Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Terminal Terminals

I'm always fascinated when everyday computer interfaces go sideways.  It's a little peek into the innards of the things.  For instance, I was at the Chicago airport when a storm knocked the power out.  They switched to backup power, but not quickly enough ... all the boarding pass terminals rebooted.  So I took a picture.

Then, there are otherwise sensible Point of Sale terminals that run Windows.  Honestly, you're trying to keep your money, not lose it.  Why would you trust it to a system with such lousy security?  Pictured below is a Canteen "Open Vending" POS.

Speaking of money, one of my favorite finds was a crashed NCR ATM in the Netherlands.  I like that the designers at least put a desktop wallpaper on the system that instructs the user not to enter their PIN.  (Though, in English.)

Finally, I shot a picture of an advertising display that lost its mind.  I'm curious about this one, because it's offering to send crash feedback to Logitech.  Either Logitech's getting into a new market, or this thing is a kludge using some sort of Logitech slideshow app.  Or maybe it's just that a mouse driver blew up and took the rest of the system with it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Crib Notes for Cocktail Hour

Got a lull in the conversation?  Try these:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Guerrilla Fix-It: Hotel Lamp Edition

This brand of lamp normally has both plugs facing "forward" like the one on the left.  Most power adapters can't fit, because of the black square piece right there.  Now, if it's loose -- and they frequently are -- you can twist it about 30° to one side and wedge your power adapter in there.  But there's no way to twist it to face a full 90° like the one on the right.

Someone "fixed" it.  I've been to this hotel dozens of times, and none of the other rooms have it like this.  I guess it's just a matter of having a screwdriver with you ... but who took the time?  Some sort of Robin Hood electrician is on the loose.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Going "Off the Graph"

That's not a typo, I'm curious about getting off the graph, not off the grid.  I love the grid.  It streams movies at me, and lets me get cash from a machine, and lets me send text messages, and lets me look up words I read in my digital book right there on the same tablet.
Königsberg's Troublesome Bridges

It's the graph that spooks me.  It's the connection of every digital transaction (money, tweet, border crossing, phone call) you ever make into one big fat map that suggests ("profiles?") who you are.

You don't have to be paranoid about the NSA watching every single thing you do.  (Ding! Just added a node to their graph.)  You could be paranoid about stores watching your buying habits to target you with marketing.  For instance, as my brother explains, when you purchase felt pads to keep your furniture from scratching the floor, you get added to a marketing list of new homeowners.  It's presumed that your sudden care for floors stems from presently owning them, instead of renting them.

Is it possible to reduce the number of nodes you're adding to your graph, in this day and age?  I'm curious.  Drug dealers have been doing it for ages with "burner phones."  Executives count on the fact that their hotel pay-per-view purchases will be "discreetly charged."  You can't surprise your partner on Valentines' Day if they saw the hotel room deposit on your joint credit card statement.

So.  How far off the graph can a fully functional, modern-day, employed, human get?