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Breathalyzer Source Code Revealed

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the and-it-ain't-pretty dept.

The Courts 501

Nonillion writes "New Jersey attorney Evan M. Levow was finally able to get an order from the Supreme Court of New Jersey forcing the manufacturer of the popular Draeger AlcoTest 7110 to reveal the source code. Levow turned the code over to experts, Base One Technologies, to analyze. Initially, Base One found that, contrary to Draeger's protestations that the code was proprietary, the code consisted mostly of general algorithms: 'That is, the code is not really unique or proprietary.' In other words, the 'trade secrets' claim which manufacturers were hiding behind was completely without merit." Following up an earlier discussion here, the state of Minnesota has (without explanation) missed a deadline to turn over the code for a different breathalyzer.

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Frosty Pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20470535)

Ahhhh. That's better.

Re:Frosty Pist (5, Funny)

quantum bit (225091) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470609)

You must first blow into this tube before your Slashdot post is accepted.

Processing... Processing... Done! (31 errors ignored)

Sorry, your blood alcohol is over the limit for Slashdot first-posting. Please try again later.

Re:Frosty Pist (5, Funny)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470735)

Sorry, your blood alcohol is under the limit for Slashdot first-posting. Please try again later.

There. Fixed it for you =]

"code" is probably in the hardware (2, Interesting)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470605)

The "code" probably digests an 8 bit unsigned char output of a A/D converter, a signal from the "alcohol detecterizer chip", the innards of which are probably proprietary. Then, if [quantized signal] is greater than X, then light the yellow light, if greater than [X+Y], light the red light and make a beep sound.

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (5, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470751)

You don't seem to have read the "article", but then again this is /.

Even in such a simple case there are many things it should be testing. Is the A/D output sane? Does it take 3 quick samples while someone is blowing and average them or just take it once (which could be wrong for some reason)?

According to the article, it doesn't look like it does. It calibrates the wind sensor, but doesn't check that the calibration is sane. It doesn't report errors unless they happen 32 times in a row. It disables the watchdog timer. It disables the interrupt for illegal instructions. It doesn't meet any coding standards. It contains code with things like "this is temporary for now" in it.

There is an obvious reason why they didn't want the code released.

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470813)

Dude, your UID is lower than mine, and you're whinging about RTFA ??

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (3, Informative)

MenTaLguY (5483) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471023)

Well, it's not as if the article was Slashdotted at the time. :) I think it's fair to gripe about hand-waving dismissals if their rebuttal is already in the very article being dismissed.

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471145)

Dude. It's SLASHDOT.

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (2, Insightful)

Hucko (998827) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471541)

Raise the standard, begin with you.

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (5, Informative)

Nos. (179609) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470757)

Well, looks like its a bit more than that (FTA):
  • Several sections are marked as "temporary, for now"
  • Converters will substitute arbitrary, favorable readings for the measured device if the measurement is out of range
  • The software takes an airflow measurement at power-up, and presumes this value is the "zero line" or baseline measurement for subsequent calculations. No quality check or reasonableness test is done on this measurement
  • It would fail software standards for the (FAA) and (FDA), as well as commercial standards used in devices for public safety
What is this thing, alpha?

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (4, Insightful)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471175)

It's a device intended to nab as many people as possible. The more people it "saves" from being killed by drunk driving the better. Accuracy doesn't matter, legal limits don't matter. ZOMG ALCOHOL!!! = Jail. Fines. Moral superiority. If police departments actually intended to serve the public, they'd come up with a more reliable system subject to completely public scrutiny and be glad to instill public trust in their methods by doing so.

Flip it to another tool used for criminal convictions: if DNA were a public, proprietary process through only two or three companies nationwide and they refused to show anyone how it worked, would you trust them? Absolutely not.

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#20472001)

"It's a device intended to nab as many people as possible. "

Hmm....I wonder if we can request to see the source code for other instruments used by the police, usually just for income generation: the radar gun, the photo radar system, traffic light cameras??

Seems like this case would set a precedent for that?

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (4, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471529)

It's even worse than that. The A/D converter is hooked up to a chamber, which at one time held a known amount of air. An infrared light source is at one end of the chamber, a photovoltaic cell at the other. The A/D converter reads the photovoltaic, they multiply it by the magic 2100 number (which is truly a magic number- it's based on an average and can really range from 1300 to 3000) and spit out the answer.

This is why it's always vitally important to get a true blood test, and to preserve a sample for your attorney.

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (2, Informative)

el americano (799629) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471883)

This is why it's always vitally important to get a true blood test, and to preserve a sample for your attorney.

On the contrary, insist on the breathalyzer and contest the results if you fail. If you fail the blood test, you're screwed.

Re:"code" is probably in the hardware (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471999)

On the contrary, insist on the breathalyzer and contest the results if you fail. If you fail the blood test, you're screwed.

You should check out some of the links- in California for example, you can't challenge the results of the breathalyzer unless you've *also* insisted on the blood test.....I didn't realize the state of DUI laws was quite that bad.

Learn something new every day (5, Funny)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470613)

I didn't know SCO made breathalizers.

Re:Learn something new every day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471797)

"I didn't know SCO made breathalizers."

Why yes, I believe that it was a joint venture with Diebold ;P

Shocked (5, Funny)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470623)

You mean, the creator of an intellectual work thinks it's more creative than it really is? That very rarely happens.

