WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2004
You're a sick bunch
Not that I'm complaining. I just got handed some new research on you, the technology consumer. The question asked was, "What is the one thing that you yourself want most as a gift this holiday season?"
The top answer for the overall U.S. population was, predictably:
then a three-way tie between:
A new computer
It's impressive (in a sick sort of way) how a new PC has wormed its way into the perennial Big Three. But then I glanced at the responses of just CNET users--and choked
is your number one
holiday choice? I love it. Like an old Janis Joplin lyric
, you just put it right out there. We must be doing our job right.
So, what technology do
you want this holiday merchandising season (other than a big-screen TV, that is)?
TalkBack | Read all comments TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2004
I've been doing a lot of research into electronic voting in preparation for this week's slew of media requests for comments on the technology. I'm no expert, since I cover this topic only for about four days every four years, but I have come upon some concepts that I know are solid:
- Swapping out paper ballots for electronic voting machines just trades one set of polling problems for another. Gone are the hanging chads, overpunched ballots, and poor pencil erasures. But say hello to confusing GUIs, poorly calibrated touch screens, and the potential for a bad motherboard, a fried power supply, or another computer system failure. Yet most research indicates that electronic machines do actually reduce the number of spoiled, unreadable, or generally screwed-up ballots.
- The real problem is that electronic voting machines are computers. So when they fail, they will do so massively. It's a lot harder to obliterate 10,000 paper ballots than it is to wipe out 10,000 voting records on an SD card. There's also the problem of malicious code inserted by one rogue employee of one e-voting machine company. And there's one more problem: Windows.
- We have a major misfit at the polling places. Let me be perfectly politically incorrect: Confused ancient retirees and marginally literate adults make up the bulk of volunteers who run polling places. And yet we're surprised when things go wrong. A polling place is a high-pressure, fast-paced retail environment with new advanced technology where the staff gets to practice only once or twice a year. This would stress the hell out of a well-oiled team from a Nordstrom store, and polling place teams definitely ain't that.
Like just about everything else in life, and certainly in technology, there will always be a few percentage points' worth of voting errors. I don't think technology can eradicate that any more than the word processor ended bad writing. A close race just makes the error rate relevant.
And isn't all this to be expected anytime more than 100 million people try to do something all at once that they don't do very often?
Do you think there's a better way to run elections with technology? Talk back to me.
TalkBack | Read all comments MONDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2004
256MB of absurdity
USB disks seem to have cornered the market on goofy. But SushiDisk
may be the most artful. No stranger to screwy, SushiDisk's maker Solid Alliance also brought us the iDuck
, which they promote with the unnerving phrase "duck love."
Just when I was thinking how nice it is that the decorative (and largely useless) mousepad had passed into history, along comes the USB dongle market.
TalkBack | Read all comments How can I help you?
We have a little Webcast series coming up from November 15 to December 17, where I'll team up with different CNET editors to take your calls and questions live and solve problems on the spot. We're looking for calls about the headaches that arise from selecting tech gear as gifts.
People sweat this one each year, because giving tech is hard. You don't want to give someone a loser product, because that makes you look like a dolt. And people who ask for tech tend to know what's good and what isn't. On the other hand, you could just throw money at the problem and end up with something decent, but that can get expensive in a hurry.
I suspect the phone lines will be pretty loaded, so I'm giving my readers a heads-up: you can also e-mail me your questions via this link
, and I'll give them priority service so that they're answered on a day when we're covering that topic.
Oh, and the topics are:
- Home theater/audio
- Digital cameras
- Digital music
Shoot 'em at me.
TalkBack | Read all comments