Believe in Your Data - Database Weekly (Aug 25, 2008)

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In general when we replace an analog system with a digital one, we gain a lot of benefits. While there is definitely a development cost, additional hardware, and often maintenance, these can easily be justified with the benefits of a digital system like less labor required, time savings, or even new information that cannot be gathered any other way.

Over the last 8 years in the US, I've seen quite a bit of interest in modernizing our voting systems in government. For most of my life paper ballots have been used in conjunction with some type of electronic reading device. It has always seem antiquated, and typically a tremendous amount of labor has been required to collect ballots and help manage the counting. After our ballot issues in 2000, many voting agencies rushed to implement electronic voting.

When electronic voting machines were first introduced, I was excited to think about actually using one, though to date I haven't used one. All of my ballots have still been paper based, though maybe that works a little better out here in the rural areas.

Apparently the machines haven't proven to be designed very well as many are now being scrapped. Various government entities have found them to be insecure and just plain buggy. Ohio published a paper that cited a number of issues, and Diebold's machines have been shown to be fundamentally flawed. And they've made stupid mistakes!

Personally I think anyone that builds a commercial product that must perform and be secure with an Access database shouldn't be allowed to build applications. That's just dumb. I'm not an Access fan, but it is a tool that works, however it's a desktop tool, not something you use for mission critical applications. And I'd consider voting, mission critical.

As DBAs, we are entrusted to be sure that our data is not only secure, but intact. We need to ensure that the results we give back from our data is accurate. However with systems like this, that use fundamentally flawed architectures and make large assumptions, there is little we can do.

If you're outside the US, however, I'd caution your governments not to purchase any of these machines.

Steve Jones

Steve's Pick of the Week

Microsoft Updates Virtual Licensing - I was surprised to know that this wasn't possible before, but apparently just this week Microsoft changed their licensing policy to allow server application licenses to change hardware within a server farm in an unlimited fashion. Previously you were allowed to move VMs across hardware only once every 90 days.

Brad's DBA Timeout Challenge


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