The YouTube electorate

Note: The data provided in this article is accurate as of 0330 GMT on October 29, 2007.

When Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Nomination on August 29, his chances against McCain seemed grim. The Republican machine was growing stronger and the Democrats seemed bitterly divided over their party’s candidate.

Obama was facing an even steeper challenge back in 2007 when he declared that he would run for President. Not many fancied the chances of an African-American senator from Illinois securing the Democratic nomination, let alone making it to the White House.

Now, just a few days before the decisive votes are to be cast, I’m reflecting upon the present state of the two campaigns. Barack Obama leads in almost every poll while ripples of division grow within the Republican party.

“We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.” These were Obama’s words after his campaign marginally lost the New Hampshire primary to Senator Hillary Clinton.

It’s no secret that many of these “voices” were to be found on a new frontier of global politics: the Internet. When the Democratic debates were broadcast on YouTube for the first time in July, the Internet signalled that it was ready to play a significant role in the electoral process.

Whereas the United States is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, the demographics of the online world are vastly different. The Obama campaign has (so far) trumped its rival on all the major Internet battlefields. The Internet has not only helped Barack Obama raise record-breaking funds, it has also helped him mobilize support and fight republican “smears”.

The YouTube electorate

On YouTubeObama’s channel has released more than 1,710 videos which are now beamed immediately to over 108,682 subscribers. The campaign has received nearly 18 million channel views and their videos have been watched and promoted by many more.

In comparison, McCain’s channel has posted only 315 videos with less than 30,000 subscribers and 2 million channel views. In the time it took McCain’s subscribers to grow from 27,332 to 27,335, Obama’s number had jumped from 108,662 to 108,682.

Videos posted by users also show a significant pro-Obama trend. While McCain’s and Palin’s “gaffes” are closely scrutinized by the YouTube Electorate, Obama’s speeches and advertisements are often glorified.

A YouTube search for “Obama speech” pulls up videos which are mostly pro-Obama. Type in “McCain speech” and you wont fail to notice that more than half the results do not reflect favorably upon John McCain.

Digg, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace

Obama has also had a clean sweep on, a social network that lets users submit and ‘Digg’ their favorite stories in order to determine their importance and popularity. With 25,594 fans (compared to McCain’s 3,545), the Obama campaign has had a significant influence over the stories that made headlines on Digg. The campaign was more pro-active, making 99 submissions in contrast to the 14 made by their Republican counterparts.

On Twitter, the Obama Campaign has been continuously updating 108,268 ‘followers’, posting a total of 248 updates. In contrast, John McCain’s Campaign has managed to gain only 4,289 followers and post 25 updates. On Facebook, Barack has 2.3 million supporters compared with McCains 600,000. Finally, Obama has also outplayed McCain on MySpace, gaining nearly four times as many supporters (794,720 to 205,070).

International opinion matters

Most of these networks operate on principles of democracy under which the videos, news or blogs rated highest make it to the front-pages. Obama’s army of Digg fans and YouTube subscribers ensure that his posts are well promoted and thus more readily available to undecided audiences.

Barack Obama seems to be favored over his opponent by people in “liberal” Europe and other parts of the world. Many of them have supported the Democratic campaign on these social networks. I believe that the campaign’s success can be attributed mainly to their success with engaging young voters on the Internet.


Breaking News: LHC creates small black holes in Switzerland

Large Hadron Collider

GENEVE (1ED) – At 0600 hrs yesterday, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider announced that their worst fears were  realized when the collission of sub-atomic particles just shy of the speed of light resulted in the creation of several blackholes at different scales. Following a plea by scientists, major news corporations and newspapers have decided to not publish the news so as to not create havoc amongst the concerned masses.

“We do not know how many black holes have formed,” says a scientist at the LHC on the condition of anonymity, “but we believe there to be more than one”. Top sources at the LHC claim that the scale of the black holes poses no credible threat. But as the energy of the colliding particles increases, the size of the possible black holes will increase exponentially, threatening the safety of the entire world.

