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Colonial Building Site
Wednesday, November 4th, 2015, 6:30 am
The first part of the construction involved digging and tunneling. There were still only three builders, so for the moment only three people could help. Keith, Sarah and Yuri all volunteered to help. Their first priority was to learn how to use the builders. Until this point, Aaron, Sarah, Carmen and Jared were the only people who could use the builders. They all went with Aaron and Samuel to a large field to learn to use the builders.
Jared started to explain, “To use the builders, you first need to choose what you want to build. The top-level build menu gives you the option to build something scanned or to build something custom. In this case, we’ll choose scanned. When you select scanned you get a list of all the items in the database. This list is getting big, so we’ll probably replace it with a search and an alphabetized system. We also need to work on the naming conventions. For example, one of the files is just called glass. Carmen and I both know that glass means a small glass cup, but it’s not very obvious. We plan to make longer and more meaningful names. We’ll also add a description field. For now, however, if there is anything you’re unsure of please ask. Also, you must be careful with a few things. For example, there are a few weapons in here. We would prefer you not make them. Eventually we’ll be locking down the creation of some items.
“Let’s take one of these objects and build. If I select croque-monsieur, a red button appears saying build. Press the button and viola; we have a bizarre French sandwich.” As he spoke, the sandwich appeared.
“Now, we’ll go over the custom part which you’ll need more immediately. First, you pick what you want to make. Your first option is element or molecule. If you select element you will be given a list of all the elements like gold, oxygen, and hydrogen. Remember, some of these elements are dangerous. I strongly recommend that you don’t make plutonium! Under the molecules section you’ll see a list of molecules we have entered including water, sugar, and salt.
“Once you have selected an element or a molecule you will then map out how you want it made. My favorite option, which is somewhat new, is the pour option. Pour means the item is created in a small quantity directly in front of the builder. For water, sugar and salt, this has the effect of pouring. As you hold the build button, it will repeatedly make the selected item. So if you make water, water will pour from the builder. If you make salt, salt will pour from the builder. Of course, pouring any gases, like oxygen, doesn’t work too well, and you often rebuild the same items. We might add a flag later to define what items can be poured.
“Another option is the build option. This at one time was actually the only option. Here you choose a dimension to make the item. So, for example, if you wanted to make a sphere of gold you would make the structure-type sphere, then give it the radius. Once you choose the structure, you then have two options on how to build. The first option allows you to build at a specified distance in the direction you point the builder. As you can imagine, this is a bad idea in enclosed locations. Another option, however, works like the pour option and builds right above or before any object you point at. Both options have repeat modes. As you’ll see, there are a few other handy options as well.
“So for digging, tunneling and excavating, it’s best to use the custom option and give an exact size, shape and distance. This will allow you to turn rock, sand, and anything else into oxygen.
“So, that’s about everything any questions?” After a pause, he finally said, “OK. Carmen and I are going to work on the builder code. We may need to drop by and borrow one later. Good luck.”
Carmen and Jared went to the only remaining spare tent to work on the builder. Samuel explained to the volunteers how the work would proceed. Once Samuel was done, they cautiously started to dig down and even more cautiously began to tunnel. There were areas far softer than Samuel had expected, so he had to create supports. Fortunately, the builders made this task simple. In many cases, they would simply build the supports right under the tunnel ceilings.
Meanwhile, Carmen and Jared worked on the builder code. Their first priority was to add security.
Jared said, “We need an audit trail to see who does what when.”
Carmen said, “But why? That’s implying we don’t trust people.”
“Maybe, but even if we trust this generation what about some of the younger children, some of the ones that don’t really understand what it is we’re doing and why we’re leaving our old lives?”
“They’re smarter than you think.”
“Even if they do understand, they could change their minds. Plus, there are other dangers we don’t even want to imagine, like fighting inside the colony!”
“So who has access to the audit trail?”
“Everybody,” replied Jared. “It’ll be public so everybody knows what’s going on. No secrets.”
“OK, so what do we save in the audit trail? We need the user, which means the first priority should be adding a sign-on feature. We need it to be secure, so that if there is a problem nobody fakes an identity to get in. We also need to make sure nobody hacks their way in.”
“Well, let’s start with a thumb-pad.” Jared paused, “Actually, let’s get Oliver. He can give us an idea of how we should add security.”
Carmen nodded in agreement. They went to the Wilson tent where Oliver and Emma were playing with their children. They both greeted Carmen and Jared.
The Wilsons’ had three children, two boys and one girl. Amelia was the youngest of the children. She had her mother’s curly brown hair and green eyes like her father. She was almost six years old. When they arrived, she was sneaking around the tent to try to scare her brother Seamus. Seamus was the middle child and less than a year older than Amelia. Seamus had curly black hair and green eyes. He also had a small scar over his left eyebrow.