Let's whiteboard this people (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20470627)

if ( drunk ) {
goto JAIL;
}

Re:Let's whiteboard this people (5, Funny)

quantum bit (225091) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470647)

if ( drunk ) {
goto JAIL;
} else {
collect(200);
}

Re:Let's whiteboard this people (1)

shbazjinkens (776313) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470805)

if ( drunk ) {
  goto JAIL;
}
else {
  collect(200);
}

:Jail
for(i=0; i != rich; i++){
  recieveBeating();
  jailRape();
}

Re:Let's whiteboard this people (3, Funny)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470877)

I don't get it. What is i, and why does it keep increasing? It looks like it should be money, but as far as I know in jail they mostly don't pay you when they rape you.

Gotos considered harmful (4, Funny)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471359)

Have you looked carefully at your code to see what happens if you're not drunk? Personally, I'd like to see an exit(0); in that else section.

Gotos consider helpful! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471993)

Obviously you've never worked for the government. :)

Re:Let's whiteboard this people (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470841)

Well, since goto is considered evil, I guess it's the appropriate way to control the flow of felons.

Re:Let's whiteboard this people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20470957)

if ( drunk ) {
goto JAIL;
}

if !(strcmp(readkeybuffer(10)), "up up down down left right left right B A")) {
drunk=TRUE; // nothing to see here, move along
}

Re:Let's whiteboard this people (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471457)

Didn't you get the memo? Goto's are bad. Use a loop structure instead.

Do it up in Ruby and create some Jail class from which you can create jail objects. Okay, I'm going to stop.

Re:Let's whiteboard this people (1)

generic (14144) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471715)

Hahaha! You made my day.

Your Voter Registration (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20470677)

has been revoked.

Impeach Bush With A DDOS FP!

Trade secrets claim is valid (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470689)

Almost any firmware is just a collection of general algorithms. Calibration, self test, filters, look-up/calculations... I'm not subrised that there's nothing amazing in there. That they don't have any funky algorithms does not mean that the firmware is not a trade secret. It still takes significant engineering/test/validation effort to get to a working device.

Re:Trade secrets claim is valid (2, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470953)

So? If you RTFA, you see that they didn't spend a lot of engineering/test/validation time either.

Sorry, you can't hide behind a "trade secret". (4, Interesting)

WebCowboy (196209) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471669)

That they don't have any funky algorithms does not mean that the firmware is not a trade secret.

Then what DOES make something a trade secret? The mere fact the software is compiled and/or programmed onto a chip? An EULA? An"anti-circumvention device" as defined by the DMCA? Seriously, where should we draw the line with "trade secrets" when it comes to protective legislation? The only "trade secret" revealed here is the fact that the manufacturer in question embedded alpha-quality software in a product released to production. That sort of a "trade secret" is generally considered willful negligence or fraud.

It still takes significant engineering/test/validation effort to get to a working device.

It is apparent that little to no such QA was done on this particular device, which to me sounds like a grave mistake considering the device is trusted to keep drunk drivers off the road. Keep in mind that this device is theoretically able to report just as many false negatives as false positives, do not only would it be possible for a sober driver to be falsely charged with a DUI (as this lawyer claims) it is also possible that countless drunk drivers falsely blew UNDER the limit and were allowed to continue on their way and put others in harms way. That could be considered criminal negligence on the part of those who engineered this device.

Just because it takes effort (in time and money) "to get a working device" even when there is nothing novel in its functionality does not mean that those putting forth the effort should be able to hide from scrutiny behind a "trade secret". The systems I work on are sometimes involve safety interlocks. My employer subjects their software division's development practices to audits from government agencies. Our clients often stipulate that they must have access to source code (though since we are a closed-source shop we never grant redistribution rights). Even if there are novel implementations or "trade secrets" there are legal instruments to accommodate for them and still remain accountable.

These "breathalyzer" devices used in the field are far from trade secrets--I remember plans for one in Radio Electronics years ago that was said to be quite reliable as a preliminary measurement device (didn't report a specific value, but had a "traffic-light-interface" of 3 LEDs). The "trade secret" excuse is flimsy and shameful. It is worse than the whole Diebold voting machine debacle because it can directly affect a person's safety and well-being.

DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibition (3, Interesting)

justcauseisjustthat (1150803) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470727)

I've been thinking about DUI laws in the US and how the laws are just the second coming of prohibition of liquor. Why else would they take two legal activities like drinking alcohol and driving, and make it criminal. Yes, I understand people get hurt by drivers under influence. But lets be real and compare it to teens getting into accidents, senior citizens getting into accidents, sleep deprived individuals getting into accidents, etc. Think about it... You don't see people being tested for reaction speeds when taking driver tests!! You don't see people being tested for intelligence when taking driver tests!! You don't see people being tested for decision making ability when taking driver tests!! If people had to pass these types of tests we wouldn't have so many traffics jams. Think about it, why have some states in the US that use whisky plates (plates for cars owned by individuals convicted of a DUI) run out and had to expand the letters used.

PS People who drink and get into accidents should be prosecuted as if they had reckless intent.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (-1, Flamebait)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470775)

Mr. justcauseisjustthat, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470825)

I'll agree with you up until his final point:
PS People who drink and get into accidents should be prosecuted as if they had reckless intent.
Which I happen to agree with.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

mikerubin (449692) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471043)

yeah, but...
DUI is DUI, and perhaps reckless endangerment is one of the things they try you on (no experience)
but the poster is right - there are many more things that need to be looked at when issuing a license other than "read this chart"

So you can't refute his arguments. Gotcha. (1)

FatSean (18753) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471429)

Is this when you come back with "My brother/sister/foster-mother/lover was killed by a Drunk Driver and attempt an appeal to emotion?

