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Taiwanese Researchers Plug RFIDs As Disaster Recovery Aids 108

Velcroman1 writes "Scientists tag animals to monitor their behavior and keep track of endangered species. Now some are asking whether all of mankind should be tagged too. Looking for a loved one? Just Google his microchip. Taiwanese researchers postulate that the tags could help save lives in the aftermath of a major earthquake. And IBM advocated chips for humans in a speech earlier this week. The ACLU disagrees. 'Many people find the idea creepy,' spokesman Jay Stanley told FoxNews.com."
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Taiwanese Researchers Plug RFIDs As Disaster Recovery Aids

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  • Creepy isn't a good argument against "why should we do X". If it were, we wouldn't have bad CGI. Or Uwe Boll movies.

    • Re:Dear ACLU (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WarJolt ( 990309 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @11:14PM (#32216652)

      creepy is just a way of saying your gut tells you somethings wrong. My gut keeps me out of a lot of bad situations. It's a good enough reason for me. My gut tells me I don't want to be implanted with something that can track me like an animal.

      • by ooshna ( 1654125 )
        Last I heard human were still animals
        • Last I heard human were still animals

          No, not since The Singularity. The software just makes you seem like you're a living, breathing human animal.

          • But one good use obviously outweighs all the possible misuses of this technology.

            Chance of you being in a middle of a huge natural disaster, resulting in you being unable to unable to respond to others to let them know who you are and that you are still alive, and someone with an RFID scanner happens by to scan you, and then somebody else you know then does a google search on your location: 1:1,000,000,000.

            Chance of the government abusing the technology the very day it begins being implemented: 1:0.00000001

            • You're assuming that the someone you know also knows your RFID number or is able to access it without much trouble.

              Otherwise, simply issuing a card with an RFID chip built in at the relief tent with a photo and name that goes into a database that allows the same is enough. No need to tag people here. It all can be done adhoc at the time of need if the person actually wants other to know there he is.

              • What's the point of having the RFID chip inserted and then a database of rfid's/names being created then? It's WAY too late to be useful. You might as well just ditch the whole RFID thing and just take names, as the RFID adds no value.

                For this to be useful, you need to match an RFID with a name BEFORE an incident, so in the immediate aftermath, rescue teams could setup rfid readers at choke points around the disaster, and have a reasonable idea of how many people have left the area and who left, without b

                • No, it isn't really too late. Here is the thing, unless you tell the family or friend the RFID number, then it's really no different then just taking a name. I mean if they do not know the RFID, then all they have to go with is Jane Doe or John Doe passed by point A. Now in my city, there is at least 3 people with the same first and last name as mine, at least 10 people with the same first and last name as my brother and father (who share the same name). And that's just the small city I live in- wait until

            • by tsm_sf ( 545316 )
              Chance of you being in a middle of a huge natural disaster[...]: 1:1,000,000,000.

              (odds may vary in New Orleans, Iceland, most of Africa)
              • (odds may vary in New Orleans, Iceland, most of Africa)

                You think that Iceland is undergoing

                a huge natural disaster


                The Icelanders are undergoing a minor, quite common, local difficulty. Not quite as frequent or predictable as the geyser at, errm, Geysir (not far from the eastern side of Katla, whose western subsidiary outlet is currently erupting) ; but common enough. Other areas downwind are experiencing, almost literally, fallout from their problem, but the Icelanders are undergoing a minor, common diff

                • by tsm_sf ( 545316 )
                  No man, I hate Iceland, Icelanders, and everything they stand for. Their scratchy-sweater-wearing, Cod-fishing, Bjerk-listening way of life repulses me. Iceland is a huge natural disaster.

                  *shakes fist*
            • Chance of the government abusing the technology the very day it begins being implemented: 1:0.00000001

              Closer to 11 in 14. It might get implemented on a weekend, and there's way less chance they'll get around to abusing it before Monday.

        • Yes, but that doesn't mean we have to tracked like them. Furthermore nobody likes a pedantic asshole I would suggest you strive to not be one.

          • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

            Ah... But if you CAN be tracked like them, you can rest assured your fellow man will DO it to you.

            History is replete with vast numbers of instances where something along these lines (no there hasn't been RFID of this nature until our recent times...) has been misused- with arguments like yours getting used to get it accepted first.

            • I wasn't arguing for tracking, I was arguing against it by pointing out that animals we may be, but tracked like them we should not.

      • Re:Dear ACLU (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nido ( 102070 ) <nido56NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Saturday May 15, 2010 @01:53AM (#32217550) Homepage

        creepy is just a way of saying your gut tells you somethings wrong. My gut keeps me out of a lot of bad situations. It's a good enough reason for me. My gut tells me I don't want to be implanted with something that can track me like an animal.

        Our guts don't get nearly the credit they're due. Old medical literature talked about the body having three distinct nervous systems: brain/central nervous system, the heart, and the abdominal brain. How could paraplegics digest food if the digestive organs didn't have their own control system?

        And the abdomen is, of course, the seat of intuition in the body. There's much more to 'gut feelings' than we commonly appreciate.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Thiez ( 1281866 )

          +2 Interesting? What? Intuition is in your brain, not in your abdomen. If in some situation you have a 'bad feeling' in your guts it is either because your brain figured something out and is making you feel nervous, or because you are infected with some disease or ate something bad. It is NOT because some mysterious second or third nervous system that is located in your abdomen has used its magical powers of intuition and is making your spider sense tingle.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      Christians have a good reason - refusal to accept the mark of the beast.

      "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
      Revelation 13:16-17

      • Re:Dear ACLU (Score:4, Insightful)

        by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl@excit e . com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @11:27PM (#32216736) Journal

        I think there are much better reasons to reject this concept than vague superstitions. Aren't privacy, bodily integrity, and freedom from surveillance good enough reasons?

        I can always carry a GPS locator (that will only be turned on if I want to) if I'm going to the backcountry. Sure, I like having it in the event of emergency. But it only goes on if I flip the switch, and I would only do that if there were an emergency.

      • by johnhp ( 1807490 )
        You were modded funny, but I think that's because most of the Slashdot crowd has never spent time in the midwest/south. I happen to live in the rural midwest. I think our coastal population is unaware that the country's gooey filling contains hundreds of thousands of religious zealots who literally rival the Taliban for religious rigidity and enthusiasm. My family all fit into that category. They believe that every bit of the Bible is absolutely literally true. I'm the only person in my family who unde
        • The scripture noted was written in the first century. At that point, most people would have said such a thing could never happen, including the Christians if you had pinned them down on it. Barter was common. You bought and sold (if you did at all) with people you knew in most places. They would have never asked you to show some mark to do that activity. If it was enforced, a black market would have been easily and readily in operation.

          Today, it is just the opposite. USA Today reported a couple years ago th

  • Creepy? Yes! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @11:10PM (#32216616)
    Sure it would be great to find your lost loved one in the event of some natural disaster. And it would be nice to be able to track and find your kids when they're late for dinner or in the event of some foul play. But this is way to apt for abuse. If you think stalkers can get too much information on someone now you just wait until they can track you 24/7 via your new best friend RFID!
    • No disagreement with the downsides outweighing the upsides, unless perhaps you live in a place where there are 7.0 earthquakes monthly. But I think you misunderstand RFID; it's very short-range, so to track someone constantly with it, you'd need transponders every hundred feet, everywhere. But with transponders at entrances to businesses, you'd be able to track fairly well. This is why having RFID devices inside shoes (for inventory management) is a bad idea, because after being sold the devices would still
      • There are tags that can be tracked with satellites, and afaik these are used for tracking animals. Or do you expect all wasteland to be littered with rfid-readers?
        It is also easy to couple tags to GPS. So far for 'short range'.

        • by maxume ( 22995 )

          The satellite tags are not unobtrusive little rfid tags.

          Wildlife are tagged using rfid not because it enables constant tracking, but because the tag can be injected under the skin, where it is less likely to weather off.

