Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

November 3, 2008  3:46 PM

Overheard: Touch screens, vote flipping and fear of touch screen parallax

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
vote-button.jpg Even though new standards were developed in 2005 and 2007, all voting machines in use today are only certified to the 2002 standards.

Declan McCullagh, E-voting worries linger as Election Day nears

There’s lots of buzz about “vote flipping” on touch screen voting machines. It’s like we’re all acting as if touch screen voting uses some new technology that’s prone to errors. Like the touch screen of a voting machine is magic or evil — or Republican.

Duh. It’s the same technology we use whenever we take money out of an ATM machine. I think it makes more sense to be nervous about the fact that our voting technology is only up to 2002 standardsAlex Howard gives you the scoop on who’s using what.  Or click on this interactive map from ComputerWorld that tells you what voting technology is being used in each state.

But back to vote flipping. The tech “bug” behind vote flipping has a real name. It’s called “touch screen parallax.”  Parallax simply means “The difference in appearance or position of an object when viewed from two different locations.”

Kids like to play with the concept. Remember when you were a kid and would pick a focal point and close your right eye — and then you’d quickly switch eyes and the object would seem to magically move? (You knew the object didn’t really move; you were just looking at it from a different position on your face but it did seem rather mysterious.)

Well years ago, if you went to a bank’s drive-through and used the ATM machine,  the touch screen could be a little “off” depending on the light source, time of day — or whether you were sitting high up in a truck or close to the ground in a little Mini-Cooper.

Banks have done a good job overcoming the parallax problem. Their solution? Calibrate the machines often and make sure the image maps are large enough to accommodate parallax errors. Plain English? The ATM machine runs a little program periodically on the back-end that maps a series of cross-hairs to the button images.  And the programmers made the button images BIGGER so there’s less chance the user accidentally touches the wrong part of the screen.

So what should you do if you intend to vote for McCain on a touch screen voting machine and Obama is the name that lights up?

The parallax isn’t going to change while you’re in the booth. You can move and angle your field of vision differently, use a different finger (no comments, please)  and see if that works — or you can ask a polling representative for assistance.

If the poll worker determines that the voting machine is calibrated incorrectly, they can cancel the ballot and put the machine in administrative mode. This will let them re-calibrate the screen and then you can vote.


November 3, 2008  12:00 AM

Overheard: VoIP traffic engineering

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
ip_pbx_voip_call_centre-copy.jpg VoIP uses a traffic engineering term called Quality of Service (QoS) that refers to the implementation of controls to ensure that delay sensitive IP packets are prioritized as they flow through the pipe. To forgo these controls would result in acoustic problems like jitter and echo, as well as dropped calls.

Michael Talbert, Choosing a Broadband Provider for VoIP

(Today’s word is traffic engineering.)

October 30, 2008  6:44 PM

Overheard: Killing zombies in the LAN of the Dead

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
zombieadc2.jpg Before a zombie hunter can kill some zombies he has to find them. In the movies the hero can listen for low sorrowful moans or slow shuffling feet to track them down, or just look for the carnage of half eaten people. On your network you can look for similar signs of the undead so you can blast them to oblivion.

Adrian Duane Crenshaw, LAN of the Dead: Putting computer zombies back in their grave, Ash style

Unlike a lot of bloggers who write about zombie armies, Adrian doesn’t just scare you — he actually tells you how to hunt down zombies on your network and and kill them.  Recommended reading.

Today’s word is zombie army

October 30, 2008  3:37 PM

Overheard: Botnets and online poker

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
poker_cards.jpg There are myriad ways hackers can cash out once they have obtained stolen bank accounts or credit card details…One way is to find a partner and create two accounts on an online poker site, loading up one of the accounts with cash from a stolen card. The pair then enter a heads-up game and the cashed-up player purposely loses, making the other account rich. They then cash out and split the profits.

Asher Moses, Inside the hackers’ den

Hunched over a computer terminal in his pyjamas, “Frank” makes more money than a small-time drug dealer without ever having to worry about being caught or even leaving the house.

October 30, 2008  11:52 AM

Overheard: Kicking the Unified Communication tires

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
ellen-daley2.gif The interest in Unified Communication seems to be driven by an enhanced focus on increasing productivity during the current economic downturn.

Ellen Daley as quoted in Unified communications’ business value cloudy, but enterprises want it

“We saw a 20% to 21% jump in enterprise interest in unified communications, but purchases and deployments have not really grown since last year,” Daley said. “There’s a lot more interest in unified communications — kicking of tires — but that hasn’t translated into people buying.”

Only 11% of 184 companies surveyed by Forrester said they had deployed UC, and just 16% said they were rolling it out this year. However, 57% said they are evaluating or piloting it.

Today’s word is communication portal. It’s another fuzzy marketing buzzword.

