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November 30, 2003

Magenta Jewel

Magenta Jewels: Water beads on a decorative cabbage leaf

Water beads on a decorative cabbage leaf. Taken specifically for the Macro weekly assignment over at Fred Miranda’s forums. Taken with a 70-300mm at ~135mm with 24mm of extension tubes. 15s @ f/18.

Update: 12.05.2003:

I’m honored that the folks at Fred Miranda selected Magenta Jewels as one of the finalists in the assignment. There were a number of excellent photographs entered along with mine.

Posted by Eric at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 29, 2003

Mystic Christmas & Penguins

A group of African Penguins

Not much to talk about today–except to say that Mystic has begun the Christmas Season in earnest. Lots of people from the region and abroad are here right now for the first weekend of Christmas shopping–which is really good to see for all the shops down Main Street. Both ice cream shops and both coffee houses where packed to capacity this afternoon, and most of the other stores had a steady stream of visitors.

Santa arrived by Tugboat this afternoon. It was cold and quite windy–windchill was in the low to mid 30’s. Yet there were well over 200 (probably close to 300—325) people out for Santa’s arrival by Tugboat, and for the kids to sit on Santa’s lap. The whole town is now decked in Christmas decor–genuine evergreen garlands and real red ribbons from the local florist–not the cheap mall plastic crap. There are carolers out from time to time and all of the stores appear to have a competition to see who can produce the most tasteful, yet festive window decoration in a Christmas theme. 

Sure the hell ain’t suburbia. (and thank God for that!)

For the next few days I will mostly be posting pictures here, maybe with a short comment as I need to focus on two different projects as well as time with my family. I figure no one will bitch too loudly anyways–but I will try to post a picture a day, every other day at worst.

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November 26, 2003

Happy Overqualified Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving – for those in the US – just in case I don’t post anything tomorrow.

Oh and the next bastard to tell me I’m overqualified – today it was for a national chain electronics store retail job – I hope you’ll understand when I reach across the desk and shove those words back down your throat. If one of the first moron’s who told me that (No names here but are you listening TFAA?) almost two years ago had hired me at that time, I would most likely still be with you, along with all of my skills and experience, working for you and your company.

Posted by Eric at 08:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Eldred v. Ashcroft MP3's and SMIL

Oyez has released the oral arguments and opinion announcement from Eldred v. Ashcroft as MP3s under Creative Commons’ Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. – via Creative Commons

Posted by Eric at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Diebold ATMs Compromised by Worm

It seems the rumors of Diebold ATM’s having been infected with a worm were true. Considering that their voting machines are based on a similar code base (Windows) we should trust these people and their black box systems with handling our vote?

Of course I personally don’t understand why an ATM needs to run Windows as a base operating system at all. Technically the requirements for an ATM like device are very narrowly defined and could be handled very well by a low power embedded device with very restricted code base. Even better — but not a source of the worm infection – would be to have the code run from a write protected compact flash device or a mini-cd. 

This is not only an example of Diebold’s untrustworthiness but also another example of monolithic software causing problems. While basing a device off Windows XP or Windows XP Embedded can reduce development time it opens up the device to many, if not all, of the same security risks that affect desktop Windows, which by virtue of being the dominant operating system on the planet is also the target of 90% of the security hacks and worms. While basing the devices on a reduced footprint Linux or BSD would also reduce time to market, and expose the device to certain security issues, at least with a Linux or BSD core developers could strip all non-essential services from the source entirely thus reducing vulnerability.

It seems IBM agrees in some way as they have announced that they will be discontinuing support for OS/2 including on ATM devices, recommending instead that vendors turn to Linux. Naturally Microsoft is taking advantage of the shift in IBMs OS/2 plan to push for vendors to turn to Windows XP and XP embedded.

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November 25, 2003

Home Roasting

Nils Ferry has been experimenting with roasting his own coffee, and details the process in a recent entry.

“Go outside and stir the coffee in the colander to cool it until it’s only warm, stirring and blowing to release more chaff. It’s OK, your neighbors already think you’re a freak.”

Tammy and I have been considering home roasting recently, both from a cost saving and QC standpoint. (Yeah, ok the first 2 month’s worth of home roasted are liable to be hit or miss, but after we get a feel for it…) The one thing that has stopped us so far is the smoke issue. Can anyone say how much smoke home roasting puts off – assuming of course you don’t roast it to a crisp?

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A few laughs: Shaved Nude Mousse

Needed a few funnies today (nursing a cold / sinus infection that is dragging me down):

The first is more of a “that’s-just-plain-wrong” warped funny, that comes via Jim O’ConnellShaving Your Cat’s Nose.

The next up is via dangerousmetaAmerica’s nude deal…and why I’ve had enough of it
I don’t understand, however how he could possibly say “First, in nudity as in chocolate mousse, less is more.”

