Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Abigail's Pilgrimage (Aug 27 09)

My daughter, Ma. Abigail, writes:

Nakabalik na ako from my piligrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I walked 100+ kms in 5 days from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela (camino frances). Siyempre hindi whole day yung lakad para hindi maubusan ng beds sa hostels na para sa peregrinos. I have now a certificate which they grant once you have finished the pilgrimage. Plus, they mention the statistics during the pilgrim's mass everyday at noontime. I was the only Filipino who finished it on that day. The following day's mass na nga lang nasabi dahil dumating ako sa Santiago halos 11AM plus the queue for the registration took almost an hour. Na-mention pa ulit yung Philippines during the homily dahil sinabi nung priest na yung camino ay nag-u-unite ng tao not only in Europe. Although I started the piligrimage alone, I was never really alone. The first 3 days, I was walking with someone from Almeria and the last 2 days with 2 people from Zaragoza who have made the pilgrimage 2 times before and are well-prepared for the voyage. I'm quite content about the whole experience. It is not easy. I have seen at least one girl cry because she cannot finish the pilgrimage due to a problem with her knees. Anyway, I just wanted to inform you that I'm back in Granada.

Well, that's my girl! Always so gutsy. Congratulations, anak!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Election 2010: Why Windows Programs for Linux PCOS Computers? (Aug 20 09)

I am baffled by this entry in the Financial Proposal submitted by Smartmatic-TIM to COMELEC on May 4, 2009. Item 1.1.1 lists 83,925 licenses to "Enterprise grade N-tier software application Database SQL Server Standard 2005", obviously Windows software. But Item 1.5.1 lists only 72 units of EMS Machines (Windows Computers), so these 83,925 Windows SQL Servers can not be for the 72 units of Windows EMS computers. The closest figures that I can find in the proposal is the batch of 82,200 units of PCOS Machines enumerated in Item 1.5.2, but these are running uClinux in firmware, and these PCOS computers do not even have hard disks for the SQL Servers.

Does Smartmatic-TIM even know the system that they are installing for election 2010? Why do they make glaring errors like this? And why didn't the Comelec Advisory Council call COMELEC's attention to this error?

Is this Smartmatic-controlled computerized election leading to computerized padding of election costs? COMELEC must answer this important question.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Election 2010 Computers: Good vs. Bad (Aug 18 09)

I prepared a set of Adobe Acrobat slides describing the PCOS or counting computers that will be used on election day May 10, 2010, and the CCS or canvassing computers that will be used at the city, municipal, provincial, national COMELEC, and national Congressional canvasses. The Financial Proposal submitted by Smartmatic-TIM to COMELEC was used as a basis for these slides.

I also give the good points and the bad points of each type of hardware and operating system. As I am one of the oldest Linux users in the Philippines, with Linux User No. 5037, and having taught courses on operating systems and Linux system administration for a number of years, and having actually done system administration for a time in Ateneo, I believe that my assessments as GOOD or BAD, are very reasonable.

I also mention nine (9) KNOWN ISSUES, a result of the critical study done by the "U.P. College of Law Policy Study Project on AES2010". You may debate the veracity of these KNOWN ISSUES, but you can always go back to the documents mentioned there and verify for yourselves the truth of these ISSUES.

We all want clean and honest elections in May 2010. But clean and honest elections will not happen automatically even if Smartmatic computers are used. My honest IT professional's belief is that unless these issues are addressed satisfactorily by Smartrmatic, COMELEC, the COMELEC Advisory Council, the COMELEC Technical Evaluation Committee, and the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, then computerized election 2010 will lead to computerized failure of elections.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Smartmatic's PCOS: Why 4-Bit Scanner?

Smartmatic's PCOS: Why 4-Bit Scanner?

