Exploiting Network Surveillance Cameras Like a Hollywood Hacker: Optional Course Viewing

This video is supplemental material for our course. Viewing it is optional.

In most of our courses, we talk about social media, the Internet, smart devices, iPads, and ISTE standards. Security and privacy do come up, but they are often relegated to the back: learning how to get things done, use tech to support teaching, or understanding the software seems more important. But are they that much more important?

We are surrounded with technology, and we have cameras all around us. Mobile devices, banks, ATMs, little shops, and WOU all have their own video surveillance systems. Most of these are meant to support safety and order. Surely the people who operate and install these cameras as well as the manufacturers ensure that these are secure? Unfortunately, we have no such guarantee.

As the presenter demonstrates, multiple camera manufacturers have software weaknesses built into the firmware--the software that operates in the device. And these can easily be hacked.

Why should you care? As an educator, these kind of weaknesses could give unethical parties access to you or your school's surveillance cameras. This might result in abuse of materials, exposing children to unnecessary threat or risk, and significant invasions of privacy.

While it is easy to either rest in comfort or slight paranoia knowing that there are cameras all around, I find it truly unsettling that these surveillance assets are so easily hacked and available to anyone with that skill set.

OPSEC Spy Failures: Optional Course Viewing

This video is supplemental material for our course. It is not required.

This is an incredible video. A mainstream journalist who works for NBC describes how the metadata from cell phones helped expose a CIA rendition. Keep in mind, these were experienced and veteran field agents who were tracked and identified because of sloppy practices.

As an educator and a citizen, it is important that you understand just how much information your phone's metadata represents. As this video demonstrates, the metadata from your phone can be more important and powerful than the content of your conversation.

While we further and proactively work to integrate more and more technology into our schools and students' lives, it is vital that we grasp just how much surveillance we are enabling. And as this story ironically demonstrates, even the professionals can be tracked down by the sheer power and amount of information their mobile devices carry.

Tech Tool 2: Time Mapper

Tool Discovery

Like Listify, I discovered Time Mapper through the Open Knowledge Foundation's Labs Projects.

Tool Use

As the site says:  Elegant timelines and maps created in seconds.

Potential Tool Application

Initially, my thoughts were less about what I could do for my own classes and more about how K-12 teachers could use this--especially in history and social studies courses. Time Mapper combines the ability to blend time, space, and visual information into one product. The real benefit, just like Listify, is that Time Mapper uses a spreadsheet. If you can create group or class assignments that work with spreadsheets and collect that information in a Google spreadsheet, you can generate some very powerful maps. What I also like is that the quality of the map, the quality of the information, is entirely dependent upon the information students put into their spreadsheets.

This seems like a great tool to potentially use in ED 270 or CSE 624. 

Additional Loose Thoughts

This could be a fun way to create or develop a history of Western Oregon and thereby make our Normal School history more obvious and visible.


If and when I test this out, what results I have. If others test out Listify and are willing to share, please let me know so that I can embed or link here!

Tech Tool 1: Listify

Series Introduction

This is the start of a series of posts on technology tools. I leave technology as broad as possible so that I can include as many diverse and useful tools as possible. The only criteria here is that a piece of technology needs to be interesting and potentially of use to me in my work or play.

Each tool review will briefly cover:

  • basic background about how I found the tool;
  • links to the tool creator, promoter, and/or developer;
  • potential applications for the tool;
  • outcomes from using tool if I have actually worked with it.

I look at ten or twenty times more tools than I use. The tool reviews are as much documentation of this process as they are in sharing potentially great tools. Often I forget about great tools. These posts are meant to support my own continued professional development, technology skill growth, and time saving in tech tool research.

Tool Discovery

I discovered Listify via the Open Knowledge Foundation Labs site. As you can probably guess, OKFN Labs is part of a larger project, the Open Knowledge Foundation. They are doing some great work, and I am very excited about their School of Data.

Tool Use

As the site says: Turn a Google spreadsheet into a beautiful, searchable listing in seconds.

To appreciate this, check out their live example. It makes 

Potential Tool Applications

Several different options come up. First, this seems like a great way to take a student group or course project--building a data base--and converting that information into a visual graphic or interactive list. Rather than just compiling a series of things or items and having to sort through spreadsheets--something that few of us do with much excitement, Listify makes that information more interesting, more engaging.

For example, I am currently considering having students in one of my classes collect five different online resources for each book they read. Each book addresses a current technology-related issue. The resources can be images, videos, infographics, etc. that help provide context for that book and issue. While they can see the database as it is built, this would allow them to see, create, and post on their own sites or blogs the results of their collective research. And it requires nothing more than using this tool--there is no additional coding for anyone.

Another option that I see is for a class I teach: 624 Internet for Educators. One assignment is a resource collection assignment. Just like the prior description, Listify could help generate a deliverable usable by all of the teachers in one place instead of having to cobble together and sort out their different contributions.

Additional Loose Thoughts

I see a couple potential applications.

  1. By using Google Forms, you could easily build up a variety of different types of lists;
  2. Moodle could be used for either embedding the GForm or by exporting from the database assignment;
  3. This could be used among colleagues to build up a great collection of resources they use for any specific topic or theme, from coding to plagiarism, and include room for images, videos, books, etc.


If and when I test this out, what results I have. If others test out Listify and are willing to share, please let me know so that I can embed or link here!

Morning, Glorious Morning!

