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How Do Teens Get Their Info? Let’s Ask One. Introducing the Beacon Bulletin, Jr.!

With this special edition, we launch a new feature of the Bulletin –  Beacon Bulletin, Jr.  As important as it is for adults to have accurate sources of current information, it is perhaps doubly so for the younger members of our society in that  they are now beginning to form their viewpoints, gain perspectives and develop core beliefs.  To that end, please welcome our newest and youngest guest writer, Meghan E. Olden.

meghan olden

meghan olden 2


(We couldn’t decide which of the Many Magnificent Looks of Meghan to go with so here are two of our favorites!)

Meghan is a Maryland high school student with the goal of become a professional writer.  Her interests and activities include creative writing, graphics, winter color-guard,  marching band and visual arts.  She lives with her parents and is well protected by her one sibling –  older brother, Eric,  and enjoys the loyal company of her faithful, lovable family dog, Lizzy.

We realize that many of our readers are parents or guardians of children.  (For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on teenagers.) Given the rapid  information site turnover rate in Tech Age 5.0, and the incredible amount of data available to teens today, how and where are they obtaining critical information on which to base their forming perceptions and desire to self-educate?

In Meghan’s own words:
This summer, in wanting to stay healthy, I became more active recently.  I choose an old favorite for exercise – biking.

One of my recent bike rides found me back at my elementary school from which I had graduated 5 years ago.   I eventually found myself sitting on top of the monkey bars of the deserted playground that I had not stepped foot in since I’d moved on to high school. The overwhelming silence brought about reflection after I realized how different it felt. What so long ago felt gigantic – the high bars and enormous space – were now almost too small to fit me.  I was suddenly aware of how much I’d changed since the last time I’d been sitting there and how much more, well, opinionated, I had become.  In elementary school, I, like most children, just accepted what we were taught or had overheard/witnessed in our homes and school environments as gospel.  Young children often parrot their relatives and or friend’s parents without question and with very little understanding of the words/thoughts that they are rote repeating.  (As an example, my five y.o. cousin was recently playing in my living room, with the tv on in the background.  A brief clip of President Obama speaking aired and without lifting his head from his car toy, he called out, “O’Poo-poo head”.   I asked him why he called the President this name and he shrugged his shoulders.  I asked him why he thought that the President should be called this name.  He said he didn’t know. Obviously, he’d heard this comment at home, school, at a friend’s home…)  I know I’m guilty of simply repeating things I’ve heard from others without question but that afternoon, sitting on those now seemingly tiny monkey bars, it occurred to me to question more.  Having advanced to high school, I’m finding myself in the right environment to begin researching interests on my own and from there, develop my own opinions.

High school is a hot bed of differing ideas being brought forth, exchanged, and debated. It’s the time when people my age begin to question what they observe and begin to affirm their beliefs.    In recent years, I’ve started to ask questions. I’ve begun to look at different perspectives, opinions and views. Being exposed to different ideas can be a very enlightening experience. But I also recommend starting with a neutral perspective.  I learned this from watching the same YouTube video two years apart. The first time, I came in with a “this person is completely wrong, I’m sure of it.” view, and I walked away at the end,  quite offended. The second time, it was with a “let’s see what they have to say” attitude and I came out of it thinking, “Hey, they actually have some valid points!”.

This also led me to thinking, we – people my age – have to learn how to find a mix of sources of information so that we can view things from different angles and determine for ourselves our beliefs and positions on important issues.  In a few short years, I will be voting. I should be as informed as possible on what is going on around me, the country, the world… as possible.

To that end, I recommend the following informational sources for teens, and well, just about anyone:

Politics:   http://www.ontheissues.org/default.htm. provides an unbiased presentation of many political leaders and their views on different topics, as well as information on upcoming presidential candidates.

News: http://www.alternet.org

Health and Medicine: http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/ and http://www.mentalhealth.gov/ has you covered. for the blues or anything else like that that may be on your mind.

(Or if you were looking for more of a daily life and nutrition kind of site and less technical there’s http://dailyhealthpost.com/)

Technology:  http://mobile.extremetech.com/?origref=#/latest

Personal safety: The Beacon Bulletin, of course! and (unbiased!)   http://www.ncpc.org/topics/violent-crime-and-personal-safety

– Meghan Olden

Thank you, Meghan, for this well thought-out and presented piece on a teen’s perspective on information gathering and the importance of forming one’s own opinions based on accurate research.    You have a brilliant writing future ahead of you.

