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Ohio Audit Reveals More Diebold Problems

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the must-offer-witty-comment-on-unsurprising-situation dept.

Security 222

armb writes with a link to a Wired Blog entry about irregularities found in Diebold databases from the state of Ohio. The election in question here is November 2006, and the corruption of the entries may raise doubts about accurate tabulations. "Vote totals in two separate databases that should have been identical had different totals. Although Diebold explained that this was part of the system design for separate vote tables to get updated at different times during the tabulation process, the team questioned the wisdom of a design that creates non-identical vote totals. Tables in the database contained elements that were missing date and time stamps that would indicate when information was entered. Entries that did have date/time stamps showed a January 1, 1970 date. The database is built from Microsoft's Jet database engine. The engine, according to Microsoft, is vulnerable to corruption when a lot of concurrent activity is happening with the database, such as what occurs on an election night when results are uploaded and various servers are interacting with the database simultaneously."

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here we go again (0, Offtopic)

willie_nelsons_pigta (1006979) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902143)

Let us remember a phrase I once heard on Slashdot.

"Arguing on Slashdot is like competing in the Special Olympics...
You may win but you're still retarded."

Re:here we go again (-1, Troll)

errxn (108621) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902179)

Yep, and call me cynical, but we'll keep hearing about this on /. until right about the time a Democrat gets elected.

Re:here we go again (0, Troll)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902241)

Actually, in 2006, Ohio switched from red to blue, so by your logic, we shouldn't be hearing this...

Re:here we go again (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902273)

And your desire is what, to remain ignorant? Good luck with that, you have already achieved it.

Re:here we go again (1)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902343)

you're cynical. Do you honestly think that no one (or perhaps very few) on slashdot, a hub for politically minded technology geeks, cares about how electronic voting is implemented, and are only upset that a democrat wasn't elected in the last election? Let me rephrase: you're absurdly cynical. Cynical would be assuming that a lot of people don't care if their votes are counted or not, not the vast majority of people who are already likely to care.

Re:here we go again (3, Funny)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902503)

> Do you honestly think that no one ... cares about how electronic
> voting is implemented, and are only upset that a democrat wasn't
> elected in the last election?

Yes, next question.

BTW, when Bush came into office the solar system had nine planets ...

The Democrats Did Win (1)

cwgmpls (853876) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902483)

The election in question here is November 2006. The Democrats did win in November 2006.

Re:here we go again (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902283)

Arguing on Slashdot is like competing in the Special Olympics...

Is not!

You may win but you're still retarded.

I know you are, but what am I?

I don't know anything about databases (2, Informative)

The-Ixian (168184) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902155)

But I know from experience with Citrix that Jet does not scale to more than 1000 simultaneous users. This seems to be borderline incompetence to me.

Re:I don't know anything about databases (4, Insightful)

codepunk (167897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902229)

Jet is damn lucky to scale to 10 much less your claimed 1000. I have never seen 1000 concurrent users in a jet database. Not that it matters, I cannot believe anyone would trust it to tabulate election results.

Re:I don't know anything about databases (4, Insightful)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902525)

I agree. With a plethora of free or easily liscensed SQL databases out there, and the fact that ODBC data sources are every bit as easy to connect as Jet, there is NO excuse. The only reason to drop something like Jet into a production system is to make it crippled by design.

Re:I don't know anything about databases (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903075)

I guess you don't use Exchange, then (see my reply to the GP post).

Re:I don't know anything about databases (2, Insightful)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902239)

Everything Diebold does is borderline incompetence. I can't wait for these bozos to get out of this business and go back to making vending machines.

Re:I don't know anything about databases (1)

ktappe (747125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902509)

Everything Diebold does is borderline incompetence.
If you are "borderline incompetent" at enough tasks, doesn't that push you over the line into full-blown incompetence?

Re:I don't know anything about databases (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902759)

Nah, you're just a "jerk of all trades" in that case!

Oh yes (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902573)

After seeing how they develop, I absolutely like the idea of their going back to handling my money.

Re:I don't know anything about databases (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902829)

Everything Diebold does is borderline incompetence. I can't wait for these bozos to get out of this business and go back to making vending machines.