The chances of this happening were reported to be one in 5 million before the experiments began. But the odds had been going up ever since the Collidor began operation. “We realized early on that our calculations on how the apparatus should behave were off,” says the scientist, “and we had to revise the estimates almost every hour due to the unpredictable manner in which the LHC was operating”. When asked why the potentially dangerous experiment was allowed to continue, a spokesman for the LHC said that the huge sum of money invested into the idea could not be forsaken “at the slightest dab of concern”.

Conception and construction of the LHC cost approximately £3.5 billion over nearly a decade. Scientists are hoping to find the ellusive Higgs Boson particle by colliding sub-atomic particles at very high speeds. The Higgs Boson is the particle which physicists believe to be responsible for the mass of things. It has never been observed although the framework of modern physics rests upon its shoulders. Conditions were set-up at the LHC that replicate the state of the universe when the big-bang had just occured. The LHC was cooled down for weeks to transform it into one of the coldest places in the universe and subatomic particles raced along its 27 km circumference, accelerating towards the speed of light.

“When the experiment first began,” says the scientist, “the odds of finding the Higgs Boson were considerably higher than those of creating a black hole. But the revised odds after only a day of operation made the creation of black holes more likely. Many mathematicians expressed their concern and wanted the LHC to be shut down until the calculations were reviewed”. Despite the concern, the LHC was allowed to operate further due to two major reasons.

“If we were to stop operations, the hysteria would make it unlikely for the LHC to resume atleast in the near future. Also, there was no contingency plan to halt the operations. Thats the one thing that we didn’t plan”.

Frankie Boyle, a regular contributor to BBC’s Channel 2 recently said, “These black holes are the worst possible kind of black holes. Everybody is going to slowly move towards Switzerland”. To make his point in a debate about the importance of new discoveries promised by the LHC, Mr. Boyle said, “I’m sure they’ll find some interesting things about protons. But I may add, I don’t give a shit”.

Our newsteam has promised to pass on any comments to our scientist at the Large Hadron Collider.  Please keep your messages short. Also, this is (obvious) satire against the prepostorous “end of the world” drama. Stop if you’re sweating and hope you enjoyed the read.

Microsoft Windows Flight Edition

This is a possibility that has been questioned on numerous blogs and has sparked mostly comical responses about the stability of various operating systems. I wanted to gather the opinions of some “experts” in the industry. So I posed a question to them.
“For $10,00,000, would you board a test-flight on an airplane running a flight-version of Microsoft Windows? If not, would you consider the offer if the plane was running on either Mac OS X or Ubuntu?”
  • Colin King
    Kerner engineer at Canonical Ltd (Ubuntu)

    Aircraft normally triple redundancy, so Microsoft would probably cobble together Vista, Windows 98SE and XP.
  • Jessica Gray
    Software engineer at Google.

    None of those systems is designed for that sort of operation and I know Mac and MS specifically list several things their software should be used for. IE and Safari don’t need to have the fail safes a flight control systems needs and would be prohibitively expense if they did.
  • Benjamin Myers
    Software Design Engineer at Microsoft.

    Yes, even back when I hated Microsoft, my stuff worked at first and died later after I abused it.Mac, no. I’ve never worked on any Mac anything that didn’t need a lot of hand holding when asked to really grind. It’d give you a pretty death and then email your friends and relatives a catchy funeral march that Apple would own the rights to.  

    Ashamed to say I’ve never heard of Ubuntu. I would trust Unix and Sun (at least the ones I worked on in late 1980s/early 1990s), but not Linux.

  • Gary Clarke
    Senior Manager at Amazon Kindle.

    Are you kidding me? Someone would connect their seat-belt and cause a device-driver conflict. Flush the toilet and the flaps will extend in mid-flight.
  • Chris Gamble
    President of CRG Media. Former System Administrator at JPMorgan and Chase.

    Windows: As long as its XP, and not an OEM install.
    Mac: I’m sure it would be a nice ride, but you would spend all of the money you earn on in-flight upgrades.
    Linux: I know I would get there safely, but all the money would be spent on Chiropractor bills.

  • Abhinav Mishra
    Programmer at Infosys (India’s largest software company).