One can never have too much chocolate mousse.

Posted by Eric at 02:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2003

Antipixel presents: Spray-On Jockstrap & Photo's


“Simply take a can of your favourite aerosol adhesive (3M 77 or the ruggedly named Spray Mount are the hot sellers) and apply liberally over nether region. Wait until dry before getting dressed, and you’ll want make sure everything is positioned correctly down there before applying the adhesive.”

I missed this article when he originally posted it, but he recently wondered when someone would be using spray-on stockings in a bank robbery…you mean like the one that hit across the street the other day? No the robber did not use “Air Stockings” — or any other disguise — just decided to visit his own form of ATM.

While you’re visiting Antipixel–and you really should–check out the new pictures recently posted:

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Dancing Sumo Hippo

Dancing Hippo in sumo thongs?

Posted by Eric at 03:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Funny Sunday

Berkeley Breathed has brought Opus back for us to enjoy. And half the page tall too! Yeah, Penguin lust, baby! And no..definitely not where I thought I’d be ten years ago.

And don’t miss the MSNBC interview with none other than Opus.

Dilbert was also right on target today. Depressing…but true. Been there, done that — got the lumps to prove it.

Finally the local daily’s comic section is worth the paper it’s printed on.

Posted by Eric at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 22, 2003

Stupid Crime on the Rise

It’s been a weird couple of days around here.

Thursday night I headed out around 9:45pm to get a pack of smokes. I decided to go the quarter block beyond the gas station to check if CVS (a pharmacy / convenience store) was still open as I needed to pick up some gauze bandages as well. As I pulled into the CVS parking lot the lights were all on, but no cars in the lot, so I turned around and started to pull out to head back to the gas station. As I was about to pull out west onto main street a police cruiser was headed west down the street, no flashers or anything. Suspiciously though he waived me to pull out in front of him. As soon as I did, there go the flashers as I pulled to the curb two more cruiser quickly blocked me in!!

When the officer approached he was especially careful, but also polite:

Sir, were you just at the CVS? (taking my already offered license)
Yes sir, I was.
Do you work for CVS?
No sir I don't.
Could you tell me what you were doing there?
I wasn't sure if they were open still or not, just drove through the parking lot when I saw they were closed.
Did you touch the door at all?
No sir, I never even got out of the car.
(relaxing and waving off the other cruisers) Ok, sorry for the delay there was an alarm at the CVS just now -- so when we saw you coming out of the parking lot as we responded...
(finally breathing again)That's ok, totally understand officer.

He then took down my license info for their report as the other cruisers went on to investigate the CVS itself. All told it only lasted 5—10 minutes but it damn sure felt like 30 minutes. Of course when I related the events to my wife, she laughed and said “Maybe that will finally teach you not to smoke.”

Then yesterday, as my wife was walking to the yarn shop, she passed the bank on main street (maybe 200yards from our home) as it was being robbed. Now I know banks still get robbed often enough, but for this little town it is really unusual. Tammy told me about the whole thing when she got home. It was the talk of the entire town this morning. I drew a few odd stares from some folks as I walked to get breakfast this morning. I finally figured out why when I looked at the front page of the paper at the bagel shop–in general I look a lot like the guy with his face plastered above the fold on the front page of the paper: Caucasian male 5’11” to 6’, late 20’s to early 30’s, about 180lbs with short dark hair.

The bank’s camera caught it all, and got a decent — not great, but decent — image of the robber. Unfortunately, while we have been here for four months now, we have not really become “well known” around here. Only a handful of people know me on sight and maybe another dozen that recognize me without really knowing my name. Luckily the robber seems to have a well formed mustache and is otherwise clean shaved, while I currently have a week old start at a very scruffy beard. So it only takes a minute or two of logical thought for most to figure out.

What is mildly alarming is that armed robberies around here — the county that is, not specifically Mystic which really does have a wonderfully low crime rate–of gas stations, convenience stores and banks is up 200% over last year–400% over 4 years ago! In the paper one professor of Criminal Justice observed that “As the economy weakens, it activates a certain criminal element in our society..” Yeah, I can identify with that, to a point. Desperate times = desperate measures type of thing. Personally I haven’t had a job lasting over 1 month in 2 years, and of those I have had very few. I’ve been turned away from too many retail level jobs as overqualified, yet had to compete with “peers” who have Ph D’s for what should be entry through mid level IT and Technology jobs. Not having a Master’s degree much less a PhD…well you know. Desperate as it gets though I can’t even fathom contemplating robbery. Maybe selling everything and moving to Honduras or the Dominican Republic, but not armed robbery.

Posted by Eric at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

C1 Pro released for Mac

For all the Mac based digital photographers out there, Phase One has released Capture One DSLR Pro (C1Pro) for Mac OSX. They have a free trial download available as well.