I never knew they made vending machines! This is great! I mean, it's a shame we lost our democracy to trivial-to-compromise voting machines, but at least we all get free Cheetos!

1000?!?!? (2, Insightful)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902259)

Good lord, I'd say anything over 10 users is a problem with Jet, from my experience anyways.

Jet is fine for what it is, but like any other tool it has a proper purpose and should not be mis-used.

I don't know the specifics of the Diebold stuff, it would seem to me though if you had one Jet DB on each machine along with a proper upload tool it should work just fine.... at the same time if I was building a voting machine process from scratch I wouldn't think of using it.

fwiw. ymmv.

Re:I don't know anything about databases (2, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902269)

But I know from experience with Citrix that Jet does not scale to more than 1000 simultaneous users.

I bet it doesn't. It's really more of a single-user database engine. It's nice for redistributing with a single user application, but not appropriate in a network setting. Makes you wonder if they (Diebold) just didn't have anyone with any multi-user database experience.

Re:I don't know anything about databases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902531)

More like one concurrent user! What idiots. Any developer worth his salt knows not to build a multi-user application against a toy like Jet, which is nothing more than a glorified name for Microsoft Access. Diebold needs to pony up and hire some real developers. It's not like they don't have the money to hire people with experience.

 

You are wrong (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902911)

that's not borderline at all, that IS incompetence.

Re:I don't know anything about databases (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902971)

Exchange still uses the Jet engine. Its limit is 1,900 concurrent connections.

Jet (5, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902161)

I programmed with the Jet DB "engine" years ago. I wouldn't even run a web site with it. The only thing I found it useful for was business applications, such as connecting an Excel spreadsheet to Access. But that was years and years ago. Why would anyone write such a large and critical system using Jet today, when even Microsoft tells you not to? The only answer is incompetence.

Re:Jet (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902223)

Tenured programmers/engineers tend to like what they know. Obviously when the execs walked down the latter and said, "We need a database" this person said, "Alright, we'll use this" and went wax nostaligic about Jet.

That, or the morass of our government dictated a few things that didn't make sense. They tend to be behind the times in terms of software/hardware advances.

Re:Jet (1)

mrogers (85392) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902235)

The only answer is incompetence.

Incompetence is the charitable answer; there are others.

Re:Jet (1)

DigitalCrackPipe (626884) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902977)

I've seen some pretty boneheaded database uses... it's one thing if the in-house tool is in Access (with weekly instances of "everybody out so we can rebuild the corrupt database"), but there is no excuse for some commercial tools I've seen using an improper database platform.

Proper use of database technology can be difficult, but if a company is unable or unwilling to do it properly, they shouldn't be selling the product. Governments have a responsibility to the perople to slap down companies trying to sell products that demonstrate such incompetence, particularly with something as important as voting.

Re:Jet (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903009)

Indeed - I picked up a client because their Access database was banging against the wall. I wouldn't recommend Jet for much of anything these days, not with the plethora of open source relational database products out there today.

This crap again?? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902163)

You lost, get over it. It's time to "move on".

Re:This crap again?? (0, Flamebait)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902203)

Actually, in 2006, ohio switched from Red to Blue (no, not Red vs. Blue, though that's a more interesting topic admittedly).

Regardless, the usual complainers, would not be complaining much about their side loosing on this one.

Re:This crap again?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902373)

> about their side loosing on this one.

How did one side become less tight than the other?

Re:This crap again?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902599)

> > about their side loosing on this one.

> How did one side become less tight than the other?

Too much gay sex, obviously.

Re:This crap again?? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902633)

How did one side become less tight than the other?

By getting repeatedly fucked by the other party?

Give It Up!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902189)

I know some hard core lefties are still digging into 2004 like a scab that can't stop picking, but maybe slashdot should give this up. It's sad how the politics section here is mainly now used to bash Republicans, Bush, the US.

Let's go back to real news for nerds, not news for lefties, stuff that only matters to them.

Re:Give It Up!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902287)

What is really sad is how you so reflexively defend the republicans against vote fraud that you didnt even bother to notice that the 2006 elections were mostly won by democrats.

