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German Elections Go Open Source 159

Posted by michael
from the one-small-step-for-the-bundestag dept.
Get Behind the Mule writes "The Heise news ticker is reporting that the software used by the German government to handle the results of the Bundestag election (that's the national parliament) on September 22nd will be based on open source platforms. The system will be written in Java and deploy Tomcat, JBoss and MySQL, and is being developed by the Berlin software firm IVU (here's their press release), working with the Statisches Bundesamt (the federal statistics office). It's not clear from the announcements whether the source code of the application itself, and not just the servers it runs on, will be publically available. Nevertheless, one is reminded of the argument of Peruvian congressman Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nuñez (seen recently in Slashdot) that open source software enables citizens of a democracy to see for themselves whether the work of government, such as elections, is conducted as it should be. All of the announcements are in German, so go fish. The software, as described in the announcements, will compute preliminary results (which are announced as soon as possible after the polls close), run plausibility checks, and determine the Bundestag membership as well as distribution of seats to the political parties. It will use web clients for entry of voting data, data import, presentation of results, and preparation of printed results. It will be based on a three-level architecture (apparently standard J2EE) and deploy Enterprise Java Beans."
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German Elections Go Open Source

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  • by adjensen (58676)
    An interesting concept, to be sure. Were that all of the political process was "open source".

    And even though it is written in Java, they'll still likely have their election results sooner than we had ours in 2000 :-)
    • Yeah, if someone wants to file a federal lawsuit [findlaw.com] to stop the count (and it still baffles me that a candidate in a supposedly democratic election actually did this), they have to be really quick about it. ;-)
      They'll probably only have a window of a few seconds...
  • Poetic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:10AM (#3495842) Homepage Journal
    There is a certain sense of poetic justness about using OSS as the engine behind a democratic process.
    • I totaly agree. I love this trend of Government using OSS and I hope more countrys get on the band wagon. I think if people start seeing all thier tax dollars being handled by OSS safe and secure, there will be much more end user migration. It would do a lot to let people know that there is a viable alternitive to the expensive proprietary stuff.
    • Dunno, it makes perfect sense to me. I'm no OSS zealot by a long shot (I personally have no need for software source as I can't make head nor tails of it anyways - usually), but I can't understand why governments aren't using OSS instead of handing over control of public documents/processes to a commercial entity. I'm really glad the Germans are starting to realize this and I hope the rest of the EU follows their example.
  • I think this is very positive for open source software. It shows that oss can really be used in critical and important conditions
  • Better than Babel? (Score:5, Informative)

    by clickety6 (141178) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:15AM (#3495857)
    Try the following translator instead of Babelfish.
    I think it gives a more readable result, especially as it keeps the paragraph formatting.

    http://translator.abacho.de/translate.phtml
    • [OT] - Abacho translates using "Systran", which is the same engine as Babelfish. I'm not sure if they have a later version, but they should both be of equal quality.
  • Aside from the usual open source/proprietary
    rhetoric, it just seems very logic to me that
    you want the system that you use for democratic elections to be as transparent and open as possible.
  • by Afty0r (263037) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:19AM (#3495871) Homepage
    It's not clear from the announcements whether the source code of the application itself, and not just the servers it runs on, will be publically available. Nevertheless, one is reminded of the argument of Peruvian congressman Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nuñez (seen recently in Slashdot) that open source software enables citizens of a democracy to see for themselves whether the work of government, such as elections, is conducted as it should be.

    It's clear from common sense that if the code to the platform is open source, but not the system itself then there is no way the citizens can see for themselves how the work is being conducted.
    • since it is not clear from the announcements, i wouldn't assume they don't completely "open up".

      it would be absolutely fantastic when any computer-literate citizen could check out whether the voting system determines the outcome of the elctions in a correct way. therefore, i hope that what you (rightfully) deduce using the common sense approach, does not reflect the real situation.

      does any (german) /. have any information on the dgree of "openness" in the "election-application"?
    • Good point. However, does that mean that non-open source systems are not accountable? Ah, I see the misunderstanding! In the US, elections are automated. In Germany they are not, so all the system does is number crunch the raw data gathered by the local offices. All it does - afaik - is calculate the parlamentary seats from the votes by the so called "System Niemeyer" [iuscomp.org]

      Anyway, to bring my point accross

      1) The ballot counting in Germany is still done by hand (which is good, see US elections), so no software at all (opensource or whatever) is involved. You either trust the results, or you don't

      2) You need the raw data to verify the system, again regardless of the software used. Now IF you
      have the raw data, the you can verify the system, because the algorithem used is public domain. Regardless of open or closed source

      So all this is is a little media hoopla, and possibly allows some students to re-use the code for some university elections. But it does - in no way - make elections any more or less accountable.