I know Jeremy at Antipixel, among others, was looking for C1Pro to come out on Mac. I just wish I could afford to get it myself ($599), as it is by far the most versatile software available for converting RAW images from DSLR cameras. There are other good packages available (such as Breezebrowser which I use–it is definitely no slouch, and very affordable too.) but none of them have the extensive, yet intuitive–at least for me– controls and smooth workflow that C1Pro have. If you have a DSLR and have the budget for it, C1Pro is definitely worth trying out. If your budget is more like mine, then Breezbrowser ($45) and Phase One’s Capture 1 LE ($99) are good choices. Actually they have enough differing and complimentary features that you might find yourself enjoying both of them. But for sheer image control C1Pro is king.

Posted by Eric at 06:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

B&H Gift Guide Now Online

Water Drop

B&H has their Gift Guide up. Their main catalog is like porn for me. All those video cameras, decks, mics, and cameras. I avoid going into their store often. When I do I always leave my wallet behind, or with my wife—too dangerous not to.

Posted by Eric at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

Yelling in the Ether

Scott Raymond has penned a letter to Chairman Powell regarding the broadcast flag decision. I have to agree, of all the FCCs recent decisions this one is the most blatantly anti-consumer, yet in the press release it is hailed as a victory for consumers. This is what happens when you allow the wolf (Jack Valenti and the MPAA) to mandate the security system for the sheep.

Interestingly I followed a comment on his site to the web site of Katy Raymond, his mother. Ironically her latest entry was The Onion Publishes Sad Truth, an Onion satire about a 30 year old’s horror when his mother discovers his web log.

Posted by Eric at 05:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Penguin Portrait

Penguin Portrait: Thousand Yard Stare

Mystic Aquarium in the off season is wonderful, if you don’t mind the cold at least. The crowds are pretty much gone, and the number of school field trips are minimal.  The reduced visitor flow means you can linger easily at each “exibit” and you get the chance to talk to the volunteer and professional staff at greater length. Since moving to Mystic we have visited the aquarium no less than 10 times, five times in the past month alone.

Unfortunately the penguins have been a bit difficult to get good pictures of during the off season. These are African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus) — a smaller penguin species at 25 inches and around 6 pounds from south-western Africa — who are well adjusted to a wide range of temperatures, but during the colder months huddle together and often seek the shelter of the rock cliffs. They do come out during feeding time, but again, they continue to huddle together, and swarm the feeder which makes it hard to get solo portraits, but has yielded some nice group photographs. This one did separate itself long enough for me to get a few isolated head shots. If I recall correctly this is blue-blue-green-pink.

Posted by Eric at 01:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 15, 2003

Linkfest II: Ritz Camera, E-Voting, Farscape

Been away (generally) from the computer for the past few days—showing family around the Mystic area. We had some great food, and a good time all around, especially at the Members Appreciation night at the Mystic Aquarium. In the mean time I am behind on a couple projects and the news. So here’s a link fest of news items that caught my eye, two trivial, one very important.

  • Confirmed: Farscape Miniseries on the Way! — The production office reopened in Australia to begin work for The Henson company on a new miniseries independent from the Sci-Fi Channel. Not the new seasons I’ve been hoping for, but at least it’s new Farscape material, and hopefully will breathe some new life ninto the possibilities of new seasons.
  • Cheap Reusable Digital Camera — It was only a matter of time before someone hacked the new Ritz disposable digital cameras. You can now use a program to dump the pictures you take from this $12 digital camera out and reuse it.
  • Dr. Aviel D. Rubin testifies on E-Voting — Basically it appears Dr. Rubin defended his original assesment of the Diebold system and asked Maryland Govenor Ehrlich to disclose the complete contents of the SAIC review of the system — a review that was prompted by Dr. Rubin’s original criticisms of the security in the system. The calls for full disclosure were rejected by state officials who further accused Dr. Rubin of “trying to undermine confidence in election officials” and “doing a great disservice to democracy”. All the while SAIC’s election system project manager, Frank Schugar, acknowledge Dr. Rubin was “extraordinarily qualified and more qualified than I am”, and that of the 26 vulnerabilities that SAIC was able to identify, SAIC has only been able to verify that three have been competed successfully. SAIC further confirmed Dr. Rubin’s allegation that it is easy for even marginally skilled programmers to hide malicious coe in a package the size of the Dielbold voting system, yet very hard for skilled programmers / reviewers to detect. Schugar put the chance that malicious code would go undetected at 99.9%. So, one more time, e-voting systems need to open to extreme scrutiny by experts, ideally an open-source based system with complete code review. Many eyes. Can we please follow Australia’s lead on this. Democracy and the vote is too valuable to entrust to a black box system.
Posted by Eric at 07:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Photo Gear Wish List

Just need a spot to put a little wish list — with very strong emphasis on the “wish” part:

The list is in no specific order, and there are many smaller items missing from it, but I just needed to record it somewhere that I could update and track it. First items to get will be tripod, 70-200, the TC’s and the flash. Riiiiiiiiiigggght.

