Dublin.ie email service upgrade

dublin.ie logo One of the main projects I’ve been working on for the past few months has finally come to fruition: an upgrade of the email service at dublin.ie. In early December we upgraded 11,000 users from a system based on @Mail 3.6 to one based on @Mail 4, running on new hardware with about 10 times the storage.

The upgrade has finally allowed us to start dealing with the spam issue effectively, as @Mail 4 has built-in support for SpamAssassin and users can make use of Bayesian filtering to train the spam filter. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, on a typical day we block more than 50% of all messages received as spam. Today’s stats are 12,254 messages received, 14,453 blocked by the spam filter.

As part of the upgrade, we also created an email service for another public service agency, which will be run on a pilot basis. In 2005, dublin.ie will be introducing a premium version of the email service for a small annual fee, but the intention is to always provide a free version.

Commission on Electronic Voting reports

The first report of the Commission on Electronic Voting has been released and makes for interesting reading. Also available is the text of every submission made to the Commission. These range from observations of just a few paragraphs to extremely detailed reports. Of particular interest (in my view) are the reports of Irish Citizens for Trustworthy e-Voting, Joe McCarthy, the Green Party and of course Powervote, the vendors of the system.

The Graphing Calculator Story

Graphing Calculator iconThe Graphing Calculator Story is a bizarre and strangely touching story of how the Graphing Calculator which used to ship with every Mac was developed by a couple of programmers who were effectively volunteering at Apple without the company’s knowledge. It’s interesting that everyone involved, including those who assisted the pair to continue their work despite the fact that they had no clearance to be in the building, were motivated by the desire to see good work reach completion.

Comment spam

The site has started to get some comment spam, so apologies if you see a lot of comments about online poker and such like. I’m hoping to put a plugin in place to filter comments based on a spammers blacklist, but please bear with us in the meantime.

Local Elections: Big spenders in Rathmines

I was not surprised to learn that some of the highest spending local election candidates in the Dublin City Council area were in the Rathmines ward. Tony Williams of the PDs spent over €18,000, and Brian Gillen (FG) spent more than €16,000. Jim O’Callaghan (FF) also spent almost €13,000. Of these three, only Gillen was elected.

These figures only account for spending in the last four weeks of the election campaign. The corresponding figure for my campaign was approximately €3,500, most of which was spent on election posters.

This week’s Sunday Business Post ran two stories on the spending figures: Big spenders fall flat at local elections, Council candidates spent €800,000.

Proposed Amendments to Draft Development Plan 2005-2011

If you have any interest in planning in Dublin City, get yourself down to Wood Quay to check out the latest version of the draft Dublin City Development Plan 2005-2011. The maps on display in the Atrium of Civic Offices show the zoning changes etc. proposed by the elected members of Dublin City Council. The proposed amendments to the written statement which accompanies the maps can be viewed in this PDF document (1.4 MB).

Observations must be made by 10th November 2004.

No Software Patents!

The new site www.NoSoftwarePatents.com, which was launched yesterday in 12 languages, may provide a focus for the campaign against software patents in the EU. Florian Müller is managing the campaign, which has the backing of three corporate partners: 1&1, Red Hat, and MySQL AB.

Here in Ireland, The Irish Free Software Organisation (IFSO) are leading the fight against software patents. Their software patents page lays out the current status.

Jacques Derrida 1930-2004

Jacques DerridaJacques Derrida died on Friday, October 8th 2004. The Guardian has a good obituary, which includes a lot of discussion of his theories and how they have been received. I’ve always found his work fascinating, but generally only when it is being explained by another writer; Derrida’s own texts I find impenetrable and rarely worth the effort involved in reading them.

In any case, in honour of the great man I am republishing below some silliness I wrote about Derrida on another web site.
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Pinpointing voters on a map

Wired News are carrying an article about the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in elections.

I spent most of the last election campaign wishing I had some way of linking my database of voters to street maps. This stuff is not rocket science, but the biggest impediment seems to be the limited availability of the geographic data itself, i.e. maps. In Ireland there seem to be two main suppliers of map data: the Ordnance Survey and a company called Mapflow. Both charge rates which would put this outside the budget of most campaigning organisations.

Cabinet Reshuffle

Bertie Ahern has announced his new cabinet, and there are a fair few changes. The two that interest me most are the new appointments in the departments of Transport and Environment.

Dick Roche TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local GovernmentThe new Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is Dick Roche, Wicklow TD and formerly Minister for State with responsibility for European Affairs. I’m obviously keen to find out what his approach to environmental policy, local government policy, and the electronic voting issue will be, but at this stage we don’t have very much to go on, apart from the following:

  • He has made several fairly vehement attacks on An Taisce. Apparently he has held a grudge against the organisation since they decided not to join him in opposing a development in his constituency. Will he move to remove their status as a Prescribed Organisation under the planning acts?
  • When he appeared on RTE’s Questions and Answers during the height of the e-Voting debate, he appeared to be unaware of the fact that the system the Government were proposing to introduce did not allow for proportional transfers at all stages of the count.

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Big Quiz success

We didn’t win the Big Quiz, but we did put in a respectable effort to come joint 6th out of over 280 teams. The final scores (look for team name “The Hammer”) put us as joint 4th, but if you follow that methodology the last-placed team is joint 44th, so I’ll settle for 6th. In any case we were only 4 points off the winning score.

The Quiz itself was also a success, in that it succeeded in setting a new world record for the largest number of participants in a table quiz: 1141.

Eamon Ryan pulls out of presidential race

Eamon Ryan has decided not to continue with his attempt to get a presidential nomination, so we will not have an election after all. There is also a news story on RTÉ. I can understand the reasons put forward, but I was really looking forward to a campaign.

There is still a slim chance of an election going ahead, if Dana or Vincent Salafia can get themselves nominated, but in all likelihood Mary McAleese will be nodded through for another seven years.