When you read this, the election won’t quite be over. No matter how it goes, no one can deny that technology has had a profound impact on this election season.
In years past, targeted lists have gotten more sophisticated in locating and encouraging voters who agree with candidates to register and vote. Based on email and Facebook postings, as well as group profiles, campaign workers knocking on doors often have very specific questions and policy positions to champion when talking to a potential voter. Detailed grouping of voters into specific party preferences is also used, by both parties, to create election districts that look like wounded ducks — but deliver guaranteed seats in both local and congressional elections.
That, however, pales in comparison to this year’s major impacts: hacks and social media.
Leaking of emails captured by hacking, probably performed by Russian government agencies, has exploded. Everyone has his or her favorite explanations and theories for this, but mine is simply that Russia wants to say to the rest of the world, “Look, they are corrupt and distorted, so you shouldn’t believe them and embrace Western democracy.”
Knowing the FSB (today’s KGB) is doing this increases the likelihood that some documents will be hacked, as well. A word or two changed or a sentence added or removed may not be noticed, especially if tens of thousands of documents are released at once. But the intent and tone will be changed.
As Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Wikileaks has turned into a propaganda engine, with Julian Assange still holed up after four years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London fighting extradition, something that probably elicits no love from him for the U.S.
Again, the amount of campaigning and/or posturing done on social media is unprecedented. Both sides have websites that update daily (hourly? Every five minutes?) with videos, position papers and attacks.
Campaign workers, as well as the candidates, tweet continuously. It is estimated that Donald Trump (and his staff) have sent out more than 33,000 tweets since starting in 2009 and that the Clinton campaign has sent 8,400. Some of these, as everyone not hiding under a rock knows, have been blockbusters.
People are encouraged to re-tweet and share on Facebook, increasing the circle — and decreasing the civility. Nastiness has become the norm. Both teams have made their social media workers more important.
Advantage: no one, especially us. As one bumper sticker reads: “Giant Meteor 2016, End It Now.”
Google has entered the fray with Apple and Samsung, and is selling its very own designed and branded phone, the Pixel, replacing its somebody-else’s rebranded Nexus phones. It should have been in stores after Oct. 20. It costs about the same as the Apple iPhone 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy s7, starting at $649 for the 32GB model and $749 for 128GB. The larger screen Pixel XL goes for $769 and $869.
What do you get for that expenditure? You get a sleekly-designed, almost iPhone with a good camera and an operating system that includes voice-activated searches, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. You get a headphone jack (eliminated on the new Apple). You get a quad processor and a dedicated image-processing chip to go with the nice camera. You get a metal and plastic case that has some nice hand-feel and heft, and nicely rounded edges.
You also get long battery life, but a battery that cannot be removed and replaced. The quick-charge option gives you seven hours of use in a 15-minute charge. You get no SIM card for external storage, so you have to rely on Google transferring your photos to the cloud when the phone gets full. And you get a lower level of water-resistance than the competition, good for a rain shower (maybe), but not a downpour.
Why this constitutes something worth charging a premium right up there with the Apple is somewhat beyond me. Even an expensive phone probably only costs $200–$300 to manufacture. The rest of the world is awash with cheap phones from India and China that cost $50–$150 for a truly smart model that’s probably running Android software.
If you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can pick up a 16GB Motorola Moto G4 for $149 here in the U.S. The 32GB model goes for $179. Its memory can be expanded with cheap microSD cards, and it’s water resistant, with a decent camera and a large, high-definition screen.
The Amazon models even come preloaded, with software that allows users to access Prime Music, photo storage and movies, although the streaming video may be a bit disappointing.
It’s a great bargain and a good example of what manufacturers, like Google and Apple, could do if they weren’t so fixated on pumping up their profit margins.
Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing, and does PC troubleshooting, data retrieval and network setups — when not looking for a cheap phone and a place to hide. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Older columns are online at http://feldwick.com.