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What Does Your Dead Man's Switch Do?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the in-the-event-of-doom dept.

Security 310

LqdEngineer asks: "How many of you use or have used a Dead Man's Switch designed to perform some action if you don't check in for a certain amount of time? Recently, I decided to put one together using MySQL and some cron jobs, but I wanted to see what others have their switches set up to do in the event you fail to check in. E-mails to loved ones? Send encryption keys to friends/family? Hate mail to your boss? Has anyone ever been on the receiving end of the results of such a system?"

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Wives and Other DMSs (5, Funny)

P(0)(!P(k)+P(k+1)) (1012109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536038)

From TFS:

I decided to put [a dead man's switch] together using MySQL and some cron jobs . . . .

I'll counter with my own ask-ask-slashdot: why would you use MySQL? It's only one more component to fail after you've expired.

My advice: lose the extraneous components; and get a wife, too: they come with a redundant dead man's mechanism.

Re:Wives and Other DMSs (5, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536120)

they come with a redundant dead man's mechanism
they come with a redundant dead man's mechanism
they come with a redundant dead man's mechanism

hmmm. Now I think I understand what's in the nightstand drawer.

Feed the worms (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536446)

No matter how inflated our egos, after a few tears and a small feast for the worms, the planet will continue as if we never even happened. Why complicate matters with a dead man's switch?

Re:Feed the worms (1)

HexRei (515117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536804)

i dont know what idiot modded you down for "troll" in an obvious harmless joke, but i feel for you man :(

i thought it was funny.

Re:Wives and Other DMSs (3, Funny)

kjart (941720) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536734)

and get a wife, too: they come with a redundant dead man's mechanism

You've clearly never been married or else you'd realize that the need for a dead man's switch rises dramatically in the years following ;)

Re:Wives and Other DMSs (2, Funny)

P(0)(!P(k)+P(k+1)) (1012109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537028)

[Y]ou'd realize that the need for a dead man's switch rises dramatically . . . .

Ah, but that's the double sens of “dead man's mechanism:” herald and agent of your unmaking.

(At the very least, she unmade me a bachelor.)

Oh the irony. (0, Redundant)

imageboard (1038004) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536042)

Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. How fitting.

There's only one thing it should do (3, Funny)

TodMinuit (1026042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536052)

Blow up the building.

My gas pedal... (3, Funny)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536088)

When I take my foot off, it slows the car to a halt. Just kidding, cruise control gets around the situation.

Grump

Re:My gas pedal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537480)

I can't take my foot off the gas pedal - if the bus goes below 55 mph, we'll all die!!!!!

Halo. (4, Funny)

headkase (533448) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536104)

Duh. Activate the rings and release the black hole from it's omni-magnetic retainer so it can eat Earth. No traces left.

creates more deadmens switches (5, Funny)

green pizza (159161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536108)

My deadman's switch is programmed to create a series of new deadmen's switches, each more complex than the last.

First things first (5, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536110)

delete all the porn!

Re:First things first (3, Interesting)

Garridan (597129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536142)

Why? If it's illegal, you won't get caught once you're dead. Unless, of course, you believe in heaven & hell -- and from what I hear, God already knows, so hiding it won't do you any good.

Re:First things first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536238)

What about your legacy? You don't care about what your mom/daughter/sister/wife thinks about you when you are gone? I wouldn't want anyone talking about what a porno freak I was after I am gone. But that is why I don't have porn or a need for a DMS.

Re:First things first (5, Insightful)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536374)

When you're gone, you're gone. The world is meaningless, because you no longer exist.

Re:First things first (5, Funny)

ElaborateCalculator (744855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536392)

Mod parent up:
+1 Solipsist

Re:First things first (4, Insightful)

rammer (9221) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536492)

What a sadly egoist world view you have.

World may be meaningless to you. You are dead. You, in effect, do not exist anymore. But the world does not stop existing simply because you expire.
You are not the center of the universe. You are merely an almost infinitesimal part of the big, grand, large, larger than life universe.