Re:Give It Up!! (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902305)

Learn to read and analyze data instead of kneejerking please

This is about the 2006 election. To remind you, that's when Ohio went Blue.

Don't get me wrong, there are many cases where 'sore looser leftie' is a potentially valid complaint. This isn't one of them.

Re:Give It Up!! (0, Flamebait)

mroberts47 (1073802) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902405)

I'll give you, Republicans ain't always right and neither are Democrats, but when Democrats almost always scream fraud! when they don't win it's pretty easy to discount them quickly just because they are always up in arms about it.

Re:Give It Up!! (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902463)

but this isn't necessarily even the democrats that are complaining.

It's just people who found screwups in Dibold voting devices.

Re:Give It Up!! (1)

mroberts47 (1073802) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902511)

You do have a point, sometimes I forget that just because I don't like certain doesn't mean they can't have a valid point.

Re:Give It Up!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902521)

At the same time, when an election that was mostly won by democrats brings out republican shills that say "we won fair and square" automatically, it is kind of hard to see them as anything but ditto heads. Hell even rush limbaugh probably isnt that stupid.

Re:Give It Up!! (1)

mroberts47 (1073802) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902669)

Oh come on, that was so not flamebait.

Re:Give It Up!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902627)

> 'sore looser leftie'

WTF does that mean? The lefties are less tight than what? How does being loose make them sore?

Re:Give It Up!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902385)

Hey genius, you don't think that there's a few corrupt Dems that would take advantage of exploiting known weaknesses in Diebold's shitty voting machines to steal an election? If you don't, then you're fucking naïve.

JET?? (4, Insightful)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902193)

That is an old outdated desktop engine. Databases needs compressing and repairing all the freaking time - want to go multi-user? or over a network? forget it, it's have never performed well in that capacity in ANY version. Microsoft even advises not to use it anymore. They push desktop version of the SQL Server 2005 Engine (and now even have a version that just requires a couple DLLs in the application directory, however I do not know if that is available yet).

2 databases?!? (5, Insightful)

Artaxs (1002024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902565)

Look, let's say I had hired an accountant. Then, let's say that I found out that he was keeping two separate databases of my finances. Let's also say that they had different totals in them, and he was only showing me one of them.

Not only would I fire his ass, but I'd make sure to press criminal charges of fraud. Why are these creeps from Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S, et. all not in prison yet?

Diebold makes ATMs; don't tell me that they can't get something as simple as a vote database right. Occam's Razor points to outright fraud, not to simple incompetence.

Re:2 databases?!? (3, Interesting)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903125)

Diebold makes ATM's, but the banks keep all the records.

That's a bit like saying Panasonic would make a great a telephone carrier because they make phones.

Re:JET?? (1)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902731)

Yeah, and as far as concurrency goes its a terrible choice. When I first started learning ASP years ago, I started with Access databases. My website could not handle over 5 concurrent users without giving errors. I think at that time there was a hard limit of 5 concurrent users. This thing was read only most of the time. The database only changed a few times a week.

Now if access couldn't handle a Jewel fan site how on earth could it handle an entire state's voting data? Switching to SQL Server and later migrating to MySQL was a godsend. Prior to SQL Express, there was MSDE as well. They had other options at the time. As much as they probably charged, couldn't have purchased and setup SQL Server or gone with an OSS database?

Either the developers were idiots or management made a terrible mistake.

Re:JET?? (1)

rabbit994 (686936) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902799)

Actually, it's called SQL Server 2005 Express edition. .Net 2 programs can either directly access the Database or you can set up a full blown SQL Server and connect via TCP/IP. If you do it via TCP/IP, multiple users can be accessing it without issue.

Re:JET?? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903199)

No kidding. Jet doesn't even support true record locking -- it locks pieces of the database in blocks. Diebold would have had less chance of corruption with even something as broken as MySQL 3.x. Heck, they would have had less chance of corruption using a comma-delimited text file stored on a 5.25" HD floppy disk stuck to the fridge with a magnet, but that's besides the point.

The point is that this is cannot be just mere incompetence. As you say, even Microsoft, who wrote Jet and used it for years as the basis of Microsoft Access and Visual Basic's database component, says not to use it 'cause it's crap. There's always SQL Server 2005 Express/Compact/whatever Edition, and this is what Microsoft recommends today.

