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Re: Can a machine test itself? + other issues



Vince,

One more question--is any vendor truly prepared to invest in an embedded, totally custom COTS-free voting system and then make all of its investment public as Open Source? If so, I missed that information.

-- Dick

Dick Johnson wrote:

Gee, Vince,

please re-read my comments.  I have no doubt that there are tons of
embedded systems in existence, and that there is an embedded system
industry.  I have not said that such is impossible or that it does not
exist.  I may have phrased my argument poorly.

I am only saying that my understanding (which may be wrong) of the
economics of voting systems is such that most voting systems are based
on either Windows or Linux and not custom embedded systems for the
reason that vendors have wished to save money.  Sure, it is possible,
feasible, and desired by many to built COTS-free software--but how much
will it cost and who will pay for it?

This is my personal and professional opinion, and it does not
necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer.

Cheers!

-- Dick

Vincent J. Lipsio wrote:

Dick,
I have made my living for 28 years now designing embedded systems. Remarkably, you have just told Stan that my line of work is "passed the bounds of the practical". Please do a Google search on "Embedded Systems" and you will discover that there is an entire thriving industry that you seem entirely unaware of.


Embedded systems typically employ a kernel written in-house (as, for example, ES&S's DREs do) or an RTOS (Real Time Operating System), of which there are more than a hundred on the market. You may wish to Google that term, too.

There are hundreds of specialized processors from all the major manufacturers that are tailored to specific niches of the embedded market.

Intel, realizing it was missing the embedded market because it end-of-lifes its desktop CPUs three years after introduction, now introduces a new x86 chip from time to time that is guaranteed to remain in production as long as there is a demand for it. For this reason, most embedded systems that use x86 CPUs use some variant of a 486 or 386.

Microsoft introduced CE in order to try to get into the embedded systems market. It has gained some popularity among non-critical applications. However, no critical device uses a Microsoft OS and few use Linux; by critical device I mean, for example, a Class 3 or class 2 FDA device or avionics systems certified under RTCA/DO-178B.

Your comments leave me no choice but to conclude that you have no knowledge of the entire arena of computer engineering that Stan and I, among others, have been discussing.

Vince Lipsio

----------------- Commence Original Message -----------------

You raise some interesting theoretical issues, but my sense of it is
that you have passed the bounds of the practical.  The economic basis of
computers was and is that they may run more than one program.  It does
not have to be this way; you could design and build a dedicated,
one-purpose machine with hardware and software all custom crafted.
Quite expensive, really, since all development costs must be amortized
over one specialized application.  The profit potential is limited,
given the costs of development, so no private party would want to do
this.  Are you sure that the political realities are such that the U.S.
Government in a time of deficit would choose to spend money on elections
rather than tax cuts?  I might agree with you on the desired approach to
election equipment, but I am not very influential regarding the federal
government's spending plans.

The fact of the matter is that in the real world we have MS Windows and
Linux from which to choose,  generic PC firmware and hardware,
specialized and general purpose printers, proprietary hardware, and
either open source or proprietary specialized voting software.  From
this mix, all US voting systems will certainly emerge.  We do have the
option of specifiying Open Test to supplement the existing proprietary,
private, and inscrutible test organizations currently providing
certification.  Our standards must provide a measure of how well an
individual voting system is likely to function, given our understood
criteria.

Otherwise, although interesting, speculation about total custom voting
systems (Open Source and Open Hardware Designs?) does not seem helpful
except in order to highlight what is needed in the real world.

This is my personal and professional opinion, and it does not
necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer.
Cheers!

-- Dick

Richard C. Johnson, Ph.D.
Applications Architect
Oracle Corporation
631-689-3736