Re: A brief introduction and some questions. Follow up.

From: Edmund R. Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Mon May 03 2004 - 15:35:07 CDT

Hello Mr. Cherlin:

     Thanks for your thoughts. It must be nice to
always know what you're talking about. ;-) I've come
to realize that using new commodity machines is a good
approach. Trying to make a ragtag bunch of oddball
machine of various, makes, models, vintages and quirks
work reliably and predictably sounds actually more
expensive than buying new identical machines. Also,
each machine needs to be capable of burning CD's which
is not something of which many old PC's would be
capable. However, commodity machines generally have
this capability as a standard item along with
sufficient ram to efficiently run a Live CD and built
in sound capabilities for the blind. Since I wrote
the letter you've commented on, I've researched the
issue of touch screen monitors more and found that the
costs are not that much different than a regular
monitor. Also most of these monitors seem to be ship
as being capable of using several different touch
technologies that are either software or hardware
selectable. These include both your recommended
capacitive and restive technologies. Hardware,
without a bulk discount, should cost in the
neighborhood of $500-600US/unit. This is assuming
that these machines run on line power and are not
laptops. This is just a rough first approximation.
It however beats the heck out Diebolds $3,000 each

     As you are peddling or at least promoting India's
Simputer, perhaps you have some input on how recent
electronic voting went in India and if there are some
lessons that might be learned from their experience?
I'm told the voting machine was described as brief
case sized and the Simputer is lunch bag sized so I
don't think the two are directly connected.

     A more general question here involves the issue
of ballot images. David or Alan, I think, mentioned
that the ballots need to be written in random order to
the CD (the same CD that would run EVMx) so as to
assure privacy. Also, this is something that was
suggested as being done after the closing of the
polls. In the meantime, I would imagine images would
have to be written to the hard drive of the voting
machine. Is my understanding correct? It can be
notoriously difficult to erase hard drives in such a
way that the information can't be recovered. I had
suggested that there needs to be an automatic erasure
routine built into the EVM program as part of the
process of closing down the machines. I used to have
a Symatech program that wrote 0's and then 1's
repeatedly to any place I specified on the disk to as
to fully randomize the bits. I recall it being a
rather time consuming process. Does anybody have a
better idea?

    Finally, about the issue of sealing machines. I
understood that each of these machines were supposed
to be put in some sort of enclosure that would keep
people from fiddling with them or worse. (In the
unlikely event that no one had thought of this, these
enclosures would surely need supplements cooling.)
These enclosures seem to be something that could
readily be sealed simply by something as simple as a
plastic loop with a unique number. This would be
affixed after the CD has been removed and the erasing
completed, by the election judges or representatives
of the competing groups in a manner similar to sealing
a ballot box.

Thanks, Ed Kennedy

--- Edward Cherlin <> wrote:
> I'm the oddball here. I make my living by writing
> and by knowing
> what I am writing about. I have been a
> mathematician, computer
> scientist, market analyst, Peace Corp Volunteer,
> cook, goatherd,
> Buddhist priest,...
> On Sunday 18 April 2004 19:58, Nathan L. Adams
> wrote:
> > 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. :)
> >
> > > 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."
> ( 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 was one of those recommending Python for the demo.
> It is
> reasonably powerful, and the best-known of the
> languages for
> rapid prototyping, that is, languages that are
> economical of
> programmer time at some cost in machine time. We
> have not chosen
> the implementation language for the production
> 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?
> We could do that if it were a priority, by
> implementing in FORTH.
> In that case we could probably run the complete
> voting system in
> 640K with no hard drive--maybe as little as 64K in
> many cases.
> But then we would have to hard-code support for each
> language
> and writing system in separate software versions.
> Chinese-language fonts run about 10-12 MB each, but
> a lot of
> Chinese-language systems have the fonts in ROM.
> But maximum antique-compatibility isn't a priority.
> Maximum
> usability is our first concern. So we want a recent
> operating
> system with full Unicode/multilingual support, which
> currently
> means a recent Linux release with the latest
> versions of GTK and
> Pango.
> I wrote a piece last month on my blog,
>, about Linux
> distributions being
> localized into numerous languages not supported by
> commercial
> vendors, such as Mongolian, or the Kinyarwanda
> language of
> Rwanda. Just in California there is a requirement
> for election
> materials and ballots in several languages, and
> there will be
> greater demand as it becomes easier to do. We have
> large
> populations of Tagalog speakers from the
> Phillipines, along with
> Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Spanish
> speakers from
> Latin America and elsewhere, Hmoob speakers from
> Laos, and so
> on. My company, Encore Technologies, would like to
> market
> systems with OVC software worldwide in hundreds of
> languages.
> We want a language with good Unicode support, or at
> least one
> that can use a good Unicode library like IBM ICU.
> Recent Linux
> distributions are made for Pentium architecture and
> later.
> > 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?
> Nah, we're planning to knock over the Evil Empire.
> Don't forget
> that there is a strong movement worldwide,
> especially among
> governments, to switch to Free Software. Even in the
> US, the
> appeal of saving money is hard to resist. Note that
> the savings
> is not primarily in the purchase price, but in being
> able to buy
> support from third parties, and in some cases being
> able to fix
> bugs and add features without waiting for a vendor
> to get around
> to it. Use of publicly defined standards for file
> formats also
> offers substantial opportunities for cost savings.
> > 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:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > > 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,
=== message truncated ===

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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:05 2004

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