Children are naturally egoist. You are 22. What is your excuse? :)

Re:First things first (2, Insightful)

Garridan (597129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536564)

Logically, why *should* you care what people people think of you when you're dead? I do my best to do the right thing, so that I might get the recognition that I deserve while I'm alive. If I die, and people say, "whoah, what a great guy!" or "man that dude was an asshole!", it doesn't make a difference to me.

Now, something like a will can have a significant impact on the people you love... so I definately see the benefit to helping them out, even if they don't know about it while you're alive. But cleaning up some potentially embarassing portion of your life after you die? Not seeing it.

Re:First things first (2, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536842)

Logicly thinking, it is more deeper then that. But lets not forget the reasons for a deadmans switch could be for more then death. Imagine your arested because of a fling that started in an internet chat room and turned out to be some cop posing as a 13 year old girl except that that was never discused in the chatroom and the cop is just saying that because they want the glory of catching a child preditor.

But imagine that you somehow discover something that will save mankind from it's inevitable demise. Lets suppose this breakthru in whatever is so wild it has to work and it will end all war, famine, discrimination, global warming, whatever. Now lets say some drunk driver hits you and you die right after releasing this information to the public. Then they go back to find out more information and find volumes of porn, plots to over throw the government, conspiracy therories about 9/11 being an inside job and so on. They now decide your a nutcase and never consider your discovery.

Now lets make things even worse by adding that you don't know it will save mankind and only the person taking over your job, settling your estate, looking after your kids, whatever, discovers it and see the relevence but after weeding thru the rest of the BS determins it to be some nutjob stuff that would never be feasable.

There are many examples of how we (or the person doing it) had no clue about how important thier life was to some cause until years after their death. Would you want to be the person that could have made a difference in whatever you were pasionate about in life but discounted because of what was left for people to see?

Re:First things first (4, Funny)

rawtatoor (560209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537424)

Then they go back to find out more information and find volumes of porn,

If they aren't down my life's passion of snuff films, poop sex and tentacle porn then let em starve.

Re:First things first (1)

Al Dimond (792444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536710)

Sure, the world does not stop existing. That doesn't mean I should care if people think I'm an asshole. If people think I'm an asshole when I'm alive this could conceivably cause me problems. Once I'm dead, well, if I was an asshole (or a porn fiend, as seems to be the center of this discussion) then people might as well know the truth, right?

Re:First things first (3, Funny)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536870)

You are not the center of the universe. You are merely an almost infinitesimal part of the big, grand, large, larger than life universe.
Correct. Thus, my death will have little consequence to the world as a whole.

Whatever these little consequences are, they can't concern me anymore, since i'm already dead.

Even the (hypothetical) people i love don't have any consequence to me anymore, since i'm dead. Death is The End.

This thinking can, of course, lead to amoral decisions, and that's why we have invented religion :)

Re:First things first (3, Insightful)

rammer (9221) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537210)

This thinking can, of course, lead to amoral decisions, and that's why we have invented religion :)
I would say it will lead to amoral decisions. Because the core beliefs you have guide your decisions even if you are not aware of them or the fact that they influence your decisions.

I don't subscribe to any religious beliefs. I believe that when I die I decompose slowly due to food preservatives in my body but decompose none the less. But still I care about what kind of a world I leave for my children.

I care enough for the people around me that I try to do the right thing. So that when I die the world will be a better place for the almost infinitesimal part that I have influence over. We would still probably be hunter/gatherers if we were all egoists.

It's not about consequences to me I'm worried about after I die. I'm worried about the consequences to others. As a thanks to previous generations I pay it forward.

Have some children. They will really shift your world view. And everything else in the process.

Re:First things first (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536628)

I take it you're not planning on getting life insurance, because when you're dead, well, then who cares about the kids?

