
NBC Washington: “If you are a furloughed worker looking for something to do during the shutdown, Georgetown University has something that will keep you busy. The School of Continuing Studies is offering six free courses to those who are out of work. The classes deal with everything from management skills to social media. Each class lasts between one and four days and will be taught at the school’s downtown campus on Massachusetts Avenue. But there are only 100 spots per class. If you are interested in registering, click here.”

I find this amusing every week.
… The Los Angeles Unified School District continues to demonstrate how not to handle a technology implementation. News broke last week that students had “hacked” their school-issued iPads (that is, they’d deleted the profiles that school IT had created for them, thus giving them free range access to the forbidden fruits of Facebook and Pandora). The district, which has been criticized for the poor planning in its billion dollar gift to Apple and Pearson, admits that that 71 iPads went missing during a pilot last spring. It still hasn’t worked out who’ll be responsible for lost or damaged devices. So amidst all the hullaballo, the district now says it’s taking all the iPads that it’s issued back.
According to data from Nielsen Book, the number of children who rarely read or do not read at all has increased over the last year. 28% of those under age 17 are occasional or non-readers, up from 20% in 2012.
… The Brazilian online education company Veduca has launched what it calls the “world’s first open online MBA.” The online video classes are free, but those wanting a certificate will have to pay a fee and take their exams in-person. [This is how I see it working. Bob]
… The University of Florida will begin offering a slate of new, fully online degree programs in January, on the heels of legislation passed earlier this year mandating it do so. Because nothing says high quality education like developing and implementing Bachelors in just a few short months. I predict the university outsources much of this to Pearson.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Consistent with previous arguments. “Terrorists don't have copies of these records, so we have neither searched nor seized.”
Matt Sledge reports:
The government is arguing in the terrorism case that serves as the National Security Agency’s primary public justification for its bulk collection of telephone records that criminal defendants have no constitutional right to challenge the agency’s sweeping surveillance program.
In a filing made Sept. 30, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy of the Southern District of California contends that only the telephone companies have a Fourth Amendment interest in their call records — and therefore that Basaaly Moalin cannot challenge his conviction for providing material support to the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Read more on Huffington Post.
[From the article:
Those same companies are notably disinclined to assert the privacy rights of their users: Last month it was revealed that none has ever challenged the NSA's bulk records requests.
The government also contends there is "no suppression remedy" for a violation under the statute underpinning the sweeping records collection, meaning Moalin cannot have the evidence against him thrown out even if the NSA broke the law.

Do I read between the lines correctly? Corporate communications were sent directly to the employee's computer with no other copy kept by the employer?
BuckleySandler writes:
On September 18, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held that an employee’s computer, issued by the employer, is not a “facility” subject to protections of the Stored Communications Act. Roadlink Workforce Solutions, L.L.C. v. Malpass, No. 13-5459, 2013 WL 5274812 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 18, 2013). In this case, an employer sued a former employee for allegedly copying and then deleting certain information from an employer-issued computer before leaving to work for a competitor. The employer claimed a private right of action under the Stored Communications Act based on its allegation that the former employee intentionally exceeded his authorization to access a “facility through which an electronic communication service” it provided, and obtained and altered an electronic communication while it was in electronic storage.
Read more on InfoBytes Blog.

For those who are paranoid enough to think they might be included in NSAs surveillance but are not paranoid enough to believe sites like these are run by the NSA.
– is a Virtual Private Network service which enables you to browse the Internet anonymously and with ease. With the recent revelations of internet spying by the NSA, privacy online has suddenly become a very important topic for everyone and one of the ways you can cover your tracks is by using an encrypted VPN connection.