      Alex
      • by mpe (36238)
        The ballot counting in Germany is still done by hand (which is good, see US elections), so no software at all (opensource or whatever) is involved. You either trust the results, or you don't

        One thing parts of the US have not caught on to is the concept of one ballot paper per election. IIRC some of the voting in the US involves multiple elections on the same physical ballot paper. Which greatly complicates the issue of recounts, there was talk about needing software to work out which ballots were needed for a recount. As opposed to something like "sort out the blue ones".

        You need the raw data to verify the system, again regardless of the software used. Now IF you have the raw data, the you can verify the system, because the algorithem used is public domain. Regardless of open or closed source.

        But if you don't have the source you can't formally verify that it follows the algorithm. You could end up with something which will give the same results the vast majority of the time.
      • 1) The ballot counting in Germany is still done by hand (which is good, see US elections


        No, ballot counting by hand is Bad. See US elections.
  • by serps (517783) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:21AM (#3495879) Homepage

    First off, congratulations to the German Government. It's good to see the German people upholding the values of democracy, in ironic counterpoint to the USA :P

    The obvious question is this: The German Government now has the software for handling elections; will they now offer that software to the governments of other countries for (free|low cost)?

    • the biggest part of the software is probably specific for the german election system.
      the most standartised characteristic should be that the one who got the most votes wins, and that wouldn't even be the case in a certain other democracy on the other side of the atlantic...
      • OK, point taken. However, the business logic wouldn't be that hard in any case, elections being fairly simple affairs, unlike air traffic control :)

        The point is that it's quite simple to swap out bits of the business logic that doesn't apply (especially if the code is open source). If the German Government can demonstrate that secure, reliable, comparitively inexpensive elections can be done on an open source platform, then other governments may be able to see beyond the Microsoft Solution(tm) and go their own way.

      • the most standartised characteristic should be that the one who got the most votes wins

        Which is also not the case in Germany, due to an error in the election rules - see here (german) [wahlrecht.de]
  • by jukal (523582)
    I have seen way too many JBoss and Tomcat things jammed, that it makes me ill. Some people use EJBs just to print out "Hello World". Why don't they just use static HTML, and parse those 42 bytes using a custom apache module written in C, so things might keep trolling better. :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      EJB is an overhead for simple stuff, but for systems that are that complex EJB is great.
      • agreed, I also believe that EJB is good in your toolbox. You just have to first do the boring stuff, analysis, requirements, design, and detailed design. Then if EJB is the tool that it points to, then fine, otherwise. Just pick the tool at correct time, I quess :)
    • Perhaps because they want a reliable system. No need to reinvent the wheel here, the J2EE platform is available as Open Source.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        This isn't meant as a troll but if they want a reliable system why are they using mySQL. I know slashdot runs on it but then if slashdots engine looses a few posts its no big deal. If their engine looses a few thousand votes it's a very big deal. Wouldn't they be better using something ACID compliant? or even vaguely SQL compliant instead of just accepting SQL without errors but ignoring it like mySQL often does.
        • well you do have a point, I would have chosen Postgres for the database as well. But supposedly the latest mySQL also has those spanky transactions implemented.

          no clue about mySQL "compliance" wrt sql though

          • by Anonymous Coward
            "no clue about mySQL "compliance" wrt sql though"

            Little things like these not working:
            ON UPDATE CASCADE

            CHECK EXISTS IN

            FOREIGN KEY(blah)

            mySQL accepts them without complaining, but doesn't actually do any of the relationship processing side of the SQL(unless they've fixed this in the last few months). It basically seems to just store stuff... which could probably be done better with some blank textfiles.
  • Whereas... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bennn (558883) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:22AM (#3495886)
    ...The UK government jump into bed with M$, having trialed electronic voting for the first time last week. Any bets on a landslide victory for Tony come the next general election? Irrespective of which button the pesky voters actually pushed...
    • Re:Whereas... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tom (822) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:31AM (#3495914) Homepage Journal
      Actually, mostly Tony Blair himself. Ever noticed how much the guy loves to be in the company of Bill Gates?
      In contrast, the german government had a left-swing in the last general elections, and with the leftist green party came a bunch of people into the parliament that had actually heard of or even - gasp - used Linux. Microsoft only realized when the parliament was publicly discussing using Linux for all its computers, and retaliated with massive lobbying, winning at least a compromise.

      So this is only the latest event in a number of battles for the european governments.

  • MySQL? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:23AM (#3495888)
    Why MySQL? Postgresql would be more reliable surely?

    Judging from the amount of posts that Slashdot drops anyway. You need to accurately record every vote, you can't drop 1 in 100,000 even.