Jet Database Engine (4, Interesting)

mypalmike (454265) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902201)

Jet Database Engine, a.k.a. Microsoft Access.

Re:Jet Database Engine (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902453)

Yeah, I saw that "The database is built from Microsoft's Jet database engine." and WTF'd out loud.

The software used to tabulate votes is build on an Access database!?!? holy crap! Talk about the mother of all bad ideas. There are so many know issues and so many better options that this should never have gotten this far. Who the crap was in charge of designing this system? Jim from Accounting?

-Rick

I'm leaving...on a Jet plane. Don't know when... (3, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902219)

> The database is built from Microsoft's Jet database engine.

Jet? Shit.

I'm gonna submit proposals to program up a new Mars Rover using Visual Basic!

Re:I'm leaving...on a Jet plane. Don't know when.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902945)

Visual Basic? You're crazy. You should use brainfuck [wikipedia.org] !

Reminds me of my plane (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903033)

to build the space stations onboard inventory system in access.
Then when it crashed, insist that it can only be fixed 'on site'.

MS Access *is* a leading-edge product? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902253)

Wow - an MS-Access Database? If that's indicative of the level of tech they've got inside those puppies, no election is safe!

Recount? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902263)

TFA didn't say, but does anyone know if it is possible to get an accurate, tally? Would it make a difference?

Re:Recount? (1)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902401)

my guess is no. over 100,000 votes is a lot to fuck up.

Re:Recount? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902967)

my guess is no. over 100,000 votes is a lot to fuck up.

I believe you are talking about 2004 election. This deals with the 2006 election where, for example, the Senate race was decided by less than 50,000 votes. It would take a 25,000 (7%) change of votes to change the outcome.

However, your point is still valid as 25,000 is still a lot to fuck up. But one county mentioned in the article as being totally fucked up is Cuyahoga, which has a difference of about 186,000 votes between the two candidates, and that's just one county.

Of course, the example I provide is just for the Senate race. I don't know about the House elections. I'm sure the "local dog-catcher" elections would be closer still.

Would now be a good time (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902277)

for a simultaneous nationwide facepalm?

Don't ATMs access databases too? (4, Insightful)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902293)

I've had very few banking errors using ATMs and I'm quite sure that I am not the only user on the system when I do use them. Why would this company have any trouble with this kind of operation? Is it because there is no accounting so they don't bother to get it right?
--
Vote with your roof! http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]

Re:Don't ATMs access databases too? (5, Insightful)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902899)

A number of years ago, I was responsible for handling software problem reports for a couple of vendors ATM machines. (We were a third-party service company.)

The things that went wrong with ATMs were both funny and scary. I have no reason to believe things have changed. The banks and manufacturers go to great lengths to satisfy customers without letting details of the problems get out, because this would undermine confidence in the devices.

With ATMs, if you're smart, you have a slip of paper to verify a transaction. If there's a dispute with the bank, the bank will usually honor the paper documentation, and the customer has no reason to make an issue of the problem.

With voting, there's no going back and fixing results after the fact. Often there's no piece of paper. And on top of that, the whole process is under fairly intense public and governmental scrutiny.

So I wouldn't say there are less problems with ATMs. You just don't hear about them.

Problem-free election? (1, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902323)

I await the next problem-free election. You know, the one where no one can even insinuate anything went wrong.

- There will have to be perfect information about every tiny detail of that election, or they'll say "What are they not telling us? What are they trying to hide?"
- Everyone will have to find out absolutely everything at exactly the same time. Otherwise "Why did they wait to release that information? What were they trying to hide?"
- All of the ballots will have to be exactly the same. Otherwise "The ballots were misleading!". (Even though every locality has to have different ballots. Hmm.)
- All of the ballots will have to be in every dialect of every language, modern, extinct, or completely made up. Otherwise, it's "not fair".
- No voter can ever have ambiguous eligibility. I guess we'll all have to agree on who is a voter and who isn't before the election. This will have to include a comprehensive list of names there's unanimous agreement on.
- And voters will have to be able to "become" eligible up to the end of voting on election day. Otherwise, someone will be disenfranchised.
- And, of course, none of the thousands of election workers can even make the tiniest mistake.