October 28, 2008  2:15 PM

Overheard: AJAX, ARAX, APAX, APhpAX, etc.

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
ben-galbraith-bw.jpg If this [ARAX] is about using Silverlight to host client-side browser scripting in Ruby, it’s definitely an appealing notion, but the problem will always be about Silverlight being a Microsoft technology.

Ben Galbraith, as quoted in  Johnson: Wrapping JavaScript in a loving Ruby embrace, and ARAX

 From InfoWorld:

Today, it is common for developers to use JavaScript in the browser. But with Microsoft’s planned release of Silverlight 2 later this year, developers could begin using Python and Ruby on the client as well. Ruby and Python already are being used for server-side development.

“What we’ve done through Silverlight is to make it possible to use Ruby or Python as an alternative to JavaScript for building the same types of applications,” said Brian Goldfarb, group manager for Microsoft’s developer division.  Developers could write code for Silverlight that is executed in the browser.

“All the browser needs to have is Silverlight installed and then developers can take advantage of these languages,” on the client, he said. Silverlight provides rich experiences with capabilities like video and graphics, Goldfarb said. It is viewed as rival to the Adobe Flash platform.

I can hardly keep these straight, although I’m thankful the names are so logical!

AJAXasynchronous JavaScript and XML

ARAX – asynchronous Ruby and XML

APAX –  asynchronous Python and XML

APhpAX – asynchronous PHP and XML

October 28, 2008  11:15 AM

Overheard: Overlay ads beat out pre-roll ads for viewer’s attention

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
neuro.jpg In a study released Thursday, Google and MediaVest used NeuroFocus findings to show that overlay ads appearing in YouTube videos grab consumers’ attention and boost brand awareness.

Mark Walsh, Google: This Is Your Brain On Advertising

With revenue from YouTube ads falling short of company expectations at an estimated $200 million this year–mostly from display ads–the pressure grows to find new ways to monetize the Web’s largest video site.

I had to look up overlay ad.  They’re semi-transparent overlays that cover the bottom fifth of the screen and then disappear after 10 seconds. If you click the ad, a pop-up with a full commercial plays right in the main player. At the end of the commercial — or when you click the close icon — the original clip resumes playing.  Overlay ads come in two flavors, video and plain text.  If marketers were observing my brain waves, they’d see that my emotional response to such an ad was favorable.  Unlike a pre-roll ad, you don’t have to sit through a commercial to see the content.

Today’s word is neuromarketing.

October 27, 2008  1:34 PM

Overheard: Who will be the first cabinet-level CTO?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
white-house.jpg A month or so ago the question of whether the next president should have a CTO came up in a work conversation among a diverse group of tech policy folks. We all agreed that the title is nice, but you would need to establish and delineate real power for it. Of course, the best way to do this would be to create a cabinet position for technology and innovation. People rolled their eyes at this until it was reminded to them that we do have a Secretary of Agriculture.

Sean Garrett, The Case for a National CTO

It’s about time the White House acknowledged that we’ve moved from the agrarian age to the information age.  Having a national CTO is a great idea — I bet that we could learn a lot about pitfalls from going back and learning how the position of Secretary of Agriculture came about. First, we’ll need to define what a CTO’s responsibilities are. (At some companies right now, the CTO reports to the CIO — at others, the CIO reports to the CTO.) Then we’ll need to decide whether the CTO should actually have experience in technology or whether he/she should come from business.

From Wikipedia:

On May 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln established the independent Department of Agriculture to be headed by a Commissioner without cabinet status.  Lincoln called it the “people’s department”. In the 1880s, varied special interest groups were lobbying for Cabinet representation. Business interests sought a Department of Commerce and Industry. Farmers tried to raise the Department of Agriculture to Cabinet rank. In 1887, the House and Senate passed bills giving cabinet status to the Department of Agriculture and Labor, but farm interests objected to the addition of labor, and the bill was killed in conference. Finally, on February 9, 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law elevating the Department of Agriculture to Cabinet level.

October 23, 2008  2:43 PM

Overheard: Is putting your anti-virus app in the cloud really a good idea?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
nathan_mcfeters.jpg Here’s the thing with cloud computing — it has awesome potential for good, but it’s really going to complicate some of our current thoughts on security as your company’s data gets thrown into a giant data gumbo with everyone else’s data.  I feel pretty confident that we’ll see a good amount of enterprising hackers enjoying that gumbo.

Nathan McFeters, AV in the cloud… wait, what?

October 22, 2008  7:06 PM

Overheard: Using disposable email accounts to see who’s selling your name

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
sharon-hurley-hall.jpg One good reason to use disposable email addresses is that it makes it easy to identify who has sold your details to spammers. If you use a unique address for each site you sign up with, then you will know instantly who to point the finger at. You will soon find out who can be trusted with your data – and who can’t.

Sharon Hurley Hall, Disposable Email Addresses

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