    Maybe if they are using MySQL 4 with transactions and all the other stuff, then fine. But really, Postgresql is a better match. And preferable is a solution where you can sue someone if it all goes wrong...

    • Re:MySQL? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by karm13 (538402)
      as far as i am informed, the ballots will still be counted locally (by hand), and the outcome will be transmitted to a central server, which then calculates which party gets how many seats in the parlament, a complicated process compared to other countries.
    • MySQL is fairly reliable; the process on our mail server has been up for hundreds of days (and it is a 3.x beta version I believe). We have something like 50,000 E-mail users and it holds up pretty well.

      It does occansionally suffer some performance drawbacks due to lack of subselects and row-level locking (Some of which is addressed in the 4.x series, but we're too chicken to upgrade). In this respect, yes, Postgres would be much better. But I can't imagine any seriously complicated queries being used in a simple election process.

      Also, probably most importantly, MySQL has (IMO) a better security model than Postgres. That's not to say that MySQL's implementation is better than Postgres' (I doubt it is), but in theory it's great :)

      My big question is why use JBoss and Tomcat? Is the former dependent on the latter? What kind of benefit is there in running both?
      • I think JBoss and Tomcat work well together by design. JBoss handles the EJBs, and Tomcat handles the JSPs.
      • by awol (98751)
        In truth election systems can be complex. The queries associated therewith extremely un-relational which makes an RDBMS a poor choice of implementation.

        In 1989, I taught myself C writing an election counting application for the particularly complex system used at my university student union. It was only an exercise and so the count was performed in the traditional fashion, with the continual distribution and redistribution of votes until sufficient candidates had been eliminated to determine the council.

        The computer made this process trivial and a count that took upwards of 12 hours by hand for a few thousand votes could be done in the application in seconds (no surprise there). But were I to have used an RDBMS then the number of updates would have been quite horrible and the indexing largely ineffective. Blecch.

        Having said that Germany's preferential voting system is pretty trivial so I don't imagine that performance will be any issue regardles of implementation.
        • Sounds to me like you're saying that voting systems and counting the votes is comlicatated, not that automating them is. In that case, automating them is a good idea. A complicated system done manually is highly prone to making mistakes, which are hard to detect and correct. Each time you have an election, you are prone to making the same mistakes. An automated system can be verified to ensure that it does the correct thing, both by inspection of the source code, and by testing, and the complex & error prone process is done only once (per set of rules).
          • by awol (98751)

            In that case, automating them is a good idea.



            I didn't mean to suggest that automating them was a bad idea just that if one chooses an RDBMS as the vehicle then performance will be unnecessarily compromised.


      • Re:MySQL? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kerg (71582)
        My big question is why use JBoss and Tomcat?

        JBoss implements the whole J2EE platform (including Enterprise JavaBeans, Messaging, Connector Architecture, Management Extensions, etc etc). Tomcat only implements the web layer (servlet & JSPs). JBoss can embed Tomcat as its web tier implementation, although I think using Jetty [mortbay.org] would have been more reliable and better performing choice as a servlet/JSP container.

        • Except Jetty hasn't supported the 1.3 servlet spec, which allows dynamic page incluides. No dynamic includes was the reason I was originally going to use PHP in place of JSP for the front end. Nothing against PHP, just wanted to stick to all one Language, which I was able to do w/ Catalina (Tomcat 4)
      • Re:MySQL? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tet (2721) <slashdot@astradyne.[ ]uk ['co.' in gap]> on Friday May 10, 2002 @10:40AM (#3496691) Homepage Journal
        MySQL is fairly reliable; the process on our mail server has been up for hundreds of days

        This is exactly the sort of anecdotal evidence that open source advocates need to avoid. The fact that it's reliable to that extent is completely irrelevant. Businesses (and in this case, governments) don't care if it goes down occasionally. Sure, they'd rather it didn't. But what they do care about is that if it does go down, they don't lose data integrity. It's far less costly to have 2 hours downtime than it is to have garbage data in your database (potentially without you knowing about it). MySQL doesn't have the ACID properties, that provide this level of assurance, and until it does, it won't really be suitable for this sort of use.

        • ACID (Score:2, Interesting)

          by daBass (56811)
          You don't need full ACID to be reliable, Just look at Sybase or MS SQL server, they both aren't truly due to the lack of multi-versioning that Oracle and Postgress have. That doesn't mean they are not reliable!

          That said: I wouldn't trust MySql for anything. What makes it's acceptance in the open source community even harder to understand for me is the lack of a true GPL. Postgress is very reliable and is GPL. I also wouldn't know how to survive without referential integrity constraints, outer joins, subselects and nested queries!

