Thursday, March 30, 2006

Virginia Internet Safety in School Law Passes

It's about high time - now Virginia schools are required to teach students (and therefore presumably administrators, teachers and parents by association)Internet Safety...the Virginia Dept. of Education will issue guidelines to schools by July 1st.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

RAM costs money

Well, our laptops are complaining now. At least the cheap ones. In our eagerness to create the perfect "walled garden" for our children to play on, and try out all the variations of Internet Safey filtering and blocking, somehow the RAM (physical memory of the computer) got used up. So things are slllooowww.

It's not too difficult to spot the culprits, turn things off, and optimize the performance, but I don't really have the time - at least to keep on top of this each week. I'm not a LAN administrator, but a DAD administrator - there's ant colonies to be destroyed, piano lessons to be taught, and cars to be washed.

So, my unofficial guideline is this: for each user ID on the computer, allocate about 50 Megabytes worth of memory that'll be consumed (this isn't too scientific, so check it out yourself). The laptop I'm typing on now....has ContentWatch, Registry Aid, Ad-aware, and some other things running, as processes for each User ID logged in and active. I've got 4 User IDs active at times, ergo my 250 M total RAM for the computer gets really thin, really fast. Especially cutting and pasting large graphics, like the Kindergartners like to do.

Time to just get more RAM, if I'm serious about Internet Safety. Another 500 M should do nicely (at about $40 a pop!). Plop it in, be safe and fast.

Meet the Junior Administrators

To help me in my R&D, user testing, marketing and entertainment departments, meet the JA's:

Knicknack: a toddler, she likes to sit and watch her brother zap things on the computer, and spill Apple Jacks on the keyboards

Axl: a preschooler, he is definitely a surfin' fiend, and learning to type in hundreds of variations (

Monker: a Kindergartner, his online and offline world is nuthin' but mini-science experiments, volcanos, robots, Bionicles, Yugioh, and other things I can't spell or pronounce, thank goodness for

Didi: a 2nd-grader, she's out on the front line, asking for email and IM accounts, selling her Barbies on eBay, creating her own online Avatar, asking for our passwords - I'm in full court press with this one, hopefully her siblings are paying attention.

Good crew - need somebody to learn HTML soon....

Local Sherriff's Departments

As you may have noticed around your community, local Sherriff's departments definitely have the front-line, real world perspective on Internet Safety and what's going on in the community, especially with respect to child abductions or other cyberstalking issues. In my own community, a particular Deputy has made it his mission to educate the county, school by school, on Internet Safety (

He actually looks for local postings around the social networking sites like Xanga and Myspace, and then informs the schools and parents of what he finds! Pretty embarrassing for the parents of the children he points out, like the 17-yr old with drinking, partying and semi-clothed pictures well represented on her myspace site, along with her address and high school location. My wife (who runs a Computer Training and Enrichment business, at actually did a presentation with this Sherriff at a local PTA meeting on the subject - boy was it good conversation.

Make sure to check out your local PTA scene, or ask the Sherriff/Police Dept. if they're engaged in any community outreach - I'm sure you'd be interested in attending, they'd want you to attend, and you may even be able to help out/contribute and make their presentation even more valuable. I recently had a conversation with the head of a large volunteer Internet Safety organization, and was treated to all kinds of horror stories plus positive and negative results, mostly compliments of the local Sherriff/Police Depts who reach out for help. One interesting thing they're involved in, is the launch of, an 'opt-in' safety-conscious social network for teens - very safe, very private, something parents could probably deal with.

New Reason to Back up Your Files!

Here's a new reason I hadn't seen before to back up your personal (and business!) data - data hostage-taking. I saw this on the FBI site. Certainly you wouldn't want someone getting onto your computer and copying or taking your private data. Nor copying/taking/destroying data on a service provider of yours. But how about someone installing malicious code that simply encrypts the data, to be unlocked only if you go somewhere and provide an anonymous source and automatic payment? Seems like you'd then be in an endless loop of harrassment and blackmail, plus have identified yourself as a recurring source of revenue for the "business".

If the data was important enough, I'd be tempted to pay....when your data is copied/moved/destroyed (with no recourse), there's nothing to do but cope. In this situation, there may be some hope, so I'll bet more people than not would. If the 'business' were smart, they'd take the payment and return the goods, setting themselves up as a reputable and trustworthy (!) business partner - one that I would likely continue to pay, to get my data back. At least until I managed to control the security/privacy leak on my computer. Solution - back up your important data, or at least encrypt and hide it, with a non-descript label, somewhere inconspicuous on the hard drive. Better off, do this on removable (scanned) media.