Posted by Eric at 05:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2003

CERT Advisory CA-2003-28

A new CERT Advisory, CA-2003-28, was issued today. This one is for Buffer overflow condition in Microsoft Windows. This includes Windows 2000, XP and XP 64-Bit Edition.

The overflow is in the Windows Workstation Service (WKSSVC.DLL). This could allow remote attacks to execute arbitrary code or cause a DOS.

To fix the condition you will need to apply a patch specified in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-049.

Let’s get patching…

Posted by Eric at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Veterans Day: A Day For Remembrance

Please take just a few moments today to remember and thank all those who answered our nations call–whether it was to serve in the armed forces, to become “Rosie the Riveter” or to work in the USO or Red Cross.

To all my fellow vets: thank you.
To all those currently serving: Thank You and keep your heads down and your spirits up.

“Hate war but love the American warrior” —Lt. Gen Harold G. Moore, USA Ret.

Posted by Eric at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2003

Four Pumpkin Photos

Fall ReflectionsSmiling in the pond.

MeltingSagging Smile

I returned to Mystic Aquarium on November 5th and found the pumpkin still sitting on it’s perch in the pond. It was looking a bit sad from the recent frosts. More than I expected as it had only been a week since I had seen it last. I tried to match–to the best of my memory–the position and framing of the earlier shots. I wasn’t too far off. Of course it was a totally different day. The 28th of October was crisp but with a bright sun and no clouds. November 5th was a cold foggy day with water hanging on everything around. We were there a little later in the day on the 5th also.

I like all the shots of this pumpkin, but if I had to pick one shot from each angle I would take the fresh shot with the reflections,”Fall Reflections” (the top left photo), and the frost bitten melting version of the face angle, “Sagging Smile” on the bottom right. The reflection and colors are not as vivid and beautiful–foggy overcast day–as the “Smiling in the Pond” version (upper right) but the character of the pumpkin is more interesting.

Anyone else?

Posted by Eric at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Unhappy in Class

There is a good article in the NY Times about homeschooling. No major revelations but still a good article overall–mostly positive–and nice to see it covered in the Times. The figures in the article indicate that homeschooling has more than doubled in the past decade.

“It’s a profound irony that the standards movement wound up alienating more parents and fueling the growth of home schooling…”

Via dangerousmeta

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November 09, 2003

The Meatrix

The Meatrix is all around you, Leo. It is the story we tell ourselves about where our meat and animal products come from. –Moopheus

Posted by Eric at 02:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 08, 2003

Lunar Eclipse


There was a lovely lunar eclipse tonight, shared with new neighbors from Oxford, England. A very crisp evening (high 20’s) with clear skies, perfect for moon watching. I think most of the people passing by thought we were certifiable, of course maybe that was because I was still wearing sandals. 

For a strikingly different view of the moon during the eclipse, check out this Infrared image taken during totality from the Astronomy Picture of the Day site.

Posted by Eric at 10:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Linkfest: RSS & Semantics

Quick daily (well maybe regular would be more appropriate) read linkfest:

  • RSSWeather is still listed as experimental, but has been very accurate.
  • Clay Shirky has an interesting piece on the “Semantic Web”. The gist of it is that:
    • The Semantic Web is a machine for creating syllogisms
    • syllogisms don’t work well in the real world (for a number of reasons)
    • As a result, the Semantic Web will not be very useful either.

    I’m not sure yet whether I agree with his argument in it’s entirety, but he makes some excellent points. Knowing the developmental history of the web, I think the Semantic Web–as put forth by most of it’s proponents–will not succeed in it’s entirety, but there will be some very good developments that do come out of it.

  • Shelly is taking BurningBird to a more private level after it was visited by the IRS.
  • Joe Maddalone figured out how to get multiple versions of IE running on one system.
  • Support the ACLU give up your privacy.
Posted by Eric at 03:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 07, 2003

Comics via RSS

Oh, life is good—comics delivered right to my desktop: Web Comics via RSS. Now I can read some of my favorite comics in FeedDemon, with more coming soon.


via Antipixel.

Posted by Eric at 11:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

Matrix Revolutions Plot

via email:

“I saw Matrix 1 and 2 and I came up with a plot:
“Neo meets girl. Neo brings the concept of movable type to Zeyeon . Neo gets girl.”

I guess I really need to see Matrix Reloaded so I can go see Revolutions.


The interesting thing is, 2 years ago if someone mentioned “movable type” in this context–or any context for that matter–I would immediately have thought of typography, the press, enlightenment. Now I think of Movable Type the web log / CMS software from Six Apart, which happens to provide the framework for this site.

