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Comment: Re:As an ex. Commodore Service tech (Score 1) 186

by TWX (#47498507) Attached to: The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000
Never saw Titanic (I think I'm one of three people on the planet over the age of eighteen that can claim this) but I liked how that New York police chase scene in The Fifth Element turned out. I've heard it argued that it's how that Stallone version of Judge Dredd should have looked, had they actually put the urban density in to Mega City 1 that it should have gotten.

Alas, I never got past using 3d Studio R4 in a very rudimentary way. Probably didn't help that my computer at the time lacked the horsepower to render anything meaningful quickly enough to be usable for any other function, so it just wasn't feasible to get into it. Oh well.

Comment: Re:As an ex. Commodore Service tech (Score 2) 186

by TWX (#47498343) Attached to: The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

Unfortunately cool stuff like the Video Toaster...never made it to Europe (AFAIK, I never saw one except in promos on American TV)

Yeah, you had a thing for Kiki Stockhammer didn't you?

Last I saw her was in 2004 or 2005, she was the female lead for Warp 11, a Star Trek themed punk band out of San Francisco. The band was headlining at Enigma Con at UCLA, which greatly expanded after the Boxing Day Tsunami as probably 60 actors came out to support the con for its charity fundraiser for the relief efforts.

It's kind if amazing to think that Babylon 5 was created in large part on this era of Amiga and that while a little dated, has held up pretty well compared to some of its contemporaries. Foundation Imaging went on to work on Star Trek DS9 and Voyager, likely using Amigas at least for some of DS9 at least.

Obviously at this point the computer is probably worth more as a teaching tool and curio than as a production machine, but it definitely paved the way.

Comment: Re:I'm Shocked!!! (Score 1) 208

Yeah, I remember a movement several years ago to try to swamp them with too much information. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't account for ever-increasing storage density combined with a need to replace end-of-life equipment periodically, essentially guaranteeing that they'll never run out of space.

Comment: Re:Hmmm, (Score 1) 112

Well, I'd argue pen, paper, hand count, not pencil, but your point still holds.

As voting "irregularities" have been reported on over the years, I've wondered about the possibility of generating ballots on-the-fly. It would be really convenient if one could vote at any polling station in the county or state by simply presenting one's ID and having a ballot for one's various districts generated, so if one's local polling places are overwhelmed or if one wants to vote close to one's workplace one could use a different polling station, but given the failure of governments to maintain voting equipment I don't see how that can be possible. I'd also thought about electronic means that generate a paper receipt, but there's still no real guarantee that the machine tabulated the vote correctly or that the voter will have recourse if the receipt shows something other than what the voter intended.

Hence my support for optical scan with the ability to hand-count.

Comment: Re:Hmmm, (Score 1) 112

The second system is entirely separate. It exists to present the voting options, register your choice and add your vote to the tally. To take the example of a polling station, when you arrive and register to vote you are given a key - one key per voting machine. You present this key to the machine, it permits access to the vote casting user interface, and once the vote is cast it interlocks the machine from presenting the voting options again until it is removed from the machine and returned to the polling clerk, who inserts it in a "reset machine" facility at his desk. (This is required to stop you just running the voting programme lots of times and casting many votes.) Note that this system knows nothing about your true identity, just that it has been used to register a vote.

Except that I have no control or even a method to confirm that this second system is truly a second system. In paper ballot voting in a polling station I physically see that my ballot bears no distinguishing marks before I fill it out, I see that it goes into a hopper with hundreds of other ballots, and I see that they don't note the time that I've come in to vote, only that I have.

I have no such observation of the inner workings of an electronic voting system. They cannot prove to me that they aren't tracking my account with even something so innocent as a simple timestamp relative to when my vote is cast.

Comment: Re:Hmmm, (Score 1) 112

I believe that all 'electronic' voting needs to use a human-readable, human-filled-out paper form that is optically scanned.

Where I live, ballots are large pieces of cardstock with the various questions printed on them, and the voter marks a line between two pre-printed lines (one with an arrowhead pointing at the answer it corresponds with) to indicate preference. The ballots go through the scanning machine and are then deposited into a box like a traditional hand-counted system. If elections are especially close or are challenged by a candidate or group on one side of a particular ballot initiative then the paper ballots are re-counted by machine and by hand. Sometimes a voter makes a mistake when filling out the ballot (like putting X or checkmarks instead of connecting the lines) but if the election official can determine the voter's intent (ie, a checkmark next to a particular candidate's name or in place of where the line should be) then the vote can be counted.

I don't believe that any system of e-voting is practical, even if such a system somehow manages to avoid any sort of tampering with voter's selections.. The electronic safeguards that would be necessary to ensure one voter, one vote would make it impossible to anonymously vote, and the anonymous ballot box is one of the cornerstones of democracy as it prevents a sore winner from seeking retribution against those that attempted to unseat him.

Comment: Re:Hmmm, (Score 4, Insightful) 112

But for security through obscurity to work, the level of obscurity required is generally high, bordering on outright-secret, or the payoff needs to be so scant that there's no reason to bother in the first place.

Security through obscurity might work for something like a power plant control system because we don't know the architecture of the hardware that it runs on, the operating system or if there is a third-party OS, the language it's written in, or even its name, and given the importance of the application it probably wouldn't be permanently Internet-connected, and if it needs to send out notifications it might communicate through a unidirectional RS232 link or something along those lines, or through a transmit-only fiber link (so that there's not even receive hardware on the platform). Certainly there would be some people that really want to break in, but it's exceedingly unlikely that they'll ever be in a position to do so.

Security through obscurity can also work when the system is not terribly important. I don't doubt that the Energy Management System controllers that interface the HVAC systems in commercial office buildings to the computer networks are garbage as far as their code is concerned, but there's not much someone can do with those in most cases. So even if there's ability, there's no real payoff, and the systems are so incredibly simple and underpowered that they'd make for poor intermediaries in a greater attack even.

By contrast, voting equipment is usually distributed widely and is not particularly heavily guarded, and as it needs to be inexpensive to produce in mass quantities it's often commodity hardware, off-the-shelf parts if you will, and there have been documented cases of electronic voting hardware have exposed and functional USB ports. As vote tallies are imortant it's not inconceivable that someone could borrow or steal a voting machine to figure out how it works and to find some way to mass-tamper with them, like distributing USB fobs to their fellows to use on them to load a package. In these cases, obscurity simply doesn't work because the system can't remain obscure.

Comment: Re:Cashless can't happen, here is why ... (Score 5, Insightful) 751

by TWX (#47446005) Attached to: Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills
Yup. It's also common to get discounts for cash. Some places like pawn shops, used bookstores, junkyards, and other businesses will always offer discounts over published or listed prices for cash, and those discounts are often much steeper than just the cost to the merchant of a credit card transaction, and sometimes are quite a bit more than the choice by the merchant to under-report taxable transactions would account for too. I suspect that in part it's a matter of the business having the money now, as opposed to having to wait until the end of the month to get paid. Plus there's always a possibility of messing up a credit/debit transaction, which can result in having one's account (and all outstanding revenue) put on-hold until the processor chooses to release it.

Credit/Debit works best for large companies where there's little to no haggling, and where the sheer volume of transactions allows that merchant to negotiate good terms with the processor, but they're still at the mercy of the processor as far as account and transaction fees are concerned, and then there's the other issue of security. Target, Neiman Marcus, and PF Changs are all going through that right now, and I don't doubt that it'll get worse as time goes on, and while "pin and chip" cards may help, I expect that someone will figure out how to steal through those too, and the cycle will just continue.

And then there's the personal sale angle. I'm not going to take paypal or have the ability to process credit cards for a yard sale or some crap that I'm selling through the classifieds or craigslist. Given how I'm mainly just trying to recoup something in the process of a sale, adding more hoops or steps will just result in my not bothering to sell junk anymore.

The confusion of a staff member is measured by the length of his memos. -- New York Times, Jan. 20, 1981