Bush Throws the Birdie... a/k/a One Handed Victory Salute

elections, news, wtf?, politics

Link: http://pobox.com/~joehall/bushuncensored.mov

image of GW Bush flipping of the camera

This movie (MOV) is about 1.0 MB.

The EFF's Jason Schultz Comes to Boalt and Other Academic News

copyright, SIMS, berkeley, p2p

You heard it here first, folks. Jason Schultz will be teaching the Cyberlaw course at Boalt Hall this spring. Jason's an attorney and awesome litigator at the EFF and also Boalt alum (not to mention that he blogs it up at LawGeek and Copyfight). It's amazing how fast the material for this kind of course can change... for a peek, check out the syllabus of the year I took the course in Fall 2002 from Pam.

Now, I've been taking some great classes this semester and one I like a lot is Molly Van Houweling's IP course at the law school. Molly was formerly the president of Creative Commons and her lectures are accordingly hip. I sure as hell never new how fascinating things like the doctrine of equivalents and res judicata were. I even had the opportunity to use my astrophysics background (I explained how elements are formed by fusion in supernovae explosions).

Finally, I'll be the reader for Pam's course next semester, "Legal and Policy Challenges Posed by Peer to Peer File Sharing & P2P Technology". We'll have a syllabus available soon, so if you're interested in what we'll be reading, stay tuned. We're both excited about getting students from a variety of backgrounds - SIMS, Law, Public Policy, Economics, Computer Science, etc. - and actually critically thinking about the complexities and possible resolutions of the p2p wars. Maybe I could even talk her into using a blog for offline discussion. (You do know that Pam has a feed for her papers page, right?)

Kim @ Wired News: "E-Vote Vendors Hand Over Software"

elections, certification/testing, reform, vendors, standards, news, open source

Link: http://www.wired.com/news/evote/0,2645,65490,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_3

A story from the coolest journalist, Kim, at Wired News:

In an effort to increase the integrity of next week's presidential election, five voting machine makers agreed for the first time to submit their software to the National Software Reference Library for safekeeping, federal officials said on Tuesday.

The stored software will serve as a comparison tool for election officials should they need to determine whether anyone tampered with programs installed on voting equipment.

This is a good sign that vendors are actually starting to cooperate and allow examination of source code. I have an RFQ from the CA SoS that is soliciting bids on a source code audit from the four vendors in California (Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S and Hart Intercivic). The weird part is that they only allow 5 days for the bids, then some complicated vendor-option to reject the chosen bidder and then all work is supposed to be done in a single month! (November) Yes, folks, this does seem a tad crazy. I'll post more on the RFQ later.

Designing Security into Campaign System Architecture

system, elections, accessibility, news, politics, problems

Link: http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,65455,00.html

From a story at Wired News:

SFGate has not been alone in seeing markedly increased traffic in recent weeks. In fact, while experts aren't sure if internet-wide traffic is up as a result of the election, it is certain that a wide range of sites have seen impressive gains in site visitors as a result of the election.

Not only that, movement's like the Election Protection Coalition are having to anticipate DoS attacks on our web services (EIRS, Verifier) and even phone services where, at least in 2002 in New Hampshire, a partisan group allegedly hired a telemarketing firm to tie up another party's voter protection hotline.

E-voting usability: Touchscreen problems in NM, TX and FL

elections, news, politics, problems

Link: http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/archives/000707.html

Ed Felten notes a reccuring problem in early voting in a number of states (Texas, New Mexico and Florida) where people think they chose one candidate but the ballot review screen shows the machine registered a vote for another candidate. Felten goes on to take a shot at figuring out what the source of the problem is:

My guess is that the touchscreens are miscalibrated. Touchscreens use one mechanism to paint images onto the screen, and a separate mechanism to measure where the screen has been touched. Usually the touch sensor has to be calibrated to make sure that the coordinate system used by the touch sensor matches up with the coordinate system used by the screen-painting mechanism. If the sensor isn't properly calibrated, touches made on one part of the image will be registered elsewhere. For example, touches might be registered an inch or two below the place they really occur.

Actually, this is more than likely not a mis-calibration of the touchscreen.

As Doug Jones noted in his recommendations to Miami-Dade county (PDF), frequently voters will rest their hand on part of the touchscreen monitor and occasionally, a thumb or part of the palm will fall on the touchscreen surface. This will shift the calibration grid of the touchscreen towards the errant digit. So, when a voter presses on their choice for the vote, it might be registered by the machines as a choice for another candidate. Here's a great illustration of this effect from page 22 of Doug's report:

illustration of how an errant digit can throw off touchscreen calibration

What's the moral of this story? Make sure that every voter actually critically examines the ballot review screen at the end of their voting session. If you'll be a TechWatch volunteer, poll worker or call center operator, make sure that you stress to everyone that examining the review screen on paperless DREs is very very important.

If you live in California, you have a choice: paper or plastic?

UPDATE: Note that this property has been used by Ping to produce a two-handed touchscreen interface. (Ping is about a billion times smarter than most people I know.)

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