Life on the conference trail, future shock, and rule of law.

For man years I'd always looked somewhat askance at Terrence McKenna's talks about the year 2012, his hypothesis of time having a fractal nature, and Everything Changing in the year 2012 of the common era. That I've taken for myself the name of a certain British science fiction hero (and have a certain interest in Time) aside, it never seemed, well, plausible, to put not too fine a point on it. I even went so far as to ruminate about it a couple of years back to get it out of my system. Then, earlier this year I conceeded …

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A brief update.

Project Byzantium will be presenting at FOSScon 2012 this upcoming Saturday. We'll be in Linode Hall at 3:20pm to present. We'll also have a box of CD-ROMs of Byzantium Linux v0.2a with us, so between 1:20pm and 2:10pm we'll be in Workshop #2... well.. giving a workshop on how to use Byzantium Linux. Bring your laptops, USB keys, and something to write on because we're going to be fleshing out the Hardware Compatibility List this weekend...

An interesting development in the Lower Marion School District surveillance case.

For a couple of months now I've been following the Lower Marion High School laptop surveillance case in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If the story's been dropped from your cache for whatever reason, earlier this year it was discovered that a school district in the vicinity of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was using the laptops it issued to students to spy on them while they were off-campus. As it turned out some of the staff had been remotely activating the built-in webcams and using them to watch students. A cache of images taken through the webcams was found on some of their servers, some …

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Lower Marion School District's stash of surveillance photos found.

The investigation into employees of the Lower Marion School District continues apace, and some highly disturbing things have been discovered. Evidence has been found that the admins employed by the district were using the surveillance software on for more than just tracking missing laptops. It seems that the software was used to keep tabs on students who hadn't returned their laptops at year's end or whose parents hadn't paid the insurance fee, uses of the surveillance software which are questionable at best. Also, and this is the bit that made the skin on the backs of my hands crawl, several …

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Lower Merion quietly places two of their IT staff on leave.

I've been following the surreptitious webcam surveillance saga of Lower Merion School District since the story first broke in February, and some interesting news has come out of the Philadelphia area. It seems that two people on the school's IT staff have quietly been placed on paid leave as a result of the investigation. The school district is still clinging to their story that the webcams were remotely operated to aid in recovering stolen laptops, nevermind the fact that the camera can't actually see anything if the lid is closed. Plus, it's remotely possible at best to identify the location …

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More from the Lower Merion School District.

A couple of days ago word hit the newswires that a high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had been using the laptops issued to its students to spy on them. Word's gotten around (no surprise there), and the BBC was the first to throw the 'potentially undressed minors' flag (and rightly so, in this case). The district has claimed that the spycam feature of the monitoring software was only for the purpose of recovering lost or stolen laptops and says that they deactivated the software remotely. If you've been paying attention to this story I don't have to tell you that …

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TSA at PHL raising eyebrows; travelers consider taking Amtrak.

I've only been to Philadelphia a couple of times, all of them by driving to and from there. After reading about some of the stuff going on there not only do I not particularly want to visit that city, but I'm not entirely certain that I really want to fly again.

This particular news story leaped out at me for its sheer WTF factor even though the incident seems to have taken place in March of 2009. Bob Thomas, a 53 year old Camden police officer, his wife Leona, and their four year old son Ryan were flying down to …

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High school issues laptops, uses them to spy on students.

An article hit Boing Boing today that raised the hackles on the back of my neck as I read it. The Lower Merion School District just outside of Philadelphia received a grant a couple of years back for laptop computers to issue to its students to use as part of their coursework. In November of last year, the parents of student Blake Robbins received a disciplinary notice pertaining to something unspecified (referred to as "improper behavior") in the affidavit. The disciplinary notice was accompanied by a photograph of Blake while he was at home. The laptops issued by Lower Merion …

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TSA agent thinks planting contraband in luggage is a joke.

As long as I can remember, rumors of people being framed for smuggling have gone around. The urban legends go something like this: an unlikely sort gets stopped at the airport/border/bus terminal by a security officer who happens to be holding a piece of his/her luggage. The security officer produces a weapon/drugs from the bag/backpack/suitcase/duffel bag, claims that the traveler was carrying them and places him/her under arrest. It later turns out that the security officer planted the contraband him/herself for (insert dastardly reason here - making their arrest quota for the …

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Explosive post queue flush in three.. two.. one....

As one might expect, it's been a busy couple of days (a week, really), which has kept me from being able to post anything. I got back from Philly around 1700 EST5EDT last Friday, and I've been offline pretty much the entire weekend because I've been too tired to do much of anything. After I got back, Lyssa made a wonderful hot dinner (all the more special because temperatures in the tri-state area have been averaging in the mid-twenties Fahrenheit), and then we decided to get together with some friendly faces to hang out for the evening. To that end …

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