Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I suspect school districts are very “low hanging fruit” for hackers. Expect more, hope some are better prepared.
Walt Hunter reports:
The FBI, New Jersey State Police, county and local investigators are on the trail of hackers who hijacked a Gloucester County school’s district’s computer network, demanding a ransom payment to make it usable again.
The Superintendent of the Swedesboro-Woolwich School District says the unidentified hackers are demanding a payment of 500 bitcoins, the equivalent of $128,000, to return the computer system to working condition.
Read more on CBS.
A message on the district’s website states:
… At this point there appears to be no data breach. The files affected were mainly word documents, excel spreadsheets and .pdf files created by staff members. Data for the student information system as well as other applications is stored offsite on hosted servers and was not affected by the virus.
Encrypted files were restored from backup to their original state. Servers were restored to remove any trace of the malware. Email and other systems are being restored as quickly as possible.
OK, but what’s this nonsense from the Superintendent that “Without working computers, teachers cannot take attendance, access phone numbers or records, and students cannot purchase food in cafeterias.”
Gee, I remember the days when teachers took attendance by checking off our names on paper charts, when our phone numbers were on index cards in the school office, and we paid cash for food in the cafeteria. Are schools TOO reliant on technology now? Seems so if they can’t figure out how to operate without computers.
The Superintendent says, without Smartboards, students Monday used pens, pencils and papers, going back to, what he described, “education as it was 20 or 30 years ago.”
Wow. The horror of it all.

Does the data eventually wind up in Data Broker databases?
Sam Schechner and Valentina Pop report:
LUXEMBOURG—In a gold-curtained courtroom here, a debate is playing out over the transfer of personal data used for billions of dollars in digital advertising.
The European Court of Justice—the European Union’s top court—heard arguments Tuesday in the biggest threat yet to a legal mechanism that allows Facebook Inc. and thousands of other firms to transfer European personal data to U.S.-based servers.
Following revelations of widespread surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency, plaintiff Max Schrems, an Austrian law student, made the case that the EU-U.S. agreement, called Safe Harbor, no longer guarantees the privacy of European residents. He was supported by lawyers representing the governments of Belgium, Poland and Austria.
Read more on WSJ.

Interesting question for my students to ponder.
David Kravets reports:
When the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that affixing GPS devices to vehicles to track their every move without court warrants was an unconstitutional trespass, the outcome was seen as one of the biggest high court decisions in the digital age.
That precedent, which paved the way for the disabling of thousands of GPS devices clandestinely tacked onto vehicles by the authorities, is now being invoked to question the involuntary placement of GPS devices onto human beings.
Read more on Ars Technica.

This really looks interesting. For my friends at the Law School and those already in practice.
Free Practice Technology Ebook for Law Students
David Whelan – What it is:
  • a free e-book of roughly 20,000 words providing an overview of practice technology in a generic law practice;
  • licensed under a Creative Commons Share-alike license so that faculty can repurpose it however they like;
  • an e-book for law students looking for something longer than blog posts or even long form law practice technology articles;
  • intended to be practical, flavored heavily with my own opinions about law practice technology and data that I rely on myself when thinking about legal technology. I realize I’m not a practicing lawyer, and for those who find this text lacking because of that, I encourage them to enhance it and share their own knowledge;
  • version 1, and it may be a bit rough (and use a bit more editing) but I hope it will continue at least to version 2.
In some respects, this was a bit of mental clearing of the decks. It’s been percolating for awhile and is ready to be public, if not published. I’m hoping it will be useful to someone. You can read the entire text here: although you may find my server slow. You can download the EPUB version or MOB versions too.”

We would need slightly larger drones, but... If we apply the algorithms used in self-driving cars, we could have “flying cars” by Christmas!
Amazon Hammers FAA For Lack Of 'Impetus' Over Drone Policy is not pleased with the pace by which the Federal Aviation Administration is addressing the commercial use of drones and it let the public know in a congressional hearing on Tuesday.
In a Washington, D.C. meeting with Senate members of the Subcommittee on Aviation, Operations, Safety and Security, Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, criticized the FAA for lacking “impetus” to develop timely policies for the operations of unmanned aerial systems (UASs or UAVs).
Misener stressed the differences between the U.S. and places like Europe, where the company is already testing outdoors in the United Kingdom. “Nowhere outside of the United States have we been required to wait more than one or two months to begin testing,” he said.

Status of Test Sites and International Developments
… This testimony provides preliminary observations on 1) status of FAA’s test sites, 2) how other countries have progressed integrating UAS for commercial purposes, and 3) critical steps for FAA going forward.

Would US politicians accept free iPads?
Every British MP is being given a free iPad
Every British MP is to be given a free iPad after the General Election in May, the Telegraph reports.
Politicians say they need suitable hardware to do their work properly — but the new scheme has run into criticism. "Locking some of the most powerful people in the country into a platform that most of my constituents can't afford seems like a mistake," said Shadow Cabinet Office minister Chi Onwurah. "And that's without mentioning the tax avoidance issue.
… Some of the 209 MPs who already own iPads have been caught using them in a way that's definitely not intended. Nigel Mills was photographed using his to play Candy Crush over a period of two and a half hours during a committee meeting on pension reforms.

Background beats for my student raps! (My new idea for better presentations.) Article 4
Play an Online 808 Drum Machine
You can now play an online version of the legendary Roland TR-808 drum machine, the real-world version of which was used by such artists as the Beastie Boys, Outkast, and Kanye West.
The online HTML5 version features all of the real percussion sounds, which you can adjust to your heart’s content. And when you’re happy with your hip-hop bassline, you can export it as a WAV file. [H/T FACT Magazine]

For my students.
Make a PowerPoint Presentation That Doesn’t Put Your Audience to Sleep
PowerPoint presentations, when done right, can be an engaging way to provide an audience with information. When done poorly, however, they can quickly put the audience to sleep.
… So what you can do to make your PowerPoint presentations informative and exciting? Follow the tips outlined on the infographic below, and you’ll be well on your way!
Via Udemy

For my students who think APA is a federal agency.
About EasyBib, RefME, and Other Bibliography Generators
This afternoon I received a lengthy email (a three page attachment came with it) from someone who really did not like that I have promoted EasyBib, RefME, and other bibliography creation tools over the years. The reader seemed to take most offense to my recent post about Google Docs Add-ons in which I included the EasyBib Add-on. The reader rightly pointed out that those tools don't always format citations perfectly.
Granted those tools aren't always perfect in their formatting of citations (I have pointed out some of those flaws in my webinars and workshops over the years), but I think they are still valuable because they help get students into the habit of citing their sources of information and keeping a record of the sources they use. Furthermore, if EasyBib, RefME, or one of the other bibliography generators does make a mistake you can turn that into a teaching opportunity with your students. Point out the flaw and how to correct it.
Finally, we can tell students not to use bibliography creation tools but they are going to find them and try to use them anyway. The same can be said for Wikipedia, but that's a conversation for another day. I would rather tell students about bibliography creation tools and teach them how to recognize if the tool made an error than I would pretend that students aren't going to use the tools.

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