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?
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Mattel’s Hello Barbie has a microphone and a wifi interface, and it transmits the phrases it hears to a central server in order to parse them and formulate a response. Mattel claims that the data isn’t being retained or harvested for marketing purposes, and assures parents that they can make Barbie stopping eavesdropping on them […]
I blogged the announcement of the Qwerkywriter more than a year ago, when the company was retooling from its successful kickstarter to full retail production. I’ve had one of the production models in my office for a couple of months now and I’ve been very impressed! (I wrote this review on it).
Carrying this EDC card is like slinging around a handheld toolbox wherever you go. Its minimal design is small enough to fit in your wallet’s billfold, and it’s TSA-compliant so you’ll never leave it behind. It’s got hex wrenches, metric and imperial rulers, flathead and Phillip’s screwdrivers, and a bottle opener so that you’re ready […]
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