Flip up them wipers: no-tech solutions

Also, gerrymandering was invented in the U.S. and tape is your friend

Despite being in the middle of a long and wildly varying career in technology, I’ve always favoured low-tech solutions to problems. In my line of work that usually means using some low-level technology solution; like, instead of using giant config management tools like Puppet (a real thing), use a simpler ssh-based CM tool like Ansible. The lower level stuff is usually less feature-rich out of the box, but that typically makes it easier to bend to your will. And, it is almost always more resilient because it’s simpler. But my absolute favourite thing isn’t low-tech tech, it’s no-tech solutions altogether.

The basic problem with technology is that much of it is not very good. Technology is just a product manufactured by companies trying to make money. And, just like non-tech products, a lot of it isn’t terribly effective when stacked up against less complicated solutions. Here are some of the most effective, no-tech solutions to real-life problems:

Tape over webcams

Webcams are everywhere. I don’t think it’s possible to buy a laptop without a camera in typical retail stores these days. I remember waaay back in 2003 I was working at a defense contractor and cameras were prohibited in the workplace. Back then, you could still make the choice to buy a phone without a camera, but that’s pretty hard to do these days. I don’t know what that place looks like now, but I guess they’ve either gone to security tape over phone cameras or have prohibited phones in the workplace altogether.

These days you don’t have to use actual tape. There is a wide range of web cam covers sold online at retail stores [affiliate link] that allow you to slide a cover open and closed over your webcam. That is a better solution because laptops today are generally pieces of cheap junk, and repeatedly pulling the tape off the bezel can damage them.

Fun fact: I once worked for a bank that enforced the “no camera” rule much more heavily than the defense contractor I worked for. #ThingsThatMakeYougoHmmm

Get 14 day free trial

Removing mail sorting machines and gerrymandering

We’ve just witnessed how easy it is to cast doubt on electronic voting machines. While none of the criticism from the Trumpdy Dunces has any technical merit, the point was to cast doubt, not necessarily prove it. But the problem with doubt is that it can be dispelled. There are some really concrete ways to win an election that doesn’t involve the voting method at all, and they’re harder to combat.

Disable the infrastructure

I am not saying this was election-related, but removing ~670 mail sorting machines right before a known massive influx of mail-in ballots are expected for a federal election is fishy as hell. It would decrease the USPS’ ability to sort mail, ballots included. No ballot, no vote. Problem solved. Well, problem solved if you’re sure that you’re going to lose if every voter’s ballot is counted.

Move the election boundaries

Gerrymandering is another no-tech tactic.

Gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish an unfair political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries…[Wikipedia]

This is really quite brilliant. If a district is historically 50/50 liberal/conservative but votes in a predictable way, a boundary can be moved to lump the similar voters together in the district, and thus provide a win for a specific candidate that may not otherwise win if the district boundaries remained the same.

“Winter” windshield wipers

I can’t even begin to guess how much research money has been put into windshield wipers over the years. Not only their specific design and mechanics but the rubber that comprises the wiper part that comes in contact with your windshield has to withstand freezing. Every winter I shake my head at the breathtaking price of “winter” windshield wipers which, as far as I can tell, are simply the much cheaper “summer” windshield wipers with a rubber sleeve over the moving parts to stop them from getting jammed up with snow and ice. But there’s a better way that Canadians - and other people who live in countries with seasons - use; just flip ‘em up to keep the show off them.

Note: I am not advocating driving with summer wipers in winter. That’d be dumb, right?