Re:First things first (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536962)

Having kids is a waste of money anyway.

Re:First things first (0)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537080)

Crap! I thought Dead Man Switches were for lamers!

*starts coding*

Re:First things first (1, Funny)

bofkentucky (555107) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537464)

You never saw the Man Show, they had a fake ad that in tone sounded like a life insurance spot, but the premise was, as a single guy you're going to leave shit behind your family doesn't need to see. If you have their service, Adam and Jimmy would come over and replace your den of filth, porn, and booze with a clean house, bibles and pictures of Jesus on the wall. My youtube-fu is weak, but it's funny shit.

What happens when you forget? (4, Interesting)

monkeypoo (981042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536114)

What happens when five years from now, after the thrill of having something like this setup, you forget to check back in? Now you've got passwords and emails going around saying you've passed on? I'm sure grandma will love that email. Why not just use a system that isn't triggered until your death certificate becomes available. Set it and forget it.

Re:What happens when you forget? (4, Interesting)

Bazman (4849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536234)

"Why not just use a system that isn't triggered until your death certificate becomes available."

Such as? Maybe you can leave a sealed note with whoever has your will, saying 'in the event of my death please visit this web page', then give a URL, username, and password, the visiting of which causes a server-side script to run and delete all your pr0n, hate-mail your boss, put your low-numbered slashdot account up on ebay for the benefit of your next of kin, and so on.

Of course you'd have to make sure that URL was secured....

Re:What happens when you forget? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536886)

It should probably be a bit more involved than just visiting the site, otherwise you are almost certainly going to be visited by a determined googlebot long before you have a reasonable chance to pass away either with or without self intention.

Re:What happens when you forget? (4, Interesting)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536246)

Agreed. There is a much better dead man's switch available, and it's called a living will and a lawyer who has the legal authority to open your safe deposit box in the bank once you pass on. It even has generations of legal precedent to help defend against greedy family members.

You can even set it up with your lawyer to have him mail things out once you're dead -- including your encryption keys, letters to family, etc.

And yes, I have been the recipient of such a letter. Many such letters, in fact. My great grandparents both wrote letters to the family describing our family history going back to roughly 1550-1600. Instead of sending them to us and us inevitably losing them, they wrote them to their estate lawyer, who held them until they both passed on. They are great reading and have been far more valuable tracing family history than the Internet or any books or libraries have gotten us.

Re:What happens when you forget? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536274)

Why not just use a system that isn't triggered until your death certificate becomes available. Set it and forget it.
Because then you will never have the chance to watch other peoples reactions to whatever your DMS does, if/when you forget to login for some time.

Re:What happens when you forget? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536520)

> Why not just use a system that isn't triggered until your death certificate becomes available. Set it and forget it.

Why not just forget the whole stupid idea? I never realised how many people believe themselves to be that important.

What does my dead man's switch do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536116)

It stops the train when I'm dead.

An obvious question requires an obvious answer... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536118)

I expect my Dead Man Switch to come back to life singing "I Heard It Through The Grape Vine" before keeling over again.

Too Effective? (5, Insightful)

pyr3 (678354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536126)

I've always thought that a Dead Man's Switch held too many problems. Unless you have people that are 'out to get you' and your switch is your leverage, then it's not much use.

What happens if you get into a severe accident and end up in the hospital without the ability to 'check in' with it? What happens if you are stranded at an airport with a snowstorm? What if you are stranded at a ski lodge in the mountains in the middle of a snow storm? etc...

If you were ever unable to check in with the switch, then you would probably regret hate mail to your boss or other nasties that you had planned to send to people you hate. It would also be an unwelcome surprise for friends and family to get 'letters from the dead' just to find out that you really aren't dead. It would definitely be a detriment to you if you had it setup to donate all of the money in your bank accounts to charities....

The Dead Man's Switch has too many if's in it. It makes more sense to just put together a will and make sure you entrust someone you deeply trust to execute it.

