Injustice in Prosecuting Tech-related Crimes

This type of thing makes me really mad. This woman suffered pretty horrible consequences of a hacker/virus, and no official can admit that.

The worst part is the people brought in to testify as ‘expert’ witnesses.

Maybe it is my tech-background chip on my shoulder, but these are the people that stifle innovation and forward thinking. School IT administrators, law enforcement types, etc, who think that their position makes them moral authorities. And what is worse is that they are incompetent at their jobs.

A slightly more in-the-know lawyer (oddly a profession that is slow to adapt to new technologies according to my father-in-law) could have blown holes in these testimonies with just a little bit of prior discovery, and a counter-witness who could demonstrate exactly how quickly a computer could be compromised and the effects that happen when it is.

It is simple cause-and-effect – you can install windows in half an hour in a court-room, set it up with basic drivers while a jury is watching, and then install the virus and show immediate effects of it.

Case closed, trial over, IT guy fired, cyber-forensic guy fired.

There is a similar case where a really insidious virus puts child-porn into the browser cache and local RAM w/o ever visiting websites or other content providers that may cause the problem.

So you have evidence of being a child pornographer who is only half-way competent at covering your tracks. Which of course makes you look more guilty initially.

Maybe it is my over-inflamed sense of justice that my wife accuses me of having, but this type of thing gets me really incensed when I read about it.

The lessons learned here are: don’t be quick to judge when it comes to computer crime, be open to being wrong if you form an opinion in cyber-crime cases, and make sure you use a secure browser and don’t install things from websites just all willy-nilly and install virus scanners. (there are free ones like AVG free edition, ClamWIN, AntiVir, etc)

Being Green is about more than being Green

Lauren and I have been trying to do better at recycling (unfortunately Minneapolis makes you sort it, so I forget a lot) and we have probably cut our actual trash in half or better in the last 6 months.

Also, I’ve been doing a lot of work over the last year for the solar market (CIGS solar to be exact), and I’ve been attending a lot of talks on Green buildings (particularly churches) at the conferences I’ve attended and I’ve had an interesting realization.

Being Green, particularly the principal of understanding where things you consume come from, and where the waste and other end products of consuming those things goes, and who that affects, can be really relevant to other areas of life.

I’m sure that is obvious to a lot of people, but one particular application that this realization has sparked in my mind is acquiring and making general decisions about technology.

To complete this exercise I’ve come up with some categories and related sub-categories that have become important for me to fill before making a recommendation or decision.

Consumed by me/church/organization:

  • People time – How many hours is this going to be used? How many hours is it going to take in training / setup before this becomes useful (the wife test – phase 1)? How many people besides me will actually find this useful (i.e. the wife test – phase 2)?
  • Energy – Is this electronic going to be an appliance (i.e. always on)? How much power does it take to run this thing?
  • Footprint – What is this made of? Where did that come from and how far did it take to get here?
  • Monetary – What is the up-front cost? What are the costs associated with basic operation (relates at least somewhat to Energy)?

Produced / Long-Term, short-reaching effects:

  • Footprint (again) – When it is finished being used is it something we can give away that will be useful for someone else? Can we recycle it or any parts of it? What is the landfill impact on the parts that can not be recycled?
  • People Time – This is the time that people spend finding bugs, work-arounds, posting on forums, etc. This cannot be underestimated, as a lot of the power of great software and hardware comes from real-world usability studies (i.e. people using it and sharing their thoughts on it)
  • Lock-in potential – Where are we locking into something that limits us later? How much will it cost to migrate to our next level / next growth faze. Is that avoidable? How much will it cost to move to the next place?

The Long-term, long reaching effects – AKA the Ethanol effect

  • The money chain – your money goes somewhere, which then goes somewhere else, and so on and so on. How far up that chain can I see? Is that money going somewhere I’m not happy about? Is it failing to go somewhere that I want it to go?
  • Standards vs. Proprietary – People and the church can really help influence trends. Does the thing we are interested in promote inclusion or exclusion? In other words, does it help innovation or hinder? (This could be technological innovation, or business innovation in the global market, or any type of ‘innovation’ or creative thinking that helps us keep moving forward in justice for more people and making the economic pie bigger for the world). Are we helping monopolistic lock-ins and proprietary technologies, or are we promoting technologies that try to make that as simple as possible? Are we creating a market that locks out other countries and people so that only wealthy countries / people can get in on the benefits of local innovation?
  • Lost Opportunities for ourselves and others – Are we promoting something that has consequences that can impact the market to cause horrible things for other people (i.e. ethanol = re-grow-able gas = food in our gas tanks = increase global food costs…there are other examples, but that is the most obvious right now) If we sacrificed a little would it create a greater opportunity for justice in other places (other communities, or countries)

I want to save some more in-depth discussion of individual points above for seperate posts (lots to unpack), but I want to highlight the part that I call ‘The Ethanol Effect.’