    If I have a Unix based parachute, I won’t mind.
  • Robert Lindsley
    Executive Producer at Atari
    No, yes and no.
  • Craig Muth
    Former Sr. Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin.
    Not if its the initial release! If it is SP2 or later,Yes!
  • Joe Wlad
    Former Staff Engineer at United Airlines.Yes. As one who has worked in both aircraft flight testing and software certification to meet FAA requirements, all systems and software approved for airborne use must go through a rigorous development, testing and verification process.So the question is what systems would Windows be demonstrated on? If it’s passenger entertainment, the level of rigor involved to verify the software is more focused on quality (from a user point of view) than safety. If the OS supports flight-critical functions, then the level of rigor (and cost to certify) is much higher.If one just wanted to demonstrate the feasibility of using MS Windows on a display system during a flight test, you’d have to ensure that the secondary systems were using previously-certified software so that in case of any failure or malfunction the flight-test crew could shut down the Windows-based system and rely on the certified system to get back home.  

    As an aside, certification of software to meet safety-critical requirements for commercial aviation is rather expensive. Experience has shown that it costs about $50 per line to certify software to the highest level of safety. For this reason, the operating systems used in these systems are usually small in size when compared to Windows.

  • John Gilman
    Former Business & Technology Consultant at Microsoft.

    Of course, I would prefer Windows embedded over any OS for stability…I just to make sure the hardware drivers and other applications are written up to snuff.
  • Kurt Brust
    Sr Linux Platform Engineer at Wachovia. Former Sr Linux Consultant at IBM.
    Maybe if it was running in a virtual session under Linux!
  • Tadd Moor
    Director, IS&T Infrastructure at Rooney Holdings Inc.

    No, I wouldn’t. Partly because I’m burned out on air travel an – even free travel; and partly because you didn’t mention from who Microsoft “liberated” the technology.
  • Geoff Beckman
    Owner of Beckman & Associates.

    No for two reasons:
    1. I can’t wait 18 months for it to launch.
    2. I bought my flight bag in 1998, and the luggage compartment doesn’t support it anymore.2. Ubuntu isn’t scheduled to add stairs to the plane in the next release (right now you have to climb hand over hand using a rope), and I’m tired of being called a “newbie” or MS-100Z3R when I request that someone look into adding seats and restrooms.  

    No to the others as well:
    1. Mac OS X will fly me to San Francisco, Monte Carlo, or Rio, but will not support a return trip, because Steve Jobs doesn’t think it’s a cool experience to fly to Ohi

  • John Swanagon
    Senior Systems Architect Manager at Avaya. Former Principal Consultant at Lucent technologies.
  • Absolutely. Let me qualify that by saying that I would as long as the plane, which includes the software, was cleared and certified by the FAA (or in the process of certification). There are varying opinions out there as to Windows’ stability, but I believe that it is a stable product. I would trust it to run the software on a plane.The other thing to remember too is the backup systems. If all else fails, the pilots could land the plane without the software. If the plane was so dependent on the software that a “manual” landing was impossible, then I would say absolutely not.
  • Jason King
    Senior Developer at Optus SingTel Pty Ltd. & Technical Director at Handle IT

    Fee for boarding test flight: $10,000,000
    Parachute: $2000
    Standby recovery team: $10,000
    MS Windows plane never getting close to even pushing back from the gate: Priceless!

  • Hosun Lee
    Former Technical Sales Specialist at IBM

    Sure I would.
    1) Microsoft makes quality software.
    2) The publicity associated with a plane crashing when Windows crashing would be catastrophic enough for Microsoft to want to make sure it works.
    3) Microsoft already powers my car, and I have a much greater chance of dying in a car accident than in a plane crash (knock on wood).

  • John Ruxlow
    Works for Thomson Reuters.

    I would be willing to get on it, but I would want the money to go to my family if I didn’t make it. From what I am seeing on the news Microsoft couldn’t screw it up any worse than the FAA and plane maintenance groups already have it.
  • Alan Crawford
    Former Senior Systems Engineer at Trident Systems Inc.

