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Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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Attn. Wash. U. students: How to make keycards work better
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So at least in some dormitories- I don't know which ones were involved in this, only that mine was among them- mechanical keys have been abandoned in favor of electronic door locks. Y'know, you get one of those credit-card like things with the magnetic stripe? Yeah, that kind of key entry. It's not "insert key", it's "swipe card", and that makes all the difference here.

The biggest problem with it is that it doesn't go on a keychain, which means that I have to completely change my patterns for what to grab when taking a shower lest I lock myself out of my room in a most inconvenient fasion. For that matter, a card is just not convenient; I'd rather have something on my keychain.

Problem solved.


  • Target keycard to mutilate

  • One pair of scissors

  • Hole punch OR pocket knife

  • Optionally, a narrow, inexpensive pen


  1. Flip the keycard over so the stripe side is up.

  2. Being sure not to interfere with the magnetic stripe, cut off part of the margin of the card not affected by the stripe. Do NOT cut the card to minimum size; instead, cut the card in the shape of a "P" without a hole.

  3. The loop of the "p" will be our handle and connection point. At a reasonable point in that part of the P, punch a hole with the punch or, if you don't have one (like I didn't), violently stab it with the pocket knife and then whittle until you can get a hole through it; for the pocket knife, the pen is mandatory.

  4. If you want a larger hole- you need this if you used the pocket knife- widen the hole by pushing the pen through.

  5. Attach to keychain via this hole you've created. You're done.

Hopefully, you left enough of a handle. It is admittedly a little clumsy, but you'll get used to it; I've only used it four or five times since I mutilated the card and I'm not having any trouble now. While it's still not as convenient as a key, it's a lot better than the big plastic rectangle we had before- and now it's just with the rest of your keys.

I still wish they left us with, y'know, physical door locks with metal keys rather than this electromagnetic scanner crap...

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Hm.. kinda like hotels, i guess.

How do they run? Is it batteries or what?

If the power goes out, are you screwed?

Etc. :P

Hm.. kinda like hotels, i guess.

Yes, and that's part of what I object to. This is a dormitory and is supposed to be my home for the next year; I don't want it to feel like a hotel. Consecration rituals can only go so far, y'know?

How do they run? Is it batteries or what? If the power goes out, are you screwed?

According to people I've talked to about it, each building has its own backup power supply, in addition to the system being on the services power grid rather than the primary power grid. (The service power grid is the first to go back up and is the one which more attention is given to with regard to keeping it from going down in the first place.

In short? Yes, if the power goes out, I'm screwed.

It seems rather unnecessary to use such a system.. I assume hotels do in order to disable cards when they want (I've been in a hotel where the card stopped working exactly as it hit checkout time). Rigging up every door must be a large undertaking.

I've seen massive power outages take out the swipe locks on the buildings, to the point that they had to have campus police sitting in each building to open the doors for most of a night. I also know someone who lived in the building attached to yours that, sometime after the swipe locks were fixed and she could get into the building, suddenly couldn't anymore and had to use her mechanical key to get in for the rest of the year.

What are they going to do when that system malfunctions as badly as the system that required them to recore your building so that the students could get in with mechanical keys? After seeing them fail (and being amused at watching the police lock themselves out when they didn't think the cards were as broken as they were), I can't imagine why they thought it was a good idea to give the students such an unreliable way to get into their home.

May I suggest never, ever leaving anything which you need to turn in locked inside your room? Make sure any assignments live not just on your computer but on your CEC account. For some reason, I don't think all the professors would take "The key to get in my room doesn't work," as an excuse. I've known people who couldn't even get any leeway when they had to go to someone's funeral out of state.

I'm very, very glad I don't live in your building. ResLife is officially nuts.

At TSC, we had to evacuate the building if the power went out anyway, because the fire alarm system was dependent on it. They made us all camp the night in the student center. We did, however, get a chance first to raid our rooms for pillows, blankets, and other things we needed.

The food money cards we had on UWaterloo had this explicit rule that if you as much as punched a hole in them it would be your own fault if they stopped working. I really don't see why, though, so they were probably just making it up.

Good luck with your next term, though!

It's odd that they use mag-stripe cards, when every office building in the universe uses RFID cards these days.

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