By John Crockford
Access to Government Information
“Transparency” and “access to information” are key terms in the struggle for an open and democratic society, and we expect our governments to provide us with information that is easily and readily accessible.
To this end, the Crockford Files is testing Web sites run by various local government agencies for accessibility. This month, I take a look at the Fresno County Superior Court Case Information portal (http://banweb.co.fresno.ca.us/cprodsnp/ck_public_qry_main.cp_main_idx).
Attempting to query case information on an Apple computer using the three most widely used (and most secure) Web browsers available (Firefox, Chrome and Safari) resulted in three failures; the software program just didn’t work and access to the information was impossible.
Though unwelcome, these results were not unexpected. The home page for the Fresno County Superior Court Case Information portal contains a highlighted warning that “Due to limitations and security features within certain web browsers, this website may not function correctly or as desired depending on the version of web browser being used. It is recommended that you use Microsoft Internet Explorer for proper functionality.”
The next step was to check access through the public computers at the Fresno County library. The library’s Windows-based computers use Internet Explorer exclusively and should have provided the access promised. However, the software program that should have worked in this scenario failed here as well.
A response to an inquiry to the Fresno Courts about this issue said, “The case information access through the Court’s website is working, however the CourtConnect system will only work with Internet Explorer version 8 or lower. Version 9 or higher may encounter problems, and the system will not function for other web browsers.”
Aside from the inability to access court information, this issue also raises security questions for the user. Internet Explorer browser versions 8 or lower are rife with security problems and should not be used at all.
This mess needs to be corrected. It could be that the Webmaster is working under limitations (e.g., software, budget) not under his or her control or is otherwise unable to fix the problem unilaterally. The Webmaster might actually benefit from some public input on the matter to provide the changes necessary to “make public information publicly accessible.” If you would like to write the Fresno Courts’ Webmaster regarding the inaccessibility of court case information, e-mail email@example.com.
If you use Gmail and Google’s Chrome browser, an easy-to-use (and open source) Chrome extension is available that adds e-mail encryption to your messages. SecureGmail is available at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/secure-gmail-by-streak/jngdnjdobadbdemillgljnnbpomnfokn.
For Musicians and Songwriters
Chordii (www.vromans.org/johan/projects/Chordii/) is software that provides guitar players and other musicians with a tool to produce good-looking, self-descriptive music sheets from text files.
Free eBooks Redux
Congratulations to Jason of Lemoore, the winner of a free copy of Socialists and War: Two Opposing Trends, which was offered last month.
John Crockford, a self-described “geek with Luddite sympathies,” is an independent Web site designer and consultant. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the Crockford Files (@crockfordfiles) on Twitter (https://twitter.com/crockfordfiles).