April 25, 2004

It's been 8 years since we last elected a president - Support Open Voting and Voter Verified ballots.

In a real democracy the outcome of elections is determined by the intention of the voters not by software flaws or mechanical failures.

It's been 8 years since we last elected a president.  At this weeks CFP it became clear that there are substantial entrenched interests that value efficiency and profit above the integrity of our elections.

At CFP I heard people who certify voting systems and elections officials claim that paper, whether in the form of voter verifiable audit trails or in the form of actual ballots, are too hard to process.  I heard others make false claims that paper trails are somehow inconsistent with voting systems that may be used by those who have physical impairments.

Contrast those claims with an article that appeared in the March 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly: How Jefferson Counted Himself In.  Even after 203 years, the authors were still able to examine the actual paper ballots that were cast in the electoral college in the presidential election of 1800.

Elections are not for the convenience of election officials nor are they for the profit of voting machine companies.  Democracy is priceless.

Please support Open Voting and Voter Verified ballots:

Open Voting Consortium

http://www.verifiedvoting.org/

Posted by karl at 2:27 PM

April 9, 2004

What is the "computer" in a Microsoft EULA?

Today on /. there was an item about Microsoft permitting the reinstallation of some of Microsoft's so-called "operating systems" on donated computers.

Now, personally I'd suggest that Linux or Bsd or some other system be loaded onto such machines, but that's not the subject of this note.

Rather, I kinda wonder about what happens to someone who has purchased a Microsoft license and then, after a few years, buys a replacement machine and junks the original machine.

It seems that Microsoft's license requires that the user tender another pound of flesh to Microsoft for a new license.

But I wonder - what exactly is the definition of "computer" ? Could one, for example, rip the CPU out of the old machine and duct tape it to the motherboard of the new one? Would that preserve the identity of the old machine.

Sure that sounds like an artificial and conjured argument. But it is it really any more artificial or conjured than the assertion that something that comes in a box and looks and smells for all the world like a normal thing that I "buy" is not a "good" (as in "goods and services") at all but is actually a "license" that substantially changes my ability to use this thing in the future.

Posted by karl at 4:02 PM

April 8, 2004

ICANN's Status Report - Devoid of Real Contents

I see that ICANN has published its latest status report to the US Dept of Commerce.

It's refreshing to see that ICANN has stopped trying to make it look impressive by larding it with lists of protocol parameters written down by IANA.

Thinking of IANA - The only technical content in the entire 36 pages is talk about the L root server. The report talks about the L server as if that server were part and parcel of ICANN. Yet doesn't that root server come to ICANN via a purchase order from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in which ICANN agrees to perform the IANA function? If so, then that root server job goes wherever the IANA purchase order goes and doesn't belong to ICANN any more than the Awhanee Hotel in Yosemite belongs to whoever is running the National Park concession at the moment.

And thinking about technical content - the report is full of talk about business matters and things that pretend to pertain to the technical stability of the internet. But when read carefully, the report indicates that ICANN, as it has for the last 5 years, has done nothing that really promotes the stability of the internet as measured by technical criteria.

In other words, this status report again reveals that ICANN is a self-centered organization that has so little impact on the technical stability that users of the internet would not notice any change were ICANN to disappear.

Thinking of invisibility - did you notice in the report how ICANN once again says that it will be entering into agreements with root server operators? Given the words of at least some of the root server operators, that agreement is unlikely to come into existance.

Or perhaps ICANN will once again foist-off a vacuous agreement as if it had substance. Take a look at the appendix 2 of the report in which ICANN tries to make us believe that the goal of internet oversight and stability is promoted via a letter of intent with the IP address registries to agree to a memorandum of understanding that institutionalizes the independence of those registries and instutionalizes ICANN's abrogation of any real role in IP address allocation policies.

One has to wonder why all the ICANN-sponsored hoopla about its ALAC (an onomatopoeic acronym is there ever was one) - If ICANN continues to sign agreements in which ICANN abandons technical oversight then what good is public participation in ICANN (except, perhaps, to counter ICANN's role, a role well described in this status report, as regulator of business and economic use of the internet?)

I see that ICANN is finally thinking of firing up the old independent review function. I hope that they do not forget that I and I believe others have pending matters for independent review dating back several years.

All-in-all this report certainly has a strong resemblance to one of those school days' reports - we all wrote 'em - in which we spent a lot of effort inflating a tiny bit of material into a something with enough heft that the lack of content might not be noticed.

Overall grade: A lot of time and money spent with little results. There are no results at all with respect to ICANN's primary mission, the reliable and stable operation of the upper layer of the internet's domain name system and IP address allocation system. The Department of Commerce should seriously consider reaching for the plug.

Posted by karl at 10:23 AM

April 7, 2004

Littering the root with dead TLDs

ICANN has already adopted some new TLDs that are essentialy moribund or useless to the general internet community - .pro, .museum, .aero, .coop, .name etc.

ICANN is on the verge of adding other new TLDs that may also prove to be duds.

Unfortunately, because of ICANN's silly obsession with "sponsorship" ICANN is pouring concrete around the semantics and uses of such TLDs, thus minimizing the chance that, if they turn out to failures, they can be reaped and recycled for purposes that might actually prove of value to the community of internet users.

Let's look at .mail, a proposed new TLD. Yes, spam is a problem. But I see no evidence that this new TLD will prove to be a partial cure, much less a panacea. As far as I can tell it will do no more than SPF. And SPF doesn't require a top level domain.

I'd certainly like to see a demonstration using a second or third level domain that there actually is some viable technology behind TLD proposals such as .mail.

As most of you know, I want new TLDs to come forth in great numbers - to borrow a phrase "let a thousand TLDs bloom".

However, ICANN is stingy about granting new TLDs - it's been doing about one per year on average. That artifical scarcity and restraint of trade means that we ought to endevour to get new TLDs that are actually of value to the internet community - ICANN does not leave much room for experimentation or innovation.

Were ICANN to drop its silly limitations and actually start granting a reasonable number of new TLDS - say one per day or one per week - then I'd be more willing to let untested ideas get TLDs.

Otherwise we run the risk of spending ICANN's intentionally-empty purse of TLD slots on ideas that die and provide no value to the internet community.

Posted by karl at 3:56 PM

April 3, 2004

ICANN Abandons Technical Matters Altogether

I see that the RIRs and ICANN have, after years of talk, managed to come up with a letter of intent to enter into a "Memorandum of Understanding".

That "Memorandum of Understanding" pretty much removes ICANN from any real role in the matter of IP address allocation.

As usual, ICANN resorts to the ambiguous words "Memorandum of Understanding" to avoid clearly stating whether or not the relationship being established is legally enforceable as a contract.

There is an interesting reference in paragraph 16 of the proposed MoU that refers to an "agreement to be executed between the RIRs and ICANN".  Notice that in that instance the documents use word "agreement" rather than "Memorandum of Understanding".  The word "agreement" is often synonymous with "enforceable contract", so my guess is that's where we will find the terms that transfer money from the RIRs to ICANN, a matter not mentioned in the proposed MoU but one that we know from experience is never far from ICANN's mind.

As a practical matter this MoU removes the final opportunity for ICANN to claim that it has any role whatsoever in the technical oversight of the internet.

In June of 2002 I raised the question -  What Would Happen To The Internet If ICANN Were To Vanish?  This proposed Memorandum of Understanding once again makes it clear that ICANN's absence would have no impact on the technical stability of the internet.  Which should lead one to wonder what, if anything, is the benefit of ICANN to the community of internet users?

Posted by karl at 2:17 AM