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(The Newspaper)   Anti-ticket camera activist wins $12,561 from Illinois DOT because he doesn't know how to crack a locked Excel spreadsheet   (thenewspaper.com) divider line 51
    More: Interesting, excel spreadsheet, camera activist, National Motorists Association, freedom of information laws, Video content analysis, public access, intersection, activists  
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14477 clicks; posted to Main » on 05 Jun 2013 at 9:10 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-06-05 09:13:05 AM  
This needs a HERO tag... anything which puts these cameras under scrutiny and financial loss is hero tag worthy.
 
2013-06-05 09:18:55 AM  
The DOT is a lot like HR in that it seems to harbor an unusually large number of morons. In ye olde dayes we used to put such people to work doing useful things like filling potholes or being cannon fodder. Now we give them desks and an undeserved sense of power.

And the people who run red-light systems need to go under the guillotine.
 
2013-06-05 09:20:16 AM  
Houston voted a referendum to remove the red-light cameras in our city.  Problem is, the company sued the city for violating their contract by removing them, settled out of court for millions, so the company still won.  Apparently our city doesn't use 'Void where prohibited by law' in their contracts which is essentially what happened.
 
2013-06-05 09:22:08 AM  

thetubameister: This needs a HERO tag... anything which puts these cameras under scrutiny and financial loss is hero tag worthy.


Pshaw. Camera experts here on Fark have explained to me that 80% of the tickets go unpaid and that the administrative costs crush oubeleaguere ed justice system
 
2013-06-05 09:24:07 AM  
"A copy of the ruling is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below."

/ironic? Or not...
 
2013-06-05 09:25:52 AM  
FTA: "A copy of the ruling is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below."

....but I insist on getting it on an unlocked Excel spreadsheet !!!
 
2013-06-05 09:26:45 AM  
Civil employees spend most of their time laughing about how they can fark over the public in this way.
 
2013-06-05 09:29:44 AM  
That is a pretty interesting ruling. So we can now request FOIA information in a specific format and Illinois believes the government has to attempt to give it in that format? For a lot of documents and document types, that would take quite a bit of effort to complete the requests. That would appear to be a tech burden on the government that could have been ignored in the past.
 
2013-06-05 09:30:02 AM  
Dear Mr. JERKWAD,

Congratulations on your successful appeal. As per the court order, please
Click Here to Download $12561.pdf from ildot.gov

Sincerely,
Illinois DOT
 
2013-06-05 09:31:23 AM  

OldManDownDRoad: The DOT is a lot like HR in that it seems to harbor an unusually large number of morons.


That can be said of most government agencies where there are no repercussions for being stupid.  And to be honest, I've the DOT could never match the DOD in the stupid department.  I once spend nearly 4 hours explaining allocations was to a DOD auditor.  I'm not sure how an auditor can be on the job for 15+ years knowing what an allocation is.
 
2013-06-05 09:31:34 AM  
wow, that might almost cover half his legal fees.
 
2013-06-05 09:31:53 AM  

RRicochet: Civil employees spend most of their time laughing about how they can fark over the public in this way.


Your working level "civil employee" gets nothing out of this.  This is politicians (who are either corrupt, teatards, or both) going hand in hand with private companies selling this "service".
 
2013-06-05 09:34:45 AM  
Where can I get a copy of this "locked" Excel file?
 
2013-06-05 09:35:34 AM  
Yeah, why not the hero tag?  Anything to make cities not use these things are hero worthy.  Law enforcement should never be automated.
 
2013-06-05 09:37:20 AM  

pkellmey: That is a pretty interesting ruling. So we can now request FOIA information in a specific format and Illinois believes the government has to attempt to give it in that format? For a lot of documents and document types, that would take quite a bit of effort to complete the requests. That would appear to be a tech burden on the government that could have been ignored in the past.


They gave it to him in a format that took them extra time.

It isn't like he asked for it hand written in sanskrit.  Excel was probably the cheapest way to give it to him.
 
2013-06-05 09:43:11 AM  

Fano: thetubameister: This needs a HERO tag... anything which puts these cameras under scrutiny and financial loss is hero tag worthy.