    Board it, yes. However, I’d be sure to get off and take cover before they started the engines, let alone attempted to get airborne.
    For the other two – no. I don’t fly on planes running general purpose operating systems. While wild horses wouldn’t get me airborne on even Windows for Airliners (formerly Windows for Warships, previously Windows for Washing Machines, originally Bob), there are already plenty of planes airborne with subsystems that make use of specialized versions of the Linux kernel. Probably a fair number of systems using Window CE based systems too.
  • Ray Miller
    Former Project Team Leader at GE Aircraft Engines.

    Windows: NO (especially Vista). Mac: Yes. Ubuntu: Yes

  • Adrian Bugaian
    Software Test Engineer at Endava.

    Why not? It will be very very scary, but you will have something to tell you grand children.
    Regarding the other 2: Mac is just good looking and thats all. Ubuntu… no… for such purpuses open software is really not suitable.
  • Adam Dionne
    QA Technician at CAPCOM Interactive Canada.

    I would do it for free without hesitation.

Apple Inc. vs. Psystar Corp; Apple’s Achilles heel


Colm MackernanColm MacKernan is the Director of Origin Ltd, an Intellectual Property Consulting Firm in London. He represents high-tech companies based in Europe, North America and Asia on complex international matters.

“Apple is in a tricky position,” he says. “The core of its problem is that it sells OS X Leopard as a separate item from an Apple Computer ($129 on the Apple site.) This gives rise to an argument that Apple is engaging in “tying,” a practice that is often held illegal under many antitrust or competition laws, that involves requiring a purchaser (or licensee) to buy a product that purchaser may not want as a condition of obtaining the product it does want, i.e., if you want A, you must take B as well, or in this case if you want OS X you must buy an Apple computer. In effect this is similar to the problems Microsoft had when it sold Internet Explorer in combination with Windows and Media Player — although in that case Microsoft had the added handicap of being dominant, which subjected it to stricter scrutiny. That Apple is not dominant does not mean that Apple would not be subject to scrutiny, just that the “market power” leg of an illegal-tying case is weaker.

“Students of competition law will note that Patent and Copyright “misuse” in the US refers to commercial strategies that seek to extend the economic benefits of an item of intellectual property beyond is lawful scope. Typically misuse involves a violation of antitrust or competition law, most commonly illegal tying. The most common penalty in US law is to block enforcement of the relevant patents and copyrights. The other problem for Apple is that tying is specifically addressed in the European Licensing Guidelines, the Technology Transfer Block Exemption, the US Antitrust Guidelines for Licensing Intellectual Property as well as the Japanese and Korean guidelines. None “smile” on tying, although the US does say that it will not be treated as automatically illegal and quality-control cases can be made under the others. Now this does not mean that Apple would lose a case of copyright and patent infringement (many aspects of OS X Leopard are also subject to patent protection), but it does mean that they have a complicated case.”

The HD-DVD Class Action Lawsuit

The final blow to HD-DVD’s format-war effort against Sony’s Blu-ray came as Warner Bros. Studios announced that it would press high-definition movies only in the Blu-ray format. Ever since, most companies that had been aggressively campaigning for HD-DVD have retreated or switched camps. Toshiba, one of the prime supporters of the losing format has announced that it will cease production of HD-DVD players. Microsoft is considering Blu-ray extensions for the Xbox 360.

This turn of events is good news to consumers who had purchased Blu-ray players or had yet to make up their minds prior to the Warner Bros. announcement. However, disappointment will surely be rampant amongst those who purchased HD-DVD players. Giving up on HD-DVD must have been a difficult decision to arrive at but Toshiba is already moving to cut its losses. The company is reported to be negotiating the sale of factories that produce certain chips for Blu-ray players with Sony. It may or may not succeed in cutting its losses but consumers who eagerly purchased its HD-DVD players are surely the ones left begging for answers. Owners of HD-DVD equipment who wish to continue using high-definition content must now buy the equally pricey Blu-ray players.

Consumers who bought HD-DVD players were willing to pay the high prices for the promise of freely available content on the HD-DVD format. Shouldn’t companies that marketed, produced and sold HD-DVD players provide compensation to consumers who bought their products?