          And as I understand it, even the wildlife tags that do use satellite are not using the satellite for tracking, they are using it for data retrieval. For example:

          http://www.tunaresearch.org/billfish/bluemarlin.html [tunaresearch.org]

          Those tags ride along for a set amount of time, then fall off and broadcast the

    • In that book, everyone has a crystal in the palm of their hands that seems to perform similar functions to an RFID chip, but the primary function seems to be an easy way to spot out how old people are. At each person's 21st birthday, they're forced to march off to the death chambers. Reading that book is what makes me creeped out about being chipped. Thanks, I'll keep that kind of personal data to myself.

    • Someone brings this up every time we discuss this, and it's still ridiculous. If this hasn't been a problem with the cell networks, and it hasn't, then it's not a problem with RFID. Oh sure, the records show that the police were granted tons of positional data without subpoena, but the only difference between cellphone tracking and RFID tracking when the cops do it is that if you don't have a cellphone you can't possibly be important. You could conveniently cover up an implanted RFID so it couldn't be read,

    • by Macgrrl ( 762836 )

      I think you've just figured out Facebook's next feature launch - RFID chips for automatic status updates.

      What? you expected some degree of optional privacy?

  • Mark of the beast (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Too close to some of the stuff at the back of the Bible. There will be protests.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )

      Mark of the beast only applies to tattoos or imbedded devices.

      I know Jews can't get tattoos if they want to be buried in a Jewish funeral or cemetery, what's the stance on imbedded devices?

      • Re:Mark of the beast (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @12:23AM (#32217058) Homepage Journal

        I know Jews can't get tattoos if they want to be buried in a Jewish funeral or cemetery

        I don't want to Godwin the thread but there must be one exception to that rule.

        • I'll leave the tasteless comment that crossed my mind for a moment out...

          But I guess it would be the same rule that applies to muslims and eating pork. It only counts when you deliberately and willingly do it.

          • OK, I read about it. If its to save your life or if someone else did it, you are fine.

            "If it [the tattoo] was done in the flesh of another, the one to whom it was done is blameless" (Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 180:2-3).

            And I overstated the severity, the Rabbi's fault who told me, or this Rabbi is a little too reformy.

            "Tattooing is an explicit prohibition from the Torah. However, those who violate this prohibition may be buried in a Jewish cemetery and participate fully in all synagogue ritual."

        • by Rashdot ( 845549 )

          In WWII it was very easy for the nazis to arrest most of the Jews in some countries, because they were registered as such by the local governments.

          The problem with this kind of tagging is that it would be too easy to target all the Jews in a region, or all the Muslims, or all the 15 year old firstborns, or whatever some dictator could think up.

      • Not generally true.
        http://judaism.about.com/od/conversi2/f/tatoos_burial.htm [about.com]

        "The Torah forbids us from tattooing our bodies. Nonetheless, one who has had tattoos can still be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

        That said, every Jewish burial society has the right to enact its own criteria for who may and may not be buried in their plot. This stems from people's desire (or right?) to be buried in proximity to others of their choosing. So while technically there is nothing in Jewish law which prohibits a tattooed per

  • I mean, they would know, right?

  • Cobblers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xaemyl ( 88001 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @11:14PM (#32216644)

    What a smokescreen. "Here, people! Let us keep tabs on you, in case of an emergency ... for your own good."

  • So, are there national identification cards already in Taiwan? Are they compulsory? Do you have to have them on your person at all times? Is this just the slippery slope at work?

  • IBM? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by turbotroll ( 1378271 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @11:23PM (#32216708)

    IBM had no problems assisting a mass murder [ibmandtheholocaust.com], so their endorsement of a proposal to tag human beings like cattle is highly surprising.

    Business on demand, indeed!

    Full disclosure: Yes, I am a disgruntled former employee.