If you review the reviews, or analyze Big Data, you need to ensure that you do it correctly. I see “algorithm failure” as a major category of class action lawsuits in the near future.
Rage Against the Algorithms
… A recent survey found that 76 percent of consumers check online reviews before buying, so a lot can hinge on a good or bad review. Such sites have become so important to local businesses that it’s not uncommon for scheming owners to hire shills to boost themselves or put down their rivals.
To protect users from getting duped by fake reviews Yelp employs an algorithmic review reviewer which constantly scans reviews and relegates suspicious ones to a “filtered reviews” page, effectively de-emphasizing them without deleting them entirely. But of course that algorithm is not perfect, and it sometimes de-emphasizes legitimate reviews and leaves actual fakes intact—oops. Some businesses have complained, alleging that the filter can incorrectly remove all of their most positive reviews, leaving them with a lowly one- or two-stars average.
This is just one example of how algorithms are becoming ever more important in society, for everything from search engine personalization, discrimination, defamation, and censorship online, to how teachers are evaluated, how markets work, how political campaigns are run, and even how something like immigration is policed. Algorithms, driven by vast troves of data, are the new power brokers in society, both in the corporate world as well as in government.

I could explain this to my students, but instead I'll keep repeating “$1 Billion Dollars!”
Twitter files for $1 billion IPO, but still isn't profitable
Twitter has filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become a public company, which will allow outside investors to buy and trade stock in the company in the coming months. The San Francisco company will trade under the symbol TWTR when it goes public, it revealed in the S-1 document it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The S-1, which was made public today, said that Twitter has 215 million monthly active users but is not yet profitable. During the first six months of 2013 the company pulled in $253.6 million in revenue, but its net loss increased by 41 percent to $69.3 million.

(Related) Probably the hottest new hacker target. You must be a “Public Agency” (or a teenage hacker) to use this service. Will it become mandatory to monitor this service? (Everyone has to become a Twitter user?)
– if there is an emergency of some kind, it is essential for as many people as possible to hear about it. The dominance of social media and smartphones today means that one of the best ways to broadcast an alert about an emergency is through Twitter. Twitter Alerts is a service where you can type your emergency tweets and have them sent out.

Doing what the government can't... Do they normally charge for access to the free government data?
EBSCO Information Services Releases a Free Version of ERIC During Government Shutdown
“EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) is making the government database ERIC available during the government shutdown. ERIC, the Education Resource Information Center, is typically available through the government website ( as well as via EBSCO’s EBSCOhost® research platform. Because of the shutdown, access to the full text of articles and other materials will not be available but researchers will have access to the full set of A&I records on EBSCOhost. Users going to will now see ERIC listed among the other free EBSCO databases such as GreenFILE™ and Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts™ (LISTA). ERIC provides access to educational literature and resources including access to information from journals included in the Current Index of Journals in Education and Resources in Education Index. It was designed as a national information system to provide access to education literature and resources. According to its website, “ERIC is the world’s largest and most frequently used education digital library.” ERIC provides more than 1.4 million bibliographic records and dates back to 1966.”

Is this the best publishers can do? I certainly hope not!
Scribd And HarperCollins Launch All-You-Can-Read Book Subscription Service For $8.99/m
Scribd — the new service and the original web app have the same name — costs $8.99 per month and can be accessed on iPhone, iPad, Android and Web browsers.
… The HarperCollins catalogue will include its full backlist — books that are over a year old. While the exact number hasn’t been disclosed, the publisher counts some of the world’s most popular authors in its mix, including Paulo Coelho, Neil Gaiman, Marian Keys and Elmore Leonard.

An infographic for our students who drink “5 Hour Energy” more that 5 times per day?
35 Secrets To Being Productive

For my website students.
Google Starts Analytics Academy To Teach People About Google Analytics
If you are a website owner, you know that understanding who has been visiting your site, where they are from, and what pages they looked at (and for how long) is absolutely essential if you are to have any hope of growing and developing your online presence. If you have no idea who your site visitors are, then you are walking blindfolded.
The tool that most people turn to, in order to achieve this knowledge, is Google Analytics.
… Google wants to help you out there, to understand the facts and figures that they are throwing at you. So that is why they have set up what they call the Analytics Academy.

