concealment sends in a story at Time that goes behind the scenes with the team of data crunchers that powered many of the Obama campaign's decisions in the lead-up to the election. From the article: "For all the praise Obama's team won in 2008 for its high-tech wizardry, its success masked a huge weakness: too many databases. Back then, volunteers making phone calls through the Obama website were working off lists that differed from the lists used by callers in the campaign office. Get-out-the-vote lists were never reconciled with fundraising lists. It was like the FBI and the CIA before 9/11: the two camps never shared data. ... So over the first 18 months, the campaign started over, creating a single massive system that could merge the information collected from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers and consumer databases as well as social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states. The new megafile didn't just tell the campaign how to find voters and get their attention; it also allowed the number crunchers to run tests predicting which types of people would be persuaded by certain kinds of appeals. Call lists in field offices, for instance, didn't just list names and numbers; they also ranked names in order of their persuadability, with the campaign's most important priorities first. About 75% of the determining factors were basics like age, sex, race, neighborhood and voting record. Consumer data about voters helped round out the picture. 'We could [predict] people who were going to give online. We could model people who were going to give through mail. We could model volunteers,' said one of the senior advisers about the predictive profiles built by the data. 'In the end, modeling became something way bigger for us in '12 than in '08 because it made our time more efficient.'"
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beeudoublez writes "Apple was ordered to pay $368 million today to a software company named VirnetX over patents related to Apple's FaceTime technology. Apple engineers testified they didn't pay attention to any patents when building FaceTime. 'The jury, which had sat through the five-day trial, ruled that Apple infringed two patents: one for a method of creating a virtual private network (VPN) between computers, and another for solving DNS security issues. ... It's not the first time VirnetX has won a payout from a major tech firm: the company bagged $105.7m from Microsoft two years ago, and it may not be the last either. VirnetX has a separate case against Apple pending with the International Trade Commission and it has court cases against Cisco, Avaya and Siemens scheduled for trial next year.'" It's not all bad news for Apple today, though — according to Ars, they've won a new patent for a rounded rectangle (D670,286).
Velcroman1 writes "No smartphones. No exploding pens. No ejector seats. No rocket-powered submarines. 'It's a brave new world,' gadget-maker Q tells James Bond in the new film Skyfall. The new film, released on the 50th anniversary of the storied franchise, presents a gadget-free Bond fighting with both brains and brawn against a high-tech villain with computer prowess Bill Gates would be envious of. What inspired such a villain? 'Stuxnet,' producer Michael G. Wilson said. 'There is a cyberwar that has been going on for some time, and we thought we'd bring that into the fore and let people see how it could be going on.'"
Several readers have submitted news of the inevitable problems involved with trying to securely collect information from tens of millions of people on the same day. A video is making the rounds of a touchscreen voting machine registering a vote for Mitt Romney when Barack Obama was selected. A North Carolina newspaper is reporting that votes for Romney are being switched to Obama. Voters are being encouraged to check and double-check that their votes are recorded accurately. In Ohio, some recently-installed election software got a pass from a District Court Judge. In Galveston County, Texas, poll workers didn't start their computer systems early enough to be ready for the opening of the polls, which led to a court order requiring the stations to be open for an extra two hours at night. Yesterday we discussed how people in New Jersey who were displaced by the storm would be allowed to vote via email; not only are some of the emails bouncing, but voters are being directed to request ballots from a county clerk's personal Hotmail account. If only vote machines were as secure as slot machines. Of course, there's still the good, old fashioned analog problems; workers tampering with ballots, voters being told they can vote tomorrow, and people leaving after excessively long wait times.
alphadogg writes "Verizon Wireless is closing down its app store by January next year, it said in a notice on its developer community portal. The operator said it will start removing in January the Verizon Apps application from all compatible Android and Research In Motion devices. It anticipates completing the process by March 27. The carrier's app store, launched in March 2010, has been overtaken by popular online app stores from tech companies like Google and RIM."
jbernardo writes "Nokia has put in deep freeze its free developer program, the launchpad. Now, in the Developer Programs page, one can only see a pitch for a paid 'Nokia Premium Developer Program,' and below, in the Nokia Developer Pro and Developer Launchpad box, there is a text merely stating that Nokia are not currently accepting new applications for Nokia Developer Launchpad and Nokia Developer Pro programs. With most (if not all) Launchpad memberships already expired, seems like Nokia no longer is interested in the developer community, which once was one of the mainstays of its domination of the smartphone market. Of course, that domination was destroyed by Elop and its 'burning platforms' memo, together with the failed bet on Windows Phone 7, so maybe giving up on developers would also be expectable."
Esther Schindler writes "Why is it that young developers imagine that older programmers can't program in a modern environment? Too many of us of a 'certain age' are facing an IT work environment that is hostile to older workers. Lately, Steven Vaughan-Nichols has been been noticing that the old meme about how grandpa can't understand iPhones, Linux, or the cloud is showing up more often even as it's becoming increasingly irrelevant. The truth is: Many older developers are every bit as good as young programmers, and he cites plenty of example of still-relevant geeks to prove it. And he writes, 'Sadly, while that should have put an end to the idea that long hours are a fact of IT life, this remnant of our factory-line past lingers both in high tech and in other industries. But what really matters is who's productive and who's not.'"