  • Whatever could go wrong? Have bad science fiction novels taught us nothing?
  • I'd feel safer with an earthquake than I would with being chipped and google tracking me.
  • Cell phones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brass1 ( 30288 ) <SlrwKQpLrq1FM@@@what...net> on Friday May 14, 2010 @11:27PM (#32216738) Homepage
    Don't cell phones already provide a better solution to this "problem" while solving most of the privacy issues?
    • Except when an earthquake destroys all the transmission towers.

      • Re:Cell phones (Score:4, Informative)

        by brass1 ( 30288 ) <SlrwKQpLrq1FM@@@what...net> on Friday May 14, 2010 @11:38PM (#32216806) Homepage
        That doesn't destroy the devies themselves. They're still turned on and chattering away looking for a network, at least until the batteries go flat. For most phones with a moderately charged battery, even an iPhone, that could be a day or more.

        Even then, there's still records at your cell phone company that can be used to triangulate your last known position to at least tens of feet; usually better.
        • That doesn't destroy the devices themselves

          Popping you in the microwave would.

          How about an MRI?

          • by Uzuri ( 906298 )

            If you somehow get lost in the MRI, I think you have problems that nothing is going to solve...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Especially if people are smart and turn on their phone, say, 10 mins/day to allow for tracking. The battery would last a long time.

        • Even then, there's still records at your cell phone company that can be used to triangulate your last known position to at least tens of feet; usually better.

          They can only tell what cells your phone has been talking to recently, and the signal strength. The full-on TDoA based locate is only done on demand, and can't be done after the fact. I believe the AGPS-based phones are the same way; the pseudoranges aren't provided to the network except on-demand.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by zubiaur ( 1207636 )
        I dont think you will be relying on a cell tower rather than on some portable gsm spectrum analyzer. and this would be a worse case scenario.
    • Indeed, some might argue that battery life is an issue but most phones can be let on stand for at least three days, if by then you are not rescued... well chances of you being alive are very slim.
      • by maxume ( 22995 )

        The standby time might be much less than normal if the phone is shouting out trying to find a tower to talk to.

        • trying to find a working tower to talk to.


          Towers need power ; power needs electricity lines ; lines often get ruptured in earthquakes ; those towers that have working auto-starting generators need diesel after a few days at most. And most towers need a landline (broadband, dedicated link, whatever) to connect them to the mobile network.

          There's a lot to go wrong.

          • by maxume ( 22995 )

            Yeah, uh, that's what I meant. Standby time is longer that talk time because the phone and tower identify each other and then spend most of their time not talking to each other. If the phone hasn't established communications with a tower, it is going to be 'shouting out trying to find a tower to talk to' and use up it's battery faster than it would on standby.

    • The phone could start ringing at regular intervals after being turned on by a tower/portable device, so rescue workers could hear them.
      Perhaps the phone could detect the earthquake itself.


      • That's actually kind of a cool idea. Depending on the quality of the speaker, you could even have it emit a frequency which penetrates through concrete/debris easier and use a high-end microphone to detect it from longer ranges.
        • This is assuming the person and the phone are not separated by the earthquake. Rescuer - We spent 30 hours digging carefully and found - a phone (the person was five feet away and died 20 hours ago)
        • by kanweg ( 771128 )

          A phone could start the ringing procedure if it hasn't had contact with a cell tower for an hour (if the user is in a desert, he can turn it off).
          If there is still a working cell phone tower, it could send out a message to activate the program. (This may be prankster sensitive, so a solution has to be found for that).


  • I realize these ideas, of tracking, id, etc. are not popular in the slashdot crowd. What I am not aware of is any well thought out, well grounded, and generally objective essays, or perhaps more importantly, concrete and real historical examples of why compulsory identification is bad or wrong.

    I mean, I can use my imagination to come up with some random nightmare scenarios but almost universally I eventually see how those situations either happen anyway or are ridiculously unlikely.

    So, I ask you slashdotte

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sabriel ( 134364 )

      or perhaps more importantly, concrete and real historical examples of why compulsory identification is bad or wrong.

