Today I voted for Master Control Program in the election show.
I do not support currently available electronic voting machines. There are lots of places to read about how screwed up and pathetically misdesigned current electronic voting machines are. I do, however, believe in electronic voting in principle. Electronic voting improves the accessibility of democracy; some day I hope we will be able to vote from our home computers or cell phones. It can improve the accuracy of vote counting, for computers are much better at counting than people. More importantly, it can reduce voter fraud in both directions: With a well-designed system, it can make it much more difficult to cast fraudulent votes, and it can make it possible for voters to verify that their votes are counted.
Most of these properties depend on properly deploying cryptographic protocols, some of which may not have been developed yet. I am not an expert. Depending on what you demand of an election system, some argue that a system with all the desirable properties is impossible. Particularly at odds are the following desires: That voters be able to verify that their votes are counted, but to not give a receipt that can be verified by a third party. People argue that votes should not be third-party verifiable so that voters can not be forced to vote a certain way under duress from their employer or government. Even if these two are mutually exclusive, I personally think that first-party verifiability is more important and does not get the attention it deserves; I think it is much more likely that the government or election officials or other parties with access will tamper with the election results than I think it is that someone will be able to get away with large scale individual voter intimidation. (I am interested in your thoughts on this, however.)
In general, I think that we should have a large-scale open project to develop the mathematical techniques, cryptographic protocols, and implementation of electronic voting systems. (Similar perhaps to what NIST did for AES.) I believe such a project is well within the grasp of our technology and that there are more than enough willing and able scientists to work on it.
Here's the last video Mike and I recorded a few months ago when we had access to the high speed camera. Synchronizing the camera (which can only record for about a second) with the destruction is always tricky, but we did really well on this one and also the video is not quite what you think it is.
Halloween 06, Puzzlequest, etc.
(31 Oct 2006 at 21:34)
This weekend we (Team "Eating Buildings" = Myself, Jason Reed, Adam Goode, and William Lovas) achieved our highest official ranking yet in Puzzlequest: 2nd place. This was something like our 8th time doing it. It was a really good contest this time, with some aspects similar to the ICFP contest we designed this summer (it was built around a text adventure game in which you had to discover "scrolls" that contained the puzzles). It is always nice to play something really polished and filled with lovely in-jokes.
We were done three hours before the end of the contest so I even had time to go to a halloween party. I dressed as a member of Devo, thanks mostly to an excellent Energy Dome that Cortney made for me (see right). I was pretty disappointed in many of the whippersnappers at the party for not even knowing who Devo is, seeing as how they had like a top 20 hit and everything. But I guess it is less embarrassing for them than when I went as Mikhail Gorbachev and people didn't know who he is. And we're talking a CMU grad school party, not some remedial pig roast. Ah, well.
The other news is that today I finished the proof I had been struggling with for a few weeks (I thought it would be easy but it grew into a 2500-line monster) so I am SERVER OK on that and ready to go back to actual implementation work for my thesis project...
Ten years ago in August 1996 I released the (final) "1.0" version of my DOS game Escape. As radar regulars know, I've been working on a modernization of the game for several years now. As a sort of late birthday present I posted the DOS version on the Escape page (I think it wasn't available anywhere since the old AOL page is not working). If you like clunky old QuickBasic programs, PC-speaker sound effects, and low-res graphics, it is now enshrined there forever. Take a look at the screenshots:
The title screen let you choose between 5 different characters to play with, like the "knight", the "office guy", the "redhead lady", "pac man" and "hoodie guy". There were about 100 levels made by me, my family and friends, and a few by students in a class I taught at Eli Whitney Museum about programming. In retrospect most of the levels were pretty crummy; I've learned since then that there are a lot of incredibly smart puzzle makers out there.