(Related) I've mentioned this before, this has a bit more detail.
Google News: Color On Google Drive & The Launch Of Google Web Designer
Google Web Designer is a visual tool for easily designing interactive HTML5 sites and ads. The tool has been launched in public beta and is available for free download on Windows and Mac. The designing software is meant for advertisers primarily who want to easily create animated ads for mobiles and desktops. Though most of the features are custom-made for ads, it can also be easily used for making full scale HTML5 webpages. Google Web Designer is an attempt to simplify the design process for cross-platforms and multiple screens.

For my students
Find Free Birthday Gifts for Family and Friends
At you can download a personalized Happy Birthday song. They sing a birthday song, with your name in it! It’s not just the traditional ‘Happy Birthday’ song either. gives you the ability to set up a free birthday call to your friends and family. They answer the call, a friendly voice tells them it’s BirthdayDialer calling, and then plays them a great little birthday song. The free version is somewhat limited, but I still enjoyed it.
Free Birthday Treats is a directory of free things for your birthday, based on age, or if you’re a pet

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Not much of a surprise...
The U.S. Justice Department has told a secret surveillance court that it opposes a request from technology companies to reveal more about the demands they receive for user information, according to court papers released on Wednesday.
Read more on Reuters.

(Related) But then, asking permission to reveal what they are giving law enforcement is not the same as resisting any disclosure.
Kevin Poulsen reports:
The U.S. government in July obtained a search warrant demanding that Edward Snowden’s e-mail provider, Lavabit, turn over the private SSL keys that protected all web traffic to the site, according to to newly unsealed documents.
In an interesting work-around, Levison complied the next day by turning over the private SSL keys as an 11 page printout in 4-point type. The government, not unreasonably, called the printout “illegible.”
Read more on Wired.
I really admire Levison for trying to protect all users.
[From the article:
Hilton ruled for the government. “[The] government’s clearly entitled to the information that they’re seeking, and just because you-all have set up a system that makes that difficult, that doesn’t in any way lessen the government’s right to receive that information just as they could from any telephone company or any other e-mail source that could provide it easily,” said Hilton.
… The complete document set follows.

No harm no foul? “Our whole business model is designed around that loophole.” (Behold the value of lobbyists!)
Wendy Davis reports:
Hulu argues in new court papers that a lawsuit accusing it of violating a federal video privacy law should be dismissed on the ground that the Web users who filed suit didn’t suffer any injuries.
Read more on MediaPost.
[From the article:
“Congress could have worded the VPPA to provide monetary relief merely on a showing of an improper disclosure,” Hulu argues in a motion seeking summary judgment. “But it did not do so. Instead, it required that, to obtain an award of damages, the plaintiff be 'aggrieved' by the disclosure.”
Hulu previously acknowledged in court papers that it discloses data to third parties, but says that it never linked users' names to their movie-watching history. Instead, it assigns users a seven-digit User ID, and then transmits data about that User ID.

(Related) No harm no foul? This is so obvious it only took us 2 years to figure it out! (That's practically instantaneously in legal years.)
Mark Walsh reports that EPIC’s lawsuit against the U.S. Education Department has been dismissed for lack of standing:
A federal judge has a thrown out a lawsuit challenging 2011 regulations for the main federal education privacy law that added student identification numbers to the “directory” of information that may be disclosed by schools and colleges.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and four individuals sued the U.S. Department of Education over the latest rules for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, or FERPA.
But Judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. District Court in Washington issued summary judgment for the Education Department, ruling that the plaintiffs have not suffered any real legal injuries stemming from the regulations and thus they lack legal standing to bring their suit.
Read more on Education Week.
In noting the dismissal on its own web site, writes, ”EPIC intends to take further steps to safeguard student privacy.” It does not indicate what those steps might be and whether there will be any additional legal challenges to the 2011 regulations.