          But for a project like this, I would certainly go for Sybase or Oracle, I love free/OS software, which is often better than commercial products, but when it comes to database, I am not convinced yet!
          • by Betcour (50623)
            Well there are a couple of reasons why MySQL is so popular despite its obvious shortcomings :
            - it's very easy to install, setup, use and maintain. I got replication to work in 5 minutes the first time I tried. I wonder how long it takes with Oracle... Postgresql doesn't even know replication
            - it's not ACID, yet it's very VERY reliable. It just keep going for months on without a restart provided the hardware underneath is big enough to handle the load. Even when it crashes your tables are always back up clean and nice. There's no need to run vacuum (Postgresql...) or rebuild indexes, it just work.

            You get here the winning combo : something easy to use and that gets the work done. That's the same reason some people stick to their old Nikon camera or to an old truck.
            • Ummm... (Score:4, Informative)

              by ttfkam (37064) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:24PM (#3498262) Homepage Journal
              PostgreSQL is also easy to install, setup, and use (admittedly without replication -- that's true). It is just installed with RPM and "createdb". No biggie.

              It's not ACID, but very reliable? That's a bit of an anachronism. ACID isn't a library or a protocol to which you must be compatible -- it's a minimum guideline for reliability. ACID is a contract that says that if you put it in, you will be able to get it out again, unharmed, unchanged, and every time.

              Atomicity: In a transaction involving two or more discrete pieces of information, either all of the pieces are committed or none are.

              Consistency: A transaction either creates a new and valid state of data, or, if any failure occurs, returns all data to its state before the transaction was started.

              Isolation: A transaction in process and not yet committed must remain isolated from any other transaction.

              Durability: Committed data is saved by the system such that, even in the event of a failure and system restart, the data is available in its correct state.

              ----------

              In short, by saying that "it's not ACID, yet it's VERY reliable" in reality means "it's not 100% percent reliable, but it's at least 85%."

              If I delete a record that is a foreign key reference for other records, will MySQL guarantee that the record cannot be deleted or that every record that points to it is also deleted dependant upon admin preferences? PostgreSQL does.

              MySQL has many more utilities to repair and maintain integrity of its databases than PostgreSQL. It's true. But then again, the authors of PostgreSQL have designed and engineered the datastore so that catastrophic data integrity failure cannot occur in the first place. Hardware failures (memory loses bits or hard drive fails to write correctly) can cause it, but even pulling the plug, while putting the most recent changes in jeopardy, will not destroy your committed data.

              And before anyone comes forward with tales of PostgreSQL data integrity issues, please check that you are talking about v7.1 or later (available for more than a year).

              Now then, on to issues of vacuum. I admit this can be a time sink. As you run updates and inserts on a PostgreSQL database, the indexes are not quite as efficient as they started (hence the need for vacuum) but it's not all bad as that. Most people would only have to run vacuum every night at 3am (or something like that) from a cron job. In short, PostgreSQL requires a minimum level of maintenance for optimum perfomance. Note that I did not say that it needs maintenance to keep your data safe -- only to maintain optimum performance. And nothing replaces good backups for any database.

              And before you say, "But PostgreSQL's vacuum locks the table so you can't get work done," please note that 7.2 removes this constraint.

              Will someone honestly try to say with a straight face that you would trust a MySQL database with gobs of data for an extended time without performing at least minor maintenance? If someone does, please tell me that they aren't running the German election database...
        • Oh it's come down a few times, but we've never lost any data. The tables have become corrupt too, but mysql bundles a fix utility that saved it. But you're right--user authentication data is pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things. If this was billing data I'd be worried...

          But then one has to wonder, how long to the germans plan to store the election data? Indefinitely? If so, wouldn't it be better to archive it?

          (And that opens up a whole new can of worms. Say 10 years later a bug surfaced and they re-ran the archived data, showing a different victor--would legislation passed in that time become invalid due to a flawed election?)
        • Actually the InnoBase back end does implement ACIDity. Given that I'm an outspoken pro-PostgreSQL bigot with no love of MySQL ... trust me on this!
        • Cool thing about people braggin about uptime is it tells you when they last patched their kernel... If someone says they have 100 days uptime then it means they're missing more than three months worth of of patches..

          - Steve
    • Well, PostgreSQL would handle overload situations more gracefully, that's for sure.

      If you ever waited 15s for a webpage just to have a blank page or error message presented to you, you can be sure the backend of that site is MySQL.

      On PHPBuilder there's an Article [phpbuilder.org] about the performance of the two with a real world application (actually, it's sourceforge). It's a little bit old now, but I guess it would look even better for PostreSQL now.