      Concrete and real historical examples of civilizations with panopticon-level surveillance and the ability to remotely help or hinder significant populations in real-time via computer command are not yet available. However, I expect such examples within my lifetime. All of the technologies are there. It's just a matter of combining them to taste as suits your ideology and those of your allies

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

        This cannot be repeated too often:

        "You should not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harm it would cause if improperly administered."
                  -- Lyndon Johnson, 36th President of the U.S.

  • by jacks smirking reven ( 909048 ) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @12:08AM (#32216956)
    Having chips in people can serve a number of functions and conveniences in a somewhat modern age as we seem to be in. It would be handy and helpful in many ways besides the ones the researchers describe, but because of our governments and human nature itself, it's not worth the risk. With something like that it's not a matter of if it's abused, but simply how they'll abuse it.
  • Instead of tagging people, how about RFID tags you can store with any other emergency supplies (no personal info on the tags), and you can grab one and keep it in your pocket if an earthquake is suspected, or even occurring. Rescuers could then pinpoint any signals, and if some sort of button is added, victims could signal they are still alive, should rescuers need to prioritize which signals to reach first.

    I realize earthquakes often have little enough warning that it would be difficult at best to go gr
    • by Raptoer ( 984438 ) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @12:47AM (#32217234)

      RFID and earthquakes

      One major thing everyone overlooks is the range of RFID. To be small enough to comfortably fit in a human only a passive unit with a small antenna can be used. This limits the range since the power has to be pushed to the RFID tag. You're going to get a range of maybe a meter.

      Additionally no materials that respond to a magnetic field can be used, as it would tear out the tag during an MRI. From a security standpoint, want to become someone else? take their chip. After all, it's a perfect ID system, so if it says you're joe, there's no way you could be bob with joe's chip. (This is why there are photos on id, although it's much more difficult to steal a chip than a card)

      I've also never figured out how they can listen to multiple tags at once, the same type of tag is going to be on the same frequency, so don't their transmissions overlap?

      Finally there is no time when an earthquake is supposed to happen, except for aftershocks (in which case if the original earthquake is strong enough to warrant getting your tag, it's probably too late anyways)

      • >I've also never figured out how they can listen to multiple tags at once, the same type of tag is going to be on the same frequency, so don't their transmissions overlap?

        As someone who's played with it: yes it can be done, and yes it's hell.

      • As for the overlap, high end chips respond to an reader request. If an overlap is detected then the reader will try again. The reader then selects the chip by selecting it through the chips ID (just a couple of bytes, 4 to 7 in case of 14443 for instance). The other chips will then become inactive which mean that they don't respond to subsequent communications. This also means that they don't draw much power so that better communications are possible with the active chip.

        In most passports 3 of the 4 bytes a

  • by whitis ( 310873 ) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @12:32AM (#32217136) Homepage

    The continuous wearing/implanting of RFID tags has extreme privacy issues and enormous ability for abuse. But most of us are already tagged and trackable, and many don't realize it (see below).

    To be fair, I did suggest something similar back during Hurricane Katrina, though with some level of privacy controls. Boat comes up and rescues you, dead or alive. You are given a numbered wristband with RFID/barcode. You are given a chance to enter, or not enter, identifying information and select which info is searchable and which is viewable. GPS based point of rescue information is recorded. The boat relays that information up to the next helicopter that flys over via a ad-hoc store and forward WiFi network or any other stationary or mobile access point in range. When you reach a shelter, hospital, etc. you are scanned in. When you leave to go on a bus/train, you are scanned out of the shelter and onto the bus/train. You are basically tracked like a package for as long as you want to be and friends and family inside or outside the disaster zone with the right information to search by can find out where you are. Rescue/shelter/hospital personnel can spend more time helping people and less time trying to locate missing persons. Less load on cell phone networks. If you have a stalker or outstanding warrants, you don't give any identifying info. Still lots of subtle issues with privacy and technical implementation.

    Today, you might just do a mobile update of your facebook status; facebook being a whole different set of privacy issues, and use direction finders on cell phones.

