Unevenly distributed futures: an interview with @internetofshit

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If it has enough computing power for TCP/IP, it should have enough computing power for a manual override.

It can even be hardware-based. Couple years ago I built myself a USB-controlled room light. The thing has a button for on/off (and delayed off, with enough delay to comfortably walk from door to bed). It also has a three-position switch for override-on, override-off, and be-smart (where the microcontroller has the control). The manual override is needed only when the server goes messed with, but it already was handy a few times.

Everything should have a manual override.


These things are developed under pressure and are only ever demoed to execs in a controlled environment before they hit the stores. They don’t have to worry about any problems because there is essentially zero product liability for low voltage electronics and connected home type devices. Any problems become marketing and PR problems, just as long as the devices sell.


Worst thing I did recently was replace my old worn out furnace with one by Johnson Controls. It has one of them computery board thingies in it, instead of good ol’ reliable relays and wires and switches and stuff. It has lights that tell you what’s wrong, that is if you get the repairman out to interpret it. Fortunately it’s not connected to the internets. That I know of. At least it’s not turning off in the middle of the night and letting the house get down to 60 degrees without my permission. But the burner comes on, then two minutes later the fan comes on (after the whole damn furnace has heated to 150 degrees or something), slowly revving up like a '72 Chrysler driven by an 90 year old guy in Florida. Then the burner goes off, the fan revs up even more, then even more for a while. WTF? Then it goes off completely. And this is when the fan setting is set to “ON,” as in all the time. It’s even weirder when the fan’s set to automatic. The technician tells me that, for safety reasons, the computer board has to “reset” each cycle. I guess it has to press ctrl-alt-del every 20 minutes to make sure it’s not burning the house down. Feh.

But it does keep the house at a reasonably constant temperature.

So I see no good reason to have a furnace monitored and controlled by a faceless corporation via the internet. Or, god forbid, by the electric company, who somehow is SO interested in environmental concerns that they refuse to spend CEO bonus money to upgrade their infrastructure. Somebody turning my temp up to 80 in the middle of August? No way.

(But apparently the electric company around here is sending contractors around and putting outside controllers on people’s compressors without their permission, and people are finding they suddenly no longer have control. At least that’s what I hear. Maybe it’s a rumor. There definitely is some sort of Energy Rewards!!! program you can join if you’re particularly stupid.)


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