Without this, the election is FIXED. (Unless my guy won. Then it was fair.)

Re:Problem-free election? (4, Insightful)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902497)

I await the next problem-free election. You know, the one where no one can even insinuate anything went wrong.

In point of fact, there is a difference between "requiring perfection" and "avoiding obvious incompetence". Just, y'know, for future reference.

Re:Problem-free election? (2, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902579)

While there's no such thing as perfect, we can still try to get reasonably close. For elections we can sure get a lot closer to real accuracy. A few people will always claim it's fixed. But when you have multiple documentary films, books, and protests there's obviously something wrong.

Re:Problem-free election? (3, Insightful)

Danathar (267989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902797)

NO! There is only OBVIOUSLY something wrong if there is EVIDENCE that something is wrong.

Mob, Press and Documentary video TV accusations do not constitute legitimate evidence unless they have facts to back up their claims (not saying they don't).

Guilt by association is one Logical Fallacy which is throw around a lot these days.

Re:Problem-free election? (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903143)

Depends on the margin of victory. There will always be "multiple documentary films, books, and protests " whenever the margin of error is close to the margin of victory. There aways have been, and there always will.

Mindboggling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902329)

What neophyte picked MS Access for a dynamic multiuser environment, and how is it that their life isn't a living hell of crashes and deadlocks as a result? (You know, the way mine was.)

Dumb Idea (2)

the Dragonweaver (460267) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902331)

I think this is what you call "not ready for prime time." I much prefer my county's system, which has a Scantron-like form that you fill in with pen and which gets scanned on-site, giving you an instant total-- and an immediate notification if there's an overvote or undervote. Plus there's that handy little paper trail...

Of course, the part that gets me angriest, as a former poll worker, is the fact that there are people who will mess with someone else's vote. You don't do that.

Next up on "Government Contracts!" (5, Funny)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902351)

In the last episode, the capitol building collapsed - and now, the following letter appeared on the broken stairsteps to the Ohio capitol:

"We're sorry that the capitol building collapsed, but it ends up that we used Licoln Logs to build the dome, and it ends up that it collapses when the wind hits it from multiple directions at once.

We've gotten some complaints that we should have expected this, and were "total morons" for choosing such a design. We think this is a gross oversimplification, and more than a little unfair. We used multiple layers of high-quality chewing gum to secure the dome, which required countless hours of chewing, along with thousands of gallons of spittle. When you complain against such a massive effort, you insult the sore mouths of our hard working employees.

Sincerely,
Halliburton CEO
Bozo D. Clown"

Next episode: FEMA picks up the pieces.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Next up on "Government Contracts!" (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903083)

I'll have you know the dome is chewing gum, ceiling wax, and other fancy stuff!

Monkeys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902363)

They should have hired those monkeys from the careerbuilder.com commercial to design the system. They would have done a better job. Who in their right mind would use Jet for this or for anything important for that matter? "Free" apparently drove the choice.

Re:Monkeys (1)

debozero (209948) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903151)

"......Who in their right mind would use Jet for this or for anything important for that matter?"

To answer the above question:
A: A salesman who just got back from a MS sales conference. The sad part is I am not to suprised they would make a stupid move like using Jet considering I have worked at places that could not understand why their accounting system kept crashing once they got to 99,000 records. It was because the sales manager decided the entire accounting system should be run on MS Access because SQL Server or Oracle was to expensive which was the stated reason, the actual reason was that $30,000 or so he saved in not using a DBMS designed for large data sets was then given to him in the form of a bonus for his ability to save the company money. He quit 3 weeks after the product was completed and rolled out. Oh and it cost them an additional $100,000 after 3 months of problems to develop a new accounting system which they decided then to get input from their IS department.

Question: What database do the DIEBOLD ATM systems use for transactions?

If you are not angry can I have some of your drugs?

I was going to ask for the hahaha tag, but (3, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902387)

this really isn't about MS having a shitty database. It's really about Diebold not knowing how to design a database application. Other than that, I'm just too shocked to say anything while quietly making a mental note to avoid all things called Jet from MS and anything that comes from Diebold.