Phil Shapiro isn't famous, but he's a pretty good writer whose work appears regularly at opensource.com. He makes his living as the tech support person (he calls it "public nerd") at the Takoma Park Maryland Library. He has also -- see the link to his bio page above -- lived in New Delhi, India; Copenhagen, Denmark; Paris, France; and Scarsdale, New York. He got started with Linux as a "social justice" thing; because Linux and FOSS helped make it possible for people of modest means (we used to just call them "poor") to learn about computers and get on the Internet. He's still a big "computer for the masses" advocate and computer rehab volunteer. What's especially interesting about this interview (which is slightly out of sound/visual synch; you may prefer reading the transcript) is the amount of credit Phil gives Slashdot for spurring him on and getting him excited about FOSS. He also sees Slashdot as instrumental in helping start the Maker subculture. Do you agree? If so, should influencing the future of technology be Slashdot's main mission? Also: If so, how do you suggest we do it? And more specifically, do you know any other non-famous Slashdot readers (or people in general) we should talk to because they are doing interesting things?
Several outlets are reporting, based on screenshots posted by Android Police that Google is (or "may be" — CNet calls the report "loosely sourced") about to introduce a lower-tech variant on its smartphone-based Google Wallet payment system. Instead of transferring payment information from an NFC-equipped phone, this would mean a physical payment card (like a conventional plastic credit or debit card), but one linked via Google's databanks to the user's existing bank or credit accounts. Upsides: less to carry, a simple way to suspend or cancel service on them (should the card be lost or stolen), and doesn't require you to carry your phone to make a credit or debit transaction — handy, since NFC readers are still thin on the ground. Downside: while perhaps no worse than putting the same information on your phone, it's one more step toward giving a third party all of your personal information in one place. A card that fits in a wallet probably makes a lot of sense: I live in a city with at least three pay-by-phone options in trials or fully available (CitiBank, Isis, and Google Wallet), but I can't buy ice cream or coffee with them yet. And there's no reason a card-shaped token couldn't use mag-stripes and NFC, too.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Low-Tech Magazine: "Both the velomobile and the electric bicycle increase the limited range of the cyclist — the former optimises aerodynamics and ergonomics, while the latter assists muscle power with an electric motor fuelled by a battery. The electric velomobile combines both approaches, and so maximises the range of the cyclist — so much so that it is able to replace most, if not all, automobile trips. A quarter of the existent wind turbines in the U.S. would suffice to power as many electric velomobiles as there are Americans." One thing I wish was included in the article — worth reading for the photos alone! — is a chart with prices and worldwide availability for more of the vehicles mentioned. They do mention, though, that the eWAW ("the Ferrari of the velomobiles") costs 7790 Euro.
cylonlover writes "The EU Commission's Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) is working on a 'beaming' telepresence system that is designed to allow users to virtually experience being in a remote location by seeing, hearing and even feeling that location through the sensory inputs of a robot located there. That robot, in turn, would relay the user's speech and movements to the people at that location. Now, two of the CORDIS partners have put an interesting slant on the technology – they've used it to let people interact with rats."
kgeiger writes "Voting machine designs and data formats are a free-for-all. The result is poor validation and hence opportunity for fraud. An IEEE standards group wants all election computer systems to speak the same language. From the article: 'IEEE Standards Project 1622 is working on electronic data interchange for voting systems. The plan is to create a common format, based on the Election Markup Language (EML) already recommended for use in Europe. This is a subset of the popular XML (eXtensible Markup Language) that specifies particular fields and data structures for use in voting.'"
Velcroman1 writes "Slashdotters have been reading for months about the upcoming ITU conference next month in Dubai, which will propose new regulations and restrictions for the Internet that critics say could censor free speech, levy tariffs on e-commerce, and even force companies to clean up their 'e-waste' and make gadgets that are better for the environment. Concerns about the closed-door event have sparked a Wikileaks-style info-leaking site, and led the State Department on Wednesday to file a series of new proposals or tranches seeking to ensure 'competition and commercial agreements — and not regulation' as the meeting's main message. Terry Kramer, the chief U.S. envoy to the conference, says the United States is against sanctions. '[Doing nothing] would not be a terrible outcome at all,' Kramer said recently."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Who knew that the most critical element of operating a data center in New York City was ensuring a steady supply of diesel fuel? In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the challenges facing data center operators in the affected zones include pumping water from basements, waiting for utility power to be restored, and managing fuel-truck deliveries. And it's become increasingly clear which companies had the resources and foresight to plan for a disaster like Sandy, and which are simply reacting. Here's the latest on providers around the New York area." And remember, having fuel for machines sometimes only means it's time to start the manual labor.
another random user sends this excerpt from Business Insider: "In January, hackers got hold of 24 million Zappos customers' email addresses and other personal information. Some of those customers have been suing Zappos, an online shoes and clothing retailer that's owned by Amazon.com. Zappos wants the matter to go into arbitration, citing its terms of service. The problem: A federal court just ruled that agreement completely invalid. So Zappos will have to go to court—or more likely settle to avoid those legal costs. Here's how Zappos screwed up, according to Eric Goldman, a law professor and director of Santa Clara University's High Tech Law Institute: It put a link to its terms of service on its website, but didn't force customers to click through to it."