Pshaw. Camera experts here on Fark have explained to me that 80% of the tickets go unpaid and that the administrative costs crush oubeleaguere ed justice system


Here's an article you might like to read: http://wreg.com/2013/06/03/fire-chief-defends-firefighter-accused-of- s tealing-from-burning-home/
 
2013-06-05 09:48:49 AM  

minoridiot: OldManDownDRoad: The DOT is a lot like HR in that it seems to harbor an unusually large number of morons.

That can be said of most government agencies where there are no repercussions for being stupid.  And to be honest, I've the DOT could never match the DOD in the stupid department.  I once spend nearly 4 hours explaining allocations was to a DOD auditor.  I'm not sure how an auditor can be on the job for 15+ years knowing what an allocation is.


Man, I hear you. My father (career Marine) spent the last two years of his service supervising an aircraft repair facility that was primarily staffed with civilian DoD employees. Just about every night at the dinner table, he had some tale of malfeasance or outright stupidity. The thing that amazed me was the fact that they knew he personally inspected every aircraft before it left the facility, so they knew he would catch their crappy work. Yet just about every aircraft that came through was turned back around to have the work done correctly, often by Marines who volunteered overtime to make sure it was right.

I had to take a few minutes the other day to instruct a public employee how to refresh her browser window. You'd think that someone who spends most of her working day looking at Ebay and Match.com would know how a browser works, but apparently not.
 
2013-06-05 09:49:50 AM  
The DOT should pay him in pennies.
HE LEGALLY HAS TO ACCEPT IT
 
2013-06-05 09:51:23 AM  

pkellmey: That is a pretty interesting ruling. So we can now request FOIA information in a specific format and Illinois believes the government has to attempt to give it in that format? For a lot of documents and document types, that would take quite a bit of effort to complete the requests. That would appear to be a tech burden on the government that could have been ignored in the past.


The State can charge for the effort if the effort is beyond what would be considered a reasonable level of effort to satisfy. In this case since the State already supplied the documentation, presumably, without fees, then providing an unlocked version of an already generated output would not require substantial additional resources.

If the State REALLY wanted to make it tough on the requester, they could have justified a high fee and made the requester decide if he needed the data so bad he was willing to pay through the nose for it.
 
2013-06-05 09:53:42 AM  

pkellmey: That is a pretty interesting ruling. So we can now request FOIA information in a specific format and Illinois believes the government has to attempt to give it in that format? For a lot of documents and document types, that would take quite a bit of effort to complete the requests. That would appear to be a tech burden on the government that could have been ignored in the past.


Excel is a pretty standard format for handling data.  I also suspect that prior FIOA requests had shown him the data was out there.
 
2013-06-05 09:54:17 AM  
This isn't the type of lock where one can just simple click "would you like to unlock this file" at the top of the screen is it?
 
2013-06-05 09:57:25 AM  
liam76:They gave it to him in a format that took them extra time.

It isn't like he asked for it hand written in sanskrit.  Excel was probably the cheapest way to give it to him.


I work with FOIA and most of the time, we have given it to the requester in whatever format is most convenient to us and charged the user more for a conversion or deny the request for that specific reason. It is interesting how much difference there is between locations and agencies.
 
2013-06-05 09:58:36 AM  

OldManDownDRoad: Man, I hear you. My father (career Marine) spent the last two years of his service supervising an aircraft repair facility that was primarily staffed with civilian DoD employees. Just about every night at the dinner table, he had some tale of malfeasance or outright stupidity. The thing that amazed me was the fact that they knew he personally inspected every aircraft before it left the facility, so they knew he would catch their crappy work. Yet just about every aircraft that came through was turned back around to have the work done correctly, often by Marines who volunteered overtime to make sure it was right.I had to take a few minutes the other day to instruct a public employee how to refresh her browser window. You'd think that someone who spends most of her working day looking at Ebay and Match.com would know how a browser works, but apparently not.


Your choice of the specifier "public" is irrelevant here. I've not worked for any private employer where these kind of people weren't also abundantly employed.

Stop harping on the public sector strawman and appreciate that incompetent buffoons are everywhere - and, to some degree, in some context, we're all one of them.
 
2013-06-05 09:58:58 AM  

impaler: This isn't the type of lock where one can just simple click "would you like to unlock this file" at the top of the screen is it?


Yes and no.

There are add-ins that make unlocking a single click experience.

Excel security is like a twist-tie on a loaf of bread.
 
