Archive | March 25, 2006

Voting Software Glitch Invalidates Local Results

It’s not just the national and statewide election results that are threatened by poor software. Local school district results are endangered too:

“A company that sells and operates vote-counting machines made a mistake programming the machine that tabulated the results of the Monadnock Regional School District election March 14.”

Fortunately, the machine was counting paper ballots so once the glitch was caught, the ballots could be re-run. However, if the vote had been paperless, there might be no way to recapture the initial selections. We need to be awfully careful as we automate voting that both innocent mistakes, as this appeared to be, and malicious tampering isn’t allowed. Publishing the software, vetting and auditing it and the results are necessary. Few processes should be more transparent than voting.

Microsoft: The Road Ahead

Vista problems might be bigger than admitted.

(InfoWorld) – “More delays in the release schedule for Windows Vista revealed Friday hint that problems with getting the OS out the door may be broader than Microsoft has articulated.”

I’m sorry to see Jim Allchin’s departure from Microsoft marred by project Longhorn/Vista hitting the wall. The media went hysterical on Friday with predictions of the death of Microsoft. The parallel news story that Office 2007 is going to be released at the same time (whenever that may be) sent pundits flying to their keyboards with their pre-made Microsoft agendas.

An uncredited “insider” report that “sixty percent of Vista must be rewritten” is the closest thing I’ve read lately to “the sky is falling.” If that’s even within an order of magnitude of being true, the OS that’s been under development since – what, a year before XP shipped? – would not ship until… let’s see, 2001 to 2006, times sixty percent… well. That’s not a month’s shipdate-slip, that’s three years. Not gonna happen. While the product is supposedly in beta now, which should mean feature-complete and just killing showstopper bugs, it’s likely a feature or two (there are two left, aren’t there?) more could be cut to meet whatever arbitrary shipdate they pick. The fact that they have destroyed the trust of their hardware OEMs by missing the holiday season is a sign that something is seriously wrong. But the press hoopla of Friday is unlikely to have brought out the real reasons just yet.

While I think the current hysteria is pretty badly exaggerated, I continue to be deeply skeptical of any new OS that Microsoft thinks they can deploy into the marketplace purely based on hardware turnover and not upgrades. While workstation purchasers at office supply stores may not have another alternative, I’ve encouraged my clients to buy ahead now to lock their systems into Windows XP, avoid the Microsoft upgrade programs, and take advantage of OEM/ISV/Partner arrangements that can get them XP licenses as long as possible. I’ve heard fellow developers already telling their clients “No Vista until SP1!”

Microsoft’s got a tough road ahead.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.