Re:Too Effective? (4, Interesting)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536288)

What happens if you get into a severe accident and end up in the hospital without the ability to 'check in' with it? What happens if you are stranded at an airport with a snowstorm? What if you are stranded at a ski lodge in the mountains in the middle of a snow storm? etc...

Mine simply locks the encrypted filesystem if the power is interupted. A raid on my premisis while I'm gone locks things up tight. Forcing the door drops power. When I'm back, I can enter the encryption key and restore normal operation.

I instantly thought of this prior Ask article (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536352)

I instantly thought of this prior Ask discussion [slashdot.org]
"I'm a widower caring for my very disabled child. I have family who check in on me often, but not reliably, and not every day. How can I rig up a 'dead-man's switch' that will alert family or emergency services should something happen to me, so that my child can be cared for? Her medical needs are significant enough that being alone for even an hour could be fatal for her. We do occasionally get out of the house, so a GPS type cellphone and a heart-rate monitor watch would seem to be the ticket, but how to link the two and get the desired dialing behaviour?"

Re:Too Effective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536508)

What happens if you get into a severe accident and end up in the hospital without the ability to 'check in' with it? What happens if you are stranded at an airport with a snowstorm? What if you are stranded at a ski lodge in the mountains in the middle of a snow storm? etc...

You seem a bit preoccupied... Is there a snow storm out to get you?

Re:Too Effective? (2, Insightful)

munpfazy (694689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536820)

Not to mention: What happens if there's a software or hardware goof? Even leaving aside malicious attacks and the possibility of bugs in your code, who'd want to trust life-changing information to the system clock on a single machine?

You could imagine hardening a system against some of the more obvious dangers. Using two severs in different countries which confer with each other before sending anything and which both contain part of the encryption key for your data would go a long way toward catching the obvious technical dangers. If you can keep them from knowing each other's address until they both trigger, all the better (eg, by having them both call out to a third server that has no record of their locations until contacted.)

But, there's still no way to distinguish between "I'm dead," "I'm in jail," and "I'm in a coma from which I'm expected to recover." Which could be rather an important distinction.

Ironically... (5, Funny)

Frogbert (589961) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536128)

It's hooked up to my personal suicide machine.

Re:Ironically... (4, Funny)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536714)

Yes, but did you test it?

Re:Ironically... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537508)

Yes, but did you test it?

Oh great...he hasn't responded. You, sir, are being charged with murder!

Why not have some fun? (5, Funny)

monkeypoo (981042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536146)

Why not make a system that, after you've passed away, pretends to be you from beyond the grave?

Maybe it checks your email contacts (most people will know you've passed on of course) and sends out randomly generated messages about how great heaven is?

"You'll never believe it! The Mormons were right!!"

Score -1 Tasteless (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536162)

Why not make a system that, after you've passed away, pretends to be you from beyond the grave?

Is that you, lilo?

Score -1 Clueless (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536354)

Santa Claus, the easter bunny, the tooth fairy, and god dont exist. Sorry. You can make all the gospel comics you want, they wont change the fact someone made it up.

Re:Why not have some fun? (5, Funny)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536434)

Well, if the system can pass a rigorous Turing Test and functionally replace you in all your roles, that may mean that you never even died. Either that or your life was so predictable and monotonous that a machine could live it for you.

Re:Why not have some fun? (1)

UED++ (1043486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537056)

That's amazing! Even better if it warned about the suffering in Hell.

Re:Why not have some fun? (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537550)

Science fiction reference - Poul Anderson's "Gateway" books

**** Mild Spoiler ****

The main character in the series, Robinette Broadhead, dies somewhere I believe in the second book. His wife uploads his Turing Image, and he spends the rest of the series, still as a prime character, as software.

We need a new checkbox when posting to /. (4, Funny)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536152)

[_] No Karma Bonus [_] Post Anonymously [_] Post Humously

Re:We need a new checkbox when posting to /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536292)

nice one! :)

Re:We need a new checkbox when posting to /. (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536330)

That's the funniest thing I've seen on /. in years. Thank you.