The scar was from when Seamus was three. When his parents weren’t looking, he had climbed to the top of a couch. He then jumped off, but his leg got caught and his head slammed into a small table just to the side of the couch. The impact had knocked him unconscious. When Oliver and Emma found him, they panicked. They feared the worst but quickly found he was still breathing. His head was severely bleeding. She took a small towel from the bathroom to wrap his head. Emma rounded up the other two kids and they ran to the car with Oliver carrying Seamus. Amelia was crying and kept asking if he was OK. Oliver drove them to the hospital. On the way, a police officer tried to pull him over for speeding. Emma called the police on her phone to get the officer to stop chasing them. While she was on the phone, the police dispatcher contacted the officer and he backed off but provided an escort. The dispatcher told Emma to let him pass and then follow him. They quickly arrived at the hospital and Oliver ran with Seamus to the ER. In the end, Seamus was fine, but the wound needed stitches, and the scar remained. Most doctors predicted it would vanish before he was an adult.
The oldest of their children was Toby. His real name was Tobias, but everybody called him Toby for short. Toby was tall for an eight-year-old. He had short red hair and green eyes.
When Amelia finally got close enough to Seamus, she ran at him and jumped at the last second, landing on his back and knocking him to the ground. He yelped, “Amelia!” He quickly rolled over and brushed her off.
She smiled, “Ha, I got you.”
Seamus said, “Yeah, well, I’ll get you.” He started chasing her behind the tent.
Oliver said, “Be careful.”
Jared said, “I’m sorry to interrupt. Oliver, could you help us with some ideas for security to use with the builders?”
Oliver looked at Emma, and Emma shooed him, “Go on.”
Oliver shrugged and said, “OK.”
Carmen and Jared led Oliver to the empty tent. Oliver said, “So, what are you working on?”
Jared explained, “We’re trying to add some security features to the builder. First, we want to add a secure sign-on process. Should we do retinal scans or thumb pads with passwords?”
Oliver said, “Well, actually your best bet would be iris scanning. As you know, thumb pads are easy to fool. Combining a thumb pad with a password only adds time to how long it takes a dedicated hacker to get in. Retinal scanning is a pain because of the time involved in the scan. Plus, research has shown over time it does cause eye problems. Iris scanning, however, uses a regular camera and does not require the person being scanned to remove eyewear.”
Carmen asked, “Is it accurate?”
“Yes, very accurate. In fact, most European and Asian ATMs use the technology instead of a PIN. It’s one of those examples of the US being behind.”
Jared asked, “So how does it work?”
“It works by scanning the area around the pupil. It takes over 200 minute features to create and test the identification. The scan ignores eyewear, so it’s quicker than retinal scans. Also, if you’re worried about duplication of the face you can add a pseudo-random light source that alters the features.”
Jared asked, “Would there be other ways to bypass the security?”
“Sure, human error for one. If you make a system that stays signed on and a user leaves a builder unlocked, then another person can take the builder and use it as that user. You should have some sort of auto-locking or log-off feature for when a user steps away from the builder.”
Carmen said, “Like, by using a body heat sensor?”
Oliver shrugged, “Maybe. Body heat can be faked . . . or overwhelmed.”
Jared said, “Well, what would you do?”
Oliver said, “It depends. Usually people use transmitters they wear on them, but that’s not too secure and adds not only monetary cost but also time and effort costs. Can you make it lock when you let go of it?”
Carmen nodded, “OK, what if we use the iris scanner? If a person lets go of the builder we do a rescan.”
Oliver nodded, “It’s about as good as you can get.”
Jared asked, “What about hacking? Can we prevent people from bypassing the security?”
Oliver said, “Your best bet is to make the security part of your boot strap code. It has to be the very lowest layer of software. Then have the software above it randomly do CRC checks of the code to insure it hasn’t been tampered with.
“Another issue is the iris printers. They are very rare and very illegal. They print multi-dimensional images that can fake an iris scan. We’ll probably need one in the colony, but we can restrict its use.
Jared said, “OK, so with this added we can have audit trails. We can store the user, the GPS location, and the specifics on what is built and what is destroyed.”
Oliver added, “Include the time and date!”
Jared said, “Where will we get that information? If they travel to the past the date will be different.”
Oliver said, “Ah ha, here is something I’ve done research on already. We can steal the time and date from a satellite. It’s easy to do. I’ll code that part for you.”
Carmen said, “OK, we can lock down the making of weapons. To an extent, we can even lock down the saving of some weapons. How will we prevent unauthorized builders from being created?”
Jared nodded, “That will be tricky. The creating device is the same as the creation. We need to get them to identify themselves. Maybe I could scan a custom-made builder that would be in a mode needing to connect to the network and create an ID before being used. I might even be able to add in a self-destruct feature that would destroy some of the key hardware if the connect failed for a set amount of time.”
Oliver nodded, “Sounds good.”
With the problem solved, Jared cautiously asked Oliver, “So why is it that Geppetto suggested you? Did you know him?”
