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06 January 2009 @ 08:42 pm
The Hoard Potato: Robot Keyboard Zeerust  
Today at work, I noticed a Star Wars action figure of a droid that came with a "data entry terminal" as an accessory. I don't remember which of the half-dozen movies this droid showed up in, but I do remember him clearly, standing in the background, tapping data into his terminal.

My first impression was that this was a classic example of Zeerust: why have a humanoid robot type data into a system, instead of just directly interfacing with the system?

Almost simultaneously, though, another thought struck me: Wow, that's one way to check the spread of viruses and malicious software.

Not quite so "quaint" from that perspective, is it?

A few other Perfectly Reasonably Explanations occurred to me later -- it's easier to establish some degree of uniformity in user interfaces than it is in underlying code, for instance. quelonzia's iMac, my Ubuntu box, and that Windows PC that's over there all have mice and keyboards and monitors, but I'll be damned if we can get their supposedly-compatible file-sharing protocols to talk to each other. Spread that across a Galactic Empire dealing with the patchwork remnants of a Republic, and see if you don't wanna just put a droid at a keyboard.

I feel: geekygeeky
Araquan Skytraceraraquan on January 7th, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
There was a lot of that in WALL-E too- robots pushing buttons and using keypads to access devices, input data, etc. I figured it was probably just easier to have a human-friendly interface and code the robots to deal with that than it was to maintain two parallel command interfaces and equip every robot and input device with a plug.

Then again, even in Star Wars, certain mechanoids (astromech units in particular) did have the ability to tap directly into a computer system- and apparently droids so equipped could tell the system to do almost any arbitrary task, or ask for any arbitrary information, and it would usually comply readily, even if it was a military computer. Clearly authentication wasn't a high priority amongst Imperial systems designers...
Your Obedient Serpent: hoard potatoathelind on January 7th, 2009 07:51 am (UTC)
Y'know, when you look at it, it's pretty obvious that R2-D2 was NOT a factory-standard R2 unit, but somebody's specialized intrusion-and-hacking droid.

As well as the secret leader of the Rebellion.
Araquan Skytraceraraquan on January 7th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
Well, the R2 series were designed to be equipped with all manner of aftermarket upgrade modules, but even still, the hardware for direct communication was probably pretty standard on an astromech unit, given their duties. Of course, R2-D2's software was probably another matter entirely...

(Deleted comment)
Your Obedient Serpent: weird scienceathelind on January 7th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
...the robot can also use a 50's style gas pump, and pump gas.

I'd file that under "uniformity in user interfaces", all right!
A random lazy cat: Stormtrooperstwentythoughts on January 7th, 2009 09:03 am (UTC)
Ah, but what if you infected the keyboard-tapping robot with a virus that made him tap in malicious commands? There's always a way!
Your Obedient Serpent: big ideasathelind on January 7th, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
Note that I said "check", not "block". It's a chokepoint: it renders systems LESS vulnerable, not INvulnerable -- plus, it's easier to isolate infected systems if they're not physically connected.