Re:We need a new checkbox when posting to /. (3, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536590)

Dammit, you'll ruin the joke.
 

Re:We need a new checkbox when posting to /. (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536900)

Oh crap, right.

The weird thing is that I've seen your sig before, but I forgot about it when I wrote that post.

Re:We need a new checkbox when posting to /. (1)

shrykk (747039) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537112)

Yeah right, like they'll even listen to someone who can't spell 'humourously'.

:D

False alerts (3, Informative)

iMaple (769378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536158)

I havn't had any false alerts thanks to another semi dead man's safety, which sends me an email 15 days before my actual switch turns on.

I basically have 7 emails to ppl really close to me. One of my password go in one of those emails and that has access to all my email/personal passwords. I havnt put any banking data since I dont think thats going to be too difficult to get, if I am legally dead.

My deadmans switch is a simple cron job and I need to reset it once every 3 months.

Re:False alerts (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536166)

You're sending your passwords over email? And you use email to activate it, eh? What's your username? iMaple? Okay.

<clickety-click>

Re:False alerts (1)

iMaple (769378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536210)

Hey, where did the million dollars in my bank account disappear !!!

Re:False alerts (1)

iMaple (769378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536214)

BTW just in cases you were being serious, check out
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Good_Privacy [wikipedia.org]

(thats good enough for my personal server passwords)

Re:False alerts (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536236)

PGP doesn't prevent people from causing your "I'm still alive" emails to mysteriously disappear.

Re:False alerts (1)

Fry-kun (619632) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536332)

one problem is, what if someone turns the computer with crontab shortly after you're dead?
Just write up all your instructions (including passwords if you want) in a will. I'm pretty sure you can specify that content meant for different people must be kept confidential from all others.

Re:False alerts (1)

TheVoice900 (467327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536982)

Or, what happens if your system clock goes wonky for whatever reason? I wouldn't trust my PC clock for such an application.

Last will and chain contingency (2, Funny)

Barny (103770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536168)

1. Teleport without error to my own pocket dimension
2. dispell all negative effects on me
3. teleport a friendly cleric in to rez

On a little more realistic scale, how about you make a will?

IN THE EVENT OF DEATH EACH PERSON NAMED WILL RECEIVE THE ENCLOSED USB DRIVE WITH THEIR NAME ON IT... not overly difficult, and there are real legal comebacks if it is processed and you are not in fact deceased, instead of just looking like a tool.

Re:Last will and chain contingency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536414)

USB Drive?
You think like my grandpa. His will included his last messages on punch cards. We framed them right next to his father's last messages on boring old paper.

Re:Last will and chain contingency (1)

Barny (103770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536560)

That's why wills can be modified...

hopefully not dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536172)

-rw-r--r-- 1 2949120 Oct 3 13:55:12 2006 c2900xl-c3h2s-tar.120-5.WC16.tar
MD5 (c2900xl-c3h2s-tar.120-5.WC16.tar) = 637679bdc798d3ff64c55f5c6b3ee217
-rw-r--r-- 1 1811940 Sep 21 16:01:18 2006 c2900xl-c3h2s-mz.120-5.WC16.bin
MD5 (c2900xl-c3h2s-mz.120-5.WC16.bin) = b0cd0a8499dc654a8bebcea1a2249ef8

will know in two minutes...

It behaves in a very unprofessional manner (3, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536182)

Usually the entire point is to run stuff so you can get hit by the proverbial bus and someone else can take over - or so that you can theoretically take an extended holiday at some point. A dead man's switch sounds extremely unprofessional and probably should get you fired no matter how unethical the rest of the workplace looks (unless it is emailing documentation of actual criminal activity to the relevant authorities - but you should be doing that in person anyway).