2013-06-05 10:08:29 AM  
 

BHShaman: pkellmey: That is a pretty interesting ruling. So we can now request FOIA information in a specific format and Illinois believes the government has to attempt to give it in that format? For a lot of documents and document types, that would take quite a bit of effort to complete the requests. That would appear to be a tech burden on the government that could have been ignored in the past.

The State can charge for the effort if the effort is beyond what would be considered a reasonable level of effort to satisfy.


IDOT took effort to make the data less accessable. I'll repeat that: they took EXTRA effort to make the data less accessable to the public, pissing on the FOIA's entire premise.

They could have just emailed him the damn file as it existed, but they're entrenched government bureaucrats that don't want the public to know how they're operating. "We are the governemnt" my ass.
 
2013-06-05 10:11:17 AM  
daveinsurgent:
Stop harping on the public sector strawman and appreciate that incompetent buffoons are everywhere - and, to some degree, in some context, we're all one of them.

Say, can we get a ruling here? Now that "derp" is under suspension, how about "strawman" as well? It's become pretty meaningless.

As for public employees, I've been in the workplace for more than 30 years, about evenly divided between public and private employers. By a large margin, public employees are the worst when it comes to slacking off and turning in shoddy work. But that may just be my personal experience since I'm in North Carolina, a state that's second only to Illinois and Louisiana when it comes to cronyism and nepotism in state hiring.

For example: how else would a paving contractor become head of a 16-campus university system? Or a dismissed county deputy be appointed as head administrator of a mental health residential facility - that particular bit of cronyism only became public knowledge when two of the residents died due to neglect.

But be of good cheer: I'm a public employee at the moment, enjoying such things as the memo I got yesterday from my boss (appointed to the job because she didn't have the stated requirements) reminding us all that she's "still here" despite the fact that she hasn't been in the office recently. Meanwhile, all our divisional leaders, sensing the opportunity, have engaged in an orgy of crony hires, including one fellow who admitted to me that he wasn't sure how he was hired without an interview and that he wasn't exactly positive as to what he should be doing.

He has a nice desk, though.

So there's something to admire: the willingness to grab the opportunity to indulge in empire-building.

/North Carolina, the new New Jersey
 
2013-06-05 10:16:32 AM  
Was the whole document locked, or just individual cells.

If DOT was worried about people changing the data, they could lock all the cells, not the whole sheet.

Broktun /  Still using an 10 year old version of Excel
 
2013-06-05 10:17:11 AM  
Of course had he cracked the spreadsheet he would no doubt be facing jail time for tampering with government computer files.
 
2013-06-05 10:19:33 AM  

pkellmey: liam76:They gave it to him in a format that took them extra time.

It isn't like he asked for it hand written in sanskrit.  Excel was probably the cheapest way to give it to him.

I work with FOIA and most of the time, we have given it to the requester in whatever format is most convenient to us and charged the user more for a conversion or deny the request for that specific reason. It is interesting how much difference there is between locations and agencies.


The fact that they had it in excel then locked it shows they weren't doing that.

If you are dealing with data like that I don't see what format you could be using that isn't a few clicks from excel.
 
2013-06-05 10:20:51 AM  

mdeesnuts: BHShaman: pkellmey: That is a pretty interesting ruling. So we can now request FOIA information in a specific format and Illinois believes the government has to attempt to give it in that format? For a lot of documents and document types, that would take quite a bit of effort to complete the requests. That would appear to be a tech burden on the government that could have been ignored in the past.

The State can charge for the effort if the effort is beyond what would be considered a reasonable level of effort to satisfy.

IDOT took effort to make the data less accessable. I'll repeat that: they took EXTRA effort to make the data less accessable to the public, pissing on the FOIA's entire premise.

They could have just emailed him the damn file as it existed, but they're entrenched government bureaucrats that don't want the public to know how they're operating. "We are the governemnt" my ass.


That may be true, but not necessarily. Some software that we have used exports to an Excel readable file that did not use normal cell export, but instead dumped a picture of the tables into a spreadsheet. Completely useless unless if you manipulated the file with other software to put it in a correct cell format for Excel. However, you are correct that it would have made more sense to e-mail him a raw file if this was the case. I have no idea what software was used, but if it was a non-standards vendor that programmed it, many ridiculous possibilities exist.
 
2013-06-05 10:23:40 AM  

walkerhound: Fano: thetubameister: This needs a HERO tag... anything which puts these cameras under scrutiny and financial loss is hero tag worthy.