No, the email wasn’t from a “blogger” but from a mail list for a video editing suite I use in my creative endeavors. The author’s intended reference was the classical sense. 

Update: 11/08/2003

For those coming here from a Google or other search of “Matrix Revolutions Plot” actually hoping to find the plot laid bare, or some in depth analysis of it, you might want to try the Iowa State Daily review (with plot info), The Matrix Resolutions or maybe Rotten Tomatoes for leads. Of course after looking at all those reviews and analysis of Revolution and Jeremy Hedley’s (among others) take on Reloaded, I think I will just pretend that M2 and M3 were never made. That way the Matrix for me will always be a terrific experience, unspoiled by weak sequels. Maybe if they extend it from a trilogy to a ?? I will come back and revisit the sequels.

Matrix Revolutions Plot Revealed

Ok… for those still looking high and low for the plot here is a synopsis from “TC 0verlord” at forums. I take no credit, and can not vouch for the accuracy, but here you go:


Okay, Neo’s in Matrix “limbo” - somehow his mind got “jacked in” to a train stop outside the Matrix - the wild eyed guy in the Rev. trailer is the train man, controlled by the Merovingian. The Oracle tells Trin and Morph this and they threaten Merv (you’re willing to die for this man?) and go and save Neo (who in the meantime has met some new characters and had a vision of three lines in the black dessert). Back in the real world now. Niobe gives Neo and Trinity the logos ship after the Hammer powers it up so they can go to the machine city (01) and try and save Zion. Meanwhile Bane (Smith) has awakened, killed the nurse and snuck into the Logos. The Hammer heads back to Zion to try and stop the sentinels with its emp as a last ditch effort, and soon realize Bane has killed, escaped and must be on the Logos - but it’s too late to turn back and save Trin and Neo. Aboard the logos, Bane blinds Neo with an electrical conduit during a fight before Neo kills him (just after realizing he’s smith inside) Trinity is beat up but okay to fly the ship, with Neo’s “second sight” - he can somehow sense the machines life-force and “sees” them now. The Hammer tries to sneak back to Zion but the sentinels hear them and chase them all the way home. Meanwhile, Zion is getting the **** kicked out of it by all the sentinels. The crippled Hammer crashes into Zion and blows it’s EMP knocking out the remaining diggers and sentinels. Meanwhile the logos is on the surface, flying over/by the fetus fields and power plant, following three power lines to the city (like in his vision). In Zion, they are trying to restore power while evacuating to the deep tunnels and temple cave from Reloaded. More sentinels arrive in the defenseless Zion and jump start a digger to continue into the bowels of Zion and finish of the rest of it’s people. Neo and Trinity have now crash landed into the machine city after fending off bigger, meaner sentinels and an armada of huge ships shooting shrimp bombs like from Reloaded. Trinity dies from the crash and Neo goes on to confront a huge godlike machine that he makes a deal with to confront smith and save the matrix (and the Ai’s ?) from being taken over (smith has altered the matrix and cloned himself into everyone). Back in Zion the sentinels stop their attack at the last minute and wait. The ai’s jack Neo in and he fights smith, smith wins (neo pretends to lose or fights long enough to prove he tried) and takes him over, but the new clone freaks out, (the machine city ai has a direct link to smith now) explodes and all the smiths explode or something… Neo dies as a result and is hauled off by the AI’s to who knows where. Everyone rejoices and the matrix get’s reloaded with a truce between man and machine.

“what about morpheus, the council and previous ones?” - morpheus navigates the hammer for niobe (the best driver- I think ghost must be manning the guns) and faces off with the sentinels at the opening to the zion temple (story boards of this was spoiled a couple years ago), he may take part in a fight to save neo, but that’s about it - (he lives). i don’t remember the council being mentioned or anything about previous ones

“What about the kid” - he plays an important role durring the battle by manning a fallen mech and shooting a chain on the zion dock door at the last second, allowing it to open so the hammer can enter zion and use its emp. - he lives

-no cypher, no matrix within a matrix, no phone booth scene from matrix one.

-seraph(puts up a good fight),oracle,important child (mentioned in game)…all taken over by smith

I left out a lot of details obviously (fights,take-overs,etc.) but that’s the main jist of it.

hope you don’t regret reading this!


Posted by Eric at 06:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

Voting Machines Fail: Election Legally in Doubt

I haven’t been able to determine what type of machine’s were in use—I know that electronic machines are being used in some districts of Connecticut—but here is yet another scary voting system failure, this one in my own backyard.

A quick Summary of the article:
The machines malfunctioned shortly after polls opened, forcing them to be shut down. From opening until about 9am no paper ballots were available (they had to be printed up) so many voters were unable to vote before work, and many did not (or could not) return to polling places before they closed. Even for those who voted there was no privacy and the paper ballot was handed over to election officials, not put into a ballot box or similar. Election officials recognize that it is “a big can of worms” and that there is probably grounds for legal challenge to the election.

