Electronic Voting Machines Will Destroy American Democracy

If you somehow missed it, AP released a “test article” claiming Bush had won re-election. BoingBoing has the story, and screen captures of a web site that carried it.

We all know that computers don’t make mistakes, and that software is bug-free. More seriously, we need to take a lesson from Florida, and understand that what gives American democracy its legitimacy is that we can all watch what happens at the polls, believe that other Americans are doing the same, and that its hard to pull a fast one on any scale.

Governor Schwarzenegger has signed a bill requiring paper ballots that can be recounted in California by 2006. Its time for a national law banning computer-only elections. What’s at stake is trust that our elections work.

How are you voting on November 2nd?

Taxonomic Software

A small window into a large world, with its own software:
biological software, including DELTA, a DEscription Language for TAxonomy, database software, ecology software, morphometric, paleontologic, and phylogentics software. (Hey, I need a taxonomy just to keep the breakdowns straight!)

Or DMOZ has a page, but it doesn’t seem as comprehensive.

What I want to do is to throw keywords at database and have them organized for me. I suspected that this may be sufficiently specialized as to not have software available for it, but I’m no longer so sure.


Biological taxonomy is not fixed, and opinions about the correct status of taxa at all levels, and their correct placement, are constantly revised as a result of new research, and many aspects of classification will always remain a matter of judgement. The ITIS database is updated to take account of new research as it becomes available, and the information it yields is likely to represent a fair consensus of modern taxonomic opinion. Inevitably, however its information cannot be final, and is likely to be more reliable for some groups than others.

So says Wikipedia, in discussing ITIS, the Integrated Taxonomic Integrated System. Who knew that the USDA was in charge of calling us homo sapiens?

Factcheck.com, the story

As anyone who takes advice from the Vice President now knows, he didn’t really mean to tell you to go to factcheck.com, but factcheck.org, whose article still doesn’t fully support his point.

This little glitch lead the owners of factcheck.com, a small site that lists sellers of dictionaries and encyclopedias, to suffer a massive denial of service attack.

When they figured out what was happening, they redirected visitors to George Soros’s anti-Bush site, which seems to be down as I type it.

File under security not only for the denial of service attack, or the clever response, but the important need for integrity as a component of a security plan.

(Via Dave Farber, posting to interesting-people.)

Ranum on the root of the problem

Marcus Ranum writes a good article for ACM Queue, in which he points out that better tools to improve languages can help. I take issue with his claim that better languages can’t help. Java, because of its string representation, is harder to mess up with than C. Its not perfect, and no useful language can solve the entire problem.

Richard at Taosecurity propagates the myth of -Wall. Things are about to get (deeply) technical, follow the jump if you know what -Wall means.

Continue reading “Ranum on the root of the problem”