Cheers and jeers

Thumbs up to recovering teacher, robocall apps; down to ill-advised iPads

Cheers — to McLoughlin Middle School science teacher Tim Turk, who gives his students a lesson in courage and perseverance every day he shows up to school in his wheelchair. Turk is slowly but surely recovering from devastating injuries he suffered when he collided with a motorcycle while on a bicycle ride with friends. Five months later, he's back in the classroom, despite multiple broken bones and a traumatic brain injury.

Jeers — to Los Angeles Unified School District officials who thought they could hand out iPads to students and not expect them to hack the security settings. The basic idea was a good one — provide an iPad to each of the district's 650,000 students, 80 percent of whom come from low-income families who may not be able to afford such high-tech gadgets. In an ideal world, students would be grateful for the access to cutting-edge educational software and would use the devices responsibly. Of course, the first students to receive the iPads promptly disabled the security system the district had installed so they could go on the Internet, play computer games and use Facebook. Red-faced educators say they will go back to the drawing board, think through the project better and install a much more robust firewall.

Cheers — to a $260,000 bequest from the estate of a New York surgeon to Sanctuary One, the Applegate nonprofit that provides a home for animals and education and therapy for people who volunteer to work with animals and in the farm's gardens. The executor of Dr. Jeanne Pamilla's estate, an anesthesiology nurse in Ashland, learned of Sanctuary One from her veterinarian and decided the organization would be a good fit for a gift from Pamilla's estate.

Cheers — to new software applications that target and fight back against those annoying robocalls that disturb our peace and quiet and waste our time. Despite the federal Do Not Call registry, some purveyors of spam telemarketing persist in flouting the law. The Federal Trade Commission, frustrated in its attempts to rein in the bad guys, launched a Robocall Challenge contest inviting developers to tackle the problem. One of the winners, Nomorobo, intercepts calls and screens them against a database of known spam numbers, then disconnects before the user's phone even rings and blacklists that number.

Brilliant.


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