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

omkhar (167195) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470853)

That is really the stupidest thing I've ever heard anyone say on Slashdot (that's saying a lot).... good god you're a moron

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470883)

Statistically, intoxicated drivers are far more likely to be involved in fatal car accidents than any other group out there (save perhaps the legally blind, who don't often get into the drivers seat of a car, one will note). There is a clear correlation between drinking and driving and injuring, maiming and killing people (including the driver, passengers and any poor bastard that gets in the way).

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20470943)

For the record, it's also illegal to drive if you're legally blind, under most circumstances. One of my best friends is legally blind. He does not have a driver's license; he was told that if he were to apply for a license, he probably wouldn't be given one, and if he were given one, it would have clear restrictions only allowing him to drive in rural areas and during daylight.

So, yes, the GP is in idiot. There are laws barring other groups of impaired people from driving.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

diqmay (773248) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471901)

my mother went blind over a period of about 8 years and never lost her license. Funny thing was when she went in to get it renewed, she had to put the application about 4 inches from her face and stare at it through her coke-bottle glasses, and the lady behind the counter didn't even bat an eye.

oh wait, it was Kentucky, nevermind.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471339)

I don't have the statistics on hand, but I believe Asian females are several times more likely to cause accidents than drunks, yet they continue to be allowed to drive at all times. Even drunks are allowed to drive when they're sober.

Except CELL PHONE USERS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471753)

Where have you been?

Damn lies and statistics. (2, Informative)

FatSean (18753) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471871)

'alcohol related accidents' include events when a non-drunk crosses the double-yellow and crashes head-on into a drunk driver. I'm skeptical.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471051)

As much as I agree with everyone else who has replied to you and said you're an idiot.. I can make a better point against drink driving laws: until harm is done, no charges should be pressed. If you're driving erratically, the police should have the right to take you out of your car and deliver you home, leaving your car, locked, on the side of the road. Being charged for a crime that *might* have occurred is just wrong.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471303)

Should shooting a gun at a crowd be legal if by some chance you happen not to hit anyone?

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (4, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471317)

The unfortunate reality that the laws are trying to deal with, though, is that it is essentially impossible for law enforcement to spot all the drunks on the road, and deliver you home as you suggest (imagine the logistics of that: you could put all the police in this country on that duty full time!, and still not have enough cops).

Worse, it won't even be near to possible for them to indentify all of the sufficiently impaired so as to protect the rest of us from their idiocy.

What drunk driving laws do is create an incentive for everyone to voluntarily police themselves, and to act more responsibly. If you know you run a risk of a long incarceration just for drunk driving, you may not take my life into your hands by getting behind the wheel and driving the same roads as I do. If you (or most of these drunk idiots) know that the only penalty for getting caught is being taken home, then you'll be much more encouraged to just take your chances with my life, rather than deal with the inconvenience and cost of a taxi ride.

Drunk driving laws disencentivize behaviors on an individual basis that normally have unfortunate incentives on an individual basis, but have an extremely high average cost for the rest of society. This is also why no-sleepy-driving and no-cellphone-driving laws are a similarly good idea.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471485)

Whenever there is a fine involved, it becomes no longer about social good, but about revenue raising.

In California, for example, police statistics have shown that crash rates did not go down when stronger DUI laws were enacted. Inherently, driving a vehicle is the dangerous activity.. drink driving just gives people an acceptable scapegoat.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

danpat (119101) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471393)

Given how high the likelihood of an accident is when a drunk driver is behind the wheel, and given how serious the accidents can get when they occur, don't you think it's bordering on criminal to drive a car while drunk?

It sounds like you're saying that if you walk down a street, randomly firing your automatic weapon in all directions that the cops should be allowed to disarm you and send you on your way, but you shouldn't be charged with anything unless you actually hit someone or damage something.

Anyone who puts themselves in control of a speeding chunk of steel while drunk should be charged with reckless endangerment IMO.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (2, Insightful)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471817)

Actually, I can tell you here in my (great drunk driving state of WI) that drinking while blasted does increase the probabilty of causing an accident.

And, I agree with you it is a criminal act that should be punished after a day in court.

HOWEVER,

We are not talking about the guys who are falling down smashed can't get the key in the door drunk.

We are talking about folks at .10 (the former legal limit) or .09 (now illegal) or .08 (borderline illegal) getting shafted LOOOONNGG before they are at the level of impairment of even talking on a cell phone, who are then subjected to what is basically a poorly built, poorly maintained piece of witchcraft known as a breathalyser. You might as well be attempting to test body thetans or use a polygraph. The science is that bad.

I see lots and lots of behavior and drivers on the road doing stuff WAY MORE DANGEROUS than someone getting home after happy hour toting a .08. The emphasis on this forces me to conclude the people pushing for the DUI laws stiffer than they already are have an alternative agenda that ends with "prohibition mark II".