Oliver laughed sullenly, “Let’s just say we shared a common past. Even though we parted, we kept in touch.”
Carmen and Jared started their work. First, they created the security system. A few parts had to be bought like lenses for the iris scans. Jared worked on the hardware as Carmen worked on the software. Before they were even done Oliver had a working hack program to get the time and date from almost any satellite in orbit. It could even take the time and date from satellites using foreign languages and time schemes.
Once the sign-on code was up and running, they started working on copy protects. They added a flag to the scan files to denote what security rating was allowed to copy an item. If the flag was blank, anybody could copy it.
They also got the audit trail working. The time and date portion of the audit trail creation took less than a millisecond if the first satellite in range could be hacked.
The auto-lock feature took a longer time than expected. At first, it was added as a log-off mechanism, but it caused too much frustration with the people using them to scan and tunnel. It was switched to auto-lock instead. For another user to get on, the builder had to be restarted. The lock feature passively did an iris scan of the user by searching for the eye after being picked up. If it could not authenticate the user in 40 seconds, it would freeze and prompt for an iris scan. Users quickly got used to keeping their eye in view of the camera to make the process easier.
Creating builders proved to be relatively easy. The scanned builder was set to connect to the network automatically. Once connected, it setup an ID. If the builder failed to logon in the first five minutes it would self-destruct by overheating, which caused many of the delicate inner components to melt and be rendered useless. In fact, too little was even left to allow people to reverse-engineer the builders. After enough were created, the original three builders were permanently disabled but kept as memorials. Preventing people from scanning builders was also easy due to the uniqueness of the builder.
Most of the colony kept busy. Michelle opened school in mid-November. The school did not run well at first but she eventually worked out the major issues, like the problems the wide variety of ages caused. Most of the age issues got resolved by separating the children into two groups. One had all the teenagers; the other group had the rest. The teen group was expected to self-study most of the day with two hours at the end of the day reserved for lectures and guided projects. A peer system was created so the teens could help each other and work as a team on projects.
The younger kids needed more attention. Fortunately, Michelle knew how to work with them better. Eventually she found a rhythm that worked with the younger kids.
Kara and Carmen were the oldest teens and did not have to go to school even though they left high school as juniors. Carmen taught herself and helped Michelle from time to time. As for Kara, she did not see a point in going. There were no academic subjects Michelle could teach her that she would use inside the colony. So instead, Kara found herself helping with the scanning. From time to time, she was also roped into helping with the construction.
Aaron, of course, was kept busy running the whole thing and making sure they kept to the schedule. He did a great job leading the colony. He was never given a formal title, as he felt anybody could lead; it was just his background that kept him in the position.
Sarah did a little bit of everything. She liked working on the construction. She often had to help Aaron with administrative issues, like getting construction materials on time.
Jared and Carmen continued to work on the builders. Mostly they worked on making them lighter and faster. They also had to do data administration with scanned files and become tech support for any issues that arose.
Samuel led the construction efforts. He used volunteers when he could get them, but once the tunneling was done, hired help often proved faster. Unfortunately, they were also riskier. Samuel and Aaron constantly worried about them putting the nature of the project together and leaking the information. They did their best to give the workers as small a picture of the work as possible. They always went with the generic unusual home building explanation.
Zoe spent her time doing research for any specialty information she might need to know in the colony that she did not know as a family doctor. She also kept giving Aaron a list of things she felt were absolutely necessary to have. Many of the things, like an MRI, were huge and expensive, so they would sometimes argue over its need. She usually got her way, but whenever he could prove a thing was unnecessary she would not get it.
A medical tent was set up for Zoe. It included chairs and a few beds for patients. It also contained some of the equipment she had convinced Aaron she needed.
Yuri spent most of his time as a volunteer for Samuel. When not working on construction, Yuri would work on database software for the colony. He created several systems for various reasons. For Zoe, he built an entire Laboratory Information System and Medical Records Application. He also included a small pharmacy, nursing and order entry system. Yuri also created a materials management system to be used by everyone. Yuri’s most enjoyable project was making a system for his wife to keep track of and monitor animals. Yuri also wrote a simple system for Tara to record and monitor information about plants.
Cleo kept busy researching the animals needed for the colony. None of the animals would be bought until the habitat for each animal was created. She also had to work with Samuel to insure the correct habitats would be provided for the variety of life she brought. One of her issues with the lack of animals Aaron and Samuel wanted to make room for was the possibility of their extinction above ground. In a way, she wanted a Noah’s Ark, just in case something really bad went wrong and could not be fixed.
Tara worked closely with Cleo to make sure the plants and animals would find equilibrium. Tara was concerned not enough plants would be taken if the need arose to have to repopulate the earth with plants.
Emma had not had a career job like the other ‘adult’ colonists, so she spent most of her time volunteering to work with Michelle as an assistant teacher and working with Samuel. In some ways, she felt out of place but was glad when she could lend a helping hand.
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford