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E-voting State By State

IEEEmember Electronic could be better than paper (186 comments)

There have been a lot of comments along the lines of "The old paper/optical scan system works fine, why go electronic".

There are many reasons to move to a different system. Most of them dealing with accessibility. Electronic voting machines can present a ballot in multiple languages, electronic machines could present an audible ballot for the blind or a large print ballot for the sight impaired. Electronic machines are easier to vote on than filling in circles for those with motor skill issues.

A 2003 article presented error rates for the technologies as: 2.5% punch cards, 2.3% touch screen, 1.8% paper ballots, 1.5% optical scan and level machines. The real mission for electronic voting machines is to allow more people to vote unassisted but to do it in a way that is as accurate or more accurate as existing technology. The technology is clearly not available yet.

It seems a lot of reliability issues result from the use of touch screens and touch screen calibration. It seems that a machine with buttons around the screen (like most ATMs) would make more sense and would more closely duplicate the old lever system that proved to be so accurate. I will admit ignorance of the usability issues for this type of interface.

So the question that needs to be asked is, if a paper audit trail is so important, why is it being universally ignored? The answer lies in the reliability of the printing mechanism and the typical usage scenario that result in voting machines being idle for two years between uses. This was, I believe, the justification for leaving the printer requirement out of the first (defeated) IEEE proposed standard, but also, in some people's opinion, the primary reason why the standard proposal was defeated.

I have already voted in this election. I was offered the choice of touch screen or optical scan ballot, I chose optical scan.

more than 8 years ago



IEEEmember IEEEmember writes  |  about 8 years ago

Steve Cerruti writes "My credit union is implementing multi-factor authentication for online banking. They are following guidelines provided by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council as outlined in Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment (PDF). As you are already required to enter a password, "something you know" is covered. "Something you are" has significant technical hurdles while "something you have" is familiar to credit unions in the form of ATM cards.

My credit union chose to implement "something you have" as a two dimensional lookup table that they email to an address you supply when you initially log in to the online banking service, further access is blocked until you enter a code from the table. New Measures to Make Online Access Safer describes the plan and a short video (FLV) provides further details.

Their plan can best be compared to single use scratch off cards. However, I am unsure of what constitutes "something you have" in this example. If someone has the capacity to log into your online banking account, it would seem an email account would be equally subject to access. It would therefore be possible for the authorized owner and the attacker to both possess the table simultaneously. Does this system provide multi-factor authentication or is it simply a convoluted mechanism for sharing yet another secret?

Off topic questions:
Is depending on near instantaneous access to email a reasonable thing to do?
If you were dealing with this situation, would you implement a Firefox extension or a cell phone application to reduce the level of effort for banking access?"



Slashdot's Reaction to Firefox's Loss of Marketshare

IEEEmember IEEEmember writes  |  more than 9 years ago Firefox Makes News

Two Firefox stories were posted during the middle of August 2005. The first story was a report by Spread Firefox that the number of downloads had reached 80 million and that Firefox "was taking back the web". The second story reported that Firefox market share had slipped in July, for the first time.

Slashdot's Skepticism

Both stories were met with a healthy dose of skepticism. The first because the measurement being reported has very little to do with adoption, and the second because the method for collecting the data may not generate statistically representative data.

Leaping to Unsupported Conclusions

However, if we are measuring "taking back the web" the count of downloads must surely take a back seat to market share as measured at the server. What was most interesting was how ready most Slashdot readers were ready to reject the statistics and come up with unsupported reasons for the downturn. Some proposed that it was the sale of new machines with IE installed that created the market share decline for Firefox, but none posted links to PC sales data for June and July. Others thought that Windows updates might be forcing users to switch back to IE, however there had been no previous discussion of what would have been a very noticeable effect of Windows updates. Finally some suggested that the IE7 beta testing was affecting the outcome, but surely that would have been reported in the referenced article as a causative effect.

Math Error Trumps Logic

Perhaps what was most interesting was the debate, spurred by the article's summary on Slashdot, of the market share number's statistical relevance. Hemos wrote of the 0.64% decline in market share, "a number change like this is statistical noise". This prompted responses that the decline in Firefox's market share was certainly statistically relevant, especially in light that this was the first ever decrease. Unfortunately the first few responses of this nature confused the 8% market share number quoted in the summary with the 7.3% decline computed by multiplying Firefox's previous market share by 0.64. This resulted in people rejecting the premise that a near 8% drop in market share deserves to be understood. Further confusing matters was Hemos contention that the measurements themselves were flawed being in direct opposition to his statements that he believed the absolute numbers.


What should have been a strong call to understand the reversal of market share trends so that they could be counteracted in the future became a victim of the same viral marketing that created the initial market share to being with. This is a textbook example of an organism so dominating its environment that it needs to eat its young.

The success of these campaigns rely in the members feeling good about their choice. That feeling is supported in a large part by the ever increasing number of people jumping on the bandwagon. If the bandwagon stops being the most popular place then many who jumped on without understanding their choice will question their choice and hop right back off. Therefore any discussion that there are significant issues, and possibly sacrifices, with being on the bandwagon must be immediately quelled.

Either Spread Firefox needs to embrace the cause of this downturn, explain it to the masses and counter its effect or it will be destined to become another of the many good ideas that couldn't overcome the power Internet Explorer's two main assets. One, being preinstalled on nearly every consumer computer sold. And two, as a result, being favored by web developers to the detriment of other browsers.


Thoughts on online courseware

IEEEmember IEEEmember writes  |  more than 10 years ago Tonight after having posted two comments on CMU's new Open Learning Initiative I received a visit to my website referred from slashdot ostensibly from Willie Wheeler.

Mr. Wheeler has co-written an article about jcourse, on-line courseware developed by CMU.

I am curious if Mr. Wheeler was attracted to my comment about courseware being more valid if it allowed pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil interaction or if he was more interested in my humorous post stating that once the pilot program was finished CMU would accept payment via PayPal.


IEEEmember IEEEmember writes  |  more than 12 years ago I was surprised at the reaction to this article received. The article described Microsoft's efforts to block K-Mart's sale of Bluelight.com to United Online.

Many people posted that this was a troll or even FUD. They unfortunately missed several points.

Microsoft used its dominance in a field to force contract terms on K-Mart. When K-Mart attempted to sell a business unit to a United Online, a competitor to Microsoft's MSN, Microsoft attempted to block the sale through enforcement of those contract terms. No one can force Microsoft to transfer or sell any licenses to United Online in the event the sale went through. Therefore, Microsoft has the ability to render the business unit as worthless for sale, furthermore Microsoft could refuse to renew licenses at any time. In a case where a business is completely dependent on Microsoft products, Microsoft can easily destroy it.

There are certainly two issues here:
Issue 1 (The Big Picture Issue): Companies who spend capital on millions of dollars of software licenses are doing so without obtaining an asset in return. Software in this situation is leased and not purchased. Companies therefore need to understand how to correctly expense this software and also need to have a plan in place to react to the situation where software leases are not renewed by the manufacturer.

Issue 2 (The Microsoft Issue): When a company dominates a field controls on how it offers its products must be enacted. Without these controls the dominant company can use contract terms forced upon subservient companies to control or destroy these subservient companies. Comparisons of Microsoft licensing issues to those of other software vendors are irrelevant unless those software vendors also dominate their business sectors.

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