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Week in Review: Election takes center stage

When the votes were counted, bloggers had had their say, but online bookies were on the money.

The presidential election took center stage this week, with technology playing a role everywhere from e-voting machines to Web sites that tracked the election results.

Americans sat on the edges of their seats as the results were trotted out. For many, it was difficult to gauge who would win, as the Electoral College map became spotted with red, indicating that President Bush had won a particular state, and blue, to indicate that Sen. John Kerry had.

A few TV networks played it safe when calling election results Tuesday night, as it was uncertain which way the key state of Ohio would go. But that's not to say a number of newscasters were without cutting-edge high-tech gadgetry.

Among the most notable displays of electronic wizardry was on CBS Nightly News. Correspondent John Roberts seemed to mimic Tom Cruise in the movie "Minority Report," using his fingertips to control a 50-inch touch-screen monitor displaying maps of the country and various states. With a wave of his hand, Roberts magnified and dragged the maps around--each one spliced with detailed demographic, polling and election return data.

On NBC, Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert upgraded from an old-fashioned whiteboard and marker to a top-of-the-line tablet PC, a fancy laptop with a highly advanced, liquid crystal display that recognizes handwriting. Russert used the machine, made by Fujitsu, to illustrate the electoral votes garnered by each candidate as he chatted with anchorman Tom Brokaw. A larger monitor behind the newsman also displayed Russert's notes from the tablet.

The election, however, was not without a number of soothsayers--ranging from online betting exchanges to blogger sites that offered their predictions.

Unlike the amateur prognosticators who relied on their own computer models and statistical analyses of polls and frequently got it wrong, online betting exchanges proved to be eerily accurate in heralding Bush as the winner. Betfair, for example, predicted Bush would stay in office and had offered odds of 2-to-1 last week for Sen. John Kerry to win.

Bloggers also weighed in with their presidential predictions, serving as a cadre of part-time political analysts that offered everything from sound predictions to embarrassing guesses.

And from the blognosticators with their cybersoothsaying to e-voting machines to Web applications to help the undecided decide, technology also came out a winner.

The election drove millions of people online Tuesday night. Traffic soared on the candidates' Web sites, news outlets and Web logs. According to the latest numbers from Internet statistician ComScore Networks, the official campaign Web sites for both Bush and Kerry recorded many more hits on Election Day than they averaged on a typical Tuesday. President Bush received 380,000 visits to his Web site, or 101 percent more than usual, while Sen. Kerry's site charted 480,000 hits, 128 percent higher than usual.

Not everyone was happy with the week's news, though. At some technology companies, people were glum about the outcome, probably because of the high concentration of technology workers in settings such as the San Francisco Bay Area, the Seattle region and Boston--all areas that voted for Sen. Kerry.

For instance, the entire San Francisco office of recruiting company Coit Staffing needed a pep talk Wednesday. All 15 members of the office had voted for Kerry, said Tim Farrelly, president of the company, which serves clients in technology, biotechnology and other fields. "It was such a somber mood all day yesterday," Farrelly said. "We had a company meeting. We had to pump each other up."

What's under the hood? More firms provide a peek
Adobe Systems has quietly begun testing the waters to increase its involvement in desktop Linux. Adobe, maker of such major desktop software as Photoshop and Acrobat Reader, has begun to take a more active role by joining a prominent Linux consortium, Open Source Development Labs, which is working to improve Linux and employs Linux founder Linus Torvalds, CNET has learned.

Adobe, for example, is seeking to hire a senior computer scientist who will "become maintainer and/or architect for one or more Adobe-sponsored open-source projects." Hosting open-source projects has become a rite of passage for companies--such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and even Microsoft--hoping to sample and perhaps take advantage of the collaborative programming philosophy.

Other tech companies are more public about their open-source efforts. Computer Associates International, for example, entered the open-source arena with its Ingres r3 database release. The company said that Ingres r3 for Linux and Windows is available under an open-source license called CA Trusted Open Source License. The license allows others to view the source code of the database, download the software for free, and incorporate it into other software bundles that are licensed under CA's open-source license.

SugarCRM, meanwhile, is about to launch an on-demand product for managing customer relations. The company already offers a free open-source version of its customer relationship management application, Sugar Sales, on and also sells licenses for its enterprise version, Sugar Sales Professional.

