More on voting stations

From: Karl Auerbach <karl_at_cavebear_dot_com>
Date: Fri May 07 2004 - 03:17:38 CDT

I'm asking around via some of my silly-valley contacts to see what kind of
machinery could be done by folks who build these kinds of things for a
living.

Physical packaging is often the most difficult and challanging aspect of a
project such as ours, particularly when we brew in aspects of security and
operation by users often unversed in the gentel approach to equipment or
users who are less than enchanted with the names on the ballot or life in
general. My wife worked on one of (in my opinion) the two greatest
computers of all times, the Sun Sparcstation 1 (the other great machine
being the PDP-11/70). On the Sun, it was the mechanical engineering that
was as much of a breakthrough as was the computing engine itself.

It is easy to vastly underestimate the costs of building something as
simple as an injection molded case.

And with fire and safety testing the level of effort can go through the
roof. (It is amazing to spend a few hours in the testing labs at a place
like HP or Cisco - between the RF chambers, drop tables, and flame tests
these places looks like a cross between Q's workshop in a James Bond movie
and something out of Dante.)

And there are some important lables to get - it was only two days ago that
I drove past the UL facilities in Santa Clara.

Because of the kind of engineering and testing that is required it's good
to build on a platform that has already gone through, and paid the cost
of, such engineering and testing.

I'm hoping to find someone who already is building a diskless,
touch-screen, USB 2, smart-card reader (yes, I do think we need this), PC
kind of platform - there are machines that are close (but no cigar), e.g.
Sun's SunRay 150 - http://wwws.sun.com/sunray/sunray150/index.html

As for printers - I'm using a non-postscript printer to print ballots.
The CUPS system seems to do a quite good job of printing postscript onto
non postscript printers.

There is a problem with many printers - the delay. I foresee a
significant possibility that voters will think they are done and leave
before the paper ballot is printed.

Laser printers sometimes have a warm-up time. Ink jet printers often
start much faster - except for my Epson's that sometimes go off and do the
dance of the thousand buzzes for a minute or so.

We may well need to come up with software controlled curtain mechanism
that is present less for privacy and more for keeping the voter in the
boot until the paper is ready.

                --karl--

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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:21 2004

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