Re:I was going to ask for the hahaha tag, but (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902961)

this really isn't about MS having a shitty database. It's really about Diebold not knowing how to design a database application.

The fact that it was built with Jet suggests that it was initially designed as a non-networked, single-user system initially. Votes were probably uploaded one machine at a time (batch style) for counting purposes. What happened next was "organic growth" of the product. Let me speculate (harp music plays) . . .

Along comes the idea that they need to network the voting machines together at a polling place, or even an entire voting jurisdiction. It makes sense. Only thing is, they use Jet. And worse than that, they use a bunch of proprietary features. So switching to a multi-user database is way worse than just switching database engines. They face a huge code rewrite. Database-specific code is mixed together with other aspects of the system. Nothing is split into any kind of tiered structure. And the "Jet Guy" has moved on to another job.

So they puzzle out how to access a remote Jet database, set up the voting machines so they can be configured for local or remote db, and now you've got networked voting machines. Problem solved. No rewrite, no expensive contracting.

So... (3, Insightful)

Lithdren (605362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902397)

When does someone bring them to court over SCREWING UP AN ELECTION.

Seriously, I dont care if the errors caused changed the outcome or not, its fairly clear that they failed, in the worst possible way, to maintain the level of creditability needed for a damn election. This isn't a "oops, my bad" This should be a federal offence with manditory jail time.

No system is perfect, but come on, JET!? Might as well have the vote counted in diffrent states by the party currently in power, would be just as accurate.

can't believe they're still used (2, Insightful)

jack455 (748443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902411)

They make horrible voting machines, and in TFA it's claimed they tabulate results at the precinct level not the machine level. DUMB.

I do understand why Republicans get so defensive about this,but these machines have to GO.

The /. articles will likely continue until they're no longer used, for obvious reasons.

I smell fud (4, Interesting)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902429)

I smell FUD here...

The engine, according to Microsoft, is vulnerable to corruption when a lot of concurrent activity is happening with the database, such as what occurs on an election night when results are uploaded and various servers are interacting with the database simultaneously."


Now, I'd never think about developing this on a Microsoft Jet DB, since it's been somewhat deprecated for the MS Desktop SQL Server (MSDE) and SQL Server 2005 Express, which are much better and lightweight enough for a current desktop.

Nonetheless... what MS probably stated is that basically access to a JET Db is not thread safe, which means that concurrent access will cause corruption with a probability directly proportional to the amount of activity. YET if you serialize access to a Jet Db (which is a necessary and basic requirement given that it's not thread safe) there shouldn't be a fear of corruption, unless the API is buggy. If each voting station has a Jet Db and they all get exported to a central (thread safe) db then there's no need for concurrent access to any of the individual Jet DBs, and there shouldn't be a big fear of data corruption (which, anyway, can be verified somewhat easily).

Re:I smell fud (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902547)

The fact that they are using a Jet DB in this way should give you a clue as to their ability to write thread safe code.

-Rick

Re:I smell fud (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902607)

and there shouldn't be a big fear of data corruption (which, anyway, can be verified somewhat easily).
And what do you do if there is a discrepancy due to data corruption? It's not like there is a paper trail to go back to...

Re:I smell fud (1)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903053)

I mean Data corruption during the merge of all the voting stations. That can be checked through a hash or similar procedure. Assuming of course that the merge is done in a serialized fashion and not exposed to a very likely corruption.

During the voting, assuming each station has it's own Jet db, then the db is hit with a single INSERT every N minutes. Hardly critical. It could be trusted to a simple comma separated file as well. The fact that the jet db doesn't keep a log only means that a vote might be lost if the system goes down at the time a vote is being cast... (or that the data could be in an inconsistent state IF there was any need for transactions, but then Jet wouldn't be enough and I don't see the need for transactions in a simple voting db) but that's not enough to significantly affect the election, and with a solid db with transaction support you'd still have to convince the general public that their vote is safely stored even though the power went down right after they pressed the button.