    And we are already tagged and trackable via our cell phones (hackers can access GSM network location and ID info). And many of the RFID attacks can be applied to any active cell phone, only worse. SIM number, bluetooth/WiFi/WiMaX MAC addresses. A cell phone is an RFID chip from hell with a long range and even a preexisting network which can be exploited to further extend the range to the entire world. At least you can yank the battery when you really need to disappear.

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      But unlike implanted RFID, you can pitch it, easily switch to throwaways, etc.

      This, on the other hand, is a completely differing beast and couldn't really do a good job (Sorry, range limitations would ruin what they're proposing for many of the situations we'd see that they're suggesting this for. I've worked in the RFID industry and there's only so much you can do with an electrically small antenna...) and can be misused in many, many more ways than the proposed idea would able to be used for.

  • You could have it voluntary and under your control (able to turn it on/off).

    I'd have it turned on most of the time. Never having to worry about keys and whether I locked my house. Front door could open automatically. There was this English guy who had one for a while and missed it when he had to have it removed.


    • by Striek ( 1811980 )
      ...until the government requires you to activate to pass airport security gates and border crossings...
  • I'll pass on the implanted part. I'd like the option of leaving it behind if I so choose.... or wrapping it in foil.

    There are just too many ways that this could be misused against my best interests in spite of all the reassurances that I'm sure would be put forward.
  • I'm kind of surprised at the lack of backlash from the rest of you here. Even most people I know in real life are opposed to this sort of thing - and they're not tin foil hat wearing slashdotters who stay off the grid (unless they feel particularly funny and are willing to expose themselves briefly for a +5 funny).

    Who would you be comfortable having this information?

    Corporations? No, a lot of the +5 insightful comments around here refer to the big bad corporations holding down the lowly employee. You really

    • GPS statistics? Really? What are those exactly? Your delusional brain can't still comprehend how GPS works? The receiver only receives, it simply measures the time differences between signals and calculates its position from that. Nothing is transmitted, nobody knows where the receiver is or even that its exists.

      And that is why most people tend to be more relative about privacy issues, because nutters like you make so much fuss about nothing that it drowns everything else out.

      GPS database...



  • It seems like some organizations, particularly governments, have as a major goal the elimination of all risk. It's like they've taken the idea that government's job of protecting its citizens means that they need to be made completely safe from even the most remote cause of harm. After all, just how many people will end up caught in some sort of disaster and be unrescuable through any other means besides RFIDs? I wager the number is on the order of 1 in a million. Yet for such a tiny risk these people a

  • I mean, it's already caused tumours in mice and rats. Are we honestly going to entertain this violently dangerous idea (both by way of freedom and health)?

    http://www.naturalnews.com/022467_RFID_implants_RFID_cancer.html [naturalnews.com]

    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      Dogs and cats too (risk is about 1% per studies I've seen). The problem isn't the chip; it's the coating that's designed to cause scar tissue to anchor it in place. Chronic irritation can cause a tumour in susceptible tissues and/or individuals.

  • No one said the RFID device has to be an ID or carry any unique information. Cellphone is a bad idea because it is unique and can be traced/linked directly to you.

    Couldn't RFID device be just a simple transponder on you so that the firefighters & rescue workers can quickly pinpoint how many people are still trapped in the building during fire or after an earthquake?

    There is no invasion of privacy. It could just be a device that signals "hey, someone is still inside"

    • No one said the RFID device has to be an ID or carry any unique information.

      Let me break it down for you:
      RFID RF ID

      Yeah, it's an ID.

  • We already all have cell phones in a purse or pocket and these are more useful than a tag. Phones will continue to get smaller and smaller and eventually it will be a Comm Badge, stuck inside the ear like a babel fish, or implanted in a tooth.
  • You have to be living under a rock to think that governments and organizations are not already tracking everything you do. If it can be logged or traced all it takes is someone to connect the dots. In a totally connected world the there is really no privacy. Just take the IT guys at work, we can go in at any time and tell you exactly what you did all day at work. It is not really that hard. Credit card swipes at the store. Cameras on the streets. I am saying that you should have a choice if you want the chi

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel