Glenn Vanderburg

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Every American Should See This Video
Thu, 14 Sep 2006 (01:51) #
This video from the center for IT Policy at Princeton University is a crystal-clear demonstration of why purely electronic voting machines are a terrible idea for our country. The video deals with a particular kind of machine, made by Diebold. But the strong likelihood is that any electronic, software-controlled voting machine without a voter-verifiable paper trail is vulnerable to at least some of the kinds of attacks shown in the video.

I’m not the least surprised by this, and I don’t know many serious programmers who will be. Programmers and computer scientists have been raising a stink about electronic voting machines for several years, but it’s been difficult to explain to non-programmers the full extent of the danger. It’s nice to have a video that shows the complete cycle: how the machine can be subverted, how it can steal votes, and how the rogue software can cover its tracks. (The one thing about the video that did surprise me, by the way, was how quickly and easily the physical act of subverting the machine can be accomplished.)

Beyond this one example, though, are more dangers. I don’t believe that any such machine — any machine without a voter-verifiable paper trail — could be sufficiently secure for the purpose, even in principle. And that’s not just a hunch. I have good reasons for believing that it’s not possible to make such a machine secure enough to be entrusted with our votes.

The paper that’s available on the page with the video describes in detail the research that was performed, and the findings. It unavoidably contains some technical jargon, from the fields of software and security. Overall, though, it’s quite accessible, and I don’t think you need to be either a computer or a security expert to understand the issues. There’s also an executive summary that hits all the highlights.

Two years ago, when I went to vote, I was not amused to find myself having to vote on one of these very machines. In light of that, though, I most definitely was amused by the "My Vote Counted" sticker I was given as I left, and I felt compelled to augment the sticker's message. I’ll probably have to vote on the same machines again in a couple months. But I hope we’ll turn toward more secure, reliable equipment for future elections.

Bummer Summer
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 (14:07) #
I’ve been quiet here for a while. Mostly I’ve just been busy, but the reason I’ve been so busy is that the summer was one disaster after another.

OK, that’s not quite fair. There was a lot of good stuff this summer (including RailsConf and OSCON, which were both terrific), and sometimes I went for several days at a stretch without anything bad happening. But it did seem that every time I turned around, there was some new setback.

  • I started the summer with a recurrence of a strange networking problem on my laptop that had plagued me earlier in the year. This time I finally found the cause: Salling Clicker, left running in a state where it was searching for my phone. Apparently Bluetooth and AirPort share enough of the networking stack that one can really interfere with the other. But I lost a couple days to messing around with this before I finally figured things out and got it fixed.
  • In early July, my wife’s grandmother died. She was a wonderful lady, and very dear to me; of course, that week was difficult for the whole family.
  • Two weeks later, I got hit hard by a strep infection. I nearly had to cancel my appearance at the Des Moines NFJS, but started feeling better just in time. (I would have hated canceling, because I’d already had to skip the Austin show due to the funeral.)
  • But then again, maybe I should’ve canceled, because just as I stood up to give my first talk in Des Moines, my hard drive crashed. It was fun getting through five talks without a laptop! (Eitan Suez and a couple of the attendees lent me their laptops for three of the talks, which helped a lot.) Due to my travel schedule, my backups were a bit out of date, so I lost about 4 weeks of email.
  • I just barely got the new drive installed, and the restore completed, before I had to take off for OSCON. And when I got back, my DSL service was out. It was out for 16 days! Needless to say, a change in ISP is in the works.
  • Two weeks ago, I came down with strep again. Because I’d had strep so recently, this time they gave me a really powerful antibiotic, which makes sense, and I felt better pretty quickly. Unfortunately, they didn’t really warn me about that, so I didn’t take some necessary precautions, bringing us to:
  • Now I have thrush. Yucko.

Oh well … I’ll stop complaining now, and I’ll start writing about more pleasant things soon. :-)

Dear Elena
Thu, 23 Feb 2006 (22:31) #

My friend Dan Steinberg's daugher, Elena, died suddenly yesterday of bacterial meningitis. Many of Dan's friends are devastated today, and of course all of that is nothing beside what Elena's family are feeling.

Other friends had the idea of a lovely little graphic button we can use to pay tribute, express sympathy, and most of all remember a little girl who meant so much to those who loved her. Click on it to read Dan's brave, eloquent writing about her, and comments from friends.

And when you see that little graphic on sites around the web, treat it as a reminder to tell your own children that you love them.

'Tis a wonderful gift
Tue, 24 Jan 2006 (15:43) #
… to be easily amused.

(Sure, you get a lot of strange looks, but that just makes things funnier. :-)

I'm not particularly reassured
Tue, 02 Nov 2004 (12:59) #

Thu, 16 Sep 2004 (03:09) #

Not that anyone will really be surprised by this … but it's nice to have ironclad proof. At Foo Camp, I finally learned for certain that James Duncan Davidson sleeps with his PowerBook under his pillow.

Happy Birthday, Mike
Tue, 02 Mar 2004 (19:29) #
I just realized my childhood friend Mike Datwyler would have been 40 today. (He didn’t make it to 20.)

I still miss you, Mike.

Richly Blessed
Mon, 10 Nov 2003 (03:58) #

Today is my fortieth birthday. And it has been the best birthday I've ever had.

There are many reasons, but the biggest one is that last night my wife threw me a wonderful surprise birthday party. The surprise was complete. 36 friends had dinner at our house, representing nearly every important part of my life. Many of them my wife had never met, but managed to contact through other friends or sheer resourcefulness. Several people helped her plan and execute the deed, including a few who couldn't make it themselves (but they helped Deborah find other friends, or made sure I was free last night, or provided cover stories for some of the weird things that happened as part of the planning, or sent cards or gifts). One friend drove up to Dallas from San Antonio. And to top it all off, Patrick Linskey (one of my NFJS buddies) flew in from Boston. Thank you all very much.

I got some cool gifts -- but the night wasn't really about gifts, except the tremendous gifts of the presence of my friends and the amount of work that had gone into making this milestone a special one.

God has blessed me with a big group of wonderful friends who care about me, two handsome, terrific boys, and a wife who is beautiful, smart -- not to mention more devious than I knew -- and who made it clear that she loves me very much.

How could turning forty be anything but fabulous in the midst of all that?