A brief introduction and some questions

From: Ed Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Sun Apr 18 2004 - 00:14:27 CDT

Hello All,

    Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm Ed Kennedy, and like most men, I define myself by what I do. I do Transportation Engineering for the State of California at Caltrans. Along with being a registered civil engineer and having the related degree I also have a journalism degree from a previous career and am supposed to be able to write.

    After I wrote a little note to Alan Dechert, he invited me to review and comment on your web sites FAQ. I've been corresponding with Karl Auerbach and I hope that my comments have been of some use. Most of you seem to write fairly well (Even Karl) so don't be worried about my being in judgment about your writing. Most scientists, technical specialists and other symbol manipulators have a huge inferiority complex about their writing. Don't worry, most decent writers are math phobic and technology terrified so there is kind of a rough balance here. I suspect many of you picked your professions because you figured you wouldn't have to write a lot or interact with people very much.

     After reviewing the FAQ and reading some of your postings, I've developed a few questions. Forgive me if I'm covering ground that's already been walked. Apparently you have decided to use a programming language called Python which runs over the Linux operating system. I note that you are planning to use generic or commodity level PC's. What are your minimum system requirements? Would a Intel 80386 based system with 16mb of ram and 240mb of hard drive work? At Caltrans we have long ago sent these out to be used as boat anchors, door stops or similar, there are still a surprising large amount of these oversized paperweights out there. I've picked this computer at random, but sadly, it is probably representative of the state of many or our libraries and elementary school equipment.

    I've read a thoughtful proposition that new commodity type computers be purchased and used for elections and then shopped or loaned out to schools and libraries perhaps in 4 year cycles. Much of the software that people are familiar with and that is commonly available for schools and libraries is based on Microsoft Windows. (Please! No discussion about the evil empire. Just take it as a given.) While I'm aware that most anything that can be done under Windows can be done under Linux and probably better, most commodity computers still ship loaded with Windows XP or Windows 2000. Were you planning to ghost or erase the original operating system off these computers and install Linux and related support on most all computers? Then once the election was over, were you planning to reinstall Windows? Had you considered maybe swapping preloaded hard drives instead? Am I missing something obvious here? I like the idea of new computers and I'm looking at a way to make this a win-win proposal.

    I have other open questions but the hour is becoming late for me so I'll just summarize:

1. What makes a computer monitor touch screen? Is this something that requires a special monitor or is it just special drivers?

2. How did the State of California or other states that have gone to direct recording equipment deal with paper ballot security issues? This is important because you are proposing to return to paper ballots. Remember the issues of the pregnant urn and the taco.

3. I'd like a little more information about how ballots are to be tabulated. Just saying it's machine readable doesn't tell me much.

4. One of the plusses (?) of DRE is that the votes are usually put on some sort of chip and then taken down to Department of Elections and read. Some are even capable of being read remotely. The counting of this years primaries in San Diego county were done very quickly with most elections being decided before 2300 hours. This is fast! How will you compete with this?

5. While some of you want to be all things to all elections everywhere, what is your first and major market? It would help if you focused on this while designing your software to allow modules for different markets to be added on.

6. Will you be having a hacking contest on your software before marketing it? I'm talking about something like, "You can win $10,000 if you can hack into one of our systems over a 12 hour period." Here's the software.

Thanks, Ed Kennedy



10777 Bendigo Cove
San Diego, CA 92126-2510

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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:10 2004

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