Open-source Web browsers Mozilla and Firefox posted another month of gains over Microsoft's Internet Explorer, according to WebSideStory, which measures market share by embedding sensors on major Web sites for the Walt Disney Internet Group, Best Buy, Sony, DaimlerChrysler and Liz Claiborne. These sensors can tell which browsers visitors are using to view the sites.

The percentage of Americans using Mozilla and Firefox, two open-source browsers funded by the Mozilla Foundation, grew to 6 percent in October from 5.2 percent in September and 3.5 percent in June. That 6 percent was split evenly between the two browsers.

Microsoft's IE, however, witnessed another marginal decline, falling 0.8 percent. IE claimed 95.5 percent of users in June, 93.7 percent in September, and 92.9 percent last month. The Opera browser and Apple Computer's Safari combined reached just more than 1 percent of users.

Dell raises the curtain
Dell is set to roll out its PowerEdge 1855 blade server line, a home-grown design, this month. The company, which historically has been criticized for a lack of engineering innovation and expertise, is expected to use a chassis that can accommodate 10 dual-processor blades in a 12.25-inch tall box, said sources familiar with the design. Sixty servers can fit in a single rack with Dell's blades, whereas today only 42 conventional dual-processor servers could be accommodated.

The PowerEdge 1855, Dell's second-generation blade server, will be joined by a successor model, the PowerEdge 1855, in February.

And how does this stuff all come together? Dell recently offered a peak into one of its manufacturing plants in Texas, where a parade of desktop computers ride a series of conveyor belts and elevators through the 300,000-square-foot plant.

Dell's chief executive, Kevin Rollins, offered his views of the company's progress and the challenges ahead during CNET's Dell tour. Rollins has managed to boost growth records, race past rivals and extend the box maker's reach to printers and beyond. He talked with about whether he'll be able to maintain his Midas touch.

Pruning Apple
In the past week, Apple has taken several steps to restrict usage of its popular iTunes music store.

The company announced it would require customers of older versions of iTunes to upgrade to more recent versions if they want to continue purchasing Apple's online music. That move affected users of iTunes 4.2; those users were forced to upgrade to versions 4.7, 4.6 or 4.5.

Apple also disabled its iTunes plug-in for transferring songs off the iPod with the latest version of iTunes 4.7. That feature allowed iPod owners to copy songs from the music player to an iTunes library, a feature Apple did not support. In the past, the computer maker has used its latest iTunes versions to disable support for third-party software that adds unintended file-sharing capabilities to the popular jukebox software.

Apple also is keeping a tight rein on the list of products that customers can review at its online Apple Store. The store sells both Apple-made products, such as computers and the popular iPod, and non-Apple products, such as Cannon digital cameras and iPod accessories. But Apple prohibits customers from posting reviews of Apple-made products on its store site. The company briefly posted a notice on its site, where it gave itself a "5 Apples" rating on all its products, before removing it. The company previously had posted the comment, "We give all Apple products a rating of '5 Apples' because we think they're great...Would you trust us to display less-than-perfect ratings on our own products? We didn't think so."

Also on the iPod front, music lovers checking into fine hotels may find in-room iPods as part of the hotel amenities. A new Manhattan four-star hotel is one of the latest boutique hotels to offer guests the use of Apple's popular music gadget during their stay. The iPods come preloaded with as many as 2,000 songs and are available for each of the hotel's 200 rooms. Out West, The Crescent in Beverly Hills features an iPod Music Minibar in each guest room. The 40-room hotel, which has a lounge-bar theme, introduced the gadgets, and installed speakers, last year. The devices there also come preloaded with music, with a focus on jazz, lounge and electronica.

Apple is also finding that push sometimes comes to shove. The company, when threatening to push longtime Mac developer Arlo Rose's product aside, prompted the developer to jump ship to Windows with his Konfabulator. The Konfabulator software allows easy access to a variety of small applications called widgets.

Also of note
PalmOne is considering offering a Microsoft and Linux operating system, a move that would take it beyond solely using PalmSource's Palm OS...Gateway is rolling out special offers for its direct sales effort, in a move to boost that part of its distribution channel...and outsourcing giant Electronic Data Systems announced it would again postpone its third quarter earnings release and would take another charge related to its money-losing contract with the U.S. Navy.