Voting

N.J. voting extension exposes email can of worms

Over the weekend, the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Kim Guadagno announced that anyone displace by the hurricane would be considered an overseas voter for purposes of these elections. As such they are allowed to request and submit ballots via fax or email. On election day, the state extended the deadline for those ballot submissions via email and fax until 8 PM Eastern on Friday, Ars Technica reports

This totally unprecedented move, while completely laudable, may be the cause of more problems than the long lines at polling places. Until the extension was announced, each affected county essentially had approximately 48 hours to beef up their current overseas voting system to handle what may be 100 times or more than the usual load. And then the loser of each race has days to pick it apart.

Network administrators know that “scaling up” an existing process or system that is currently designed to handle relatively small numbers is never simple. Often it requires a complete overhaul, because what may work fine for small numbers of users or documents may be completely wrong for huge numbers.

And this doesn’t even begin to address the inherent security problems that email has always had. There is a reason that people are told not to send confidential information in an email – unencrypted email is too vulnerable to interception and tampering. There is also a reason why email encryption hasn’t caught on in business – it takes additional steps that the average user would have to learn. For someone who gets hundreds of emails a day, using encryption would add significant time to the task of sending and receiving emails, so no one uses it for every single email. So, when it comes time to send or receive an email that really needs encryption, the user doesn’t usually have the means.

While this may be a way for New Jersey residents to vote when they otherwise may be unable due to their situation, this may also open up a can of worms that the state legislature did not foresee.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Nov 07, 2012 at 9:39 AM0 comments


International Space Station

Want to see the Space Station? NASA will text you.

The International Space Station (ISS) is the third brightest object in the sky, dimmer only than the sun and the moon, so it should be easy to spot. This is because it is only 240 miles away, bigger than a football field, and really shiny. But the trick is knowing where and when to look. It’s a big sky, and the orbit of the ISS has it oscillating between 51.6 degrees north and south latitudes. It’s also going so fast that it is usually visible from any one location for only about four minutes at a time.

NASA has a solution for those interested in seeing this technological marvel first-hand. They call it “Spot the Station,” an email service that tells you when you might be able to see the ISS. To sign up you give your location city, and the server will automatically send you an email when the ISS is about to be in a good viewing position for that city.

For example, you might receive one that looks like this:

“SpotTheStation! Time: Wed Apr 25 7:45 PM, Visible: 4 min, Max Height: 66 degrees, Appears: WSW, Disappears NE.”

With this NASA tells you when and where to look when it shows up, how high in your sky it will go (with 90 degrees being directly overhead), and how long it will take to get from one horizon to the other. The space agency will only let you know when the maximum height will be greater than 40 degrees, so the higher your latitude, the less often you’ll get an email. Those who live in cities in the continental United States should get an email about once or twice a week.

Of course, if you’d prefer, you can get the notices in the form of an SMS text message by giving as an email address the email-to-sms service address, which varies with each carrier. If you’re interested, sign up for yourself. http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

Posted by Greg Crowe on Nov 05, 2012 at 9:39 AM4 comments


Americas Army comic tablet app

Army unveils next chapter of recruiting comic app

The free comics app for iPad and Android tablets now features the second issue of the America’s Army comic series. In the this issue, “Rise to the Challenge,” readers follow the life of Roy Lacroix from a high school student to a Special Forces medic deployed in Czervenia.
                                                                                                      
The main purpose of the comic is to enlighten readers about soldiers and their missions, their values, their jobs or Military Occupational Specialties, the high-tech equipment and gear they use and the vast network of support on which they rely.  If fans want to learn more they can explore the app’s interactive intelligence section that showcases characters, state-of-the-art gear, technology, weapons, aircraft and more.

The comic app was developed and written by the Army Game Studio, developers of the highly successful America's Army PC games, which have been a useful educational tool, not to mention a fun experience, for almost 10 years. It is now in its third major incarnation.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Nov 01, 2012 at 9:39 AM0 comments