Diebold is a software company crying out for process

A closer look at the smoking gun memos. I think that Bev Harris does a good job pointing out the issues from a business perspective—and Salon plays up the possibility of tampering probably more than is supported by the data, though it makes for a fun conspiracy theory.

But the real story is the state of the software development behind these more-than-mission-critical systems. No software testing policies, no release process, no documented support procedures… some really good firefighters fixing problems for clients on the ground… friction between the developer and the certification agency… trade-offs between design criteria and customer business process reality… major undocumented functional changes between minor point releases suggesting poor or nonexistent requirements management… bad architecture leaving gaping security holes…

Yeah. I’ve been there (present job excepted, of course). I think it’s safe to say that every software developer has been there. But it really points out how important process is.

Truth is stranger than fiction AND conspiracy theory

Why would a manufacturer of voting machines claim that the ability to easily tamper with votes recorded in them is no big deal? Oh, there are reasons, according to this Salon article about flaws in Diebold’s system, not least of which is the stated commitment of the CEO to deliver his state up to Bush next year. The flaw: anyone who has Microsoft Access can get at the database that stores the results and do anything with the data that they want. Including the audit logs. And in many cases the computers are connected to the Internet.

And the Diebold memos suggest that these back doors are not only known, but have been exploited, in Gaston County, NC—and in King County, Washington. Of course, I should note I’ve never seen these touch-panel systems in Kirkland, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time.

Other places that have used Diebold machines? The state of Georgia, where Max Cleland suffered an overnight 11 point shift, and Sonny Perdue was elected—the first Republican to be elected Governor in 134 years. Coincidence?

Wonder what Greg thinks about all this?

(For those without Salon day passes: The initial investigation by Bev Harris; the first Salon story from earlier this year; the smoking gun memos.)

Get your ears on

A ton of Library of Congress, Rounder Records, and Alan Lomax recordings have arrived in the iTunes Music Store, including Lomax’s Southern Journey series, the LOC recordings of LeadBelly and Jelly Roll Morton, Lomax’s recordings of world music from Italian peasant songs to Irish reels to Caribbean songs, Rounder collections of zydeco and Cajun and cowboy music… Oh man. Not enough hours in the day.

Happy Banned Books Week

Thanks to Jake and Jessamyn, I was reminded that this is Banned Books Week. During this week the American Library Association publishes its list of the books to receive the most “challenges” (attempts to remove or restrict access to books in a library) in the previous year. So go out and read a challenged book. There’s quite a list to work from, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at #7 (if there is a Hall of Fame for challenged authors, Mark Twain is surely in it).