Re: A brief introduction and some questions

From: Nathan L. Adams <adamsn79_at_bellsouth_dot_net>
Date: Sun Apr 18 2004 - 21:58:54 CDT

Hello Ed,

I am a computer engineer, and although I am not the official 'mouth-piece ' of
the OVC, I though I would take a stab at some of your questions. :)

On Sunday 18 April 2004 01:14 am, Ed Kennedy wrote:
> 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.

I pity any engineer who 'signed-up' for those reasons. My experience as an
engineer has been quite the opposite of the picture you paint.

> Apparently you have decided to use a programming
> language called Python which runs over the Linux operating system.

Just to clarify: Python will run on "many brands of UNIX, on Windows, OS/2,
Mac, Amiga, and many other
platforms." (http://www.python.org/doc/Summary.html) I believe Linux was
chosen as the underlying operating system for the OVC demo software because
it is Free/Open Source Software and has driver support that rivals and in a
many cases exceeds Microsoft's offerings. It probably also helps that
Python/Linux is a pretty darn common combo.

> 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?

The OVC/Python/Linux software stack is for demo purposes. The demo software
may or may not evolve into the production software. As such, the production
software may be written in an entirely different language. At this point, the
minimum hardware requirements for the production software can't be known.

> 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?

The prevailing idea at this point is that we will roll our own Linux
'Live-CD'. A Live-CD boots and runs completely off of the CD. Knoppix is a
well-known such beast, and many people use it to demo Linux without ever
touching their existing Windows installations. Some examples you might try
for yourself:

http://www.knoppix.org/
http://slax.linux-live.org/

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

It is a special monitor. Usually, the act of touching the screen is sent to
the PC almost exactly as a mouse movement + click are sent to the PC. There
are subtle differences, however, that need to be addressed to avoid certain
usability issues.

> 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.

Georgia uses entirely Diebold DRE machines. I know for a fact that the
reporting process is as such in at least one county. I assume that it the
same elsewhere, since everyone uses the same equipment, and attends the same
training classes:

- the machines tabulate the votes at a precinct
- the pollworkers HAND WRITE the totals on a piece of paper and sign/date
- the paper is faxed to the DoE
- two days later the local board of elections certifies what was faxed

> 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?

Accuracy, integrity, and the assurance of the democratic process are more
important than speed. Period.

Nathan
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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:11 2004

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