Tinkering with Disclosed Source Voting Systems

system, elections, vendors, copyright, hacks, open source, research, policy, legal, development

(cross-posted at Freedom To Tinker)

As Ed pointed out in October, Sequoia Voting Systems, Inc. ("Sequoia") announced then that it intended to publish the source code of their voting system software, called "Frontier", currently under development. (Also see EKR's post: "Contrarianism on Sequoia's Disclosed Source Voting System".)

Yesterday, Sequoia made good on this promise and you can now pull the source code they've made available from their Subversion repository here: http://sequoiadev.svn.beanstalkapp.com/projects/

Sequoia refers to this move in it's release as "the first public disclosure of source code from a voting systems manufacturer". Carefully parsed, that's probably correct: there have been unintentional disclosures of source code (e.g., Diebold in 2003) and I know of two other voting industry companies that have disclosed source code (VoteHere, now out of business, and Everyone Counts), but these were either not "voting systems manufacturers" or the disclosures were not available publicly. Of course, almost all of the research systems (like VoteBox and Helios) have been truly open source. Groups like OSDV and OVC have released or will soon release voting system source code under open source licenses.

I wrote a paper ages ago (2006) on the use of open and disclosed source code for voting systems and I'm surprised at how well that analysis and set of recommendations has held up (the original paper is here, an updated version is in pages 11?41 of my PhD thesis).

The purpose of my post here is to highlight one point of that paper in a bit of detail: disclosed source software licenses need to have a few specific features to be useful to potential voting system evaluators. I'll start by describing three examples of disclosed source software licenses and then talk about what I'd like to see, as a tinkerer, in these agreements.

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CA to Provide Precinct-Level Data

elections, standards, open source, berkeley, friends, research, policy, usability

Today, UC Berkeley Professors Philip Stark, Jasjeet Sekhon and Henry Brady, along with me, sent the California Secretary of State a brief comment about her effort to provide precinct-level elections data for all 58 California counties.

We applaud the project and are very excited about the prospects of precinct-level data from each county in near real time. In the comment, we point out how the data isn't nearly as usable as it could be and how the focus right now should be on making sure that counties can get the data out of their back-end systems and then the SoS (with help, if she wants it!) can worry about transforming the data into something more usable.

Find the PDF of the comment here:
http://josephhall.org/papers/county-data-comments-final.pdf

More on EAC testing and TTBR

system

On October 13, Aaron Burstein and I sent a letter to the EAC's Director of Voting System Testing and Certification, Brian Hancock, signed by many of the California Top-To-Bottom Review (TTBR) investigators ("CA TTBR Investigators Send Letter to the EAC"). The letter showed that the EAC had approved a voting system test plan after a testing laboratory misunderstood the results of the California TTBR.

On October 21, The EAC replied. Today, Aaron and I responded (on behalf of ourselves).

The EAC has done a great service by making the test plan and test report available, but the substance of the documents falls short of assuring us that iBeta?s tests covered the TTBR?s findings. Taken together, these documents do not demonstrate how iBeta?s tests covered the issues raised by the TTBR.

Preparing an old Mac for resale

system, hacks, education

I have an old PowerBook G4 that I want to sell, for whatever the market will bear, on eBay.

I put some thought into preparing it for sale. I wanted the hard disk wiped clean of any information I had. I also wanted the recipient to get a fresh, updated OS install but still have that new-user "Welcome to Mac!" video/music experience.

This is what I recommend:

  1. Boot from the Mac OS X install disk. Select the "Utilities" Menu and then "Disk Utility". We'll want to erase "Macintosh HD" securely. I suggest clicking on "Security Options..." and selecting a 7-pass erase. Let this sucker run, it takes about 3 hours per 100GB on your drive. Quit Disk Utility when it's done.
  2. Install Mac OS X. When it starts asking you questions, first, don't enter in a wifi password (you can do this when you get to a normal desktop). Then, enter in "test" wherever you can and make sure the user it sets up is simple like "test" with no password.
  3. When you get to a desktop, run Software Update and update everything.
  4. You might also want to run System Profiler (in the Apple menu, click "About this Mac..." and then "More Info"). You can save the system profiler information as an archive of your past Mac's stats. I just emailed it to myself.
  5. Next, shutdown the computer, power back up while holding Command-S, which will boot you into single-user mode (which will be white text on black background... you'll know you're "there" when a # sign is there as a prompt).
  6. Run the following commands, exactly as typed:

    mount -uw /
    rm -rf /Users/*
    cd /var/db
    rm .AppleSetupDone
    rm .com.apple.iokit.graphics
    rm -rf dhcpclient
    rm -rf samba
    shutdown -h now
    

    These commands do a few things: mounts your hard disk, removes all accounts in the /Users/ directory, removes the file that tells your Mac not to do the Apple Setup whizbang, removes a bunch of graphics, networking and printing information that should be reset when the Mac starts for the first time.

  7. Done! You can boot it back up now to see that it does go to the Mac "Welcome" celebratory introduction montage.

    BTW, if you've set your Mac up such that it has a "verbose boot" (where it shows you what's happening during boot), you will see this when you start it up again. You'll want to either boot back into single-user mode or add a line to the above that resets the boot arguments to be non-verbose. To do this, type

    nvram boot-args=
    

    in single user mode (setting verbose mode is accomplished by nvram boot-args="-v" in single-user mode or sudo nvram boot-args="-v" at the terminal).

Now your old Mac is wiped clean, with a fresh updated operating system.

You might want to take a few pictures of it, find all the stuff that goes with it and prepare an auction page on eBay. I'd also recommend being very careful on eBay these days as scams abound... I use PayPal with their insurance and I watch a few items like mine to set a decent (but low) starting price

(Note: I cobbled together the single-user commands in step 6 from the following posts at Mac Guru Lounge, TUAW and post 10 by DeltaMac on this MacOSXHints thread.)

Restoring iTunes Music Library Metadata

music, hacks, chilling effects, family

Michelle's eMac (yeah, it's old) has been doing something weird where iTunes looses all knowledge of her music library and metadata. The music is still there, but her iTunes Music Library.xml file is nowhere to be found. Luckily, we back her Mac up so we can follow these instructions for restoring iTunes Music metadata using an old version of her xml file:

  1. Close iTunes.
  2. Open your Music folder.
  3. Drag iTunes Music Library.xml, if it exists, to the Desktop (or somewhere else). I'd change the name--like add a date--so that you know which xml file it is.
  4. Drag any file like iTunes Library or iTunes 4 Music Library (with no file extension or .itl) to the trash.
  5. Open iTunes. Do Nothing!
  6. Select File > Library > Import Playlist and choose the version of iTunes Music Library.xml that you've last backed up.
  7. It will take a while to do a number of things.
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