  • by dmouritsendk (321667) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:25AM (#3495893)
    The election results would be prosponed forever, because every single candidate that lost. Have hired a horde of computer scientists to find possible problems with the software being used, that could have effected the results ;)
    • If the US does move to a standardized electronic voting system proprietry or closed, considering that it is much easier to sue in the US than it is in Germany, I think you would be right in the effect but not in the system.
    • Have hired a horde of computer scientists to find possible problems with the software being used

      Ignoring all the other possible affects on society etc, this would be totally sweet. Every computer scientist in the country working on a few Open Source programs. It wouldn't even be a "mythical man month" issue. It would all be about redundancy in error checking.

      Of course, all the computer scientists in the world couldn't prevent the state governor from illegaly disenfranchising 100,000 voters a few months before the election.
  • Are you sure? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:26AM (#3495895)
    that open source software enables citizens of a democracy to see for themselves whether the work of government, such as elections, is conducted as it should be.

    Nice troll.

    If you think about it, using OSS doesn't guarantee that nobody is cheating. Sure, you have the sources, but how do you know that the sources you have are the ones actually running on the machine? It's not like they're going to let anybody who wants to reinstall the whole thing.

    Yes, it does give you the posibility to check the code to make sure there are no bugs, but it also opens the posibility that anyone with physical access to the machine can install a version of the software which looks the same but has a back door. It used to be that only the original writers had that power, so now you have to trust a lot more people.

    So, no, open source software isn't a magic bullet either.
    • Hmmm,

      Does that mean that if you write a virus for OSS you need to distribute the source code along with it too?

      I can see it now, the virus writer got two years in jail for the virus and 10 years for violating the GPL...
    • If you think about it, using OSS doesn't guarantee that nobody is cheating. Sure, you have the sources, but how do you know that the sources you have are the ones actually running on the machine?

      Because "you" (being the candidate, the press or any other interested party) can feed the data into a copy of the program. This isn't a program to count ballots it's to assign seats using a proportional representation algorithm. In order to skew the actual count itself would need a massive conspiracy amongst the counters.
    • Re:Are you sure? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tom (822)
      anyone with physical access to the machine can install a version of the software which looks the same but has a back door. It used to be that only the original writers had that power,

      Uh, not true. Tons of software have been backdoored without access to the source code. Just last year at Blackhat Europe, a very bright guy from Australia described in detail a method that could be used to backdoor a running process.

  • by CDWert (450988) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:32AM (#3495915) Homepage
    They may NOT release the source, and they dont need to.

    If they are using OpenSource components, such as the server enviroment application servers etc.
    They dont need release the source. People ranting that they MUST release the source, etiher are lost in a fantasy.

    If I write an application for counting chicken egg hatching probablity and It runs under Tomcat, JBoss and MySQL I needent release a single thing as long as I dont use any GPL suff in the code I am handling myself.

    That said it would be nice if they do, who cares if they dont. A private software company is doing the development, they may or may not have some kind of agreement or future plans for the software being written.

    I am getting pretty sick of all the OpenSource neophiles barking they must release the code blah blah blah. I think you are probably a large part of the reason MS calls the GPL viral, and people actually belive them. It isn friggin poison fruit. The other reason MS calls the GPL viral of course is projects like this get sold on building upon OpenSource applications, taking gold from a dragon has a tendency to piss it off a wee bit.

    • If your egg-hatching probability application is going to be used only within your own organisation, you can include any GPL code you want and not show the source. Only if you distribute the application will you need to release the source.

      /Janne
      • Absolutley true.

        I am unsure, if in fact the Govt is considered and orginaization, or if by the act of voting the public is being exposed to its derivative works, a little cloudy this morning.

        Guess its all moot since it not like freshmeat exactly has 25 Govt election packages hangning around :)

    • If I write an application for counting chicken egg hatching probablity and It runs under Tomcat, JBoss and MySQL I needent release a single thing as long as I dont use any GPL suff in the code I am handling myself.

      In fact it is stronger than that. There is absolutely no reason why they need to release any damn thing at all, regardless of whether they use GPL stuff in the code.

      The GPL requirement to make the source code available only means that these people would have to make the source code available to their customer . Hardly likely to be a problem, because the customer is likely to be the one making the decision to release in any case.

      Andrew.

    • What's a neophile? Someone who likes new things?
  • Hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by NiftyNews (537829) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:33AM (#3495918) Homepage
    "The software will...run plausibility checks"

    Hopefully they mean on the votes. If you ran it on the candidate promises you'd have a 95% failure rate!
  • by mczak (575986) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:36AM (#3495928)
    I guess that should be "Statistisches" Bundesamt. Being a governmental organization, they might not be very dynamic, but to call them "static" is a bit unfair...
  • MySQL (Score:3, Funny)

    by mixbsd (574131) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:37AM (#3495933)
    select * from politicians where clue > 0
  • by White Roses (211207) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:41AM (#3495951)
    Gee, if they had done it with .NET, they could have done it with fewer lines of code [gotdotnet.com]!