(Related) No harm no problem! No worries dudes and dudettes, if you think it's a bad thing we'll assume you are correct!
Julian D. Perlman of BakerHostetler writes:
California has moved one step closer towards amending its Constitution to create a presumption of harm whenever personal data is shared without a consumer’s express opt-in, a change that would clear a significant hurdle to many privacy breach lawsuits.
On Thursday, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen approved steps necessary to bring the Personal Privacy Protection Act to California voters. The effort to bring this initiative to the ballot, led by former state Sen. Steve Peace (also co-writer and co-producer of 1978′s cult classic “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”) and retired litigator Michael Thorsnes, will require 807,615 signatures from registered voters by February 24, 2014. (The complete Ballot Initiative Request is available here) If its proponents succeed, voters will face the issue in November 2014, with any approved change to the law taking effect in January 2016.
Read more on Mondaq.

For my Ethical Hackers. Be careful who you irritate.
Iranian cyber warfare commander shot dead in suspected assassination

Not current, but still available...
Internet Archives Maintaining copies of offline e-gov sites
Via Jeff J. Berns: “Per, the Internet Archive grabbed copies of a number of federal agency websites just before they were taken offline due to the lapse in appropriations. You can access the archives through the links on the blog entry. The databases, search engines, etc. may not work, but the static pages should be there.”

For everyone who needs (should be using) secure chat! I wonder if the NSA has deep cover hackers working on projects like this. Or have we given up completely on humint?
BitTorrent Chat Seeks To Bring Free P2P, Secure, User-Owned Instant Messaging
With growing concerns over how secure your online data is from intelligence organisations like the NSA, the makers of BitTorrent are looking to roll out a new instant messaging app that protects your privacy using the same infrastructure as the file-sharing network. BitTorrent Chat, an experiment in BitTorrent Labs, is currently in private alpha.
… The biggest sell here is that BitTorrent Chat is completely server-less. By not storing your messages on any servers, they are safe from snooping eyes. Instead, it uses a decentralized system that works akin to its BitTorrent Sync technology. Much like torrenting itself, it uses an encrypted peer-to-peer network.
… BitTorrent Chat will be free to all users with no limitations. It would likely hit Windows, Mac and Linux, although that has not been confirmed yet. The service is also eventually expected to work with other instant messaging accounts, and will have mobile apps as well.
This isn’t the first chat service being built with the premise of security. Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde is working on a messaging platform that he claims will be impossible to spy on, even by the people who run it.
To try out BitTorrent Chat, you can sign up for an invitation to the private alpha and hope to get lucky and be one of those selected.

For all my students (because it supports so many devices)
Simplenote for Android is a Free, Fast and Fantastic Notepad
Good apps like to show off their many features. Great apps get out of the way and let you do what you came to do. And that’s what Simplenote has always been about. It has been the best note-taking app on the Web, Windows, Mac or iOS, and new owners Automattic (the same company behind WordPress) has now brought this same simplicity to Android for free.

Still looking for the perfect tool for my students to create their textbook with. Or at least a few articles on new technologies...
Lucidpress is a slick new service from the same team that developed Lucidchart. Lucidpress is a slick tool for collaboratively creating multimedia documents.
If you watch the video below you'll notice that Lucidpress has some similarities to Google Documents. In fact, you can use your Google Account to sign into Lucidpress and you can use items stored in your Google Drive account in your Lucidpress documents. Lucidpress has commenting and sharing features that are similar to Google Drive too. What makes Lucidpress different from Google Documents is the selection of layouts and the layout customizations available to you. I look at Lucidpress as being the best of Apple's Pages and the best of Google Documents combined into one slick service
In the email that I received from the Lucidpress PR department I was informed that accounts for students and teachers will be free just as they are in Lucidcharts.
Lucidpress could be an excellent tool for students to create multimedia documents as reports or to tell a creative story. It is possible that your students could use it to create a multimedia online yearbook too.

Do students still read Shakespeare?
A Brief Tour of the Digital Delights of the Folger Shakespeare Library

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Heads up!
Internet Explorer exploit release could trigger a surge in attacks
… Known as CVE-2013-3893, the exploit was integrated Monday into Rapid7's open-source Metasploit penetration testing tool. By putting the exploit into Metasploit, the attack code was made accessible not only to security professionals but also cybercriminals, according to PCWorld.
… Microsoft has not yet released a permanent patch for this exploit. It announced the CVE-2013-3893 flaw and released a downloadable "Fix It" tool in mid-September.

