Boing Boing 

Bruce Sterling freebies at Austin Hackerspace

Hey, Austinites, Bruce Sterling's giving away his books at the ATX, the Austin Hackerspace, on Saturday from 5-7PM.

Taxi-window sticker: our security stinks and your credit card will be sniffed


On my way to Dallas-Fort Worth airport today, I snapped this picture of the sticker on the inside of the back-seat passenger-side window of my taxi. It warns "The method used to authenticate credit card transactions for approval is not secure and personal information is subject to being intercepted by unauthorized personnel." There's some history there, I'm guessing. Consumer warnings are very nice, but I'm left wondering why they don't just update the firmware on the credit-card box with some decent crypto (unless this is because they use a CB radio to call in card numbers, which is pretty danged foolish).

White grandfather detained, cuffed in Austin while walking home with his black granddaughter

Scott Henson, "a former journalist turned opposition researcher/political consultant, public policy researcher and blogger," recounts how he was repeatedly stopped and eventually cuffed and detained while walking his granddaughter home through a park in Austin, TX. Henson is white and his granddaughter is black, and the police said that they were responding to a "kidnapping" call. But their response terrified the little girl and humiliated her grandfather. And it's not the first time it's happened to them.

As soon as we crossed the street, just two blocks from my house as the crow flies, the police car that just passed us hit its lights and wheeled around, with five others appearing almost immediately, all with lights flashing. The officers got out with tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child. I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly. Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren't there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars. (By this time more cars had joined them; they maxxed out at 9 or 10 police vehicles.)

I gave them the phone numbers they needed to confirm who Ty was and that she was supposed to be with me (and not in the back of their police car), but for quite a while nobody seemed too interested in verifying my "story." One officer wanted to lecture me endlessly about how they were just doing their job, as if the innocent person handcuffed on the side of the road cares about such excuses. I asked why he hadn't made any calls yet, and he interrupted his lecture to say "we've only been here two minutes, give us time" (actually it'd been longer than that). "Maybe so," I replied, sitting on the concrete in handcuffs, "but there are nine of y'all milling about doing nothing by my count so between you you've had 18 minutes for somebody to get on the damn phone by now so y'all can figure out you screwed up." Admittedly, this did not go over well. I could tell I was too pissed off to say anything constructive and silently vowed to keep mum from then on.

To me, the point of this story is how "see something, say something," fails. The police and some person or persons in the park believed that Henson and his granddaughter didn't "look right" and "just to be safe" called in the report and responded in force. But "doesn't look right" is culturally determined and informed by our conscious and subconscious biases. For people unaccustomed to mixed-race families, "doesn't look right" means calling the police down on the innocent children and grandparents in your neighborhood. At its core, "see something, say something" isn't about a war on crime, it's a war on surprises, whose core premise is to mistrust and fear things you can't understand.

Me, APD, and 'Babysitting While White,' Part Deux (via Reddit)

A reminder for our readers in the Dallas area

I'm giving a free talk tonight at UT Arlington engineering, 7PM at the Lonestar Auditorium, entitled: "What We Talk About When We Talk About Internet Regulation." Tell your friends!

Patent troll that claimed ownership over the Web loses its case


Eolas, a notorious patent troll who partnered with the University of California in a shakedown scheme that claimed royalties for all "interactive web sites" that featured rotating images, streaming video, and other practices that had been widely established before their patent was filed, has lost a key lawsuit. A jury in Tyler, Texas (the sleepy town where the shell-companies used by patent trolls have their nominal offices) found that the Eolas patent was invalid, after hearing testimony from Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and other luminaries of the open web.

If the jury had upheld the patents, there would have been a potentially brutal damages phase in which Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Amazon, Adobe, JC Penney, CDW Corp. and Staples would have been sued for infringement and been asked for more than $600 million in damages, with the majority of that coming from Google and Yahoo.

The Eolas patents were denounced for years before this week’s landmark trial, but managed to survive repeated re-exams at the United States Patent and Trade Office.

However, Thursday’s verdict is likely a setback Eolas can’t overcome. It may well be appealed, but that will be a long process, and in the meantime Eolas won’t be able to go after new targets.