(We will be returning to our usual format in next week’s Bulletin with the Jr. edition publishing in timely episodes.)

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy (at all ages!)

As always, stay safe.

Personal Use of Drones for Beginners

drone moniotring person


There has been an alarming increase in the  number of drone/aircraft near strike incidents as reported in the news recently. (Personal drones – not those that can take out an entire village.)

The direct correlation to these near-misses by drones and planes is to that of drone availability and usage by private corporate entities (from cargo trackers to commercial real estate developers), publication photographers, the private sector for personal pleasure use and certainly in our field, that of investigations.

Further increasing their popularity, the price of a decent drone is very attractive:  $1,368 for this Phantom (one of the top devices for personal/business use):

phnatom 2

So where are we with the regulation of personal/corporate drones re: permissible use according to the governing regulatory agency, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).   Read for yourself :  From thenextweb.com (July 1, 2014):

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in charge of overseeing airspace in the US and the guidance for non-commercial users. With the increasing realization for the potential of drones, it’s already looking closely at how – and when – they should be permitted for use by businesses (or individuals for commercial activity) in the US. All model aircraft use for business or commercial use in the US is already subject to FAA regulation.

However, if you’re hoping that Amazon’s delivery drones are just around the corner, you’ll be disappointed. The FAA ruled recently that drone use for business purposes will remain banned for the immediate future, but that hobbyist use is still OK for now, providing you follow a few rules.ParrotARDrone 730x567 How to use personal drones legally: A beginners guide

Specifically, the drone must be kept in your line of sight and clearly observable from your position on the ground, along with a few less-specifically definedpieces of guidance which are more applicable to model aircraft:

“Users are advised to avoid noise sensitive areas such as parks, schools, hospitals, and churches. Hobbyists are advised not to fly in the vicinity of spectators until they are confident that the model aircraft has been flight tested and proven airworthy.

Model aircraft should be flown below 400 feet above the surface to avoid other aircraft in flight. The FAA expects that hobbyists will operate these recreational model aircraft within visual line-of-sight.”

Obviously, there are a few differences between model aircraft and personal drones – the addition of a camera, in many cases, being just one – so make sure you look into any other applicable laws in your own State regarding the operation of drones or capturing of personal images.

It’s worth keeping in mind here that the classing of drones as business use still applies even if you’re using one over private land at less than 400 feet – even if that activity isn’t directly making you money. For example, a realtor using a drone to take aerial shots of a property is still in breach of the rules and cannot be operated under section 336 of Public Law 112-95 which covers hobbyists.

Two drones do in fact already have certification for commercial use – theScanEagle and Aeroenvironment’s Puma drone – but are only cleared for use in the Arctic. Neither of them are particularly like the sort of consumer drones available to purchase today anyway.

There also seems to be a general understanding that the FAA isn’t responsible for airspace under 400 feet, but this is incorrect, it says. According to the organization, it has broad provisions that cover from the ground up.

“Consistent with its authority, the FAA presently has regulations that apply to the operation of all aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, and irrespective of the altitude at which the aircraft is operating,” it states.

The FAA was planning to look at the use of drones for commercial purposes again and potentially put something more concrete in writing next year, but according to a recent review of the FAA’s progress, it’s falling massively behind its target delivery dates for any regulation covering UAS.

Again, we wouldn’t be surprised to ultimately see some provisions that cover personal drone use too.

Update: The section above has been edited to clarify that model aircraft in the US are currently subject to FAA ‘guidance’ rather than FAA regulations.

So, the bottom line regarding legality of drones for personal and business use is that we are still in the Wild West phase where anything goes – however, employ common sense.  There is no reason for a drone to be in an aircraft’s flight path.  And ignorance is not an excuse so be careful and ensure that your personal drone use won’t endanger others.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.


Movin’ On Out! Security Checklist for Away College Students.

moving in


September is an Instagram away and hopefully, new (and returning) college students have their housing situations squared away. For those students – and their families – making their first foray into living away from home, we’ve established a preparedness checklist to enable a smooth a transition as possible. Getting right to it, let’s review how to make safer and smarter choices in such areas as:


Conduct a premises background check: Apartment building/private residence/apartment in home:

1. Conduct an address history check.

This type search – readily available through a myriad of public databases – provides a residents’ history for at least 20 years for the location. Given that the new potential residence is in a college town, high turnover rate is anticipated. However, check with local PD for prior criminal incidents at the location.