I helped out for a few months in a place where the sysadmins and most of management had to be marched out the door by security for various expensive reasons. The place seemed full of dead man's switches but it reality was probably just a finicky cobbled together collection of systems that required intervention when cron jobs/scheduled tasks could have done it (and later did).

Currently the stuff that is being trialed would stop and someone would have to look at the tape schedule - but I thought the whole idea of working as a sysadmin was to set stuff up so everything else goes smoothly while you are sorting out the problem of the day, trying out new stuff, or reading slashdot.

You have 10 minutes to reach minimum safe distance (2, Insightful)

pyrrhonist (701154) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536190)

I wanted to see what others have their switches set up to do in the event you fail to check in.

My switch nukes everything from orbit.

It's the only way to be sure.

Re:You have 10 minutes to reach minimum safe dista (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536304)

I love that movie (Aliens for those who didn't get the reference). Speaking of James Cameron, he is currently working on his first feature film in a decade. It is called Avatar. I read an article in the Post about it the other day.

Mine disables my robot helicopter (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536208)

If my deadman's switch doesn't receive telemetry from the handset after 1/50th of a second, it halts all rotors and scuttles the heli. Extreme? Sure - but given the alternative could be death for anyone nearby, it's sensible. It also stops anyone from trying to engage the robot without having a control console inhand (with additional killswitch).

Jewish Mother Dead Man's Switch (5, Funny)

LunchSpecial (1030924) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536242)

If I don't check in with my Jewish mother every few days she'll go crazy and call everyone I might have once talked to.
I didn't set this up, it was genetics.

Re:Jewish Mother Dead Man's Switch (1)

rishistar (662278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536600)

My mother-in-law keeps her fingers crossed that she'll have a similar experience.

Re:Jewish Mother Dead Man's Switch (1)

tfbastard (782237) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537284)

Hardly exclusive to jewish mothers. I'm OK with the act of carrying a parasitic being inside you for 9 months granting a sense of posession over it though.

Re:Jewish Mother Dead Man's Switch (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537568)

Got to count the father in, too. The mother carries the parasite inside her for 9 months. The father's there too, though the parasite is outside him. Then they both carry the external parasite for the next 18 years or so.

kill or reboot (1)

leehwtsohg (618675) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536266)

The only cases I used one was to debug stuff that potentially locks the computer up. I.e. kill a process or reboot the computer after a certain time if nothing happens. Don't know if that counts....

Re:kill or reboot (1)

ebbe11 (121118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536316)

That's commonly called a "watchdog" and is used quite a lot in embedded systems. I've even implemented one on a PC. It interfaces with a bit of custom hardware that can reset the PC in case the watchdog software also goes astray.

what I tell the guy with the gun (1)

TLouden (677335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536280)

It send the contents of a folder to friends, family, media, governments, corporations, etc. (all defined in a list, or course)

The contents of said folder include the most incriminating of information and encryption keys.

Also, said folder may contain up-to-date security footage and audio taps.

This tends to discourage the trigger-happy-brain-dead-mob types from doing anything painful.

Now, in order to be most effective, this system is actually activated on servers across the world and distributes links and encryption keys so that the email doesn't get rejected as a result of the size.

Really though, just send the contents of a file to the email addresses listed in another file. You can even use multiple file sets for different groups.

Re:what I tell the guy with the gun (1)

werewolf1031 (869837) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536400)

This tends to discourage the trigger-happy-brain-dead-mob types from doing anything painful.
OR, they could just grab you and take you to a secluded location (abandoned warehouse/cabin in woods/whatever), torture the information of your DMS out of you, use said info to disable your DMS, and then kill you.

Now, you could get someone you trust to help with part of the setup work so that not all the information can be tortured out of you, but then you're endangering the life of that person as well, whose name can be tortured from you, the badguys go after that person, torture them for their share of the info... you get the point.

Really, this only works in the movies.

