Friday Mar 21, 2008

Is the placement of biometric fingerprint scanner all wrong!?

I think that the placement of the finger print scanner on my laptop (and, presumable, on other devices that are starting to roll out to the public) are in the wrong spot.  Specifically they are being placed right of the keyboard.  This is being done, presumably, because 85-90% of the population is right-handed (reference). 

 

All computers come configured for right-hand mice – again, presumably, for the same reason.  Most mice end-up placed on the right side of the keyboard – again, same reason. Therefore; it only makes sense that the fingerprint reader is also placed on the right-hand side of the keyboard - right?  I didn’t give it a second though when I received my first computer equipped with a finger-print reader.

 

After a year of constant use, I have come to the conclusion that this mindset is totally wrong.  My experience has been that, as the year progresses, the fingerprint on my right hand changes.  Yet, during this same period, the fingerprint on my left hand has not changed – at least from a scannability standpoint.  At first I though that the scanner was malfunctioning.  It took a while to realize that my fingerprint (something we are taught is unique and, by association, is invariant) was changing.  Evidently, it turns out, that this is a known phenomenon (reference) in the industry.

 

How do I gauge this?  Over the course of the past 14 months; I have had to reteach my right-hand index fingerprint three times.  Yet, during this same period, I have been using the same left-hand index fingerprint that I taught it on day one.   During this time a pattern has slowly emerged.  As the season progresses, my right-hand index finger starts to fail the scan more often.  Eventually, the only way I can pass the scan is to switch to my left hand or retrain my right hand.  Note: I might have better luck with other fingers, but the index is the most convenient to use.

 

Clearly what is happening is that, since we use our dominant hand more often, it is exposed to harsh environments more often – as compared to the passive hand.  Consequently, over time, the unchanging fingerprint becomes distorted by dry and/or broken skin. 

 

With this knowledge; I think it makes more sense that we should be scanning our non-dominant hand.  Consequently; vendors should be placing their fingerprint scanners left of the keyboard.  What do you think?  Has anyone else had the same experience as me?  If so, let me know. 

Saturday Jan 27, 2007

Rapid Response Utilities - RRTUtils.jar

I am a former member of SeeBeyons’s Rapid Response Team. In order to help other RRT members and SEs “make the sale” I started writing java based utilities that they could reuse in other projects. The effort was called RRTUtils. Eventually this became an open source project with other SeeBeyond employees and clients participating. If some of the code looks familiar within JavaCAPS that is because, on several occasions, development has included parts of RRTUtils within the product.

For a long time this code was maintained on a personal website that I ran out of my house. In December of 2006, I allowed the domain name “RRTUtils.com” to expire. The site contained many tips and suggestions that focused around our 4.5 product and was, therefore, somewhat outdated. While www.rrtutils.com no longer exists the utilities still do.

You can download a copy of RRTUtils.jar here.

The crux of the website was the RRTUtils.jar file. So, while I no longer maintain the RRTUtils website, the RRTUtils.jar still exists and people still periodically ask for copies. There is nothing proprietary in these utilities. In fact, some of the code is downright sloppy (again: think 2AM on day 4 of a 5 day POC), but there are some good things in it. Don’t look for anything fancy here – RRTUtils is the epitome of POJO. I figured I’d use my first Sun blog to make the code available for others to use.

RRTUtils.jar is actually a rename and offshoot of the com.kkranz utility package I started in the mid 1990’s and brought with me when I joined STC. Consequently; some of the code is old. I believe the oldest code is JExec - which goes back to 1996/1997. Did I mention that this code is sloppy too ;-) Also, some of the code reflects examples I wrote when I was a contributing author for the Unix Companion and, later, for the Java Developers Journal.

Word of thanks: Some of the code is a snatch and grab of code freely available on the net. It was placed in the RRTUtils.jar just to make the process of accessing it at a POC fast and easy – in 4.x, the UI for loading JARs was time consuming and mouse click intensive. I’ve tried my best to make sure I have given credit (and left pointers to) the original owner of any “snatched” code. Any oversight is strictly due to time constraints associated with completing a POC and then immediately moving on to the next one. If you see a place where I missed attributing the code to the true author, please let me know. It is my sincerest desire not to take credit for other people’s work. Again, as a general rule, the messy code is mine – the good stuff is snatched. I would like to say special thanks to Adam Turnbull and Andy Knight (SeeBeyond/Sun UK) for contributing both code snippets and suggestions to the effort over the years.

Finally; the RRTUtils.jar file has not really been updated in well over a year. I am not opposed to (renaming and) continuing the open source project. If you think there is a need for POJO based general java utilities let me know. I could easily be convinced to reevaluate the flavor of the project and resume the effort.
-Ken

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