Ethan Zuckerman grilled the census worker who came to his door about the giant, clunky, dysfunctional PDA the US government uses to conduct its census with. It's a crapgadget par excellence.
If US government contractors had designed the iPhone
The device she had strapped to her hand was a Harris HTC, which looks either like the ugliest cellphone you've ever seen, or a Palm Pilot designed by the US government. We scrolled through bad, inaccurate maps of the area, which looked like they'd been dumped from an early version of MapQuest, wondering how the ridgeline behind my house had magically been transformed into a navigable road, and talked about the device...
They're not making a whole lot of friends with this new device. Last year, the Government Accountability Office added the 2010 Census to a list of high-risk programs. Basically, it sounds like requirements changed several times, and Harris ended up very late to market, with a somewhat buggy device. This freaked people out, and the Census quickly announced that they wouldn't actually be using the devices - they'd use them just to conduct the first stage of the census, checking addresses, while the actual census (conducted door to door, of people who hadn't sent in the forms themselves) would take place using clipboards and paper.
In other words, the relatively lame device my friendly enumerator was carrying, which cost $600 million, doesn't actually work well enough to use for its intended purpose, is still being used in the field, perhaps so that it can be readied for 2020? Anyone believe that we'll be able to do better than a half-pound, paperback-book sized plastic brick within ten years?
If you think that your phone may have been hacked so that your adversaries can watch you through the cameras and listen through the mics, one way to solve the problem is to remove the cameras and microphones, and only use the phone with a headset that you unplug when it’s not in use.
Lured by the internet’s pervasive insistence that it represents a superior, more comfortable typing experience, I recently went back to an old-timey mechanical keyboard. This was a mistake. I am now a hamfisted ASCII jazz disaster.
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