Thursday, July 29, 2004

 

Kommentar und Abstimmung

The Thunderbirds movie is coming out tomorrow, and disappointingly for us fans of the Supermarionation series, it looks like a bomb on the order of the last couple of Jennifer Lopez movies. All the signs are there, limited advertising, no toys at the big retailers, and no tie-ins with fast food chains. Since there weren't too many Thunderbirds toys on the first go-round (pretty much the only one that made it to the US in quantity was the Dinky Thunderbird 2, although some of the Japanese tin toy versions of Thunderbird 1 may have come over) it's doubtful the marketers are willing to take a chance on the movie, remembering how badly they got burned on the Matthew Broderick Godzilla fiasco. The film itself doesn't look too promising from the promos, and it's interesting that A&E isn't promoting the tie-in with its boxed sets of the original series. Yes, I'm going to see it in the theatre tomorrow along with one of my best friends who's also a Gerry Anderson fan. Our kids are singularly uninterested, which if I were a market researcher would be a sure sign to stick a fork in this one.

CNN reported that some Florida electronic voting records were wiped out accidentally, just so conveniently coinciding with the "Vote For The Kennedy Or Kennedy Clone of Our Choice" Fest in Beantown.  Interesting quote here:
In December, officials began backing up the data daily, to help avoid similar data wipeouts in the future, said Seth Kaplan, spokesman for the county's elections supervisor, Constance Kaplan.

This brings up a very interesting question. Just where and how is the data stored? Does the data remain on each individual voting machine in persistent storage (either on hard disk or USB key type memory, remember that we're talking about voting machines here, so the odds are that the low bidder is going to leverage commodity hardware rather than spend big bucks developing proprietary hardware that will be used at most three times a year)? And where does this data go, to a centralized database? Of course, one would not reasonably expect a gummint agency to apply anything in the general vicinity of best practices when it comes to things like data protection, much less consider the implications of fried commodity hardware when it comes to election decisions. As we saw earlier, Diebold was using Microsoft desktop system and application software in deploying electronic voting machines, something that would make any journeyman system administrator cringe for the security implications, much less a pro. Perhaps a Citrix-type solution might work, with a seriously engineered back-end, however, there are probably some election rules against that (given the possibility of a real-time count influencing the election). I can only say that if this is the standard level of care an election regulatory agency is taking with its data, give me a curtained booth and a paper ballot.

It's somewhat analogous to the reason many states adopted lethal injection over more traditional methods of dispatching malefactors. It was simply a matter of money, where it would cost five or six figures to refurbish their aging electric chairs and gas chambers (which would presumably only be used a few times a year), when instead  they could easily set up lethal injection for the cost of a gurney and some disposable IV supplies.

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