Pshaw. Camera experts here on Fark have explained to me that 80% of the tickets go unpaid and that the administrative costs crush oubeleaguere ed justice system

Here's an article you might like to read: http://wreg.com/2013/06/03/fire-chief-defends-firefighter-accused-of- s tealing-from-burning-home/


o_O  WTF did I just read?  The last sentence of that linked article:  "The fire in question happened last week, and 24 hours later it caught fire again, that time investigators said it was awesome."
 
2013-06-05 10:28:25 AM  

BigSlowTarget: Of course had he cracked the spreadsheet he would no doubt be facing jail time for tampering with government computer files.


THIS
 
2013-06-05 10:52:33 AM  

Begoggle: The DOT should pay him in pennies.
HE LEGALLY HAS TO ACCEPT IT


please not this crap again. not only does he not have to accept it, it's simply recognized legal tender and that's it.

/troll better next time.
 
2013-06-05 10:55:21 AM  

pkellmey: mdeesnuts: BHShaman: pkellmey: That is a pretty interesting ruling. So we can now request FOIA information in a specific format and Illinois believes the government has to attempt to give it in that format? For a lot of documents and document types, that would take quite a bit of effort to complete the requests. That would appear to be a tech burden on the government that could have been ignored in the past.

The State can charge for the effort if the effort is beyond what would be considered a reasonable level of effort to satisfy.

IDOT took effort to make the data less accessable. I'll repeat that: they took EXTRA effort to make the data less accessable to the public, pissing on the FOIA's entire premise.

They could have just emailed him the damn file as it existed, but they're entrenched government bureaucrats that don't want the public to know how they're operating. "We are the governemnt" my ass.

That may be true, but not necessarily. Some software that we have used exports to an Excel readable file that did not use normal cell export, but instead dumped a picture of the tables into a spreadsheet. Completely useless unless if you manipulated the file with other software to put it in a correct cell format for Excel. However, you are correct that it would have made more sense to e-mail him a raw file if this was the case. I have no idea what software was used, but if it was a non-standards vendor that programmed it, many ridiculous possibilities exist.


TFA says that the Excel file itself was the database of record, rather than an export of any kind of proper database. Which is right in line with most businesses using Excel for just about everything it shouldn't be.
 
2013-06-05 10:58:38 AM  
pkellmey:
That may be true, but not necessarily. Some software that we have used exports to an Excel readable file that did not use normal cell export, but instead dumped a picture of the tables into a spreadsheet. Completely useless unless if you manipulated the file with other software to put it in a correct cell format for Excel. However, you are correct that it would have made more sense to e-mail him a raw file if this was the case. I have no idea what software was used, but if it was a non-standards vendor that programmed it, many ridiculous possibilities exist.

To no one's suprise I am correct. FTFRuling:
In a letter dated April 11, 2011, IDOT responded to the PAC's inquiry by stating that IDOT
had fully complied with Fagel's FOIA request; that the Excel spreadsheet was "fully viewable" but
that it was "locked so that it [could] not be changed or manipulated into a format that [was] more
to [Fagel's] liking";
 
2013-06-05 11:11:17 AM  

Parthenogenetic: walkerhound: Fano: thetubameister: This needs a HERO tag... anything which puts these cameras under scrutiny and financial loss is hero tag worthy.

Pshaw. Camera experts here on Fark have explained to me that 80% of the tickets go unpaid and that the administrative costs crush oubeleaguere ed justice system

Here's an article you might like to read: http://wreg.com/2013/06/03/fire-chief-defends-firefighter-accused-of- s tealing-from-burning-home/

o_O  WTF did I just read?  The last sentence of that linked article:  "The fire in question happened last week, and 24 hours later it caught fire again, that time investigators said it was awesome."


When I read that last sentence, I thought it was an article from The Onion.   Overall, my money is on "Jewish Lightning".  Both times.
 
2013-06-05 11:13:22 AM  
mdeesnuts:To no one's suprise I am correct. FTFRuling:
In a letter dated April 11, 2011, IDOT responded to the PAC's inquiry by stating that IDOT
had fully complied with Fagel's FOIA request; that the Excel spreadsheet was "fully viewable" but
that it was "locked so that it [could] not be changed or manipulated into a format that [was] more
to [Fagel's] liking";


Which was the part that interested me. Normally we use the Attorny General's statement as TFA stated: "FOIA does not ensure that a requester can obtain information in an electronic format that he or she can manipulate, but only that the requester will receive the information in an electronic format," the attorney general's public access counselor stated in a non-binding ruling in September 2011.

