Nerval's Lobster writes "A presidential campaign is many things to many people: a reason to hope in the future, a wellspring of jokes and debate fodder, an annoyance to tune out, a chance to participate in the civic process. But for a couple dozen software engineers and developers involved over the past two years in President Obama's re-election effort, a campaign was something entirely different: a billion-dollar tech startup with an eighteen-month lifespan and a mandate to ship code under extreme pressure. Speaking to a New York City audience, some of Obama for America's leading tech people—those involved in the all-important Dashboard and Narwhal projects, as well as fundraising and DevOps—characterized the experience as 'insane,' filled with unending problems and the knowledge that, at the end of the whole process, nearly everything they worked on would likely end up tossed away. This is the story of what happened, and how technologies on a massive scale can make or break campaigns."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
ErichTheRed writes "Here's an interesting editorial piece about the ThinkPad over at CNN. It mirrors what many ThinkPad devotees have been saying since Lenovo started tweaking the classic IBM design to make the ThinkPad more like a MacBook, Sony or other high-end consumer device. I'm a big fan of these bulletproof, decidedly unsexy business notebooks, and would be unhappy if Lenovo decided to sacrifice build quality for coolness. Quoting: 'Before doing anything drastic, Lenovo would be wise to review the spectacular rise and fall of Blackberry-maker Research in Motion. The mobile handset manufacturer tried to take on Apple by launching a number of products aimed at the retail consumer after the launch of the iPhone. It released the devastatingly bad Blackberry Storm as a response to the iPhone and later the Playbook to take on the iPad. The Storm failed because it was hastily put together in a mad dash and lacked the signature Blackberry QWERTY keyboard ... The Playbook failed because the Blackberry ecosystem had at the point of its launched more or less collapsed, making the Playbook just another iPad clone no one wanted. Meanwhile, the original Blackberry was left to wither away as the company focused on chasing Apple and wasn't updated in a meaningful way, making it look just old and tired.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "On the heels of rolling out high-speed broadband to Kansas City, Google is bringing more connectivity to another American municipality: New York City's Chelsea neighborhood, which will receive Wi-Fi in outdoor areas courtesy of the search-engine giant. The free Internet zone will encompass an area between 8th Avenue and the West Side Highway on the East-West access, and 19th Street and Gansevoort Street on the North-South. It will cost $115,000 to build and $45,000 a year to maintain, according to Bloomberg, with costs split between Google and a nonprofit neighborhood development group. Internet access will come free of advertising, aside from a provider message from Google, and not require any sort of password. Under mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City has encouraged the development of a sizable tech sector; in addition to dozens of startups, Google and other behemoths have opened headquarters in Manhattan. In theory, this 'Silicon Alley' will contribute mightily to the city's tax base and diversify the local economy."
dryriver writes "Yesterday, Adobe put up a mysterious webpage from which its now seven-year-old CS2 line of products (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, Premiere and others) could be freely downloaded by anyone. The page even included valid serial numbers that will unlock the CS2 apps for anyone who wants to. This strange 'giveaways' page at Adobe.com quickly went viral on the internet after a few tech bloggers reported on it. An Adobe spokesman said initially that the CS2 downloads are for existing owners of Adobe CS2 software only, who may not be able to activate their software anymore, due to the CS2 activation servers having been shut down by Adobe. But the internet at large took this webpage as meaning 'Free Adobe CS2 Software for Everyone,' which was probably not what Adobe had in mind. It seems that at this point, hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded their 'free' CS2 products and installed them, and started using them. So Adobe is in a bit of a PR pinch now because of this — Do you tell all the thousands of people who have downloaded CS2 products in the last 48 hours that 'you cannot use these products without paying us'? Or do you accept that hundreds of thousands of people now have free access to seven year old Adobe CS2 products, and try to encourage some of them to 'upgrade to the new CS6 products'?"
An anonymous reader writes "With the eyes of the tech world fixed on CES this week, Apple this morning conveniently decided to issue a press release announcing that the iTunes App Store has now topped over 40 billion downloads. That's an incredible feat, to be sure, but even more incredible is that nearly half of those downloads occurred in 2012. In December alone, iOS users downloaded over 2 billion applications, setting a monthly record in the process."
judgecorp writes "Google has abandoned its policy of warning Chinese users against keywords that trigger censorship. The search giant had added a warning that advised Chinese users not to use search terms that could cause the Chinese authorities to shut off their access to Google, but has now abandoned these warnings. While Google says they were ineffectual, free speech campaigners have expressed disappointment."
Rambo Tribble writes "Reuters reports that Los Almos National Laboratory has removed switches produced by Chinese firm H3C, which once had ties to Huawei. This appears to be a step taken to placate a nervous Congress, rather in response to any detected security issues. From the article: 'Switches are used to manage data traffic on computer networks. The exact number of Chinese-made switches installed at Los Alamos, how or when they were acquired, and whether they were placed in sensitive systems or pose any security risks, remains unclear. The laboratory - where the first atomic bomb was designed - is responsible for maintaining America's arsenal of nuclear weapons. A spokesman for the Los Alamos lab referred inquiries to the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, which declined to comment.'"
iComp writes "It's all gestures and eyeball-tracking at CES this year, with Tobii releasing a USB peripheral that adds control-by-sight to any Windows PC and Lenovo upgrading its Yoga to finger-watching. Tobii demonstrated its eyeball-tracking technology at CES last year, but this time it is announcing a 5,000 unit production run of a USB bar which can be stuck to the bottom of the monitor of any Windows 8 PC to start tracking eyeballs. Lenovo isn't even waiting that long. Although it is only tracking fingers, it's adding the capability to existing Yoga laptops courtesy of eyeSight Tech."
theodp writes "Saturday, the 2013 FIRST Robotics Competition kicked off, and — much like the Pinewood Derby — mentoring by adult engineers there doesn't hurt one's chances of winning. So, any advice for 'ordinary' high schools going up against the likes of FIRST Robotics Teams sponsored and mentored by NASA? FIRST Robotics Team 254's Lab at NASA Ames Research Center, for instance, includes 'an 80% size practice field as well as a small machine shop, workspace, computer lab and meeting space.' Not surprisingly, Team 254 won the 2011 FIRST Championship." We took our camera to the Michigan FRC championships last year, and had a great time.
