Features

Technology

National | Technology

Issue: "Memorial Day 2004," May 29, 2004

Paper trail

DIEBOLD'S CONTROVERSIAL electronic voting system received a vote of confidence from its home state, as Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed a bill requiring all counties to use the ATM-like machines by 2006. But these systems will also issue paper receipts as confirmation.

Diebold claims its technology offers more accuracy than punch cards, while making voting easier for the handicapped. It reported that one exit poll, taken during the California primary, gave one of the company's e-voting systems a 97-percent approval rating.

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While Diebold isn't the only voting machine maker, it remains the most controversial. Last year, an activist found e-voting source code on an unprotected internet site, then an unidentified person broke into a server and stole some internal documents.

Diebold reels from complaints about unsecured technology, plus hardware problems of a different sort that popped up in Maryland and California last March. The company is known for making bank ATMs and safes-and the struggling e-voting venture represents only 5 percent of its $2.1 billion business.

Card carriers

A NEW GENERATION OF graphics is coming to the PC, as new video cards hit the market promising the latest in animation and visual brilliance. The line between Hollywood and the home computer is shrinking.

Nvidia and ATI (the Coke and Pepsi of computer graphics) offer new add-ons with pretty pictures for a pretty price (about $500). ATI brags that its new Radeon X800 set performance records and can generate 8 billion pixels per second. Both competitors use separate processors to create graphics more efficiently.

Enough devoted users (with a suitable disposable income) love graphics and games to maintain the competitive market for video cards. Like car buffs, buyers are willing to open up their computer cases, fiddle with screws and upgrade their hardware for better graphics. As graphics improve, game developers make more sophisticated software, thus fueling even more demands for add-ons. A subculture of Web sites like ExtremeTech.com and TomsHardware .com review and compare new models.

For many typical users who rely only on Web browsers or word processors, all this is as irrelevant as premium gasoline in a subcompact car. The graphics chips that come with the typical computer system are more than adequate for crisp, clear pictures on traditional and flat screens. But those with higher demands want ever more visual firepower.

BITS & MEGABYTES

Vietnamese officials announced new restrictions on Internet use, following a crackdown on online dissent. Internet cafes must now check users' identification and all activity is tracked. The Communist-run media claims Internet users must not disseminate "state secrets" or commit acts that "infringe upon national security or social order and safety...."

German authorities are still investigating the Sasser and Netsky computer attacks, following the arrest of teen programmer Sven Jaschan. They suggested that the suspect, whose mother owns a computer store, wanted to build a reputation as a computer whiz by exploiting a flaw in Windows. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

FCC officials endorsed a plan to send wireless Internet service over unused TV channels. While proponents say it will bring access to people, especially in rural areas, some broadcasters say it will cause interference on conventional over-the-air stations. Under the plan, wireless companies would gain access to the unused local airwaves between channels 5 and 51.

Dell announced that record sales pushed its quarterly profits up 22 percent, despite spikes in memory prices and increased inventory. The PC-making powerhouse is expanding into high-end products like servers and data storage, as incoming

CEO Kevin Rollins prepares to take over in July.

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