What's that buzzing noise?
Guardian – Selected excerpts – NSA drone document
The Guardian: “Top-secret NSA drone document – selected excerpts. Documents list various dangers to American drones, including ‘air defense threats’, ‘jamming of UAV sensor systems’, ‘terrestrial weather’, and ‘electronic warfare’”

...and we're going to need these soon.
Some good pointers on what should be included in your contract with vendors, from

Just a thought. Would there be a market for an un-interruptable source of government data? Dover Publishing reprints government publications like the SeaBee's small building design guide. Why couldn't my students do the work Congress is incapable of funding?
E-gov sites shutdown
“Due to the Federal government shutdown, and most associated web sites are unavailable. Only web sites necessary to protect lives and property will be maintained. See for critical weather information or contact for more information about the shutdown. NOAA Federal Employees: For access to the Notice to Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance (SF-8), please Click Here.

Help stamp out traffic!
Study – Vehicle Sharing Services, Transit Apps and Wi-Fi Contribute to National Driving Decline
“In a first-of-its-kind study, U.S. PIRG compiled nation-wide evidence on transportation apps and vehicle sharing programs, and found that these advanced new tools have made it easier for Americans to drive less. Real-time apps and on-board wi-fi for public transit, as well as carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing have spread rapidly in recent years while driving has declined. The report examines new evidence on how these practices are changing travel behavior. The report, “A New Way to Go: The Apps, Maps, and New Technologies that are Giving More Americans Freedom to Drive Less” sheds additional light on how Americans have been driving less per-person for eight years in a row and total miles remain below 2005 levels (Federal highway data). Among the findings cited in the report:
  • Public transit enhancements—A majority of U.S. transit systems make scheduling publicly available for developers to produce smartphone apps to help riders navigate systems. Smartphone-based tools enable riders to find the best route and track the progress of trains and buses in real time.
  • Bikesharing – More than 30 cities now have programs where subscribers can access bikes by the minute or by subscription at kiosks located on city streets. Approximately 40 percent of bikeshare members report reducing their driving, according to a survey of members of four bikeshare services.”

Definitely worth a read! Interesting from a language, social media and analytics viewpoint. (and from a Free Online Journal!)
Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach
We analyzed 700 million words, phrases, and topic instances collected from the Facebook messages of 75,000 volunteers, who also took standard personality tests, and found striking variations in language with personality, gender, and age.

For all my students. It always surprises me how many of these I use...
14 Free & Open Source Alternatives For Paid Software
… Not only do free alternatives exist, they most likely offer all the features you need and may be easier and safer to use.
… Did you know that — for personal use — high quality, free, and open source alternatives are available in virtually any software category? Sounds good, doesn’t it? I’ve highlighted 14 different applications that are either free or open source and can keep your wallet from going on an unwanted diet.

For my students who are using W8 already...
6 Amazing Windows 8 Apps For Enjoying Videos and Music, Modern Style

Keeping an eye on the competition. Any environment can teach, the trick is the degree itself.
– is determined to make higher education available for everyone by building the most affordable and accessible universities in the world. They aim to do this by a variety of means, including technology-assisted learning environments, students sharing their knowledge and skills, evaluation systems that measure progress, and significantly cheaper tuition costs.

I've been looking for something our design students could use the 3D Printer for... Could we provide these for local dentists?
3D-printed toothbrush scrubs chompers in 6 seconds
The Blizzident custom 3D-printed toothbrush is a bizarre-looking toothbrush alternative that promises a 6-second scrub of your pearly whites.
There is no one-size-fits-all Blizzident. Each one is custom-made to fit an individual's mouth. The process starts with an impression or 3D-scan of your teeth. If you have a dentist make an impression, it still needs to be scanned into a 3D file. That scan is uploaded to Blizzident, which then manufactures the toothbrush using 3D printing.