No matter what type of voting machines these were, this underlines the need for audit trails, effective primary and emergency voting procedures (well understood by election and polling station workers), and effective backup voting methods and rules. 

Posted by Eric at 01:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003

Menopause: The Musical


Posted by Eric at 02:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2003

E-voting Done Right

Australia figured out how to implement E-Voting. They are using the same solution many critics of the Diebold and similar systems have been proposing:

  • open source core
  • public code review for both security and functionality
  • independent industry verification
The developers really get it too, they realize that they are working on something vitally important— “Any transparency you can add to that process is going to enhance the democracy and, conversely, any information you remove from that process is going to undermine your democracy” —Matt Quinn lead engineer for developer Software Improvements. 

Quinn commented on the importance of voting systems and allegations that Diebold disabled some security systems in their black box voting system:

“The only possible motive I can see for disabling some of the security mechanisms and features in their system is to be able to rig elections,” Quinn said. “It is, at best, bad programming; at worst, the system has been designed to rig an election.”

“I can’t imagine what it must be like to be an American in the midst of this and watching what’s going on,” Quinn added. “Democracy is for the voters, not for the companies making the machines…. I would really like to think that when it finally seeps in to the collective American psyche that their sacred Democracy has been so blatantly abused, they will get mad.”

Don’t worry Quinn, there are many of us that are mad, plenty mad..

He is also concerned that we get it right:

“After all, we’ve all got a stake in who’s in the White House these days. I’m actually prone to think that the rest of the world should get a vote in your elections since, quite frankly, the U.S. policy affects the rest of the world so heavily.”

In related news Diebold is under lawsuit for its cease and desist orders and abusive copyright claims. The EFF and Stanford Law Clinic will represent a non-profit ISP and two students of Swarthmore College who participated, and continue to particpate, in the electronic civil disobedience fight against “black box” (closed non-reviewable systems as opposed to white-box or open systems) voting. Diebold has been trying to shut down sites which have furthered the spread of the highly incriminating emails leaked out of the company. Of course the zipped version of all those emails is running through cycberspace—email, websites, and P2P sharing.

Posted by Eric at 09:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Yesterday I wrote that I was not in favor of protectionism re: off shoring jobs. I expressed that I felt we should spend our energies exploring how to replace those lost jobs. I received a comment from Kristopher John, this post began as a reply to his comment. Unfortunately it grew somewhat long, but then this is not an easy topic and it is highly charged as well. So here then is Kristopher’s comment and my expanded reply (just thinking out loud really) to him.

“The problem with putting the debate in terms of protectionism and globalization merely pits workers against each other. And what?s wrong protectionaism anyway, with protecting your job? There’s a long history of protectionism in our country, even in the face of recent globalization. Take a look at any random agricultural subsidy to get a good idea. Corporations don’t care about us here in the states or the people whom they long to exploit in the third world. Corporations care about one thing and that’s getting the most product for the least outlay. We must start protecting ourselves, since those in DC sure as hell won’t.

Posted by: Kristopher John

There is nothing wrong with protecting your job, but if you are in a job where it can be done far cheaper off shore with little or no loss in quality, then in my opinion, most likely you are fighting a losing battle. The only place that I can see that this may not be the case is if you work for a small or mid-sized company that has roots in a community–where community involvement and better understanding of customers can overcome moderate price pressures.

Does it tick me off that many “American” companies now have much of their manufacturing, support, engineering and programming staff offshore? Sure, like I originally said, emotionally, I very much sympathize with protectionism. When I read about another 2,500 programming and engineering positions moving offshore, my immediate gut reaction is anger and desire for protectionist policies. Once I calm down and think about it though, I also realize that consumers continue to expect and demand lower prices (in part driven by the economy) and stock holders continue to demand higher returns. You are right, corporations will look for and take the most product for the least outlay so that they can maximize returns for shareholders while providing themselves maneuvering room to respond to consumer trends. Jobs are now on the table as a “product”. Will you pay an extra $250-$300 for say a Dell so that Dell can afford to have it’s entire engineering and support structure back Stateside?

As for protectionism in our country, you are right there is a long history of it. However, like the agricultural subsidies you point to, I think that most of the protectionist strategies have had, at best, mixed results. Most have been spectacular failures. We have long used tariffs, duties and trade limits as economic (but more often as political) weapons with our trading partners of the world. Many of them have done and continue to do the same with us. Just because it is historically evident does not mean that it is sound policy either in practice or in principle. In my opinion, it is not sound in principle.