Re:what I tell the guy with the gun (5, Funny)

Barny (103770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536672)

And after all that torture, all that pain and death, everyone who receives the message deletes it as spam....

Send evidence to reporter & FBI (1)

RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536324)

I actually thought about starting an online service to do just that, but I decided my security skills weren't up to par with the level of attack that *might* come about. I mean, the business plan is to collect a pittance a month from a few thousand tin-foil-hatters, but the reality is that if a service is designed well enough to attract the tin foils, then one day it'll probably actually attract someone with a real and determined enemy.

Ignoring for the moment any issues of inability to push the button, how would one handle such a case? The two objectives are (a) secure the data against any & all attacks (which includes maintaining the means to deliver it to the desired parties under any circumstances), and (b) prevent any inadvertent public disclosures of said data.

I'd imagine that Gnutella, Usenet & TOR could each play a part in a highly redundant, distributed storage system. But even assuming you only needed to run services to send decryption keys & magnet links to the intended recipients, how would you guard the ability to do that against a potential attacker that's heavy on resources, time & motivation?

What if... (5, Funny)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536360)

What if after your death your relatives just walk in and happily unplug your Linux boxes (having no idea how they even work) before your cool scripts even get a chance to run. :S

Hrm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536386)

Lets see... mine is set to program a robot with a digital representation of my brain, updated yearly. This can be done as often as needed...

My Dead Man's Switch (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536404)

Is big lever. Connects the lightning conductor to dead man!

Yes master! We will create Liiiife!!!

My switch... (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536438)

It welcomes our new life-eradicating switch-flipping overlords. Seriously though, its called a w-i-l-l.

Snow Crash (3, Funny)

locokamil (850008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536518)

Took my cue from Snow Crash and got my dead man's switch wired to a W80 warhead.

Internet dating (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17536586)

Ok it sounds paranoid but on several occasions I've met up with someone from the internet.

I usually have a few details about them but given I'm into the alternative scene (and I don't mean music) you don't usually just pass these details to a friend.

Never the less, meeting up with someone like this for these kind of activities is down right dangerous, taking a few precautions is always sensible.

I usually put together a zip file filled with every piece of contact information I have for this person and use a cron job to email this in 48 hours if I dont stop it.

I also send a text message to myself prior to entering anyones house that I am meeting like this - the uk mobile phone companies will store location information for up to 3 years.

Ok its paranoid but I know several people (though usually women) that have been raped meeting like this - worse things could possibly happen as you are taking your life in your hands doing though. I'll admit that being a guy I am probably less vulnrable - but its better to be on the safe side and atleast give yourself some backup.

Its never gone off before... but its nice to know its set up - just in case.

Our Dead Man's Handle ..... (1)

noip (1049192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536732)

Well, we just sit up all night in the middle of the Pacific, trying not to touch anything, hoping it'll go off ..... :) (yes, they have them on aeroplanes now ... ) N

My dead mans switch... (1)

PeelBoy (34769) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536920)

Resurrects the person who uses it.

I've got one. (4, Insightful)

munpfazy (694689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17536932)

I often take part in political protests, and have on occasion been arrested and held for days.

So, I put together a quick routine using perl and chron that dispatches email to my workplace, the local legal rep contact, and some friends. The later includes directions to a hidden key and asks them to feed my cat until they hear from me. I only enable the system when I'm expecting a significant risk of arrest. Once it's started, if I don't either log into the machine or send myself an email containing a specific string once every 24 hours, the alarm goes off.

Turns out it's never actually been used (except when testing.) I did get caught up in a surprise arrest not too long ago, but since my girlfriend was going to be at home and able to take care of any problems I didn't turn on the system.

But, if you ask me, trusting life-changing information to a php script is a really, really scary idea. Even my trivial "please feed my cat" letters included disclaimers explaining that they may have been falsely triggered.