Perspective. This is another “Bob, you idiot, free phone service is never going to happen!” stories. Unless it is a “perk” for high speed wireless internet customers.
FreedomPop launches free mobile plan with 200 minutes
FreedomPop has fired a shot over the wireless industry's bow.
To commemorate its one-year anniversary, FreedomPop debuted its free mobile phone service on Tuesday. The free service includes 200 anytime voice minutes and 500 text messages per month, as well as 500MB of data.
… Heavy mobile users can purchase FreedomPop's unlimited voice and texting plan for $11 per month.

Until I can get permission to have my students create their own textbook as they learn, I want them to publish things like: Useful online resources, Apps that work, Stuff I learned this week... Things like this article in fact.
How I Self-Published My Magazine Online And In Print

(Related) Or they could Blog using the notes they already have... Makes It Easy to Blog Through Your Evernote Account is a slick blogging tool that recently won Evernote's Devcup. allows you to blog from your Evernote account.
To blog through you authorize it to access Evernote on your behalf. Once authorization is granted creates a notebook called "" in your Evernote account. Then to write a blog post you simply write a note or send a note to the notebook in your Evernote account. You can style your font, insert pictures, and insert HTML into your notes just like you can with any blogging service. When you apply the "published" tag to your note it will appear as a blog post on your blog.
If you and or your students are already using Evernote to take record notes and save bookmarks, could be the perfect solution for your blogging needs. If you write your lesson outlines in Evernote, you could quickly turn them into blog posts for your students and their parents to read. Evernote supports audio notes so your students could possibly use to publish short podcasts.
If you have the Evernote desktop app or any of the mobile apps you could even draft blog posts while you're offline and have them go live on the next time that you connect to the web.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Can any country adopt a “No Security Needed” strategy?
UK gears up for cyberwarfare offensives
Speaking at the annual Conservative party conference, Hammond said the United Kingdom was dedicating additional resources and funds to building a strong cyber intelligence and surveillance network, according to Reuters.
As cybercrime continues to prove a lucrative way for hackers to steal valuable data for profit or as part of state-sponsored jobs -- and many governments struggle to catch up and protect networks adequately against rising attacks -- defense budget funds now need to not only consider physical threats, but digital warfare as well.

I wonder if this will help Google?
Wendy Davis reports:
The Internet service provider WOW has defeated a long-running privacy lawsuit stemming from its partnership with defunct behavioral targeting company NebuAd.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang in the Northern District of Illinois dismissed claims that WOW (formerly called Wide Open West) violated federal wiretap laws by intercepting and transmitting information about consumers’ Web activity to NebuAd.
Read more on MediaPost.

I wonder if they can provide better examples than, “sometimes we can't read the handwriting.” What could possibly go wrong? (Question from the Ethical hacking mid-term exam)
Peter BacquƩ reports:
Using Department of Motor Vehicles records as its core, the state government is quietly developing a master identity database of Virginia residents for use by state agencies.
The state enterprise record – the master electronic ID database – would help agencies ferret out fraud and help residents do business electronically with the state more easily, officials said.
While officials say the e-ID initiative will be limited in scope and access, it comes at a time of growing public concern about electronic privacy, identity theft and government intrusion.
[From the article:
DMV points out that, in today's world, state driver's licenses are the fundamental identification documents used by most Americans. [Except you can't use it to get a drivers' license Bob]
State officials say participation in the e-ID system will be voluntary [Why do I doubt that? Bob]
… "To us, it is a tool that allows individuals to create online accounts," said Craig C. Markva, communications director of the Department of Medical Assistance Services, speaking for Secretary of Health and Human Resources William A. Hazel Jr.
"When someone wants to do this, we need to be able to verify that the person trying to access the account is who he or she claims to be," Markva said. "This requires that they provide basic demographic information ... that we can compare to what is known by DMV or by DSS (Department of Social Services) already."
So far there's been no public discussion in Virginia of the state's electronic personal identity initiative or the use of the Internet for increasingly more transactions with the state government.
… For example, if a Virginian sells a car to another state resident, the deal requires a physical exchange of the registration card and the handwritten information on the card that is often hard for DMV representatives to read [and of course DMV has no record of the car's registration Bob]
… DMV says the $4.3 million Commonwealth Authentication Service system will be safe from abuse because agencies will control individuals' files. Those files will not all be put into a single database open to other agencies.
Agencies using the service to verify a client's identity will get only a yes-or-no reply from the Commonwealth Authentication Service system, DMV said.

