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Le Pauvre Jasper Rine

They're coming to get you boy!

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Jasper Rine teaches biology at the University of California at Berkeley. Like many of his colleagues he gets lucrative contracts with the private sector.

A particular day early in April was evidently hectic for Jasper. Lecturing in front of 500 pre-med students in micro and cellular biology (MCB) Jasper somehow lost his Windows XP laptop. His guess was a member of his audience nicked it, intent on grabbing details of a coming exam.

Jasper flew into a panic. First he tried mailing all his students, asking for the laptop to be returned. No such luck. Then a fortnight later he decided to try one last gambit.

Standing again in front of his wet behind the ears pre-med students, Jasper launched into a scare story about what was going to happen to the laptop thief.

There was important data on that computer, said Jasper, important data that a lot of scary law enforcement authorities were interested in recovering. The university campus was speckled with surveillance cameras that had picked up a partial image of the thief.

A secret built-in transponder had been able to track the thief's movements across areas where tens of thousands of other students were found.

It was only a matter of time before the FBI and the US Marshals swooped in.

The thief had only one way out, explained the commiserating Jasper: return the laptop - and in a hurry too, for despite the gravity of the situation, Jasper would be out of town after noon and not be back for a week. There was only a narrow window of opportunity for the thief to set things right, as Jasper was a busy man.

But the thief was not impressed, and neither were law enforcement officials, and only hours later a spokesman for the university admitted Jasper had made the whole thing up. The laptop was indeed stolen, but neither Captain America nor Batman were on the case.

The FBI were not about to look into the matter until the crime entered their domain. Transponders of the sort Jasper talked about don't normally exist on Windows XP boxes. And the surveillance cameras around a campus are of such low resolution that they're considered a deterrent only - they cannot be used to positively identify anyone.

Jasper's dramatic speech was captured on video by a student at the lecture and uploaded to the net. Audio recordings were made of the video and uploaded. One kind soul even transcribed the juiciest parts of the speech and published as well. Jasper became an overnight notoriety.

Speculation has been rampant about what Jasper's real motivations are. Some suspect a porn stash that might be of embarrassment to the good professor. Others claim he would not be so stupid as to suggest he'd been careless with sensitive data - from, as he himself revealed, an NIH court case, an IPO startup, and a powerful biotech company.

Jasper and his colleagues make big money in their dealings with the private sector; any intimation they don't know how to guard data that belongs to others might scare the big money away forever.

No, the likelihood is that even if Jasper exaggerated the importance of the data as he did everything else that it was there on the Windows XP machine.

And now the whole world knows about Le Pauvre Jasper Rine: biotech companies know he can't be trusted; law enforcement know he likes to make things up; his students know he's a total bluff; the university know he can hurt them; and the rest know they've found the perfect target.

The world hasn't seen the last of Jasper: expect him to surface again in a few years at an unknown institution of higher learning somewhere in the far reaches of civilisation.

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