Saturday, March 17, 2012

Servers' Birthday Chant

(With handclaps.)
We would sing 'Happy Birthday'
But it's still in copyright
And so we wrote this drivel
To foist on you tonight
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Sunday, March 04, 2012

The buzz on drone journalism

My student Shawn Pillai shares a link to a reblogged Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times editorial about airborne surveillance drones, coming soon to airspace near you:
Legislation just signed by President Obama directs the Federal Aviation Administration to open the skies to remotely controlled drones within the next three years. It will begin in 90 days with police and first responders ...
Shawn calls this "scary," and he's right. Keep in mind, however, that not only police agencies are planning to deploy drones. Case in point: the four-month-old Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Lab founder Matt Waite -- who declares, "Drones are an ideal platform for journalism" -- demonstrated one of his drones to an exhilarated (and jittery) crowd at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference in St. Louis in February. Here's John Keefe's video of the takeoff and landing.

In Urbana, Ill., meanwhile, Matthew Schroyer has founded the Professional Society of Drone Journalists. Here's Schroyer's overview of the topic.

Maybe Frostburg State faculty in journalism, computer science and engineering should get together to talk about this.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


Today’s postal mail brought an unpleasant surprise, my first speed-camera ticket. According to Maryland State Police automata, I was going 68 mph in a 55 mph work zone at 9:42 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at I-70 and South Street in Frederick County, Md.
I was driving three students to the Baltimore airport to catch a plane to a conference. I guess being busted by a speed camera beats being pulled to the roadside by a police officer, with the attendant embarrassment and delay.
Instead, the shame has followed me to my house, where it’s aggravated by the fact that I was driving Sydney’s car at the time. No matter who is driving, the automata write tickets to the car’s owner, so the ticket arrived addressed to Sydney. Imagine her delight when she opened the envelope. Imagine her warm words.
Since May 2011, cameras at that location have written 3,414 citations, an average of 341 a month. Assuming $40 a pop, and assuming further that everyone cited actually paid, that’s $136,560 in total revenue, or $13,656 a month.
That’s peanuts compared to the lucre generated by the I-95 cameras in Baltimore County, between I-695 and I-895. They’ve generated 384,062 citations since November 2009, or $15.4 million. See for yourself.
According to Maryland SafeZones Facts, these cameras are mounted on white sport utility vehicles marked with the SafeZones logo, and by the time I passed them, I already had passed work-zone warning signs, plus an electronic sign displaying my speed.
So it’s a fair cop, as Monty Python used to say -- though I apparently could have sped past the cameras with impunity had I been going 1 mph slower.
I’m still disconcerted that my public movements are so much more easily tracked by the government than they used to be.