“There's an App for that!” and a privacy concern. Note that they don't brag about the service they provide the mother.
April Dembosky reports:
The computer engineers at BabyCenter are often among the first people women tell they are pregnant. Mothers-to-be go to or sign up for the site’s mobile app to get advice long before they clear the first trimester and begin sharing their news with friends. Sometimes even before telling the baby’s father.
“When women register, they tell us their due date,” said Julie Dempsey, BabyCenter’s vice-president of product. “Not many apps are able to capitalise on that the way we are.”
BabyCenter was named on Wednesday as one of 12 companies newly targeted by the US Senate Commerce Committee’s investigation into data brokers and their collection of health information for use in advertising.
Read more on (sub required)

(Related) Remember this one from February last year? (using Big Data)

(Related) For my App developing students. Perhaps we could turn this into an “App Buying Guide”
Hamish Barwick reports:
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OACI) has unveiled a guide designed to help mobile app developers embed better privacy practices into their products.
The guide, Mobile privacy: A better practice guide for mobile app developers, recommends that developers use short privacy notices rather than lengthy policies which are hard to read on a small screen.
Read more on TechWorld (AU)

An idea whose time has come? But, does anyone think long-term any more?
Nat Hentoff has an OpEd on student privacy that will sound familiar to regular readers of this blog. In it, he describes the case of Andrea Hernandez, a student in Texas who refused to wear an RFID tag, and the strip search of J.C. Cox, a 10 year-old boy, to search for a missing $20 bill.
Nat writes:
During the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, I doubt very much that candidates of either party — except maybe insistent libertarians — will raise the issue of how so many of our kids are taught that they are continually under criminal suspicion and surveillance in their schools — in this land of the free and home of the brave.
How many of our students are even taught the Constitution in their schools? How many of their parents bother to find out?
As someone who has watched the erosion of students’ rights over the past 20 years without frustration and outrage – the limitations on protected speech, drug searches and searches without reasonable suspicion, questioning of students without Miranda rights or right to involve a parent, monitoring of students’ extracurricular speech and conduct, and the creation of massive databases that record so many details of a student’s and parent’s information – I share his concerns.
There is a mechanism parents could use to organize to start restoring their children’s rights and civil liberties. It’s called the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), and most schools have one. Why not start a national campaign on student privacy and rights? Bring in speakers, send home informative literature, and start educating parents and students.
Don’t count on the schools to teach your children their rights – or to respect them. That’s part of your job as a parent. If you sit back and let the schools, the state, and the federal government just erode your children’s rights, well, in 30 years, all the cool clothes and electronics you bought them won’t count for squat when you realize you’ve raised a nation of sheep.

(Related) Some attacks on students ar so off the wall they are easy to slap down.
Principal sues students over parody Facebook, Twitter accounts
… Yes, they happened to be his students. And yes, they appear to have made parody Facebook and Twitter accounts that mocked him, presumably in a middle school sort of way.
But did it seem reasonable to invoke the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in order to put them (and their parents) into emotional -- and, who knows, financial -- detention?
Yet, as Boing Boing reported, this is what he did.
His complaint was stunningly educative. It alleged that these growing humans had used Facebook and Twitter "without authorization." He also used terms such as "defamation," "negligent supervision," and "parental liability."
… US District Judge Michael J. McShane wasn't impressed. In denying Matot's action, he reminded him that the idea of unauthorized computer behavior meant having no authorization to use a particular computer for any purpose.
… One sentence from the judgment is especially poetic. Referring to another case, it said: "The Court found that 'lying on social media websites is very common.'"
… Matot wasn't going to give up without a battle, however. When he discovered he couldn't persuade the judge on CFAA grounds, he tried to invoke RICO.
Yes, there were two students creating these parody account. They were clearly a criminal organization.
The judge might well have offered a hollow laugh. For, in reply, he offered: "Congress did not intend to target the misguided attempts at retribution by juvenile middle school students against an assistant principal in enacting RICO."

