Archive for October, 2006

New look, new content

Posted on October 30, 2006, under general, meta, photography.

After languishing with the same theme for a long long time, I’ve finally updated the look and feel of my blog. It still has a way to go yet, but definitely getting there. I started with the Juicy wordpress theme and have been making some usability and style changes along the way.

Light Boxes

I’ve also added a new music section, which I’m going to expand over the coming months (hopefully!), reworked the about section and have also finally started to manage links properly.

The aim is to have a more readable website edition, with a more natural look in a browser. 450 pixel wide panels for blog entries just don’t look right at 1920 x 1440 and the text can get hard to read. Also, most of my entries these days tned to be pretty long, so it helps to have more room to spread out the paragraphs.

I’m still using the excellent Askimet and wp-cache wordpress plugins, but now also using FlickrRss for my Flickr bar at the bottom of the blog, and the Audio player plugin for the music page. It’s still a work in progress, so let me know what you think, but so far I like it better.

Business as usual will commence shortly, thank you for your patience.

E-voting at De Balie and the current Irish situation

Posted on October 20, 2006, under evoting, general.

This past Wednesday, Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet organised a discussion on E-voting at De Balie in Amsterdam. De Balie is an interesting mix between a nice bar and several rooms and chambers designed for debates and discussions, a cinema and a gallery. They have excellent infrastructure for it, live recordings and streaming, simple projection systems, a good layout. Dublin could definitely do with something like this!

E-voting at De Balie

Rop gave a talk on the work that has been done to hack the system in the Netherlands and followed that up with a great demonstration of the hacked machine in action, showing how a vote can be mis-recorded. As if that wasn’t enough, we were also treated to great demonstration of the RF snooping in action, and we able to clearly see the signals associated with certain buttons, it was accurate and clear on telling us how Rop had voted. That’s pretty scary!

After that, I spoke for a little over 20 minutes on E-voting and ICTE in Ireland, my presentation notes are online, and the photoset is here. This was followed by a good and lively panel discussion with a heavy amount of audience participation.

With the very recent news that the Taoiseach and Minister Roche are getting behind E-voting and saying it will be used in 2009, I was asked to give my own analysis of that and what’s going on. My best guess is that not only is this complete and utter nonsense, but that the Taoiseach and Minister know that too. The idea that fixing the system would only cost €500,000 (that estimate is based on the original cost of the software which didn’t work) is just laughable.

Nedap, the machines manufacturers, themselves pointed out that it will be costly to retrofit the e-voting units with the neccessary changes pointed out by the commission (the Government seem to be in complete denial that major hardware changes were recommended, while simultaneously having committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the Commission on Electronic Voting) would cost a lot of money. These changes don’t even cover the central issue – a voter verified audit trail, an issue which the government did not allow the Commission to examine – or defend against the RF snooping attack I saw demonstrated just 2 days ago.

Not only that but the Commission recommended that there be procedural, administrative, training and security changes, all of which will cost money and remain unaccounted for. And even then, we still suspect that the e-voting system is more costly to run on a per-election basis anyway, it requires more staff and all of those storage costs. To actually implement the system would cost tens of millions of euro, and would still not be deserving on any confidence. The Minister and Taoiseach just do not inhabit the real world if they think that’s feasible. Although there is some evidence that some in Fianna Fáil get it.

Rather, what this looks much more like is that Fianna Fáil are just too stubborn to accept their own incompetence on this issue, that they did utterly waste over 50 million euro of taxpayers money, even after having been told the machines were unsuitable , and are desperately trying to neutralise a potential election issue for next year.

Were it not so cynical, this would just be plain laughable. More than anything, I think this shows that now is the time for an Independent Electoral Commission. It just is not appropriate that a single party should play politics so shoddily with such an important issue for democracy. For our part, nearly two years ago I told the Minister that if he tried to bring in E-voting without a VVAT, we will sue the Government. Has that cost been accounted for? With the latest attacks on voting secrecy with the system, our constitutional case only strengthens and other precedents become even more clearly involved.

Right now, the best estimates are that it is costing just under €2,000 a day to store the machines. That’s how much taxpayers money the Minister and Taoiseach are willing to waste purely to remain ignorant of the issues. Were it not so cynical, this would just be plain laughable.