2. Interview neighbors and other tenants. No further explanation necessary.

Quality of Life: 

Select an area of residence based on minimum living requirements:



Crime stats

Accessibility to school/work/shopping/laundry facilities (if a factor)

Public transportation -vehicle parking

Pets (if allowed, know the rules)

Cutting Costs:

Rent with at least 1 roommate. Benefits:
-rent share reduction

-shared utilities: phone, renters insurance, gas and electric

-lower food expenses

-share 1 vehicle for transportation, if possible

Possessions Security:

– Photograph the residence – 360 degree photos – before moving in. Particularly note any damage. •

– Maintain a pictorial inventory of your property.

Tenant Responsibilities:

–  Ensure financial preparedness for at least 3 (three) months of bills in case of an emergency and if you have a roommate, that they unexpectedly vacate the premises.

– Create a budget prior to move-in, incorporating such factors as single, self residency or with roommates.

– Ensure that rent and utilities are ready for payment at least a week before due date.

– Without employing a Sheldon-like 239-page roommate agreement, establish a clear understanding and respect with fellow roomies re: visitors and unexpected drop-in guests.

Clear understanding of premises use w/property owner:

Prior to lease signing, there must be a mutual understanding of property usage rules such as:

-use of washer/dryer (if on premises)

-backyard privileges of backyard

Your rights as a tenant:

Ensure that right to privacy and that of the warranty of habitability are respected by having the property owner acknowledge the following: That,

– There will be no unannounced visits or entering your apartment without your knowledge.

– S/he shall place your security deposit in an escrow account.

– Leaks/plumbing issues for which s/he will bear the  financial responsibility shall be repaired asap

– That you be given a responsible ( 30 – 90 day) notice should the rental property become un-livable and that your moving costs be provided for by the owner.

Move-in recording security privacy measures:

– Ascertain if there are hidden cameras hidden your apartment. Check:

– bedrooms

– closets

– bathrooms/under sinks

– toilets/showers

The above advice may appear somewhat overwhelming but especially when one moves out into the “real” world, the safety, liability and comfort parameters should be forcefully set.

Above all , ensure several emergency contacts – local and family and may the first-time renter enjoy his/her new home!

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.


DNA-Collecting Pen, Text Message Retriever & Other Cool Stuff

Uzi Tactical Pen: Write, Collect DNA, Shatter Glass In An Emergency

The Uzi Tactical Pen, is a  unique writing instrument that can double up as a potentially life saving tool should the (admittedly, odd) situation arise.  The DNA Catcher, (located in the crown of the pen),  is very sharp, and designed for use as a jabbing weapon that causes extreme pain to your attacker (and an opportunity to flee), while giving you a sample of their DNA to deliver to police. The crown also functions as a glass breaker (i.e, for an emergency such as being stuck in your car – car accident, flooding…). Made out of high-grade aircraft aluminum, the Uzi Tac Pen can write upside down or under water.

Device Seziure V5:  Capture Texts, GPS Info, etc., from 4,000 mobiles, smartphones, and GPS devices


device seizure









(Unless you are experienced in physical acquisition of mobile data, we suggest you coordinate with a digital forensics expert, depending on the purpose of the information recovery.)

In the manufacturer’s (Paraben) own words:

Depending on the Device and the Model, Device Seizure™ can Access the Following Data:
  • Current Text Messages
  • Deleted Text Messages
  • Phonebook (from the phone’s memory and the SIM card)
  • Call History including Received, Dialled and Missed Calls
  • Datebook, Scheduler, and Calendar
  • To-Do Lists
  • The Device’s Filesystem
  • System Files
  • Pictures and Videos
  • Java Files
  • Quicknotes
  • GPS Waypoints, Tracks, and Routes
  • PDA Databases
  • E-mail
  • Registry (Windows Mobile Devices)
  • Deleted Data

SenseAware really knows how to track a package










You’ve over-nighted an important document and need to know if it has definitely been received.  You can monitor FedEx online every 5 minutes (be advised that their status update lag can range from a few hours to a day) or you can use SenseAware.

FedEx has stepped up their tracking game with Senseaware, a drop-in sensor for packages that monitors every situation and condition of delivery possible.

This device is about the size of a BlackBerry, and it tracks situations( in near real time) such as exact location, whether or not the package has been opened or exposed to light. It even has a built-in accelerometer so it will detect when it has been dropped.

BNI Operatives: Street smart: info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

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