In Risks V4.19 Kim Collins calls for a discussions of passive versus dynamic control mechanism, and illustrates his definition with a skyscraper analogy: Passive Control: a building that flexes in the wind Dynamic Control: computer-controlled guy wires With the advent of cheap 'smart' metals, (metals that contract or perform other mechanical functions in response to temperature and other environmental stimuli), is the distinction very important anymore? I can use a metal with complex operational characteristics to control the windows and blowers in my greenhouse and provide environmental control. The proper application and installation of these metal control structures seems directly analogous the the proper declaration of the constraints that a software control system should carry out. Indeed I can conceive of a modeling system for a completely software based control system that uses a graphics environment that expresses these contraints visually in terms of their mechanical counterparts: (e.g. ThingLab or Maureen Stone's "Snap Dragging" in the SIGGRAPH '86 proceedings). Let me phrase this in terms of a RISKS administration dilemna: If an engineer designs a control system in such a graphic modeling environment and has no knowledge whether the final implementation will be in terms of hardware (relay-ladder control, smart metals, etc) or in software. If his system fails and is submitted to RISKS, would the editor of RISKS consider this material valid RISKS DIGEST material if the final implementation was completely free of software and computers? - Steven Gutfreund University of Massachusetts, Amherst [You bet. An algorithm is an algorithm is an algorithm. Although it is not stated explicitly in the masthead, I consider this forum to be devoted to something like RISKS TO THE PUBLIC IN COMPUTER-RELATED TECHNOLOGIES, although don't ask for a specific definition of scope. Nice example. Thanks. PGN]
Sunnyvale CA (AP, 29 Nov 86) A telephone bill has vindicated a physically handicapped teenager jailed more than a month ago on charges he beat his mother to death. Charges were dismissed against Patrick Sparks, 17, when the bill found by his brother, Brad, 30, indicated their mother was still alive when the youth left home on the morning of the slaying, police said... Of course, it can work either way. The record of all of your telephone calls provides a remarkable chronicle of your activities...
> I also saw the 60 Minutes episode. From the tone of the various messages in > RISKS 4.17, it sounds like everybody believes Audi is at fault. All I saw > was a lot of anecdotal evidence ... That's all you *saw* because anecdotes make good pictures. If you listened to the "text" of the article, you heard statistics on the number of runaway Audis -- if I remember rightly, something like 1 in 300 owners of the model in question had experienced this problem. While they didn't give the "control statistic", the same ratio for other cars, I can't believe it's anywhere near that high -- can you? Mark Brader, utzoo!dciem!msb ... being sysadmin of such a central node involves a lot less hassle and frustration when I can confidently say, "I don't know whose software is broken, but it definitely is not ours." Speaking of which... "I don't know whose software is broken, but it definitely is not ours!" -- Henry Spencer
[...] I have heard that the new Mazda RX7's have microprocessor controlled steering or something of the like. I guess this is the beginning of "drive by wire". Peter Stokes, CMC
In the last Risks Digest, RMann%pco@HI-MULTICS.ARPA says: "Now, I can't imagine these super-sophisticated arbitrageurs issuing MARKET orders -- it is too absurd to imagine. If the hedger issues limit orders, the trades do not occur and the stock price stays relatively stable." Presumably the problem is not that of sophisticated arbitrageurs making orders on enormous numbers of stock, but many thousands of not-so-sophisticated people using computers for small market orders. With the advent of modern services, practically anyone with a Commodore-64 can make predictions and issue remote buy and sell orders. It's a strange world. [And if they are all using the same program, the effects can be even stranger. PGN]
Discussion has been going on in can.general about the "Borrowed" Canadian income tax records, and the topic of security of medical records has arisen as a sideline. I thought these two articles contained material good for RISKS. Glossary for foreign readers: OHIP is the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. Essentially all Ontario residents have coverage, but unless our income is small, we (or our employers) have to pay a premium for it. Mark Brader ================== Begin 1st forwarded article ================== Path: dciem!utzoo!mnetor!spectrix!clewis From: clewis@spectrix.UUCP (Chris Lewis) Newsgroups: can.general Subject: Re: Borrowed records from Revenue Canada Date: 26 Nov 86 21:05:24 GMT In article <274@cognos.UUCP> glee@cognos.UUCP (Godfrey Lee) writes: >Did anyone see the news report that the suspect "has opened"/"wants to open" >an agency to track down people for a fee? [Interpolation by Mark Brader: Another report was that he wanted to use the records to reunite people with their forgotten bank accounts, for a fee. Of course, he could have been planning both things.] Oops, forgot about that one. Yes, indeedy, it would be good for "skip tracing". Interestingly enough, in Ontario, the OHIP enrollment file is even better - the dates are frequently far more up to date, because even tax avoiders (and others attempting to avoid payments) want to keep their OHIP coverage up-to-date. Until 1978/9 police were able to obtain such information - the general manager of OHIP didn't realize that the legislation enabling the existence of OHIP didn't allow it. Not any more. However, there were far more private investigators using pretext calls to OHIP for the same end. As an example of where things are compared to what they were like in 1978 (when the Health Records Commission started), OHIP didn't know how many copies of the OHIP enrollment fiche were made, where they went and never noticed any going missing (quite a few copies did - though, most likely they were simply misplaced or destroyed without being reported to the COM group). One of the more interesting (and sneaky) techniques we ran into for collection agencies acquiring info was: 1) Send letter saying "You have won....(something or other)" along with a cheque for $5 "Deposit Only" to debtor. 2) Find out the name of the debtor's bank from the cancelled cheque. I was asked to report a few other incidents that the Commission found: 1) Catastrophic OHIP data processing oversight: It is the practise of OHIP to collect several days worth of data entry at one of their district offices (there were 7 in 1978-79) and do an audit on them. Once every couple of months. This is done by taking the several days worth of claims (in the order of 100,000-400,000 claims) and running them through a program that would generate a letter of the form: Dear
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