I wouldn't have used Jet... that's for sure... but I don't think it's so easy to point as why it's not kosher. After all... let's start with the fact that this are windows desktops and not real time systems chock-full of redundant hardware or anything, so the whole solution is probably based on the idea of using cheap non-fail-safe parts with some strict points of control here and there to avoid data loss or corruption.

Re:I smell fud (4, Funny)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902701)

That's a bit like saying you can run a traffic light with a Lego Mindstorms on a massive intersection where 8 lanes of traffic intersects another 8 lanes, with both right and left turns allowed.

You just have to boost the 5v output using an op-amp, and secure the lead with a clamp or some electrical tape so it won't wiggle out.

FUD for sure (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902835)

Yes, Finally Understanding Deceit or Fraudulantly Undermining Dependability. These guys tried to hide that they were peddling junk by saying it was proprietary. There are no accurate time stamps. You can verify corruption as has just happened, but you can't recover from it. Every single elections official that signed a contract with Diebold needs to be investigated. If there were no kickbacks, and they really knew nothing of this, then this surely is fraud.

Re:I smell fud (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902855)

Kudos. That's the best explanation I've seen posted here yet.
A simple C# code fragment to serialize access to the Jet DB can go like this.
-----

// NOTE: To Diebold -- Please copy and paste this into your application. Thank you.

public class DbWriter
{
  private static object _sync = new object();

  public static void WriteSomeData(/* args ....*/)
  {
    lock(_sync) {
      /*Put statements here to write data */
    }
  }

  private DbWriter() {/* hidden ctor */}
}

// or VB.NET is just as easy

Shared Sub WriteSomeData() 'Args
    SyncLock _sync
        /* Put Db writing statements here. */
    End SyncLock
End Sub

why the hell would you use ANY MS product? (0, Troll)

toby (759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902905)

...ANYWHERE in the system.

Surest sign of technical incompetence there is.

Re:I smell fud (4, Insightful)

sholden (12227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902909)

1. The data is corrupted (totals are different)
2. There's a known data corruption issue in the engine caused by concurrent activity

A reasonable conclusion is that the programmers were idiots and wrote an non-thread safe application with multiple threads. Another conclusion would be they intentionally attempted to fix the election. Incompetence before dishonest is the usual way to approach those things...

Re:I smell fud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902927)

So you are defending their use of a product in a situation which the vendor strongly advises against? It is FUD that they used a product with known problems affecting reliability? In an election?

Their design would probably get me fired, and I'm not in charge of elections.

Pointing out gross incompetence is FUD?

incompetent (1)

HazMathew (207212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902551)

I had a job interview with Diebold about 4 years ago. This makes me glad they never called me back.

Re:incompetent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902741)

I'm guessing they couldn't get the phones to work.

Re:incompetent (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903065)

What does that even mean when not even the incompetent want you? I kid, I kid.

OK Is it just me or what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902559)

I've been programming for 25 years and many various systems and this just does not seem like that difficult of a system to write. Am I missing something? You show a screen with the candidates for an election, have the person touch the screen, "Are you sure?" Yes/No got to the next one. At the end show all the selections. Are you sure again, print off the results twice, once for them once for an audit trail. Store the results in a database. And then it counts the votes. If they don't want to go through all the paper, send it to a PDF or something. Have a couple layers of redundancy (local, county, state) just to keep everything in sync. I guess I just don't see the difficulty. Allow officals to see the code. Count+=1

Maybe this will be my summer project.

Re:OK Is it just me or what (1)

bodland (522967) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902609)

Yes but the tough part is writing it so you can manipulate the results with out detection....using a JET engine...sheesh...

What always amazes me (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902581)

I consider voting machines to be a pretty straightforward application of computer technology: counting things. There are thousands of examples of this being done with complete accuracy. Heck, Wal-Mart always knows how many boxes of ice cream it has in every store and the exact temperature of each freezer. Diebold gets the contract and you'd think they were trying to land a man on Pluto.

Voting machines need to be an open-source project anyway. We ALL need to know what's going on in those things.