In an earlier blog post:

you will find an explanation of why and how the Smartmatic PCOS machine passed the SBAC's reading accuracy test despite its having only a 4-bit scanner. I've been thinking hard why Dominion/Smartmatic used a 4-bit scanner, when 24-bit scanners are so cheap today. For a little over two thousand pesos (PHP2,000.00) you can buy a high-end scanner. As you already know, 4-bit scanners can see only 16-shades of gray (black and white) while 24-bit scanners can see over 16 million colors, enough for the job of reading our hand markings on our ballots on election day. With Smartmatic's 4-bit capable PCOS scanner, many people's votes will not be counted properly, and voters will not even know this. They will be totally clueless, because COMELEC will not enable the PCOS feature that allows the voter to verify how the PCOS read his ballot. Kawawa naman ang Pinoy. Magbabayad na ng PHP7.2billion, madadaya pa ng mumurahing scanner.

Dr. Felix Muga, faculty of Mathematics at Ateneo de Manila, sent us a link that explains why Dominion/Smartmatic's PCOS computer uses only a 4-bit scanner:

Dominion/Sequoia computer was designed to read ballots printed and marked by another computer that can produce PERFECTLY-SHADED OVAL MARKINGS. The Dominion/Sequoia voting system used in New York consisted of four components: (1) a big hooded touch-screen, which the voter uses to make his selections, (2) a quality printer which prints the voter's ballot, with his choices indicated by perfectly shaded oval markings, (3) the PCOS computer that scans the computer-printed ballot, interprets the votes, and counts and accumulates the votes for the precinct, and (4) the ballot box for holding the paper ballots. But Smartmatic licensed only item (3) from Dominion, for use in the Philippines.

So on election day, May 10, 2010, all voters, young and old, must learn to mark his ballot like a computer marks ballots, using perfectly evenly fully shaded ovals. But we are not perfect markers because we are not computer markers. Why should COMELEC penalize us voters by buying the inappropriate technology and asking us to to make up for the inappropriateness of the technology that COMELEC has chosen? Why should COMELEC's chosen technology fail at reading dots, check marks, cross marks, pencil marks, ballpen marks, etc, when the capability to read such markings is a condition for bidders, as stated in COMELEC's own Terms of Reference? Why does COMELEC contradict itself in order to accommodate a bidder that people are starting to believe to be COMELEC's favorite? Was SBAC's bidding fair?

COMELEC must answer these questions. It is only fair for COMELEC to do the honorable thing, and explain these to us.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Harry Roque vs COMELEC-Smartmatic

The Honorable Justices came into the room, dressed in black robes, and occupied their positions at the bench. Then everyone was asked to be seated, and the hearing of the "Harry Roque vs COMELEC-Smartmatic" case started. Atty Harry Roque spoke with confidence, secure in the knowledge that he was fighting for the "right", and armed with hard facts that buttress his claim that COMELEC must pilot test in 12 areas in the country in the national elections of 2010, before doing fully computerized elections in the national elections after 2010. He also gave proof of his claim that the 60-40 split in the JVA between TIM and Smartmatic is on paper only, but in reality, it was Smartmatic that was calling the shots in almost every major decision making.

After Atty Roque spoke, all the Honorable Justices asked him questions. From the manner of their questioning, one can tell that the Hon Justices were biased, six for him, and six against. I asked Atty Vicky Avena what happens in a situation like this, and she said Atty Roque will lose in case of a tie, unless the Hon Chief Justice can convince the other Justices to change their votes. The Justices were very well informed, and most of them did their homework, displaying a depth of knowledge even more extensive than the lawyers at court. At one point, the Chief Justice asked Atty Roque if he knew the contents of COMELEC Bid Bulletin No. 10, and it took him some time to realize that the Chief Justice was actually leading him, because Bid Bulletin No. 10 is one of the documents that he needed to prove his point that Smartmatic is actually running the 2010 elections and that COMELEC has surrendered its mandate to manage the election to Smartmatic. In Bid Bulletin No. 10, COMELEC gives Smartmatic full responsibility for generating the private and public keys of the BEI and BOC personnel, which the BEI will use to digitally sign the precinct election returns (ER). Since Smartmatic has this responsibility, it will have possession of all BEIs' private keys, and will give Smartmatic the capability to change the ER of any precinct in the entire country, resulting in massive computerized cheating in case this capability is exploited by Smartmatic.

