Gates Computers - Useful Downloads

For anyone still supporting their Gates computers without the benefit of Gates Foundation tech support, you might be interested to know that there are some very useful files available to you either here (for you to download) or on your Gates computer. Here's a description of a few:

Gates Computers - The PAC Installer

The PAC Installer is what the Gates Foundation uses to lock down their computers. Here's what they say about it:

The Public Access Computer Configuration Tool is a software security system designed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for public access computers. You can install it to help keep a computer stable by restricting access to the computer and creating customizable profile environments designed to meet the needs of public computer users without compromising your ability to keep the computer up and running.

Bookmarks for Patrons

Imagine a world where patrons could save their bookmarks and the data they provide on online forms would be pre-filled the next time they were asked for that data....where passwords they'd set up on websites would be remembered for them....just like our home PCs! And now imagine that there was a way to do this that was completely secure, portable and affordable. Well, that's my take on the AxisCard.


Section 1703(a) of CIPA requests that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) initiate a notice and comment proceeding to determine whether currently available blocking and filtering technologies adequately address the needs of educational institutions. Well, the Report is out and it states that the currently available technology measures do indeed have the capacity to meet most if not all of the needs of educational institutions. Hooray! That's a relief.

[....hopefully you hear the irony in my voice...]

Do you wonder how they came up with that? Well, they relied upon the comments received in response to their notice in the Federal Register. They seemed particularly convinced by the comments of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). The ACLJ states the following:

"...a vast amount of information has been produced both supporting and criticizing internet filtering devices. In light of this background, the ACLJ recommends that, rather than looking at single advocacy studies conducted by such groups as the ACLU, a better approach is to look at independent lab tests conducted over the past several years by entities that are not interested in either promoting or discouraging filtering software use and that do not conduct research with any specific advocacy goal in mind (except benefitting the consumer)."

The ACLJ then provides Exhibit A (pdf) as an example of a more objective report. Exhibit A, aka "The Facts on Filtering" is written by David Burt of N2H2, one of the biggest filtering companies on the market. In his report, he describes the results of 26 reports done by PC Magazine, PC Week, Consumer Reports, PC World, and others. The results of Mr. Burt's unbiased report seem to have convinced NTIA that filters meet the needs of our schools.

Silly me, I expected NTIA to actually make an effort to evaluate filtering products and offer up some useful feedback....

CIPA Ramifications

Mary Minow did a great presentation today on CIPA and its ramifications. It is available as an archive from Infopeople. One of the very interesting points she made was that the CIPA regs only apply to visual depictions of the various forbidden categories of things. So I emailed Surfcontrol, WebSense, Smartfilter, iPrism, CyberPatrol and Symantec to find out if their filter product could be set up to turn the "blocked" site into a text-only site. Seems possible to me and wouldn't that be a much better solution! Stay tuned.

Filtering and the CIPA

With all the hoopla about the Supreme Court decision to allow CIPA to stand, it is incumbent on all current and potential filter users to learn how Internet content filtering products work. I see post after post on the discussion lists that make it clear to me that people don't know how they work, what options they have for controlling how they work and think one product works the same as another. In some cases, the lack of understanding has to do with the fact that the products are maintained by administrators "upstream" (the county for example).