I've heard stories of DADS faced with Internet Safety issues from the other side of the generation gap (from children), i.e. parents. This is an extremely current and mostly underground issue, helping your family members and neighbors navigate and control the Internet-attached computer, protecting personal privacy, the computer asset itself, and blocking or filtering unwanted intrusion. Heck, I've installed PCAnywhere on my Sister and Brother-in-Law's computers to be able to "fix 'em up" remotely. Lots of trust involved there; one can certainly uncover interesting tidbits about a person's online and offline activity with unrestricted access to their computer.

This brings up the need to examine a taxonomy of sorts, by which the top level subject area "Internet Safety" (both words used as an aggregate term or idea) should probably be addressed. While "Internet" connotes online, virtual activity and information exchange, "real life" obviously intrudes and is impacted sometime by online events. "Safety" has a broad set of sub-classifications and meanings, and contexts, from your personal, physical safety to the safety of intellectual property. Perhaps we start to define the Internet Safety taxonomy (as a 'subject' classification scheme) in terms that will help guide and categorize discussion. All 'sub' categories must wholly contribute to the high-level category.

For example: Personal Internet Safety: Here's my definition of the subject category: "the knowledge domain, practices and products related to protecting one's (and those associated with) physical person, physical or intellectual property, personal relationships, personal reputation and profile from actual, perceived or unknown negative consequences caused or facilitated by events, messages, information or software involved or exchanged during the course of one's computer-based activity while attached to the Internet".

So, it's a broad area, but might not get into more specific (or broader contextual) topics such as "General Computer Maintenance", which would include a lot of things not necessarily related to Internet Safety (like optimizing your hard drive). It would include Computer Maintenance-related items such as Firewalls, Anti-Virus, etc. that are related. Note also the use of "personal" - businesses and governments have a lot to do to protect themselves on the Internet, but my focus here is on the individual first as a member of society and family (vs. an employee or business owner).

Here's an initial high-level category listing, that I'm dealing with.

· Internet Networks and Sites
· Internet Access and Control
· Safety - Personal and Private
· Safety - Physical Assets
· Safety - Public Assets or Memberships

By the way, I've started an eDocument (eBook?) series covering many details of executing the DADministration system - it'll be posted soon in various places (either free, or something like $.99 - need to start saving for college!). Other general Internet Safety information can be found at

How DADS can help

As a parent of 4 new users to the Internet, and a volunteer with, I and my wife have been spending a lot of time learning and educating others in my community (Northern Virginia, USA) and school system about how to help families maintain their privacy, avoid harrassment, stop personal or automated intrusions and generally provide a safe communications and surfing environment for themselves and their children when using computing devices.

A child's access to unmoderated and unsolicited material from the Internet is typically quite easy. Whether on unsuspecting parent's computers, over their cell phone, at their friend's houses or simply on their own computers in their bedrooms, children need a lot of assistance from their parents, friends, community, school, law enforcement, local businesses and the technology industry in general in keeping them safe. There do exist many interest groups, technologies, law enforcement-supported programs, online knowledgebases and software products to help parents and businesses maintain a safe online experience for those who need it.

But there's perhaps too many things a parent or family member needs to deal with, to 'lock-down' an environment that wasn't meant to be, and probably shouldn't be, for the general public. A virtual and physical safe haven or "walled garden" can certainly be established by families, governments and businesses for their children, but it takes a lot of work and help. Us DADS can help, both ourselves and others. It starts with education. There are lots of opportunities to participate in the broader Internet Safety effort, as volunteers, parents, business owners and employees - here's where we can come up with good ideas and leverage our collective experience, interest and drive.

Let me know how you'd like this blog to develop - what topics, how much detail, what input you may have. For starters, go to, and poke around a bit. I think you'll be surprised and the depth and breadth of the issues, plus the kinds of resources available to help.

DADministrator online!

Welcome to the first posting of DADministrator. The blog gets into depth and detail of topics relating to managing Internet Safety for your family and loved ones. As a Father of 4 myself, with 8 computers in the house, there's a whole lot to do and not much time to do it. So organization, planning, foresight, flexibility, common sense and a little expansion of my Dad's toolbox and skillset is called for.