That part is really hard, fairly abstract, and I believe something we should try to tackle from a biblical standpoint. This thought is an abstraction of the passage in Deuteronomy that says:

When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Basically meaning that sometimes we have to make a few sacrifices and not always squeeze the last possible immediate gain so that we can bless the most oppressed and forgotten amongst us. Then, we subsequently receive more long-term blessing from God.

In a global economy I believe that the aliens, the orphans, and the widows from biblical times equates to the modern social outcasts in our local community, the global south, and the people suffering under oppressive tyrannous governments.

And since we know that as individuals we part of the trends in spending and subsequently global economics, we should as Christians try our best to consider the far-reaching implications of our decisions.

That, is one of the primary reasons I support more open-source and particularly standards-based technologies….but again, that is a topic to be expanded upon in a different post.

So, let me know what you think. Am I over-thinking here, or is there a way you think that I or we as global citizens could be more ‘green-minded’ in areas that aren’t necessarily considered green.

Some thoughts from someone with more experience than me in church Tech

My brother wrote me yesterday and point out to me this upcoming conference on worship facilities. They are going to be doing a fair amount of talking about Energy Star compliance for congregations, as well as doing a fair amount of technology and team-building seminars. Also, my brother went to the last one in Atlanta and said it was great to go to the expo as well as the conference because at the expo a lot of vendors are there doing product training and demonstrations. And it is always good to find out the new innovative ideas being displayed.

Anyway, more information here:

If you are interested let me know. My Aunt and Uncle, as well as a lot of my cousins live in and around Indianapolis, so I can most likely score lodging for free, and I’m working out a way to get some discounted group rates with my brother (and possibly my Dad and his tech guy, so we only need 2 more for the 6 person discount).

One of the speakers is Anthony Coppedge who I’ve stumbled upon many times on the internet while researching church technology. One of the things I read by him is a pdf about Modern Philosophy of Media in Church that pretty well sums up some of the basic framework I use for approaching technology as a media distribution platform and a team-building opportunity. I especially like the things he talks about surrounding what a media team should be and look like, and borrowed some of that when I was training people on sound and computer stuff.

Very interesting guy, lots of experience in church technology consulting, and a pretty good read if you are at all interested in doing church technology more effectively (both as a tech person or as a pastor/leader type).

Again, conference worth checking out I think, let me know if you want to go because I will try to get passes and book flights with group discounts.

A Mental Excerise in Distraction

Have you ever had one of those times where someone says something to you and it starts your head to flying around like some kind of rollercoaster on crack.

Well, in an effort to still my head I will not write about anything that is making it go crazy today and focus on something entirely unrelated.

Instead, you get a talk about cell phones and how useful they are to the poor.

I was doing a little research into my topic I wrote about the other day, and I found an interesting article talking about the advantages of cell phones in developing countries. The article said that it was a waste to give developing countries computers if most of the people are illiterate.

Which is a good reason for places like Argentina to use the $100 computer in their school programs.

But the article pointed out that countries that improve their cell phone infrastructure, and have multiple carriers are increasing their GDP. I think the statistic is that if you increase a developing countries number of cell phones per 100 people by 10 phones, it increases that countries GDP by 0.6 percent.

So I started thinking on this. Is there a level that a country must be at before a computer becomes a useful asset? What good is a computer anyway if you can’t get to the internet, and you can’t get to the internet by wired connections in remote parts of these developing nations. But cell phones, and cell phone networks solve these problems. Using GSM based modems you can connect to the internet. And cell phone networks are easier to deploy in regions where terrain makes it difficult to run land-lines. And, you can manufacture cell phones that will last in dirty, rugged environments for fairly cheap when you take away the color screen, and bells and whistles.

So, now my goals of helping to change peoples thinking about the digital divide now becomes multi-tiered. Soon I will sit down and compile this research, and thought into a paper to send people. I think that would be good. At least it would make me feel better about being an intellectual bum ever since I graduated.