Texas Jury Strikes Down Patent Troll’s Claim to Own the Interactive Web

Texas schoolchildren get criminal citations for cussing in class, shouting within 500' of school

In The Guardian, Chris McGreal looks at the horrific state of policing in Texas schools. The age of criminal responsibility in Texas is 10, and many schools have uniformed police officers on site who ticket small children for throwing paper airplanes or flipping the teacher off. The tickets carry steep fines, and if you graduate with unpaid fines, you go to prison.

Among the more extreme cases documented by Appleseed is of a teacher who had a pupil arrested after the child responded to a question as to where a word could be found in a text by saying: "In your culo (arse)", making the other children laugh. Another pupil was arrested for throwing paper aeroplanes.

Students are also regularly fined for "disorderly behaviour", which includes playground scraps not serious enough to warrant an assault charge or for swearing or an offensive gesture. One teenage student was arrested and sent to court in Houston after he and his girlfriend poured milk on each other after they broke up. Nearly one third of tickets involve drugs or alcohol. Although a relatively high number of tickets – up to 20% in some school districts – involve charges over the use of weapons, mostly the weapons used were fists.

The very young are not spared. According to Appleseed, Texas records show more than 1,000 tickets were issued to primary schoolchildren over the past six years (although these have no legal force at that age). Appleseed said that "several districts ticketed a six-year-old at least once in the last five years".

The US schools with their own police

Aliens: on ice!

Austin's Old Murder House Theater has mounted a rendition of Aliens -- on ice! It's more or less faithful to the original, and it's, well, stupendous:

Anyone who has seen Aliens can follow what transpires over the next 70 minutes or so. It's James Cameron's film on fastforward…and caffeine…and possibly cocaine. The show captures the little details and turns of phrases that fans will know by heart and cast makes creative use of the ice, never standing still when they have to. Ripley's confrontation with the board that accuses her of destroying the ship from the first film is transformed into humorously blunt exchange, with every party involved skating around each other in menacing circles. The colonial marines searching the seemingly abandoned colony of LV421 becomes a showcase for humorously clumsy figure skating. The subtle relationship between Ripley and Hicks becomes gloriously unsubtle when the two share a brief little spin together on the ice.

These guys may not be professional skaters, but they're not bad. Not bad at all. They're certainly not afraid of the ice and they're not afraid of taking risks. When they do stumble, they play it off beautifully and keep moving. They make the "on ice" part of the show look effortless until they make a mistake and then it becomes a newly improvised joke. Using expert skaters as the aliens is a truly inspired choice and seeing the aliens literally skate circles around the clumsy humans is a genuinely thrilling experience.

'Aliens on Ice': The Review (With Video!) (via JWZ)

Judge whose daughter released video of him beating her suspended from bench during judicial investigation

The Associated Press has a long followup on the story of Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams, whose daughter Hillary posted a seven-year-old video of her father viciously beating her for breaking a rule over using a computer at home. The judge has acknowledged that the video is real, and that he is the aggressor in the assault.

Local law enforcement says that they believe that the video depicts a serious crime, but as the statute of limitations has passed, they have not arrested the judge. The judge has been suspended from the bench while his conduct is investigated by the Texas judicial conduct commission and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

The judge claims that his daughter posted the video as retaliation after he cut her off financially following a fight over her decision to "'drop out,' and strive to achieve no more in life than to work part time at a video game store" that culminated with his taking away of her "Mercedes automobile."

Hillary Adams has not responded to the allegation, but rather discusses her father's history of abuse and her desire that he would seek help. Her mother -- divorced from the judge -- describes the father as having an unspecified "addition" problem (presumably the AP means "addiction").

Hillary Adams said she waited so long to expose her father because she was terrified at what might have happened had she done so while still living under his roof. She said the outpouring of support and encouragement she's received since posting the clip is tempered by the sadness that it's her father repeatedly lashing her with a belt and threatening to beat her "into submission."

During an interview with her mother Thursday on NBC's "Today" show, Hillary Adams said her father regularly beat her for a period of time. has repeatedly said she didn't post the clip to spite her father, and that she hopes it forces him to seek help.

Her mother blamed her ex-husband's bouts of violence on an "addition." She called it a "family secret," but declined to elaborate.

Police: Judge won't be charged over video beating