The Simple Morning Things

Mornings like today are what I live for. Mornings like today are the way every day of mine should start off. These mornings begin with:

  • waking with no alarm;
  • waking next to my significant other;
  • waking knowing nobody expects anything from me;
  • knowing that there are ravens outside;
  • knowing that hot, running water awaits inside.

These daily wonders bring me great joy and calm.

These daily wonders make me feel like this:

(Image is public domain and sourced here.)

The Slightly More Complex Morning Things

Mornings like today when I wake up and remember that I have a PhD. Maybe that will fade. I hope not. Earning that sucker took almost everything I had and it molded me into the dude I am. Surely that sounds odd, having a PhD and feeling like a dude, but that's how I feel. Dude as in I can relax and not feel totally neurotic about having, or not having, a specific skill set. Dude as in being a member of the PhD posse instead of being a wannabe. Dude as in I can be comfortable with myself. 

Waking up knowing I am Dr. Gregory Zobel means much more to me personally than it can or will ever mean to anyone outside. Mornings like this, when I remember who and what I am, are just awesome.

The other part of my morning which is not so simple is remembering how blessed I am--usually just how great the day before was. That's not complex, but it is not simple either. It's pretty easy to remember the stupid things I pulled--the getting short with Dieter, the stuff I forgot, the expenses I lost track of--and forget the great things I did: the awesome salad I prepared, the trip to the park with Dieter, the chapter or book I read. It gets complex when I remember that awesome yesterday does not equal awesome today. 

Today is a new day, and all that goodness needs to be done again. Or I can lame out and get sloppy and slide into blah. So, good mornings are a great way for me to butch it up for myself, my husband, my world. Great mornings remind me of what is and what can be. So while the great morning is an incredible start, the day does not build itself. I have to be good people, too.

Loving Great Mornings

I love great morning starts because they remind me of who and what the world is and who and what I am: an expression of the Divine. And that is almost too incredible for words. Great mornings frame a potentially excellent day, and I am grateful for every great morning I get. Great mornings give me the option to maximize and excel at being gz. I hope that you have a good morning, too! I'd love to see what you do with your day.

Winter Break Faculty Work

Every Winter Break seems to have several regular patterns. I like patterns. Patterns help me think and work pretty well.

Here's a fun pattern from Open Clip Art:

When I was a graduate student, these patterns included lots of movie watching, book reading, emotional holiday-related stress, financial stress about being broke, and feeling good about being around family.

Faculty patterns are not changed that much. I still stress about family & personal emotional calm, but they are a different kind and flavor of stress. Far less powerless and a lot more sense of agency in my experience. So, it's a nice kind of shift.

In terms of work, Winter Break is:
  • revise the CV
  • revise the professional website
  • test out new software
  • buy some ebooks
  • subscribe to new sites
  • catch up on all the smart Twitter people I follow.

Plus I generally realize how little I am doing compared to the super awesome Tech Comm and Ed Tech posses out there. 

Unlike graduate school, the apparent gap between others' performance and my own does not freak me out as much as it used to. In fact, I'm glad they are successful, and I hope to imitate them well. Their hard work makes my work easier. I say that with respect.

So Winter Break really seems to be a time where I assess and realize that, in spite of my stupid illusory paranoid and insecure delusions of total failure and idiocy, I am not doing that bad. And I actually have a cool interesting things to add to my CV. Plus some stuff to say.

But mostly, I really like having a chance to see what others are doing. One day, maybe, I can be as awesome as other people.

Email test post

Please let us see if the test posting works via email.
Also curious if the bold or other mark up works.

I also wanted to see if the use of images was very effective here.

I am sure we will see soon.

Quick Review: 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better by Rachel Aaron

Improving Literacy Skills: Yes!

I am a sucker for books that promise to increase my reading or writing speed. As an academic and a bibliophile, few things increase my pleasure than reading and writing at increased speeds. However, I'm smart enough that I don't want authors wasting my time or trying to instill some silly or impractical framework on my style. Many books I have bought and read about improving performance in these areas, but few have hit the spot. In fact, they usually do little for me. 

On Finding Rachel's Book

I rarely buy books on reading or writing faster unless I find them at Goodwill for a fraction of the price. I will buy a book, though, if it comes recommended from a reliable source. While considering Josh Earl's e-book Sub[ime Productivity, I found a post where Josh mentioned Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. I figured if Josh is willing to suggest the book and openly acknowledges that he modifies Rachel's approach for fiction to his own work with non-fiction, it's worth a listen. This is doubly true because Josh appears to be quite transparent about his writing and publishing process as well as his earnings. These moves increase my trust and respect.

To Rachel's book: increasing writing speed. One phrase summary: proper preparation and focus. Yep, that's it. At its core, that is Rachel's secret. And I already knew that secret (which is actually not a secret). However, Rachel's honest voice, up front delivery, easy reading and writing all work to frame and deliver a message which is truly invaluable. And it's just 99 cents.


My takeaways for adapting Rachel's suggestions for preparing for academic writing: 

  • increase preparation by gathering sources more thoroughly;
  • increase framing by placing sources & assertions about sources explicitly;
  • reduce friction by having outcomes/statements/findings clearly developed before writing;
  • invest seriously in the prep.

My takeaways for adapting her suggestions re: writing process for academics:

  • make the boring stuff exciting or cut it;
  • find new and better ways of summarizing material;
  • if I'm bored the reader will be dead bored;
  • cut. all. boring. stuff.

Buy It

At 99 cents, this book is a steal. Frankly, Rachel should probably price this at $2.99. It is easily worth the money. And thanks, Josh, for the suggestion!