Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

And Now Something Completely Different, Part IV.

Remember the Berkeley biology professor who attempted to scare the laptop thief into returning his computer? (See here.)

Here's a two-pronged update. First, the prof's gambit didn't work; the computer never materialized.

Second, the James Bond-esque tracking capabilities allegedly installed in the laptop didn't likely exist. In other words, he was bluffing, according to the story below.

"Most techies consider that anyone could see that the [prof] was telling porkies. One of the ways that [he] claimed he identified the tea leaf was by installing the same version of Windows on another computer. If the professor had attempted to use the same key to activate a copy of Windows, the activation servers would have denied him access." (N. Farrell, "Redfaced professor made up scary story", the Inquirer, April 25, 2005.)

"Some of the technobabble that the professor spouted to out the thief was impressive, but has not been found to work well yet." (Id.)

"He claimed that there were passive trackers embedded in the bezel of laptop screens beside the wireless transmitters. Technology like this does sort of exist, but is rare and not used by anyone outside the Department of Energy." (Id.)

"He also claimed that the wireless card in the laptop triggered some location data. This is possible, but pretty unlikely." (Id.)

"In fact a University spokesman told ABC that [the prof] had indeed made the whole thing up to scare the student into handing over the laptop." (Id.; emphasis added.)

Moreover, this professor has been quoted as follows: "Although I have unlimited respect for facts, and delight in their discovery and appreciation, I have come to the obvious yet almost blasphemous view that, with respect to teaching, the facts just aren't that important." (Id.)

Is that so?

(HT: the