Some dissertations are cooler than others... Some are more... “fluffy.”
Information Sharing and Collaboration in the United States Intelligence Community
Information Sharing and Collaboration in the United States Intelligence Community: An Ethnographic Study of the National Counterterrorism Center by Bridget Rose Nolan, PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2013. [via FAS/Secrecy News]
“The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established to serve as the primary organization in the U.S. Government for the integration, sharing, and analysis of all terrorism and counterterrorism intelligence. To date, no study has sought to illustrate whether and how NCTC overcomes the barriers to information sharing among agencies and the people that comprise them. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the micro-level ways in which intelligence work is conducted in a post-9/11 world and to examine the circumstances that both facilitate and discourage collaboration. By presenting detailed ethnographic evidence and the in-depth interview perspectives of the people who actually do this work daily, this study provides a sociological analysis and discussion of best practices to help identify ways in which NCTC can move closer to fulfilling its mission.”

For anyone who needs to stay current (like my students, hint hint)
What Is the Best Podcast Manager For Windows?
… If you want to listen to podcasts while at your Windows PC, the best option is still a Windows desktop application that will play them for you. With these programs, you can listen to the MakeUseOf podcast and all your other favorite podcasts.
As with many things in life, there’s no one best podcast manager for everyone.
[See also:
5 Essential Technology Podcasts That Geeks Should Listen To

Think of it as “Just in Time” learning.
– lets you learn any subject with teachers who are located almost anywhere in the world. You can be at home in London and learn Spanish with a teacher from Argentina, or you could be on the beach in Brazil learning how to make sushi with a chef in Japan. All you need is a computer and a video conferencing program like Skype or Google Hangout. Jukebox Lessons is that simple.

For my website students...
Build HTML5 Sites and More With Google Web Designer
Earlier today Google launched the public beta of Google Web Designer. Web Designer is a desktop application for creating interactive HTML5 sites and advertisements. The tool was built for the purpose of creating advertising units, but it can be used for building webpages and other non-advertising materials.
Web Designer allows you develop pages that contain drawings, animations, and 3D objects. Web Designer includes galleries of pre-made objects to drag, drop, edit, and compile in the creation of animations. The animations come together through a layered timeline.
I gave Web Designer try this afternoon. It is not a tool that most people will master quickly unless they've prior web design experience. Fortunately, Google has produced a lot of tutorials on how to use it. You can read tutorials here and watch tutorials on YouTube. If you decide to try Google Web Designer, you will probably want to try it on a screen larger than 13 inches. I tried it on my 13' MacBook Pro and would have liked to have some more screen space in which to work.
Using Google Web Designer could be an excellent progression for students who are ready to move beyond the basics of building webpages in Google Sites and other free website builders.

What we have to consider for our App programming classes.
Survey: Company apps thwarted by mobile device diversity
… "The survey's top reported obstacle to mobile app delivery is building for multiple devices and platforms," Appcelerator said Tuesday after surveying IT executives, development directors, programmers, and others at 804 companies in August. Fanboys can quibble about how bad fragmentation really is within the realms of Android or iOS, but a higher level, it's definitely a concern.
Of the respondents, 34 percent write apps that support three operating systems, 23 percent support one OS, 20 percent support four OSes, 11 percent support two OSes, and 8 percent support five or more OSes.
That's good news for Appcelerator, which makes a business out of cross-platform programming tools, but bad news for anyone venturing farther away from mainstream devices like iPhones, Samsung's Galaxy Android phones, or Wintel laptops.