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471965)

While I don't necessarily disagree with you, I once made a similar argument that a car is a weapon, one which is far more likely to kill an innocent passer-by, even one who is not even operating a motor vehicle at the time, and thus it just common sense that drinking and driving is ridiculously stupid, dangerous and should be outlawed. You wouldn't fire a gun while drunk would you ?

To which my wife replied "It's not illegal to get pissed drunk and take a gun and go hunting... well at least I don't think it is ... if it is then the vice president of the USA should be locked up for operating a deadly weapon while intoxicated and nearly taking someone's life".

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

Xolotl (675282) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471473)

If you're driving erratically, the police should have the right to take you out of your car and deliver you home, leaving your car, locked, on the side of the road. Being charged for a crime that *might* have occurred is just wrong. Let's look at it this way. You pass the driving test and get a license on the tacit basis that your judgement and reaction times are within certain norms. Alcohol reduces reaction time (measurably) and affects judgement (measurably). So driving under the influence, even if you are not driving erratically at the time, you are no longer driving within the terms under which your licence was issued. This is equivalent to driving without a licence.

Let me ask another question: would you be willing to let a surgeon found trying to operate continue? Or would you have him stopped and removed from theatre, even if he appeared to be behaving normally? Or an airline pilot?

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471489)

By your logic...if someone was caught bringing high explosive onto an airplane (he can be drunk and stupid, who knows?), he should be simply send home because he didn't to kill any body??

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471567)

Yeah, you're right! And if someone has a pet dinosaur and they take it into a movie theater, shouldn't they have to buy everyone extra popcorn?

Cause that's about how stupid your argument is.. if you can't participate in an adult debate without making stupid analogies or appealing to emotional crap, don't participate.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471565)

That's not a very good argument. Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal. Therefore, doing it is breaking the law regardless of whether or not you injure someone else. We can add on to that that driving is a privilege, not a right, and that every driver has a responsibility to drive safely. Impaired driving (without regard to the source of impairment) is inherently unsafe and puts everyone else on the road at risk of injury or death. That risk is high enough to justify restricting or revoking said privilege until the impairment is no longer a problem. If we follow your argument to it's logical conclusion then attempted murder would often not be a crime. Nor would sexual assault unless "harm" was done. Harassment and stalking are fair game. Maybe it depends on how you define harm.

On top of that your proposal would leave roads and highways littered with several-thousand-pound, stationary, car-like obstacles that would make your evening commute more like Spy Hunter than you'd really like. Maybe a better option would be to impound your car and let you pay a nice hefty fine for the privilege of being a jackass and unnecessarily putting other people at risk.

Or just don't drink and drive. That works 100% of the time it's tried.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471653)

That's not a very good argument.
Oh really, let's look at yours then.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal.
Huh? What does current law have to do with what is right?

Therefore, doing it is breaking the law regardless of whether or not you injure someone else.
No shit, that was my argument.

We can add on to that that driving is a privilege, not a right, and that every driver has a responsibility to drive safely.
Uh huh. What makes you think that? Current law? A car is property. I have a right to use my property. If you want to say something like "who is and who isn't allowed to drive on public roads is at the discretion of the public" then I'm willing to accept that assertion, but it seems to me that such a thought never entered your mind.

Impaired driving (without regard to the source of impairment) is inherently unsafe and puts everyone else on the road at risk of injury or death.
So, for example, disabled people shouldn't be allowed to drive.. and cyclists or vehicles without good pickup shouldn't be allowed on public roads.

That risk is high enough to justify restricting or revoking said privilege until the impairment is no longer a problem.
If police only pulled over people who were driving dangerously, sure.

If we follow your argument to it's logical conclusion then attempted murder would often not be a crime. Nor would sexual assault unless "harm" was done. Harassment and stalking are fair game. Maybe it depends on how you define harm.
And now the conversation is over. Because you can't help yourself from making an emotional argument.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

ProfBooty (172603) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471705)

Per http://www.california-drunkdriving.org/alcohol_tol [california...riving.org] erance.html [california...riving.org] there have been studies showning that alcoholics with BAC levels in the leathal range not showing any signs of impairment. So anyone charged with driving in excess of a level doesn't mean that they are actually impaired.

Re:DUI laws are just the second coming of prohibit (1)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 7 years ago | (#20472027)

While I do generally agree that laws should be restricted, as much as possible, to actual harm; I think this is one of the few places where deviation is a good thing. The potential for harm is fairly high, and the harm done is usually pretty drastic. If the only person who might be hurt by drunk driving was the drunk driver himself, I'd be all for decriminalizing it; however, that is not the case. By driving drunk a person is directly creating a dangerous situation to others, and without a good cause, that should not be happening.
Now, one could argue on the point at which someone is "drunk" and/or truly impaired, but this is just a line drawing fallacy. A testable line will need to be drawn somewhere, for the moment, it is what it is in various states. Is it the best place to put it? Who knows, but it will be set somewhere.

Mod Parent up! (2, Insightful)

cdn-programmer (468978) | more than 7 years ago | (#20472057)

Crappy moderation again. I really wish those closer to God than the rest of us here in Slashdot would eliminate this personal points of view moderation tactics. The post is a good one and raises many questions which are valid questions. The post also has generated discussion which is exactly what slashdot is all about.

So moderators - stop attacking the messenger ok?

There is a TV program which I do not watch called "Canada's worst drivers".

This program apparently is oriented to rehabilitating some of the worst drivers in the country - people which clearly should not be allowed on the road.