If, as I believe, we as a nation are for free and open markets, then we cannot endorse economic protectionism. The two appear to me to be mutually exclusive. Protectionism can be effective in saving some American jobs, but if the jobs require “saving” from foreign trade then how valuable are they to the economy overall? (Obviously, I am not talking about the individual worker’s value, or the value of that job to the worker and his family–and remember, I am one of those economically displaced, currently unemployed technology workers with a family to support.) A good economy will redirect those who are unemployed to new jobs where they can be productive. Even in my current situation, maybe even more so because of it, I believe that free and open trade is the best economic policy for consumers and for our nation’s economy. Part of the problem, however, is that most politicians pay only lip-service to free trade, usually conditioning it as “fair” trade. For each political group and individual “fair” trade is most often trade which does not in any way harm it’s special interests in the short term. The best example I can think of is military budget cuts. One highly predictable event comes with every round of military budget cuts–base closures and a long drawn out and politically heated fight over which bases will close. No Senator or Representative will allow that the base in his district is the least beneficial to keep open. Special interests and “fair” trade emphasize protection of local existing jobs over improving consumer choice and long term economic growth.

Posted by Eric at 02:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 02, 2003

Mainstream finally covering E-voting issues

Mainstream media has finally picked up on the Diebold story and the related issues of electronic voting systems. All I can say is it’s about time. This issue has been brewing in the geek community for quite a while now, growing more intense since the release of the SAIC report (PDF) in September.

Thankfully, Newsweek and CNN are both beginning to cover the issue now.

“The best minds in the computer-security world contend that the voting terminals can’t be trusted. Listen, for example, to Avi Rubin, a computer-security expert and professor at Johns Hopkins University who was slipped a copy of Diebold?s source code earlier this year. After he and his students examined it, he concluded that the protections against fraud and tampering were strictly amateur hour. ‘Anyone in my basic security classes would have done better,’ he says. The cryptography was weak and poorly implemented, and the smart-card system that supposedly increased security actually created new vulnerabilities. Rubin’s paper concluded that the Diebold system was ‘far below even the most minimal security standards.’”

The voting system manufacturers are opposed to creating paper trail systems and naturally have largely refused to open their systems for scrutiny. Voting, no matter how skeptical one is about it’s ability to produce change, is a citizens fundamental duty–voting systems must be open and auditable. This should not be open for debate, it should not be an option–it must be a requirement. .

Posted by Eric at 12:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 01, 2003

Exporting Jobs: Protectionism

A month ago I wrote down a few of my thoughts about a study that was released predicting accelerating “exporting” of jobs overseas. (“Exporting” is not a very good term for this, but it is what the media appears to be stuck on, I’m not so sure “off-shoring” is much better though.) Two days ago I received an email blasting me for being a protectionist. Huh? Nowhere in my thoughts did I advocate any protectionist strategies. The fact is the issue has me torn in many ways. I am among the unemployed ex-tech workers, I know all too well the realities of a jobless “recovery.” So you could probably understand that I am, on an emotional level at least, angered when I read about more jobs going overseas when extremely competent and skilled tech workers remain un or under employed here.

I am not, however a supporter of protectionism. Globalization is not going away, even if I did want it to. The fact is that I don’t. I have spent enough time in impoverished (economically) nations and globalization could help ease some of the issues in those nations–help raise the standard of living for those wonderful people I met and worked with. Unfortunately this means some economic stress here at home while we (collectively as a society with the governments both local and national) figure out a way to handle the loss of jobs.

That is where I think we need to focus our attention, not on stopping the loss of jobs to other countries–although I am not convinced that there wouldn’t be long term advantages locally and globally if we can slow that process somewhat—but rather on finding ways to promote the production of new jobs, even if they are in radically different sectors. That is what I asked in my original posting: “How do we create more jobs domestically to replace those being exported?”

I am not skilled or educated enough in economics to even begin to offer a suggestion, I am just thinking aloud and expressing my concern, not so much of the jobs going over seas but for the lack of any new jobs for those often highly skilled workers who are joining the unemployed. I cringe every time I hear of the “jobless recovery.” For myself, I am returning to creative endeavors and hoping to turn those into my income. My path will not create any new jobs for others, but may, at least in time, remove me from the ranks of the long term (almost 3 years now) unemployed–which by the way the current indicators have no real way of measuring.

I wrote this in part because of the email I received, which in truth upset me for a while, I will chalk up much of the tone of the letter to language barrier. I wasn’t going to write anything here, but then I read BurningBird’s thought (similar to mine) on this subject. Her entry for the 31st of October was the thorny issue of off-shoring jobs. It compelled me to write my thoughts down in part for myself–that is after all, in part, what this spot is for—and in part as an answer to that email. 