    And left open security holes [newsfactor.com], and been vulnerable to virii [f-secure.com]. But, but, fewer lines of code!

    • Hmm, take a look at that logo in the top left corner of the gotdotnet site.. I wonder what it means?

      We hold the world in our iron fist!
      or perhaps,
      We've got you by the balls now!
    • According to my (limited!) understanding of .NET, that article or more or less a complete hoax.

      See:

      O'Reilly article on the subject [onjava.com]

      Oracle's benchmarks [oracle.com] (PDF)

      In the second article, Oracle claims:
      Oracle ran a Java Pet Store benchmark to compare the performance of Oracle9iAS and the .NET Pet Shop. ... We found that
      without caching, Oracle9iAS was up to 18 times faster than Microsoft .NET, while using just half the resources. In addition, Oracle was able to scale to a much higher user load on the same hardware. If we compare the same application using Microsoft's output caching and Oracle's Web Cache, the results are even more dramatic. Using Web Cache, Oracle proved to be more than 22 times faster under load, while the middle tier resource utilization was only a small fraction of that consumed by .NET.

      In addition to disclosing the results of this benchmark effort in this paper, Oracle is also providing the source code, a description of the environment in which the tests were run, and the test scripts that were used to simulate this environment. The code and test scripts can be downloaded from the Oracle Technology Network.

      Gee, how could two identical benchmarks produce such different numbers? Sounds like a marketing war to me. I wouldn't take any of those numbers, Microsoft's or Oracles, without a grain -- or a pillar! -- of salt.

    • What really puzzles me, is what they're trying to accomplish with that site? Upset Java developers or try and turn them to the dark side? If it's the latter, I doubt that their FUD has an positive effect.

  • by Ethelred Unraed (32954) on Friday May 10, 2002 @08:43AM (#3495957) Journal
    In a strange result of the September 2002 general election in Germany caused by an unknown quirk in the software, Linus Torvalds was elected Chancellor, with Richard M. Stallman foreign minister. Thanks to Stallman's diplomatic skills, 104 countries declared war on the recently-renamed GNU/Germany. Film at 11.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hi there,
    there is more going on in Germany regarding
    OSS in government or public institutions :

    The german Bundestag (parliament) will put Linux
    on its 150 servers. See http://www.heise.de/newsticker/result.xhtml?url=/n ewsticker/data/odi-28.02.02-000/default.shtml&word s=Bundestag%20Linux
    (this article is in german language).

    Police in Lower Saxony ("Niedersachsen",
    Germany's second largest state) plans to use
    Linux on 11000 clients as of 2004.
    See http://www.heise.de/newsticker/result.xhtml?url=/n ewsticker/data/odi-17.04.02-000/default.shtml&word s=Niedersachsen%20Polizei%20Linux
    (again german). There is also a press
    announcement about this on the web page of Lower Saxony Police. See http://www.polizei.niedersachsen.de/aktuell/index. html

    Unrelated, but maybe also interesting :
    Debeka, market leader in private health insurances in Germany already uses Linux
    on 3000 clients. See SuSE's web page :
    http://www.suse.de/en/press/press_releases/arch ive 01/smartclient.html
    (in English)

    I would be interested to learn what the situation in the US is with regards to OSS
    in public institutions ?

    Have a nice day (I guess, noone says this
    anymore today ?)
    Anonymous Coward
  • My question is what of system were they using before to tabulate election results? ... And what is it about open source that makes it better? Also it would be interesting to know what computerized systems other countries are using to tabulate the results...
  • Hi,

    my wife is a teacher of a german primary school and there she is a representative for new technologies. So I get all the info-material the school gets from our government for consulting issues ;-)

    And, i'm impressed of the OpenSource-activities they do for german schools. For example they support the opensource school-server project [heise.de] of the (IMHO best) german computer magazine c't [heise.de] and have a detailed brochure about the use of open-source software.

    darkcookie
  • by Anonymous Coward
    MySQL? Isn't the integrity and correctness of elections kind of important?

    Yeah, I know they are counted by hand but anyway!

    Postgresql is unreliable and less-than-perfect ACID compliant but MySQL is a far bit worse, even with the hacked-in transactions!