Many years ago I was in an accident caused by one of these people. I watched with disbelief while this person drove literally more than a car length and finally stopped when she hit my car. At no time during this did she ever look forward. She had her head turned to the left looking for oncoming traffic. Meanwhile I was to her right. This would have been 1001, 1002, 1003. I was thinking - Lady... you need to look where you are driving!

It was in the news that a kid was killed while sitting on a bus bench. The lady in question was trying to fetch the plant that fell off the seat while she was turning a corner.

Now - what we do see in the media are deliberatly distorted statistics. If the victim in the accident has had something to drink they stat "Alcohol was involved". The victim could be sound asleep in the passenger seat and there are cases of him being charged. 1) He wasn't operating the vehical. 2) he wasn't even awake. 3) He never operated the vehical. 4) it was his buddy who was driving him home and the car quit and his buddy went to get help.

While there are accidents caused by people who should not be driving because they are intoxicated, the truth is this is totally blown out of porportion. At 0.08% many people are not intoxicated at all. Others are intoxicated at 0.02%. And the post I am responding to correctly points out that some people are so compromised that they should never get a driver's license in the first place.

Then... we have a faulty machine testing a flawed premise. The flawed premise is that alcohol at a certain level makes everyone a criminal.

What we really need to do is get bad drivers off the road. IMHO tail gating is a far worse offence than driving with a little too much slosh. Of course the cops in this city like tail gaters.

It'll be pretty damn funny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20470767)

When the guys the attorney hired to check the code don't find anything, and his guy gets fucked anyways.

Re:It'll be pretty damn funny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471415)

You can always find something. Always!

The reason MN doesn't have the code (5, Interesting)

crimguy (563504) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470773)

The reason why no source code has been released in MN is that the manufacturer of the breathalyzer in that case, CMI, refuses to hand it over to anyone. They are asserting that it is a trade secret, and are resting on the fact that there is little a court in MN can do to force them, a Kentucky corporation, to hand it over.

I represent three clients in Phoenix, AZ, who have been trying to get the code from CMI for the same reasons, and have been met with nothing but frustration. Fortunately, a couple judges here have agreed with the defense that examination of the code is necessary to mount a defense, under due process grounds. We (myself and a number of other attorneys) have had dismissals in a total of about 11 cases in the City of Phoenix, all of which are being appealed. There are a few cases in superior court that will be appealed shortly as well. It's been a busy time in the world of DUI litigation.

Unfortunately, many judges here do not see the relevance. Further, they have enacted legislation to prevent the preclusion of breathalyzer results, despite the inability to examine the "schematics or source code" of the machines.

Believe me when I tell you - these machines are unreliable, and subject to many errors, most glaringly the result of RFI screwing up the results. I've read the findings of the independent lab on the NJ case, and it does raise many concerns. My biggest problem is that law enforcement can essentially hide behind a foreign corporation, and a jury never hears about many of the problems at hand.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20470985)

In denmark the breath analyzers are only used on the scene and if you are tested positive they bring you in to take a blood test. Only the blood test is considered proper evidence.

I'm actually a bit surprised that this isn't the case in america.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

bluephone (200451) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471933)

In some jurisdictions it's done that way, some don't to the blow-test at all, they just take you do the local hospital for a blood test. If you refuse the bloodtest, however, it's an automatic positive on the assumption you want to hide your BAC.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 7 years ago | (#20472049)

Gotta love that presumption of guilt...

In the US, most places will not force a test; blood or otherwise. However, there is a charge for refusing to submit to the test. That charge is, oddly enough, the same as a DUI.

If you *are* drunk and get stopped, you can refuse to be tested. You'll face a "failure to submit" charge. You'll loose your license for a few months (up to a year, I think) and spent the night in jail.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

Flavio (12072) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471001)

Believe me when I tell you - these machines are unreliable, and subject to many errors, most glaringly the result of RFI screwing up the results.

Are you at liberty to say why RFI is considered the most glaring fault? I wouldn't expect this behaviour from a breathalizer, so it kind of surprises me.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471445)

because the cop would have high-powered digital radios and perhaps radar gun turned on while they test you in front of the bright lights. In the given environment, the low probability of circumstances is nearly certain to be in place to cause failure.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

Flavio (12072) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471979)

because the cop would have high-powered digital radios and perhaps radar gun turned on while they test you in front of the bright lights. In the given environment, the low probability of circumstances is nearly certain to be in place to cause failure.

That's not what I was asking. I want to know his basis for claiming that the breathalyzer is susceptible to RFI, and not an illustration of why EMI compliance is important with this type of equipment.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

bluephone (200451) | more than 7 years ago | (#20472041)

Any electronic device can fall victim to RFI related failures. The question is what kinds of failure will happen under what circumstances. As the other poster said, radios, flashing lights, digital radio computer in the front seat, and possibly less-than-perfectly-trained operators can all be contributing factors.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

khb (266593) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471031)

Isn't it legit for the accused to hold out for a blood test? Surely those are not nearly as prone to random acts of RFI and should result in residual blood for resampling in the event the Defense should want one.

Indeed, wouldn't the simple fix for the Legal system to mandate blood sampling as a secondary test. That is, the on the spot device could only be used to determine who should have their blood sampled. Of course, anyone refusing to have the blood test would be back in the position of being potentially convicted based on an unsound device but that was a consequence of refusing to submit to testing.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471215)

In Illinois, at least, refusing to use a breathalizer is grounds to have your licenses revoked for 2 full years.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (4, Interesting)

nate nice (672391) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471379)

That's not true.

