Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Florida electronic voting failure revealled

As widely suspected it turns out that the voting machines used in the contested Florida election in which there was a suspicious 15% undervote in a heavily Democratic county turn out to have been faulty.

The voting machines had a smoothing filter that was meant to correct the input. Under certain circumstances this could result in an unexpectedly long delay that the voter might not notice.

The manufacturer alerted the Florida elections board before the election but the board did not take any action.

Neither the company nor the elections board notified the plaintiffs during the discovery stage as they should have. The information only came to light because of information supplied by another elections board using the same machines.

The argument in favor of voting machines being open source are now beyond dispute. It makes no sense for the manufacturers to be able to hide behind a trades secrets claim as the courts have allowed to date.

The election result should be voided immediately ant the election re-run.

Monday, March 05, 2007

France gets it (almost)

The proposal to open a branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi demonstrates that France has worked out a key fact about museums. Opposition to the proposal shows that the French do not.

The principal problem for all the great museums of the world has been finding space to display the treasures. The British Museum was built to display the booty of empire and was filled before it was ever opened. The private collections are vast. The National Gallery and the Tate have more art in storage than they know what to do with.

When I was at Oxford the college walls were hung with works by Pollack and Piper and Riley. The works the college could borrow were not the best work of the artists in the national collection but they were certainly respectable. If the college had been prepared to put in an expensive security system etc they could certainly have obtained more significant pieces of art.

If the great museums only ever put their first collection on display the vast bulk of the material is never shown. It would mean that each museum was only worth seeing once. There are very few works which merit being on permanent display.

The expansion of the Louvre to create the Grand Louvre didn't even dent the stockrooms. There was and is far more to show. Why not put it on display in Abu Dhabi?

The objectors seem to still be thinking in the imperial mindset of 'the point of having it is that you don't have it'. In the Internet age its the idea that matters, not the physical object that is the embodiment of the idea.

The Louvre has worked out a way to raise money, show works that would not otherwise be on public display and establish goodwill in a foreign country. Why is this a bad idea?

More importantly, consider the fact of where all this booty came from in the first place. Most of it was stolen by Napoleon or one of his cronies. One of the issues that creates real potential for irridentist type friction in future international relations are complaints of the form 'colonial power X stole our priceless cultural heritage and refuses to return it'.

This type of international exchange program if taken to its logical limit has the potential to restore a measure of balance. Cultural property becomes cultural ambassadors.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why so hard to buy a colour printer?

The price of colour laser printers has dropped from the previously stratospheric levels of $10K. Time to look for a replacement for the ink jet?

The problem with doing this is that neither the printer manufacturers nor the computer supply shops have realized that most people want to know the price of the consumables BEFORE buying the product. Being told that copies cost $0.09 each does not do it for me, I am a suspicious person and it makes a big difference to me if I have to buy 3 cartriges at $180 each or $50.

The reason I want to dump the ink jet in the first place is the extortionate cost of ink. Ink for inkjet printers costs more than five times as much as the street price for top grade heroin. Yes I know all about razor and blades business models, the point is to avoid being trapped into them as a consumer.

Looking up the price of printers on Amazon was difficult enough. For some reason they seem to think that when I ask to sort printers by price I mean something different. What I really want to do here is to identify the colour, non-ink jet printers but those searches fail completely because a multifunction printer with a color scanner is put in the colour printers group. None of the printer descriptions make it easy to find out the cost of consumables. Hey guys, you have only had twelve years to work this stuff out.

While surfing Amazon I notice that OfficeMax sells remanufactured cartridges for som printers - aha! Only the OfficeMax site won't give me a list of cartridges they sell so I can use them to help select my printer. Oh no, they will only let me know what the price of the cartidge is if I tell them which printer I have first.

Meanwhile Dell appears to have no interest in selling me a Windows Vista PC with a 64 bit O/S loaded. The only model they seem to sell that works for me is the Dell Precision 690 and Dell will only admit that it can be configured for 64 bit operation if I go through a particular purchasing route which does not allow me to use the discount I am entitled to through my employer. On the other hand Dell will tell me the price of cartidges for its printers.

Why make it all so hard here?