    Why not buy a really good solid DB solution with rock-hard ACID complicance, it's peanut money in a project like this anyway.
    • Perhaps because if there is a problem in the election results, people will be able to see where it went wrong unlike with some other companies.
      • are you gonna pull the latest MYSQL code from CVS and take a few minutes to find the off-by-one error which allowed the illegal-but-still-kicking Nazi party to swing the election? Please.
        • No, of course I'm not, but if there are say rounding errors or floating point errors in the code (this happens to everyone) and there *are* irregularities that get noticed, an independant commision of inquiry will be able to find the error with the help of a lot of coders who have used these tools and worked on the implementation compared to say having to go through an international court in order to get MS, Sun, Oracle or IBM to release some code.
    • MySQL? Isn't the integrity and correctness of elections kind of important?
      Well, acording to the article, it will only be used for the preliminary results. If anything goes wrong here, we will still have the correct results a few day afterwards (which is still faster than the US ;-)).
  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Friday May 10, 2002 @09:06AM (#3496070)
    The press release forgot to mention what operating system the computers are using.

    People might think the German government is using a Linux variant, but given that all the tools mentioned in the release probably work under BSD variants I have a feeling that they're using a combination of OpenBSD/FreeBSD, an OS that is much-liked for its ability to handle large numbers of transactions and its very high level of security.
    • by theolein (316044)
      Considering that SuSE is German (and extremely popular in Germany as well) I would think that it ould be them.
      • The reason why I assum the use of OpenBSD/FreeBSD is the ability to handle big transaction loads (which is definitely needed for that German election computer system) and have high security on the initial install (which you definitely want with election computers).

        If they wanted to show Linux could handle such a load I'm sure SuSE Linux would have been prominently mentioned. That's why I was a bit puzzled by no mention of what Open Source OS was used.
    • Hey,

      Tomcat, JBoss and MySQL run on MS Windows Also. So they might been silently using OS Tools with a propriatory platform.

      :-)
  • I thought Florida 2000 was open source. The source was available and the results changed depending on who "compiled" the votes.
  • OSS in Germany (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theolein (316044) on Friday May 10, 2002 @09:27AM (#3496216) Journal
    OSS is actually very strong in Germany. If you take a look at the netcraft percentages, it's higher than in the US.

    The German government could do worse. A proprietry package would probably do the job as well, especially considering that the actual counting is done by hand (although this does eliminate the possibility of machine error in the actual voting process and of someone cracking a voting line). The reasons behind this are probably economic: MySQL, Tomcat, JBoss on Linux with a web client cost a lot less to implement for all the counting stations than a proprietry solution and Germany has the positive effect of supporting it's own software industry (SuSE) rather than someone else's.
  • some people never learn
  • There it a push in the US to standardize the election process to try to head off the kind of thing that happened in Florida in the US Presidential election of 2000. I don't know how long Germany has used a standard voting system or whether they've done it - to this point - US style, but I anticipate a lot of 1337 s1ah5d07 p0s73X0ring along the lines of 'we should do that too, 'cause Florida 2000 sucked!' I want to head off as much of that as possible.

    The US Forefathers were smart - they intentionally left the specific details of how to collect the vote and tally the results to the states, and ultimately, the local county districts. They weren't concerned as much about regional cultural and financial differences as much as they were concerned about the integrity of the election process.

    If I wanted to rig an election in the US, I would have to rig it ONE COUNTY AT A TIME, because each election office makes their own choice how to operate on the voting day in question.

    With a centralized, standard voting system like Germany's open source plan, I would just have to know how to rig one system.
    The Florida election worked exactly as it should have - the election was just really close. It sucks that we couldn't just call the election at 10PM and go to bed, but you know what? Your vote *does* matter.

    • I'm not so sure. In the US you have an electoral college and in Germany you have direct voting. I'm not sure whether the electoral college system is open to abuse but I think, considering that Gore had more overall votes, that Gore would have won in Germany.
      • 2000 US presidential election Bob Beckel proposed to invistigate electors and blackmail them. Guess what? He ain't a Republican, he is a Democrat.

        In 1960 a worse problem than Florida in 2000 cropped up and it was left to the President of the Senate to choose which set of electors to use from Hawaii, a very close vote there. Richard Nixon chose the set that gave the election to John F. Kennedy, because it was the right thing to do.

        Don't believe me? Look it up yourself on Google, I will not give you links that only support my side of the arguement.
      • ...does have direct voting in it, true. but it is only a part of it.

        let me try to explain:

        you have two votes to make. the first one is for a candidate of your electoral district (one of about 330, i believe, half of the number of seats altogether), whoever gets the most (relative majority) wins a seat.

        the second vote is for a party, and the other half of the seats is distibuted among the parties that either won 3 direct candidates (first vote) or have got at least 5% of the second votes (to keep the radicals out), so that their over all percentage of seats is their percentage of second votes.

        actually, it is even more complicated, but this is the basic idea.
        the parliament then elects the chancellor and the government, so it is far from direct. you elect a parliament, not a government.

    • The US Forefathers were smart - they intentionally left the specific details of how to collect the vote and tally the results to the states, and ultimately, the local county districts.

