All This Census Work I’m Doing With This Hand Held?

I just got pointed to an interesting article that I’m just gonna post in full here.

This hand held device is the same device that I blogged about in my GPS post last month:

If US government contractors had designed the iPhone

Filed under: Geekery — Ethan @ 3:22 pm

It’s an unseasonably beautiful day here in Western Massachusetts, roughly 30 degrees farenheight higher than it has any right to be, and I was sitting on my front stoop reading when my local census enumerator showed up. We made pleasant small talk about the weather, the remoteness of my house, the challenges of locating houses in our rural area, and then got down to the good stuff – attempting to find my neighbors on her handheld device, so she could ask them their correct mailing addresses.

The device she had strapped to her hand was a Harris HTC, which looks either like the ugliest cellphone you’ve ever seen, or a Palm Pilot designed by the US government. We scrolled through bad, inaccurate maps of the area, which looked like they’d been dumped from an early version of MapQuest, wondering how the ridgeline behind my house had magically been transformed into a navigable road, and talked about the device.

My enumerator was reasonably fond of her HTC – there were serious ergonomic problems, like a power button that tended to get inadvertently pressed when gripping the device, powering it off. And powering on isn’t exactly easy, given a multi-stage security process which requires a fingertip swipe, then a series of three security questions, answered by typing an on-screen keyboard with a stylus. But, all things considered, she was happy for a full-time job, and enjoying the chance to drive around our county on a gorgeous day, attempting to correct government maps and to ensure we all get sent our paper censuses.

I had to find out more about the device in question – how does a company get the contract to build 525,000 handheld computers? And why not just give everyone iPhones or Blackberries instead?

Well, Harris is a huge government and military contractor, which recently announced its intention to swallow Tyco Wireless, another huge government electronics contractor. Given that all their customer testemonials come from military personnel, my guess is that they don’t have much of a consumer products division. Neither do the folks who lost out on the bids, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

They’re not making a whole lot of friends with this new device. Last year, the Government Accountability Office added the 2010 Census to a list of high-risk programs. Basically, it sounds like requirements changed several times, and Harris ended up very late to market, with a somewhat buggy device. This freaked people out, and the Census quickly announced that they wouldn’t actually be using the devices – they’d use them just to conduct the first stage of the census, checking addresses, while the actual census (conducted door to door, of people who hadn’t sent in the forms themselves) would take place using clipboards and paper.

In other words, the relatively lame device my friendly enumerator was carrying, which cost $600 million, doesn’t actually work well enough to use for its intended purpose, is still being used in the field, perhaps so that it can be readied for 2020? Anyone believe that we’ll be able to do better than a half-pound, paperback-book sized plastic brick within ten years?

I haven’t traced the story back thoroughly enough to understand why the US government didn’t use an off the shelf device. My guess is that the requirements (encrypted data streams between device and server, biometric security, a variety of paths towards data networks, mostly via cell networks) were tough for commercial handhelds to meet. But it seems like one pathway might have been to remove the most arduous of those requirements – the biometric sensor – and use a platform whose hardware had been extensively field-tested as a mobile phone, and simply debug a secure communications layer and a data collection application.

Then again, that’s probably why I don’t work on government IT projects anymore.

Puna Garage Sales May Have Had Stolen Goods

The Hawai’i Police Department is warning the public that unsuspecting citizens may have bought stolen goods at garage sales at a home in the Orchidland Estates subdivision in Puna.

Vice Section officers served a search warrant Tuesday (April 28) on Auli’i Street in connection with a drug investigation. They arrested the occupant, 60-year-old Lloyd Chong, on suspicion of meth trafficking, three counts of promoting a dangerous drug, three counts of paraphernalia and one count of promoting a detrimental drug.

While there, officers observed numerous items believed to be stolen goods. Detectives from the Criminal Investigations Section confirmed that some of the items were from reported thefts and burglaries. They obtained two additional search warrants and recovered approximately 150 stolen items with an estimated combined value of $150,000. Among the stolen items were numerous construction tools, personal belongings and computers.

While he was still in custody, police arrested Chong for second-degree theft. On Wednesday, he was released without charges on the drug and theft cases pending further investigation.

Police were able to contact many of the victims and return their property.

Investigation revealed that there had been numerous garage sales at Chong’s house. Police ask anyone who purchased items from garage sales on Auli’i Street in the recent past to call Lieutenant Mitchell Kanehailua at 961-2252.

Saturday Pahoa Museums “First Saturday Soiree’s” Continues


LAST MONTHS Flier (Time has changed)

The Pahoa Museum is hosting its second First Saturday Soiree this Saturday, show starts at 7.  $10 at the door, $5 if you are seriously dressed your best.

Click on here for images and video from the last soiree held last month:



Congresswoman Mazie Hirono Tours Recovery Act Projects in Hawaii

After voting in favor of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono visits projects and programs set to receive Recovery Act support in her home state of Hawaii.


The REAL REASON Behind the County Internet Scandal


Thanks Punatoons… Now I know I can die and go to heaven.

Project Better Place Cars to Cost Consumers Between $4,000 and $5,000 Yearly in Battery “Subscriptions”… Agassi Looking to Tap Stimulus Funds for Hawaii Market

I’ve been blogging about Project Better Place coming to Hawaii before most people even heard about it.

Now Shai Agassi himself has put a dollar figure on what it’s going to cost to run one of these buggahs annually.

…Agassi says he expects Better Place to earn between $4,000 and $5,000 in annual battery subscription fees per car. That would be the equivalent of buying $76 to $100 worth of gasoline a week, which seems on the high side for even a suburban commuter given current gasoline prices. That’s also far more than what Better Place’s initial urban customers likely pay for gas. Of course, the wild card is the price of gas. If it goes back up to $4 or more per gallon, Better Place’s numbers start to look more reasonable…

…He’s hoping to tap stimulus package funds to help pay for Hawaii’s network…

Like I said before… Only the wealthy will be able to afford these things.

Saturday: Pahoa Reggae Dance Party


Pele Image for BIPC


Sunday: Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens Annual Plant Exposition and Sale

On Sunday, May 3rd from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is having its 9th annual Plant Exposition and Sale…

More info here… and it is free.

Smuck Hall of Fame


For info on the origin of the Smuck Award… Click Here


If you would like to read about the smuck, click on the sign:


Posted 2/19/09



Posted 12/30



Posted 12/20/09



Posted 12/17/09


Mark Samwick
Mark Samwick

Previous Winner: 12/26/08


Previous Winner: 12/24/08



Previous Winner: 11/23/08



Previous Winner: 10/14/08


Previous Winner: 8/17/08


Will the real John Akonipule Please Stand Up
Will the real John Akonipule please stand up

The G1 Google Phone… The Only Way to Browse on County Time

Just curious if any of my readers have the G1 Google Phone.

I’d like to see how my site looks on one as I’m thinking of getting one in the next few days.

I can’t be browsing on the Counties network or computers if I were to get hired by the County. ;)

g1-phoneIf I wait just one more month… I’m eligible for an upgrade from my phone I have now and this buggah will only be about $100.00 (after 22 months of my crap phone).

And for only 2 county hours per month… I can get unlimited web browsing right in my own hands.

Happy Birthday Mom! What a May Day Parade Looked Like 50 Years Ago