You don't have to take a breathalyser or do any road side test. And in fact you shouldn't. Even if you have been never tell the cop you've been drinking when pulled over.

What you do have to do is submit to a blood test at a hospital if the suspect you of drunk driving. If you don't then you'll lose your license.

Here's some advice if pulled over:

When asked if you've been drinking, say no. They always ask this question a night. If you say yes you've had one or whatever, you are a suspected DUI. They usually won't smell things on your breath or whatever. Just say no and they'll probably just ask to run your license and give you a speeding ticket. Unless it's obvious you're drunk

When asked to get out of the car, comply. You have to. If they ask you to do ANY roadside test, decline. You will be pressured here. Simply say your lawyer informed you to never do a roadside test under any circumstance. The cop will evaluate you at this time. One of 2 things will happen now.

If you're borderline and seem to be "normal" or not very drunk, they'll probably let you go with a ticket. They realize that it will be a waste of their time to arrest you take you down to the hospital, file reports, etc only to find out you are at .07. Remember, the time it takes from pulling you over to actually taking a test is often over an hour. You will likely have sobered up some by this point. And potentially moved from a .1 to a .7 fairly easily. Or even from a more serious .12 to a less expensive and serious .9 or something borderline.

If you're obviously drunk, they'll take you down confidently knowing you will fail the test and be charged. But that's the price you pay for driving when sloshed.

The keys: Never admit to drinking anything. This can only hurt you. Let your lawyer do the talking. Refuse any roadside test. They can only hurt you. Cooperate and take a blood test. Potentially an hour or more after you've been pulled over. You will invariably be more sober than when you were pulled over. This works to your advantage.

 

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471407)

"And potentially moved from a .1 to a .7 fairly easily. Or even from a more serious .12 to a less expensive and serious .9 or something borderline."

Please excuse my terrible decimal writing there. It is meant to say a a .1 to a .07 and a .12 to a .09.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471469)

According to the current laws, refusing a breathalyzer test will cause you to lose your license for at least a year regardless of a DUI conviction. It is part of the acceptance of the drivers license that you agree to submit to a test at any time for any reason, even if your not driving. On the otherhand, refusing the test cannot be used against you in the actual DUI case that was the cause of the stop.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (2, Insightful)

nate nice (672391) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471583)

Interesting. I can't believe Illinois would force people to take roadside tests like that.

Now, when you say breathalyser, are you talking about the roadside one or the station one? There's quite a difference.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471633)

Not according to the current case law.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (4, Insightful)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471727)

Here's a better idea: don't drink and drive.

"voice printing" (1)

Ferante125 (971811) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471957)

Reminds me of "voice-printing", which was basically manual speaker recognition using spectrograms. The police who used it were undertrained, and *just slightly* biased against the accused, so the whole technique became discredited, perhaps more than necessary.

http://www.crimelibrary.com/criminal_mind/forensic s/voiceprints/1.html [crimelibrary.com]

---
Why procrastinate now when you can procrastinate tomorrow?

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

paitre (32242) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471461)

Maryland is the same.
It's also enough to have you arrested instantly, as refusal to take a breathalizer is considered and admission of guilt.

Couple problems with that (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471693)

The biggest is that many people don't know that, and most aren't told. You are correct that many jurisdictions all you to choose a blood test. Also many allow you to demand that a separate sample is kept your your defense team to send to their own lab. However I've never heard of any jurisdiction where they have to tell you that. So it's the kind of thing most people just aren't going to know. They assume that the breathalyzer is accurate and don't know to challenge that.

This is especially true because unfortunately, DUI cases aren't treated quite like others with regards to rights. While you can get a lawyer and all that the police will tell you, and they'll be right, that if you refuse the test you'll face severe penalties just for refusing. Thus you can see how people would consent without knowing their rights and without consulting council.

Another problem is simply one with the idea of a blood test itself. Many people, like me HATE needles. I'd hate to be in the position of either having to have something done to me that scares me, by someone I don't trust, or being convicted based on bad evidence. In addition to that there are religions that object to blood tests. So it's kind of unfair to say that you have to do something against your religion to prove your innocence, seems more like they should just make their fucking device work.

So yes, you probably have that right (as always, this is not legal advice, talk to a lawyer in your jurisdiction and such if you need such advice) but the question is do you know it and will you be of present enough mind to exercise it?

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471117)

Hopefully enough state courts begin dismissing these cases that the customers (that is the police) force the manufacturers to clean up their act.

This isn't much different than the magical IP_address->User_Name that RIAA has been using. If courts begin tossing out cases, or at least disallowing these technologies as evidence, then a foot is going to fall somewhere.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

nonsequitor (893813) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471507)

Do you think this is going to make the breathalyzer industry one that needs to meet certain standards similar to the avionics and health care industries?

From the sound of it, it would be trivial to bring the code up to snuff. Only a few months worth of work for a software engineer or two. I think the state should have a DER (Designated Engineering Representative) which audits the source code and development practices of these equipment manufacturers (radar guns, breathalyzers, etc).

I definitely think that breathalyzers should be used, drunk driving is bad, but I also believe that if a device has the ability to ruin someone's life, it should be properly developed. I also doubt the devices are as prone to failure as represented, which is why we need better devices to close that loophole for guilty offenders with creative lawyers.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471635)

I can't imagine a DUI ruining someones life. It would suck to get and a series of them can really mess things up, but it won't ruin your life.