      Probably it wasn't so much a precaution as practical reasons; it's hard to implement a centralized voting system in a huge, sparsely populated country with messengers on horses the fastet means of communications. I

      I never cease to be amazed about the superhuman intelligence Americans attribute to their forefathers. They were drafting the first democratic constitution in modern times. To assume that they got it right, and people 150 years later, with all their past experience and constitutional theory, got it wrong, seems a somewhat steep claim.

      Somehow, the U.S. constitution reminds me
      of a FORTRAN compiler: there are a lot of smart
      ideas in it, it was the first of its kind, and it was a tremendous achievement at the
      time. However, the theory underlying it was
      in its infancy, and there were no practical
      experiences of how to do it right. It's venerable,
      and we all learned from it, but let's not assume it's perfect and better than C or the typical European parliamentary constitution, respectively, just because it's older.

      If I wanted to rig an election in the US, I would have to rig it ONE COUNTY AT A TIME

      I fail to see the difference with German election
      procedures. Votes have to be added in a treelike
      fashion, and you have your choice of where to
      intercept the process.
    • With a centralized, standard voting system like Germany's open source plan, I would just have to know how to rig one system.

      You might succeed, if you managed to subvert the central system, to have an incorrect result announced to the media on election day.

      However this would soon be corrected, as the raw data for the permanent result will be published from the voting district level upwards.

      The staff in the voting districts (which usually cover about 100-1000 registered voters) is made up of volunteers, mostly of nonpolitical city employees but also of party activists who volunteer to keep an eye on things. Occasionally, when appointed staff members have fallen sick, an early voter might get drafted. We are usually 8-10 persons and very, very unlikely to find anything in common to conspire for.

      The counting of votes is open to the public (even if usually nobody, or the janitor of the school where the voting office is, looks in).

      When we have counted, held a vote on any unclear ballot papers and the sums add up, we phone the results in to the city level. These results are further aggregated to the electoral district level and then, presumably, transmitted to Berlin in order to be processed by the software in question. Then we write up the protocol, package and seal the ballot papers into the voting box, and go home.

      The local election commission (staffed by the town and by party representatives) later breaks the seal, reviews the unclear ballot papers (usually less then 1%), and perhaps also samples some votes for recounts. The result of the local election commission is the final one, and is aggregated into the federal final result. If I rightly recollect from the last federal elections, both the preliminary and the final results were published in our local paper on the voting district level. Of course we voting district volunteers would notice if results diverged from what we got on the evening of the election.

      From the published voting-district level all calculations can be done with pen and paper, and will be by hopeful candidates who just did not get in.

      The major safeguards of such a system are that the calculation of the final result can be checked by anyone on the outside. Of course, significantly, this only remains true if we stay with pen-and-paper ballots. The cost of that is that (at a rough guess) 1 % - 2 % of the voters have to serve in the voting offices

  • to handle the results of the Bundestag election (that's the national parliament) on September 22nd

    As far as I know the software is used to determine the preliminary results on that day, especially for the media. The official results will be determined as before, that is without any software.

    Throughout this thread it seems that a lot of US based readers assume German elections work just as US elections, which is not the case. For the curious: Introduction to the German Federal Election System [iuscomp.org]

    Alex
  • by bckspc (172870) on Friday May 10, 2002 @10:35AM (#3496664) Homepage
    If you're interested in this sort of thing, check out the GNU Free voting project at http://www.free-project.org/ [free-project.org]. From the site:

    We are a free software project creating Java electronic voting software released under the General Public License [gnu.org] (GPL). With this software we aim to:-

    Provide a secure and private system

    Create scalable and reliable software

    Offer a non-commercial, non-partisan voting alternative

    Use the GPL to create an open system that Internet users will trust

    Release a system that can be used to support the growth of effective democracy anywhere in the world Additionally, in support of our wider development community, the project aims to:-

    • Advocate the free software paradigm
    • Evangelise the use of technology to strengthen democracy within a holistic understanding of the current malaise i.e. Internet voting alone isn't going to solve turnout problems
    As an official GNU [gnu.org] package and one of two electronic voting projects of FreeDevelopers.net [freedevelopers.net] our Free Software evangalism aims our particularly important.
  • The post mentions their planning to use EJB's as part of their application's "business" logic.


    Last i checked you can't run/deploy EJB's on open source java application servers. You gotta go to commercial ones.


    I don't think they'd have a dire need for EJB's in such application though. And they can still remain J2EE-compliant.

  • Ummm... Had a bit of a problem with the fish's translation of their pages. For instance the jobs page says

    Therefore you are with us as more curiously, open and more competent Far philosopher exactly correctly.

    Wha???

Your fault -- core dumped

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