Saturday, August 16, 2003

More on e-Voting

Kudos to K for the tip! Many links from Bruce Schneier's Crypto-Gram:

The software running on touchscreen machines in an individual voting booth at a precinct:

E-Voting Flaws Risk Voting Fraud
Analysis of an Electronic Voting System (PDF)
Bald-Faced Lies About Black Box Voting Machines and The Truth About the Rob-Georgia File

The software on the server used to store and report votes from multiple precincts:

Bigger Than Watergate!
Inside a U.S. Election Vote Counting Program
Voting Machines Blasted by Scientists
How To Rig An Election (mostly material from earlier Scoop reports)

General or related to both applications:

System Integrity Flaw Discovered at Diebold Election Systems (distribution of patches and/or test code for either system)
** (404 - might just be me, Sid)
Proprietary Voting Computers: Threat or Menace?
Could the Next US Election Be Stolen?

I'm going to comment on something that seems small, but isn't:

For a mission-critical system (say, software that's going to run on the space shuttle, or, perhaps, an electronic voting system), the audit and quality control process for developing the software is as mission-critical as the software itself. If you can't prove that you validated X, or that you developed Y under specific controls in order to keep as many feature flaws[*] and outright bugs[**] out of the software as possible, then you cannot release that software for use with any confidence.

People's lives, or the life of a government, perhaps, are depending on this software. The development process must be very well documented and adhered to. If it's not, you can't trust the application.

So, when you read about the Rob-Georgia file over at Scoop, or one of Bev Harris's earlier articles (the System Integrity Flaw article) on the use of an FTP server to distribute software patches at the last minute before an election, you have to understand that if those patches haven't been rigorously tested (and the 'Rob' article indicates otherwise) the entire touchscreen application on the machine a patch has been installed on is suddenly suspect. Because you don't *know* what the software will do, because that version of the application has not been tested, validated, or certified by any kind of oversight group. Because it's a last-minute patch, and that's the definition of 'last minute'. A developer pounded out a fix, performed the barest minimum of testing (because that's all a developer can do), and released a revised .cpp or .h file for use. "Here!" they said, wiping sweat off their brow, "this should fix it!" -- that's how it happens. Honest to god.

Was a standard development methodology followed (requirements-design-develop-test-release)? Were design and code reviews used? Where is the documentation - the audit trail - that proves it?

[*] a mistake in the design itself -- "we thought we wanted it [the code] to send an email, but now we think it should print a report."
[**] a mistake in implementing some aspect of the design -- "the code prints the same report every time regardless of data."

Friday, August 15, 2003

Not Me!

A life form that can take it at 121 Celsius -- so not me. Bear in mind, American readers, 121C is around 250 Fahrenheit. (The National Weather Service out of Buffalo, NY offers an F/C converter, btw, it's kinda cute:

Anyway, step up and learn more about the not-me life form. Neat!
Censorware/Bait And Switch

I love Bennett. I've fallen away from my advocacy regarding censorware -- not so much out of lack of interest as too many other interests. But the idea (of letting software do your parenting for you, yippee) hasn't gone away, and neither has Peacefire.

Read on about the Bait and Switch project. A perfect example of the incompleteness, uselessness, and hypocrisy of not only censorware, but the companies who make such products.
Feast of the Assumption

(I dunno, my mama raised me not to speculate without data. Assumption? Get it? Yeah. Fair and Balanced Humor, baby. Right here.)

Believe It, or Not

Today marks the Roman Catholics' Feast of the Assumption, honoring the moment that they believe God brought the Virgin Mary into Heaven. So here's a fact appropriate for the day: Americans are three times as likely to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus (83 percent) as in evolution (28 percent).
...The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time.
... I do think that we're in the middle of another religious Great Awakening, and that while this may bring spiritual comfort to many, it will also mean a growing polarization within our society.
But mostly, I'm troubled by the way the great intellectual traditions of Catholic and Protestant churches alike are withering, leaving the scholarly and religious worlds increasingly antagonistic. I worry partly because of the time I've spent with self-satisfied and unquestioning mullahs and imams, for the Islamic world is in crisis today in large part because of a similar drift away from a rich intellectual tradition and toward the mystical. The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain.

I don't know what to say aside from such obvious, unhelpful remarks like:

This does not make me feel 'in touch' as an American.
I do understand better how the Bush Administration both came to power and keeps it, in a high-level strategic way.
American Christians are whacky.

This public service announcement brought to you by Blammo!

Thursday, August 14, 2003


Usability News -- volume 10 is out.

Why is usability so important, kids? Say it with me -- because it's the users that use your product. Build it for their use, and it might be successful. Build it "the way you like it", and you're screwed.
Lindner Says Murder "Is a Bad Thing"

Oh, and I bet it hurt him to admit it.

Anti-gay Lindner slightly moved by Holocaust exhibit

A traveling exhibit from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum came to Minneapolis in part because of comments by state Rep. Arlon Lindner that gay-rights protections need to be struck down before the U.S. faces an AIDS crisis on the scale of the one in Africa. Lindner attended the exhibit and afterward agreed that murdering innocent people is a bad thing, but says he hasn't changed his mind about his support for sodomy laws and his desire to remove sexual orientation from Minnesota protections, even the one about insurance for Holocaust victims. "It's a perverted lifestyle," quoth he.

Idiot. Africa's AIDS crisis keeps growing thanks to heterosexual sex, possibly even in the missionary position -- women are catching it from their husbands, infected men are dipping the wick in a virgin in an attempt to cure what ails them, and men are insisting on unprotected sex with the sex workers they hire.

Does Lindner think everyone in Africa is gay?

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

iAy Caramba, Taco Bell!

Being a former OC'er, this made me laugh out loud for various reasons: but mainly, it's funny, and humor has always seemed to me to go against the grain of Orange County (California)'s makeup.

iAy Caramba, Taco Bell! by W. W. Bedsworth . Linked via How Appealling.
West Nile Vaccine Candidate

West Nile Kin a Potential West Nile Vaccine -- A mild relative of the West Nile virus may be a vaccine for its more dangerous cousin.

CDC::West Nile

Sunday, August 10, 2003

He's Tapping in Heaven, Now

On the wooden floors of Valhalla, no doubt cracking a joke about Mjollnir in the process. No one should make Odin spew mead, but Greg Hines would do it with a flourish.

Gegory Hines, 57, Dies