Unbelievable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902597)

This is so pathetic. I recall a saying that basically says never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence. I suspect that these election failures are the result of serious incompetence on the part of Diebold and/or election officials.

fsulck a fucker (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902641)

dabblers. In truth, survey which GAY NIGGERs FROM clear she couldn't A full-time GNAA insisted that conversation and

Isn't democracy mission critical? (4, Interesting)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902693)

Reading this made me think about my time doing safety critical systems (it fails, someone dies) and its really stunning to think that something like voting in a democracy isn't considered mission critical to the country.

There really is no excuse for voting to not be done on a comparative basis e.g. every vote to be checked via 3 different software lines (this isn't rocket science) and a voting system to then confirm that the vote is being applied correctly. This vote should then be written to two (at least) data sources to enable reconciliation at the end.

This is a freaking implementation of a check-box system where is the sodding complexity that means its expensive to be professional.

Voting in a democracy is mission critical, to not consider it that way is to say that voting doesn't matter.

Re:Isn't democracy mission critical? (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902795)

Lets put it this way. More care goes into checking tickets at a rock concert.

Your paper ticket has a barcode on it. The nice people at the turnstile scan it, the number is checked in the database and you get a nice instant feedback if the ticket has been used or is totally bogus. They handle thousands of people crushing into the gate in the space of minutes, on the outside hours. And they use off the shelf equipment and standard DSL or T1 lines.

They used JET? (1)

hcmtnbiker (925661) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902777)

Vote totals in two separate databases that should have been identical had different totals. Although Diebold explained that this was part of the system design for separate vote tables to get updated at different times during the tabulation process, the team questioned the wisdom of a design that creates non-identical vote totals.
That actually doesn't scare me at all, after working with DBs and knowing how they work you commonly fix problems by doing things such as that, but what does scare me is this...

Tables in the database contained elements that were missing date and time stamps that would indicate when information was entered.

Entries that did have date/time stamps showed a January 1, 1970 date.


TFA didn't say, but does anyone know if it is possible to get an accurate, tally? Would it make a difference?

Another interesting point, if this is the worst of the corruption then it's likely to be possible to retrieve a 'very accurate' tally. But why the hell did they use the JET engine, to save a few pennies? The JET engine is one of the WORST things ever to come out of M$, I would put it even in front of WinME on that list. I've seen database corruption with only one user doing very minimal read/write/modify to it before.

Dang. (1)

JanusFury (452699) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902785)

If they're dumb enough to use Jet in this sort of application, I'd hate to see their database schema... it'd probably make my eyes bleed.

Re:Dang. (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903059)

I'd bet it's optimized for maximum corruption. With one giant index with all the fields in it. And stores binary copies of the hamsterdance song in every record.

It's funny that these guys think that while you can be charged with conspiracy, you can't be charged with stupidity. Actually you can: it's called reckless endangerment. There is also the civil charges of malpractice. Since there is public money involved: Fraud. (Using substandard materials when you know it's completely inappropriate for the job at hand. And if you didn't know YOU DAMN WELL SHOULD HAVE IF YOU ARE TAKING THE GOVERNMENT'S MONEY.)

The only thing keeping these jokers from breaking rocks is the fact the republicans are in power.... or were in power... ohh this is going to be interesting.

Incompetence? An excellent foil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902867)

Designed to fail, more likely.

But don't worry, Diebold has spent the bucks to make SURE
that at then end of the night, the machine prints.

And then we know who rules the world for a decade.

So I guess the real question is, knowing all this...
why are we not throwing rocks and setting people on fire?

Mod me pissed and ranting, but WHY do we put up with this shit?
Our forefathers would bitchslap us until their arms got tired.

Fraud (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903021)

Isn't this fraud in so many ways?

Calling something a voting machine AND selling it, when it isn't a voting machine fit for that purpose at all.

It's as much a voting machine as my bedsheet is a certified parachute fit for skydivers.

They're lucky they're in the USA. In other countries they might actually get lynched by angry voters or executed (for treason?) if they escape the mob.

But it'll be hard to convince the rest of the world that the US is interested in democracy and fair elections in Iraq if this sort of thing keeps happening in the USA.

Maybe the USA should just modify and use the American Idol voting system. It can't be much worse than using Microsoft Jet and all the other crap Diebold is making.
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