Also, you refer to it with the propaganda word "drunk driving". To be over the limit doesn't mean you're drunk. In fact, plenty of people could have a .08 and be perfectly sober all things considered.

Re:The reason MN doesn't have the code (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471967)

Sure it can. I recently moved to Louisiana and there are some pretty vicious laws here regarding DUI. Here's what I learned attending a driving class for speeding, from a state of Louisiana driving instructor (daytime job is a safety inspector at the fire dept). - If you get convicted of DUI and your child aged 12 or younger is in the vehicle, that child immediately becomes a ward of the state of Louisiana. Which means you cannot be within x feet of them, the result is that you need to move out of your own house. - If you get convicted of DUI and someone else's child aged 12 or younger is in the vehicle, that child immediately becomes a ward of the state of Louisiana. Which means you cannot be within x feet of them, the result is that you screwed up your friend's or relative's family life. Supposedly the court is lenient on that child, but your relationship with that family is damaged. - The DUI limit for commercial vehicles is 0.02 rather than 0.08, which means if you're in a rental car, or company car, or you're trying to be cute with the IRS and write off your own car as a business expense, your margin of error is small. The child-under-12 rule still applies. So yes, it can ruin your life, and involves much more than just a few dollars.

I like the "substitution" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20470875)

I like the part about "diagnostics substitute a favorable reading" for out of range values. Very nice. The sensor mechanism could be totally foo-bared, but the diagnostics (which are supposed to catch the foo-bar) simply substitute a favorable reading. Nice.

Re:I like the "substitution" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471673)

h00ray to closed source c0d3!

(that's their trade secret, you kno)

How do you know this IS the code? (1)

Werrismys (764601) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470931)

How can you know for sure this source code is what ran the breathalyzerthingie in question? Unless every result also prints a checksum against the current firmware and RAM, this is useless. I assume the machine IS reseted after every measurement to a known state.

Re:How do you know this IS the code? (3, Informative)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471125)

The article states that the opposite is what occurs.
from http://www.duiblog.com/2007/09/04/secret-breathaly zer-software-finally-revealed/ [duiblog.com] - 10. Error Detection Logic: The software design detects measurement errors, but ignores these errors unless they occur a consecutive total number of times. For example, in the airflow measuring logic, if a flow measurement is above the prescribed maximum value, it is called an error, but this error must occur 32 consecutive times for the error to be handled and displayed. This means that the error could occur 31 times, then appear within range once, then appear 31 times, etc., and never be reported... . So yes, they did look over the source code, they had a judge approved expert witness (aka someone who works with this stuff as their job)

Trade Secrets (4, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 7 years ago | (#20470949)

My guess is that 99% of proprietary code contains a big trade secret: The secret of just how crappy the source code really is.

If they were expecting their code to be opened to the public, they would have taken the effort to fix up "spaghetticode.inc" which contains the single comment "//This works though i'm not sure why... clean up l8r!!!!".

Re:Trade Secrets (1)

cool_arrow (881921) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471621)

Sometimes proprietary code is the result of lots of hard work which gives you a competitive advantage. When you have a good product sometimes your competitors will go to great lengths to copy your product. Not necessarily true in this case however.

What, it can't be a trade secret that... (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471189)

... there's no real secret to making your product? I can see companies wanting to hide that!

The entire 12 problems (5, Informative)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471265)

Please read here at http://www.sandiegodrunkdrivingattorney.net/2007/0 8/successful-dui-breath-test-machine.html [sandiegodr...torney.net] where they have all the information on the flaws. I will post the summary line of each result from Base one (link to their homepage) [base-one.com] as follows:

1. The Alcotest Software Would Not Pass U.S. Industry Standards for Software Development and Testing
2. Readings are Not Averaged Correctly: When the software takes a series of readings, it first averages the first two readings.
3. Results Limited to Small, Discrete Values: The A/D converters measuring the IR readings and the fuel cell readings can produce values between 0 and 4095.
4. Catastrophic Error Detection Is Disabled: An interrupt that detects that the microprocessor is trying to execute an illegal instruction is disabled
5. Implemented Design Lacks Positive Feedback: The software controls electrical lines, which switch devices on and off, such as an air pump, infrared source, etc. The design does not provide a monitoring sensory line (loop back) for the software to detect that the device state actually changed. This means that the software assumes the change in state is always correct, but it cannot verify the action.
6. Diagnostics Adjust/Substitute Data Readings: The diagnostic routines for the Analog to Digital (A/D) Converters will substitute arbitrary, favorable readings for the measured device if the measurement is out of range, either too high or too low.
7. Flow Measurements Adjusted/Substitute d: The software takes an airflow measurement at power-up, and presumes this value is the "zero line" or baseline measurement for subsequent calculations.
8. Range Limits Are Substituted for Incorrect Average Measurements: In a manner similar to the diagnostics, voltage values are read and averaged into a value.
9. Code Does Not Detect Data Variations
10. Error Detection Logic: The software design detects measurement errors, but ignores these errors unless they occur a consecutive total number of times
11. Timing Problems: The design of the code is to run in timed units of 8.192 milliseconds, by means of an interrupt signal to a handler, which then signals the main program control that it can continue to the next segment.
12. Defects In Three Out Of Five Lines Of Code: A universal tool in the open-source community, called Lint, was used to analyze the source code written in C. This program uncovers a range of problems from minor to serious problems that can halt or cripple the program operation.