Next it was the turn of the Asst Solicitor General, counsel for COMELEC, to speak, and to be asked questions. Finally the lawyer for Smartmatic spoke and gave a demo (actually Chris Iskander of Dominion-Smartmatic gave a demo, while the lawyer spoke about the demo that was going on) of the PCOS-SAES-1800, and then the Justices asked him questions.

It was my first ever court experience, and it was at the Supreme Court! I felt so proud that I am witness to a most important event in the history of my country, at which the implementation or non-implementation of the first fully computerized national election will be decided. Most people in attendance were lawyers from U.P. Everyone was dressed smartly, the men in barong Tagalog or coat and tie, the women in blazers and smart dresses. I was the only one in long-sleeve shirt! The Supreme Court session started at about 2:00 PM, and lasted nine hours and twenty minutes. The court never called a merienda break.

Now I have added three major heroes in my Honor Roll, for their intelligence, breadth and depth of knowledge, and fairness: Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Justice Antonio Carpio, and Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, all Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court. I also want to add a minor hero, Atty Harry Roque, Knight of Truth, fighting against major odds, armed only with the wisdom and ingenuity of a UP lawyer, at one time citing "an IT expert from the neighboring rival school", in order to reveal the truth behind the COMELEC-Smartmatic deal.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Letter from a Student (Aug 05 09)

Dear. Dr. Manalastas,

I'm not sure if you remember me. I graduated from the MS program back in 1991. I was one of the only Americans in the program at the time. You were one of my instructors. I was on the Ateneo site searching for some information and came across your name. I wanted to let you know that you were one of the best instructors I ever had, and that includes the instructors from UC, Berkeley and University of Oklahoma where I earned other degrees. Just wanted to send my regards...

Best Regards,
Mike Hawkins

Dear Mike,

Of course I remember you, and your heuristic for the travelling salesman problem! Actually, you were my favorite student, although I did not tell you that before. You work hard and are always first to submit homework. And you get good grades.

I have retired, and now teach part time only, one course in the University of the Philippines, and one-half in Ateneo Quezon City. I also volunteered as IT consultant for the U.P. College of Law Policy Study on Computerized Election 2010 ( You will probably find out that the computerized Philippine national elections on May 10, 2010 will be the biggest ever computerized elections in the whole world. This one will use paper ballots, computerized counting at the precincts, mobile internet to transmit results to canvassing centers, and computerized canvassing to determine winners. There will be 50 million voters, 82,200 precinct counting computers, and 2,000 canvassing center computers, and will cost the Filipino taxpayer PHP7.2 billion - PHP11.4 billion.

I also have a blog, and I might be the oldest blogger in the Philippines:

Thank you for your letter. It comes like a gift from heaven, to rejuvenate my dying soul.

Pablo Manalastas

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Karen Completes Babel (Aug 02 09)

Equipped with a PHP75,000.00 budget to buy a desktop computer for the Protein Structure and Immunology laboratory at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB) at the University of the Philippines, my daughter Karen decided to make the most of this money, and buy a compute cluster instead. With that amount, she got four nodes: a master front end and three compute nodes. Each node had an Intel Core2 Duo processor, 2GB memory, 320GB disk, and a gigabit network card. She also got a Samsung LCD monitor, keyboard, and mouse, shared by all four nodes via a KVM switch. She was left with enough money to get a 16 port 10/100MB network switch, although a gigabyte switch would have been better but more expensive option. She got the 16 port switch, so that when their laboratory get more money in the future, they can add more compute nodes. She installed Rocksclusters v5.2, and the installation process took her several days, because this is her first cluster installation job. She had no one to consult, because there are not too many molecular biology people who know how to install compute clusters.

When her boss, Dr. Bascos, saw the contraption, she called it Babel because it reminded her of the biblical tower of Babel. This name might actually be an appropriate name, since the cluster speaks many computer languages like C, C++, Java, Perl, Python, and PHP, and in addition, many BIO packages/languages like TIGR, BioPython, ClustalW, NCBI Blast, T_Coffee, Fasta, Gromacs, and Phylip.

Her next problem is learning to use these BIO packages to help in her work. The search for knowledge never ends.