Daily Archives: October 15, 2007

Ontario voter turnout a record low

The percentage of eligible voters casting ballots in Wednesday’s Ontario election hit an all-time low despite changes introduced in an effort to boost turnout. Only 52.6 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot, or 4.4 million of 8.4 million possible voters, according to numbers released by Elections Ontario.

The turnout was worse than a previous record low of 54.7 per cent set in 1923. It also fell below the 2003 voter turnout of 56.9 per cent.

Legislation introduced by the previous Liberal government since the 2003 election to boost declining turnout in recent elections did not seem to have the desired effect.

Those changes included:

* Setting a fixed election date.
* Extending the hours and number of days of advanced voting.
* Boosting the number of polling stations.
* Extending polling by one hour on election day.

However, there was a significant gain in voting at advance polls. Elections Ontario reported that 451,949 electors voted at the advance polls this year, up from 356,396 in 2003.

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Toronto controversial tax plan in the hands of swing votes

With one week to go before a momentous tax debate at city hall, the spotlight shines on a half-dozen Toronto councillors still undecided if they will vote for Mayor David Miller’s new “revenue tools.” Over the next few days, negotiations are expected to intensify between the mayor’s office and key swing voters on council for a possible consensus to approve a land transfer tax on the purchase of a home and a car registration fee for 2008.

One of those in the limelight is Peter Milczyn (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), a political centrist who votes with, and against, the mayor, depending on the issue. His vote could mean victory or defeat for Mr. Miller.

“The mayor’s office is trying to make me feel warm and fuzzy,” says the veteran councillor with a wry smile. First elected to local politics in 1994, he lost in 1997, but has represented his upscale west-end ward since 2000.

In July, Mr. Milczyn was one of 23 councillors who snubbed the mayor by a one-vote margin to defer his controversial tax package until Oct. 22. Mr. Milczyn has not tipped his hand for next week.

But the 42-year-old politician, who says he has had “blunt discussions” with Mr. Miller in recent weeks, makes no bones about what could turn his vote.

“Cost reduction is the key thing for me,” says the Etobicoke native, an architect by profession.

He wrote to the mayor right after the deferral vote with suggestions, ranging from symbolic cuts in areas that grate with the public (council perks and office budgets) to structural changes (no bonuses and salary caps for non-union city staff and a move to turn the water department into a quasi-privatized agency).

He says the mayor’s office has assured him, ” ‘We have heard what you are saying,’ but I told them I need something tangible.”

Other swing voters, including Suzan Hall (Etobicoke North), Mark Grimes (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), and Ron Moeser ( Scarborough East), have their own wish lists.

As the Toronto Real Estate Board and other anti-tax business groups step up their lobby efforts this week, Mr. Miller’s challenge will be to coax enough councillors on board without gutting the revenue tools.

On paper, the land transfer tax of up to 2 per cent (a sliding scale tied to the sales price of a house) and a $60 fee to register car ownership could generate $356-million a year in total. Already the July deferral and implementation delays have shrunk the pot to $250-million, which could sink to around $200-million if council adopts all the “refinements” under discussion.

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Why are Windows machines automatically updating themselves?

A (slight) update on last week’s report that some Windows users are seeing their Vista PCs automatically update themselves and reboot. From Nate Clinton, a Microsoft Update Program Manager, via the Microsoft Update Product Team blog:Why are Windows machines automatically updating themselves?

“We have been hearing some questions recently regarding Tuesday’s update release changing automatic updating settings.  We have received some logs from customers, and have so far been able to determine that their AU settings were not changed by any changes to the AU client itself and also not changed by any updates installed by AU.

“We are still looking into this to see if another application is making this change during setup with user consent, or if this issue is related to something else.  We are continuing the investigation, and as I have more information I will update this post.

“If you are running into this issue, your help would be greatly appreciated.  You can contact support, and they can walk you through the steps necessary to provide logs and other useful data.”

So, it doesn’t seem to be Automatic Update (AU) or the patches themselves at fault. So what caused last Past Tuesday’s patches to be  installed automatically and machines to be rebooted for a group of users who had chosen not to allow automatic installation of patches –  as originally reported on the AeroXperience site? It’s still not clear whether it is Vista only (or also XP) that is affected and whether Windows Software Update Services (WSUS) users have seen the same problem.

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Linux patent suit: In search of the Microsoft smoking gun

Now that the “first ever” suit for patent infringement has been lodged against two major Linux distributors, many Microsoft watchers are looking for the smoking gun that will somehow connect Microsoft to the case.

In search of the Microsoft smoking gunI have to say that it’s hard to believe that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s recent railings about the likelihood of someone suing Red Hat for patent infringement were purely coincidental. His timing makes it look like he had knowledge that such a suit was in the pipeline. But so far, at least, there’s no proof that Microsoft was behind this case in any way.

However, there are still some interesting Microsoft connections to the suit, which pits IP Innovation and Technology Licensing Corp. against Red Hat and Novell. The suit claims that IP Innovation has rights to patents covering “a user interface with multiple workspaces for sharing display system objects” (patent no. 5,072,412, issued on December 10, 1991), as well as two other similar patents upon which Red Hat and Novell allegedly infringe.

So where and how does Microsoft enter the picture? As Pamela Jones of Groklaw.Net fame pointed out, IP Innovation LLC is a subsidiary of Acacia Technologies Group Inc. Acacia is “in the business of acquiring, developing, licensing and enforcing patents.” From the Acacia Web site:

“We help patent holders protect their patented inventions from unauthorized use and generate revenue from licensing and, if necessary, enforcing their patents. Our clients are primarily individual inventors and small companies with limited resources to deal with unauthorized users but include some large companies wanting to generate revenues from their patented technologies.”

Is Microsoft an Acacia client? There’s no press release I can find stating that it is. (I’ve asked Microsoft whether it is, but no word back yet.) Ironically, Novell is an Acacia client, (as of August 31) but on the storage side of the business, not the Linux one.

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