Re: Reflections on the election and implications for the OVC

From: laird popkin <lairdp_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Thu Nov 04 2004 - 16:15:08 CST

I have a bit of a background in the gaming world, and I have to jump
in with a few comments:

- Of the console vendors, only MS is losing money on their consoles.
So for the Xbox you're right -- MS probably wouldn't want you to use
Xboxes for voting stations. However (1) Sony and Nintendo make a
profit selling their consoles so they might be perfectly happy, (2)
even if they don't like it, we don't need their permission to buy and
use their consoles, and (3) a console used to run an election every
two years can be used to play games the rest of the time, presumably
selling more games. :-)

I'm more concerned about the issues that all of the consoles will only
run software that is (1) developed using extremely expensive, vendor
proprietary development tools bound by onorous licensing terms, and is
(2) digitally signed by the manufacturer (unless you're willing to
hack the console, which I doubt most people running elections will
want to do. This means that we can't produce CD's (or DVD's) of our
software for people to use, but must submit our software to Sony,
Microsoft, or Nintendo for approval, and pay various development and
certification fees, and (usually) have them manufacture the disks.
This is, IMO, in direct conflict with the idea of an open source

It might be possible to gain their support (great PR!), or for us to
apply the same kind of thinking to a niche player's platform, though.
For example, the GamePark GP32 has an open development model, is cheap
($150), and uses SD cards for software, so the logistics are easy.
We'd want to remove the Wireless RF, of course. :-)

On Thu, 04 Nov 2004 10:27:57 -0700, Robert Rapplean <> wrote:
> Anthony P. wrote:
> >Hi Everyone,
> >
> >What about the potential for using inexpensive game console machines
> >like PS2 or XBox as voting machines. I think that I read here that the
> >CalTech team had dismissed this idea but is it viable at all? The
> >hardware is all standard, controllable, and reliable. They are easy to
> >secure and cheap.
> >
> >Am I missing a major point here?
> >
> >
> There are numerous problems with attempting to convert a gaming console,
> although they aren't terribly obvious.
> Platforms like the Xbox and playstation are manufactured as a loss
> leader. They sell them at a loss, fully expecting to make up the cost
> with the sale of games for it. That's why they're so cheap. If someone
> was to use them in a way that didn't involve the future sale of games,
> then the companies would complain and resist. This resistance would
> mean that nobody could purchase them in bulk, which pretty much
> eliminates the possibility of using them as e-voting machines.
> It's possible that you could contract to bulk purchase them at a higher
> cost, but I'm not sure you'd be gaining anything there.
> Another problem is that their internal architecture is purposely
> destandardized. They us a non-standard connector for their drives, for
> instance. This means that they aren't repairable, which severly offsets
> the cost benefit of using them. It also means that retrofitting them
> isn't a simple or cheap process, which limits mass production of the
> systems.
> The issue with not being able to buy them in bulk also means that you
> couldn't rely on new systems being available long-term, so you'd have to
> re-invent the conversion process on a pretty much annual basis.
> This all doesn't make it impossible, but it makes the idea significantly
> less attractive.

- Laird Popkin, cell: 917/453-0700
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Received on Tue Nov 30 23:17:09 2004

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