So, information provided - which is normally the minimal requirement. In the past if you wanted a Word doc and we only had it in PDF, you got a PDF (not much of an issue anymore but it used to be a huge problem). A Word doc with tables was not converted to an Excel file for easier manipulation. You received what they had. This ruling for Illinois means they should be providing it in whatever format is requested. It is a definite power shift from past rulings.
 
2013-06-05 11:19:54 AM  

pkellmey: A Word doc with tables was not converted to an Excel file for easier manipulation. You received what they had. This ruling for Illinois means they should be providing it in whatever format is requested. It is a definite power shift from past rulings


Re-read it.

They had an excel doc.  They locked it.  That took more work.
 
2013-06-05 11:24:23 AM  
IDOT?  You'd think they'd be familiar with the old 1D10T bugs.
 
2013-06-05 12:54:01 PM  

Dr._Michael_Hfuhruhurr: impaler: This isn't the type of lock where one can just simple click "would you like to unlock this file" at the top of the screen is it?

Yes and no.

There are add-ins that make unlocking a single click experience.

Excel security is like a twist-tie on a loaf of bread.


Hey now, those twist ties can be confusing. Ever started on one where you think you're untwisting and it is actually twisting more? It was an hour before I got me some cinnamon toast that morning.
/FAT fingers
 
2013-06-05 01:03:55 PM  

thetubameister: This needs a HERO tag... anything which puts these cameras under scrutiny and financial loss is hero tag worthy.


I agree fully. Same with breathalyzers - not because people should DUI but because their search should be reasonable and accurate, and nobody has proven it outside the company selling the devices.
 
2013-06-05 01:43:03 PM  

Gig103: thetubameister: This needs a HERO tag... anything which puts these cameras under scrutiny and financial loss is hero tag worthy.

I agree fully. Same with breathalyzers - not because people should DUI but because their search should be reasonable and accurate, and nobody has proven it outside the company selling the devices.


I was at my sister-in-law's and whatever channel their TV was on switched to COPS shortly after we arrived.
The cops pulled over some dude that was stupid and seemed to be a bit drunk. The cop put him through the field sobriety tests and he failed 2 or 3 of them and kept asking "So how much have you had to drink tonight" the guy kept saying "I haven't had anything in over 2 hours."
For some reason the cop had to call for backup to bring a breathalyzer. When they administered the breathalyzer he blew a 0.00. The first cop was flabbergasted and kept asking the second cop "Don't you smell it on him? He smells like booze." The second cop said he "Didn't know, not really." They let the guy go.

So either the breathalyzer was completely inaccurate, or the guy was somehow just too stupid to pass the sobriety tests. I'm going with uncalibrated breathalyzer.
 
2013-06-05 02:49:01 PM  
I now demand Chicago provide me recordings of all city council meetings in FLAC.
MP3 can DIAF.

(and this does need the hero tag)
 
2013-06-05 03:24:23 PM  
I had to crack a locked word document for a co-worker who needed to redo it in a different format, and had thus far retyped 40 of 90 pages because she couldn't copy and paste. (Information was in tables or some such shiat). 45 seconds on google gave me the info I needed. You would think it would be harder than  saving the file into a different format, opening in a text pad, and changing a '1' to a '0'. But not so.
 
2013-06-05 03:39:14 PM  
I expect to soon hear about the sad and untimely suicide of an Illinois judge.
 
2013-06-05 04:07:50 PM  
Everyone loses when technology meets the legal system.
 
2013-06-05 04:20:57 PM  
Information on the ruling can be downloaded from the following link (36K PDF, locked, password protected)
 
2013-06-05 04:53:21 PM  
I think most people are anti-ticket, but wtf is a camera activist?  Is that someone who takes pictures of asshole cops?
 
BBH
2013-06-05 11:13:36 PM  
I have said it before, I'll say it again, IDOT is missing an "I".
 
2013-06-05 11:53:49 PM  
I'm working with a team to decode tags in RTF right now, so I'm getting a kick!
 
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