Now, on the other hand, the possibility of spoofing dead man's letters from other people *does* sound promising.

of course it's scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537444)

But, if you ask me, trusting life-changing information to a php script is a really, really scary idea

of course it's scary - you should use Perl.

Mine is... (2, Funny)

KClaisse (1038258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537152)

A vast series of Rube Goldberg devices which are mostly comprised of AOL cd's. At the end of the device, it presses the speed dial on my phone and plays a prerecorded message. I really want to test it out! I can only dream of the day...

Right on time (2, Funny)

linvir (970218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537214)

Good day for this story. somethingawful [somethingawful.com] has a great article about this today. Quoth the website:

Section Two: Arranging my Funeral
When my body is prepared to my satisfaction, gather my people around it to weep and mourn and say their farewells. In the unlikely event that by the time of my death I have not become the leader of a people, please find those who love me best.

Go and read it.

This seems foolish (1)

Peregr1n (904456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537220)

This seems a little foolish to me. If you're anything like me you'll forget to check in one day, maybe when you go on holiday. What kind of failsafes have you built in? Does it attempt to contact you in a variety of ways before assuming you're dead? Leaving it to an overly logical machine seems dangerous - there are several things which could well happen:

1) It fails to recognise your bucket-kicking and doesn't send out any of the vitally important information, so none of your friends get the passwords (or turn up to your funeral);

2) Somebody else overrides it, physically or electronically preventing it from recognising your checkin, and stealing your data;

It falsely thinks you've dropped off the plain, through a bug or human failure, and prematurely sends out all the vital data to everyone, and your wife discovers that you're dividing your fortune amongst your mistresses a little earlier than you'd like.

These reasons seem to me an overwhelming argument for using the old-fashioned approach of a trusted (or legal) person holding a will and other data. They're more likely to make sensible decisions in unexpected situations (like, if you're in a coma for a month, come round and find your computer has automatically wiped your pr0n, God forbid)

Maybe I'm missing something (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537226)

At work we have processes so that if I fall under a bus or whatever, people can get hold of the passwords etc. The processes are all properly documented so the only hassle they'll have is a bit of short term cover whilst they recruit a replacement.
As for family & friends, I guess they'll find out the same way people always have and as for special messages, if it's that important they already know and if it's not, why hassle them when they've got more important things to do like get me boxed and shipped out.
Sorry but I just don't get this whole dead man switch idea at all.

Release all the footage of the corrupt politicians (1)

RationalRoot (746945) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537288)

* Release all the footage of the corrupt politicians.
* Release all the evidence against the Mob, the Yakuza, the Mafia.
* Release a few exploits for MS Vista.
* Let my pet AI out of his virtual cage and onto the 'net.
* Release pictures of various Celebs doing "Very Wrong Things(TM)"
* Release information about how various Government Contracts _REALLY_ got awarded.
* Release evidence that the Bible, Quoran and various other religious books are fakes.

I think that's about all of it.

Damn, when I die there's gonna be a lot of people in deep du-du

8-)

http://davesboat.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

How sad is it... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537418)

How sad is it that you would need a dead man's switch, instead of friends and family to notice that youve disappeared.

Sad.

First Post (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537474)

If i don't check in every 10 minutes on slashdot i automatically send first post messages
to every new subject...

kind regards,

Proof. My Dead-Man's Switch sends proof. (1)

StarWreck (695075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17537580)

My dead-man's switch simultaneously emails, faxes, and snail-mail's irrefutable proof of intelligent alien life to EVERY major blogger in the world. Naturally, major news outlets aren't worthy of this information once I've passed on.

Hey bub, got some bad news for you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17537612)

I'm writing a virus for the windows that finds and trigger you 'dead man switches' so soon one day you will wake up to find out all your sins are belong to us, your confessions relived to loved ones etc. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Please configur you dead man switch to be transferring money now to me swiss bank account to prevent dms virus from triggering you dead man switch. When it stop sending money, you switch will automatically trigger... and this is the service we provide to you.
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