Archive for code

High Security

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2012 by javedbabar

TJ called the Chief Housekeeper and asked, “Is no one coming over today? I mean to get the daily security data? It is already five a.m. Okay, see you in ten minutes. I will be here.”

You’d think they would know by now, but he had to remind them daily. Maybe six months ago you could skip a day, but these days, no way. The Lucerne Valley Hotel had a reputation to maintain. Their business depended on it.

He was only the night-receptionist, but knew that all must play their part. So much had changed in the industry. He recalled when hotel rooms had mechanical locks, the first time around. Every guest received a key and most guests returned them when checking out, however some keys were lost in town, some taken home by mistake, and some deliberately with the notion of committing future crimes.

The Lifetime GM, Mr Kazantzakis, invested in a new system of key cards. They were coded at reception and opened guests’ doors during their stays. The cards became invalid upon checkout, and were erased and reused.

It was a very good system but as with everything these days, hackers worked out a way to override it. They placed the cards into portable readers and stole their codes. TJ was sorry to say that part-androids like himself were more guilty than most; they had a knack for manipulating technology. There was a spate of free stays and break-ins at the hotel. Something had to be done.

They moved to a fingerprint system which again seemed invincible, but the quality of digital cameras these days was such that eating crisps with your beer became a risky act; one greasy fingerprint was enough to undermine security. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags suffered a similar fate. Hackers found a way to pick up tags’ signals with cell phones, which could then act as keys.

Iris scans were a heavy investment, but Mr Kazantzakis felt they were worth it for Executive floors. They worked well for a month before a rush of laptop thefts from female executives’ rooms. Staff discovered micro-cameras installed behind mirrors in female washrooms. They took sharp shots of women applying their eye shadow and mascara.

People’s wallets, laptops, and identities were being stolen, the latter for months, even years. It was hard these days to prove that you were not you. The hotel tried secret codes, secret information, and security tokens, but these also failed.

A housekeeper mentioned that her grandpa, a Luddite and regular gambler, had suggested a system involving interchangeable mechanical locks. There were fifty guest rooms in the hotel requiring locking. If they placed two rusty old locks, each requiring a good five minutes to open, on each door, and swapped a fifth of them around each day, opportunistic criminals would simply get bored of trying and failing. Each entry attempt would require at least ten minutes of work, with only a two percent of two percent chance of success.

Now there was a sheet of daily security data, saying which locks were to be swapped. This, combined with a password from the lobby, puzzling knots securing items, and fake locks that could be set anywhere in the building, ensured the good reputation of the Lucerne Valley Hotel. It held an unassailable four star security rating.

Stack of Applications

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by javedbabar

Professional people were leaving Lucerne because there weren’t adequate facilities for their children. The schools were reasonable and parents also played their part in educating their children. They ensured they practised speaking, reading and writing at home, and also taught them manners.

They were busy people, tired from work, but knew that the prime duty for raising children rested on their shoulders, not on those of teachers, who could shape, but not make, healthy, happy beings. However the lack of a swimming pool or hockey rink was the killer. The wound continued to seep.

Every situation has a cutting edge through. Fewer professional people meant more jobs for unprofessional people. There was for example no Building Control Officer in Lucerne. Nobody knew what had happened to him. There was plenty of construction occurring in the valley – new facilities to attract new professional people – but no one to manage it.

Shama had been at a loose end since moving here from the city. He’d come to the village to enquire about a manual job, but had instead been offered the role of Building Control Officer, for twice the salary he’d expected.

He’d said to the interviewer, “I don’t have any qualifications. Sure I’ve worked on constructions sites, performing traffic duty and casual labour, but I’m not any sort of official.”

“You seem like a smart guy,” said the interviewer. “Give it a week. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Shama went to his new office on Monday. There was a huge pile of building forms and assorted documents balanced on his desk. Some were typed, some handwritten in pen, some completed with coloured markers, and some scrawled in pencil.

Who completes forms in marker? Were children submitting applications? What about pencil – had these adults not graduated from graphite to ink? At his own school, he had done so when eleven. The crazy, barely legible writing made the papers a modern tower of Babel. How would he get through them?

The bookshelves covering one wall were filled with building code manuals. There were at least a hundred, covering all aspects of national, provincial, and municipal building codes, supplemented by bylaws and case studies. These massed ranks of grey, green and brown books looked like the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, which he’d visited as a child.

There was a pile of lego bricks on the corner table. They were mainly yellow, blue and red, with some transparent ones, built into a series of half-finished structures. Is that how building departments evaluated projects? Out of toy blocks to check?

The desk held many executive toys, no doubt there to illustrate engineering principles.

Shama chatted to the receptionist. She asked what he’d been doing before this. He began to lie, but then corrected himself. “I’ve been performing casual labour – unloading trucks and carrying lumber, and mudding and taping drywall. I’ve done some brick building too, and nailing on siding. Plus plenty of painting and decorating…” He was about to say he was totally unqualified for the job, but the receptionist interrupted.

“Thank God they’ve got a proper person at last. Someone who works with his hands and knows what he’s doing, not another person with a Building Services degree who knows only how to push pencils. We may finally have a service that works.”