Ohio Secretary of State on electronic voting machines

From http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/info/everest.aspx:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio’s electronic voting systems have “critical security failures” which could impact the integrity of elections in the Buckeye State, according to a review of the systems commissioned by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

“The results underscore the need for a fundamental change in the structure of Ohio’s election system to ensure ballot and voting system security while still making voting convenient and accessible to all Ohio voters, “ Secretary Brunner said Friday in unveiling the report.

“In an era of computer-based voting systems, voters have a right to expect that their voting system is at least as secure as the systems they use for banking and communication,” she said.

If that isn’t seriously underrepresenting voters’ rights and expectations, i don’t know what to call it. With banking and communications systems there are appropriate failure modes. If an EFTPOS line goes down, we can pay cash, or use a manual credit card transaction. If someone steals my credit card details and uses them to buy things online, my liability is limited to $50 if i can demonstrate that i follow appropriate security practices. If my vote goes astray due to accidental or malicious electronic errors at the polling booth, no amount of recounts can fix it. The only failure mode is a by-election, which people generally see as undesirable.

While democracy has its warts, it’s better than all of the other systems out there. (I’m sure Winston Churchill had a wittier version of that statement…) In my involvement with the last federal election, i discovered that there are a lot of things that make our democracy here in Australia a little less democratic than it should be (like who buys the best media coverage). Electronic voting machines magnify this possibility way out of proportion by raising the possibility that an entire election could be hijacked by an inside job, or, in a worst-case scenario, by a remote exploit. Anyone who cares the slightest amount about freedom should oppose vigorously any use of electronic voting systems without paper records and verification mechanisms.

(As an aside, electronic counting systems for paper ballots would offer huge speed and handling improvements, and could be easily manually checked.)

Source: libertysys.com.au

Major Australian ISP Pulls OpenOffice

Now this is just plain bizarre:

Major Australian ISP Pulls OpenOffice – thefickler writes “Australia’s largest Internet service provider Telstra BigPond has removed OpenOffice from its unmetered file download area following the launch of its own, free, hosted, office application, BigPond Office. The removal of OpenOffice was brought to TECH.BLORGE’s attention by a reader, who complained to Telstra BigPond’s support department about no longer being able to download OpenOffice updates. The support people were quite open about why OpenOffice was no longer available, i.e. because it was perceived to be competitive with BigPond Office.”

Bigpond has always been an ISP well worth not using (in fact, it’s the only one i disrecommend based on personal experience), due to their unreliable mail services and poor technical support. This just reinforces the point – they are a company that doesn’t care about their customers. I agree with the original article in that i don’t think Telstra is being unethical by choosing not to provide a certain service – they are simply doing what they think is best for their commercial interests. However, what is best for the company is not always best for the consumer, and this is a definite case in point. Bigpond appears to be trying to create another AOL – and we all know how successful that was…

If you are currently considering getting broadband or switching providers, i urge you to choose an ISP who does not discriminate against FLOSS, like Internode, iiNet, or Netspace. Or check for plans with other ISPs that also offer better value than Bigpond at Broadband Choice.

And for more fodder, check out this news at Whirlpool. James Purser’s view that Telstra needs to be split into network and retail entities and the network bought back by the Commonwealth Government is looking more sensible all the time.

Source: libertysys.com.au