An opinion piece by tech writer David Gilbert looks at how CES might be losing some of its luster. "It's hard to know who the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) really benefits. A common perception is that CES is the place where all the major technology companies launch their latest and greatest gadgets. But this is simply not the case. Let's look at 2012 as an example. Last year's most talked about consumer technology products (in no particular order) were: the iPhone 5, iPad 3, iPad mini, Microsoft Surface, Samsung Galaxy S3, Google Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Wii U. How many were launched at CES 2012? None."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Want to buy a 15,000-foot landing strip? How about a place to assemble rocket ships or a parachute-packing plant? Have we got a deal for you. The Orlando Sentinel reports that with the cleanup and wind-down of the shuttle program, NASA is quietly holding a going-out-of-business sale for the its space-shuttle facilities including Launch Pad 39A, where shuttles were launched; space in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the iconic 526-foot-tall structure first used to assemble Saturn V-Apollo rockets; the Orbiter Processing Facilities, essentially huge garages where the shuttles were maintained; Hangar N and its high-tech test equipment; the launch-control center; and various other buildings and chunks of undeveloped property. 'The facilities out here can't be in an abandoned state for long before they become unusable,' says Joyce Riquelme, NASA's director of KSC planning and development. 'So we're in a big push over the next few months to either have agreements for these facilities or not.' The process is mostly secret, because NASA has agreed to let bidders declare their proposals proprietary, keeping them out of the view of competitors and the public. Frank DiBello, thinks the most attractive facilities are those that can support launches that don't use the existing pads at KSC and adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 'Anything that still has cleaning capabilities or satellite-processing capabilities, the parachute facility, the tile facility, the OPF, all three of them, they have real value to the next generation of space activity,' says Frank DiBello, President of Space Florida, an Independent Special District of the State of Florida, created to foster the growth and development of a sustainable and world-leading space industry in Florida. 'If the infrastructure helps you reach market, then it has value. If it doesn't, then it's just a building, it's just a launchpad, and nobody wants it.'"
First time accepted submitter msamp writes "After the dotcom bubble burst so long ago,when tech jobs were so scarce, I went back to school and finished my PhD in Physics. They lied — there really is no shortage of scientists. Before the downturn I was a product manager for home networking equipment. Since getting the degree I have been program/project manager for small DoD and NASA instrumentation programs. I desperately want back into network equipment product management, but my networking tech skills aren't up to date. I find networking technology absolutely trivial and have been retraining on my own, but hiring managers see the gap and the PhD and run screaming. I'm more than willing to start over in network admin but can't even get considered for that. Suggestions?"
Bruce66423 writes "An article at The Guardian discusses the prospects for food from radically different sources than the ones we're used to. 'Sweet fried crickets' anyone? Quoting: '... artificial steak is still a way off. Pizza toppings are closer. The star of the Dutch research into in-vitro meat, Dr Mark Post, promised that the first artificial hamburger, made from 10bn lab-grown cells, would be ready for "flame-grilling by Heston Blumenthal" by the end of 2012. At the time of writing it is still on the back burner. Post (who previously produced valves for heart surgery) and other Dutch scientists are currently working over the problem of how to turn the "meat" from pieces of jelly into something acceptably structured: an old-fashioned muscle. Electric shocks may be the answer. ... The technological problems of producing the new hi-tech foods are nothing compared to the trouble the industry is having with the consumers – the "yuck factor," as the food technology scientists across the world like to put it. Shoppers' squeamishness has turned the food corporations, from whom the real money for R&D will have to come, very wary, and super-secretive about their work on GM in America.'"
This year's Consumer Electronics Show has nearly arrived. Later today, I'll be hurtling (or perhaps just slogging) across the West Texas desert, bound for Vegas. CES is far too big an event to see very much of, no matter what: the endless aisles (highways!) of cheap laptop bags and e-cigarettes alone take up an incredible amount of floor space, but the good stuff takes up at least as much. The categories represented aren't necessarily new, but the trends vary each time: remote-controlled helicopters, from Parrot and others, have been been getting more capable for a few years running, along with 3D televisions, action cameras, ever-bigger displays, toys for kids, toys for adults, and the newest/slimmest/priciest/cheapest laptops and handhelds. Last year I had a chance to get close-up video views at Ubuntu TV and the successfully crowdfunded TouchFire keyboard, as well as interviews with John Ryan of Pixel Qi and Raspberry Pi instigator Eben Upton. I'll be on the lookout for some of my usual obsessions (open source in consumer products, bright LED-based projectors, interesting input devices), but what would you like to see up-close from this year's crop of exhibitors (sorry, it's a long list), and why?
abhatt writes "Intel is set to debut the most power efficient chip in the world — a limited edition 'Ivy Bridge' processor in the upcoming annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Only a select group of tablet and ultrabook vendors will receive the limited Ivy Bridge chips. From the article: 'Intel did not say how far below 10 watts these special "Y" series Ivy Bridge processors will go, though Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen is expected to talk about the processors at CES. These Ivy Bridge chips were first mentioned at Intel's annual developer conference last year but it wasn't clear at that time if Intel and its partners would go forward with designs. But it appears that some PC vendors will have select models in the coming months, according to Intel.'"