Sorry if this is redundant, I didn't see it listed anywhere that I could tell up front. If you note that list is pretty serious. They picked a "top 5" type thing for the other link, but this one is pretty accurate. Note these guys were called in as expert witnesses and their information on their website shows they have extensive experience working with government. If these guys find flaws that is definitely pretty serious.

My problem with the 12 problems... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471531)

2. Readings are Not Averaged Correctly: When the software takes a series of readings, it first averages the first two readings. Then, it averages the third reading with the average just computed. Then the fourth reading is averaged with the new average, and so on. There is no comment or note detailing a reason for this calculation, which would cause the first reading to have more weight than successive readings. Nonetheless, the comments say that the values should be averaged, and they are not.

The first point seemed unreasonable, as temporary code will always make it in, and such. But my main problem is with the second point (after which I stopped reading). The first reading has the least weight, and each subsequent value has more weight than previous readings. The inability to get such a simple detail correct casts a huge pale over their entire analysis.

Re:My problem with the 12 problems... (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471609)

In a firmware object temporary code should not and will not make it in, as such. That is not even remotely acceptable. Thats why there are betas and there are releases. The beta isn't a release until its finalized. I saw nothing incorrect. Did you even read the link I provided? It seems not. Here was the entire #2, as you interpreted it (pun intended).
2. Readings are Not Averaged Correctly: When the software takes a series of readings, it first averages the first two readings. Then, it averages the third reading with the average just computed. Then the fourth reading is averaged with the new average, and so on. There is no comment or note detailing a reason for this calculation, which would cause the first reading to have more weight than successive readings. Nonetheless, the comments say that the values should be averaged, and they are not. Please read more carefully before you make incorrect phrases. The last reading has the least weight, as the first one determines the average. It's basically using a mean instead of an average. What this means is each reading could increase or decrease the score, as opposed to being consistant. If you take 3-4 tests each one could show you as "more drunk" when you might have started at .06 and ended at .30 (as an extreme example) or started at .15 and ended at .03.

Re:My problem with the 12 problems... (4, Informative)

Myrv (305480) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471823)

Please read more carefully before you make incorrect phrases.
Perhaps you should take your own advice to heart because as the previous poster noted, you are wrong.

The last reading has the least weight, as the first one determines the average
Nope, given the description you have so nicely put in bold the first reading is the least signficant.

Take 3 readings, say 1 2 3 for the sake of argument. The text says the first two are averaged, so:

(1+2)/2 = 1.5

Now this average is averaged with the third reading

(1.5+3)/2 = 2.25

or in full

((1 + 2) /2 + 3) /2 = 1/4 + 2/4 + 3/2

Note the 3rd point is weighted twice that of the first 2 (i.e, its divided by 2, the first two points are divided by 4).

The real average should be:

(1+2+3) / 3 = 2

but the last point is being weighted more in the incorrect version so the average was given as 2.25

If the first point was weighted more you would expect the average to be less than 2.

It's basically using a mean instead of an average.
mean and average are the same thing.

What this means is each reading could increase or decrease the score, as opposed to being consistant. If you take 3-4 tests each one could show you as "more drunk" when you might have started at .06 and ended at .30 (as an extreme example) or started at .15 and ended at .03.
No, it's not. Each subsequent reading is basically being averaged into previous value with double the weight. There are cases where you would want to do this, i.e. damp out the history, but the code comments suggest this wasn't the case (of course the code may have been changed on purpose and somebody forgot to change the comments)

Re:The entire 12 problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471665)

12. Defects In Three Out Of Five Lines Of Code: A universal tool in the open-source community, called Lint, was used to analyze the source code written in C. This program uncovers a range of problems from minor to serious problems that can halt or cripple the program operation.
Great. Not only are the folks coding the breathalizer idiot, not the folks analyzing the code are morons too.

Lint message != defect.

In most cases, all it means is that the programmer wasn't as anal retentive as the folks who maintain lint.

Yes, lint is good, but describing lint as "universal" and identifying the number of LOC flagged by lint as the number of LOC with defects is just plain stupid.

Re:The entire 12 problems (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471863)

Is this anything like the 12 step program in AA?

Here's one for the mythbusters... (4, Funny)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 7 years ago | (#20471395)

FTA:

"7. Flow Measurements Adjusted/Substituted: The software takes an airflow measurement at power-up, and presumes this value is the "zero line" or baseline measurement for subsequent calculations. No quality check or reasonableness test is done on this measurement..."


So, if I blow into the device as soon as it boots, I will always be tested negative??

mo3 uP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20471479)

We99l-known [goat.cx]

Great Code Review (2, Interesting)

Mandatory Default (323388) | more than 7 years ago | (#20472053)

I've never heard of Base One, and I never would have guessed from their home page http://www.base-one.com/ [base-one.com] that they could do what they did, but that has to be one of the more impressive "code reviews" I've seen. The code review encompasses hardware, software, testing, architecture, design - in short, a rather thorough analysis. Seeing all of those skills come together for an embedded system project is pretty impressive. (Consider that, at Draeger, it appears that almost none of those skills were bought to bear...)

So kudos to Base One. Great work.
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