Raf: Please re-read the original posting, then re-read what I said here. I would love for every person on the face of the Earth to have the exact same educational and economic opportunities, just as you would. Unfortunately that is a long, long way off. Right now globalization can help even the tables, but it will do little good if it comes from long term economic stagnation or recession in existing strong economies. We need all of the nation’s economies to grow together, large (relatively) stable economies slowly but steadily, while the smaller more repressed economies need to grow more quickly, but with a sustainable rate. To sacrifice one economic entity for another does not seem to me to create a long term stable global economy. Like you, I am concerned about how the current situation will play out for myself and those around me. We both want our family and our nation to have a strong economy and a bright future—we are more alike than different.

Posted by Eric at 11:54 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Microsoft Replace and Defend

Infoworld’s John Udell took a look at the Longhorn SDK and commented on the large similarities between many of Microsoft’s “new” technologies and existing open standards. He coined it “replace and defend”

“Yeah, ‘embrace and extend’ was so much fun, I can hardly wait for “replace and defend.” Seriously, if the suite of standards now targeted for elimination from Microsoft’s actively-developed portfolio were a technological dead end, ripe for disruption, then we should all thank Microsoft for pulling the trigger. If, on the other hand, these standards are fundamentally sound, then it’s a time for what Clayton Christensen calls sustaining rather than disruptive advances. I believe the ecosystem needs sustaining more than disruption. Like Joe, I hope Microsoft’s bold move will mobilize the sustainers.”

Now the interesting part is that I came to Udell’s page from a link on John Montgomery’s new web log. John is a former BYTE Bureau Chief and Features Editor, as well as the author of The Underground Guide to UNIX. Now he can be found somewhere in the halls of the Microsoft Campus as a (I think) Program Manager in the Developer Division. John read Jon’s web log this morning and although he doesn’t offer any immediate answers, he didn’t resort to the normal MS tactic of FUD and dazzling bullshit either. Instead in a very refreshing turn, he admitted that he isn’t sure why they “did much of this, but I’m going to get some input from the various architects to get the full story.”

Could we actually be watching the beginning of a dialog develop? One that is developing early enough before product launch that there may be time for standards adoption instead of hijacking? I certainly hope so. The issue of XAML and some of the other “new” Longhorn technologies have a number of standards and web advocates very concerned, and for good reasons. While it appears that Microsoft may be trying to change, it has a horrible track record in the area of supporting open standards.

Posted by Eric at 03:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Calc, RSS & Outlook

I really do love the Google calculator, and RSS. According to Google RSS shaved 34.64 MB off my hosting bill this month. Of course that’s not entirely accurate. Some (many?) people who watch an RSS feed would never visit the site at all especially an unfocused site such as this, but then that is the beauty of having RSS feeds, I read most of the web now in FeedDemon first, then check out in a browser only those entries that really pique my interest. It used to be that Outlook and a web browser were always open on my desktop, now it’s FeedDemon. The browser is often open, but Outlook (which needs to be replaced now that the beta is over and I have no plans on upgrading) is opened twice a day only long enough to collect and process my email.

Based on a number of recommendations I did try the NewsGator RSS aggregator for Outlook. If I lived in Outlook, I would probably use NewsGator for my main RSS aggregator. While it is missing some of the features of FeedDemon and it seems incapable of posting XHTML compliant web log postings (it throws up tag soup), it does integrate into Outlook very well, which means that all the Outlook message search and organization features are available for RSS feed entries. It does add a considerable amount of system resource usage to Outlook when gathering feeds, and it slows startup time also—of course if you live in Outlook you never close it anyways, so you never have to open it.

But I no longer live in Outlook, and in fact I’m trying to rid myself of it. There is of course one major issue, years of email stores that are in PST files, many which I do still need and regularly use. I’ve locked myself in to Microsoft through Outlook. I use Open Office for everything that I used to use Office 2003 for, with some minor exceptions. 

Unfortunately it’s the mail that becomes a problem. At one time a few years ago I used an open source program called ol2mbox that converted Outlook PST stores to unix mbox format. Unfortunately someone killed that project, though I hear that they were nice enough about it, but they made it known they didn’t want the project to proceed. Thunderbird and Mozilla Mail both can convert some of the folders, but the fact that my PST files have nested folders seems to makes them choke and give up. Then there is the issue of attachments which neither of them handle at all. If they would even save them to a directory that would be fine, but they simply ignore them.

Other than it’s inability to import complex PST files I really like Thunderbird as an email client. It’s relatively lightweight and it handles everything I need for email. In truth it’s not Thunderbirds fault either, it’s mine—well mine and Microsoft’s. Mostly mine for not getting rid of Outlook earlier, when I knew they were locking me in with a proprietary email storage format, one that they had no plans—and really no incentive—to provide an exporter for and Microsoft’s for not have any sort of exporter for Outlook and shutting down ol2mbox, the only one that really worked well on any PST file you threw at it.

Eventually I guess I will have to set up an IMAP server here in the office, exclusively to move my message stores from PST to a more open format.

Posted by Eric at 02:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack