Tech happenings abound after superstorm Sandy

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Tech watchers have had plenty to buzz about following Sandy, the superstorm that walloped the East Coast.

From cell site outages to Wi-Fi network issues to a story on how to spot a fake storm photo, here’s a roundup of what’s been happening over the last week.

The Wireless Mess

Widespread cell phone service outages in New York last week show that America's wireless networks remain vulnerable in emergencies in spite of years of trying to make them more reliable, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Cellular carriers say many people were without phone service because of flooding that not only left the New York area largely without power, but also took out backup generators and damaged underground cables that carry data from cell towers to the main networks.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission has said getting fuel for backup generators has been challenging. Not only that, but population density and zoning restrictions in Manhattan in many cases prevented carriers from placing backup generators at cell phone transmitters.

One piece of recent good news: TechHive has been following the tech ramifications of the storm and already reported that cell site outages are falling.

The Utilities Mess

Crews have been working hard to restore power to East Coast area homes and businesses, but Bloomberg reports that as of Saturday some 2.5 million people were still without electricity -- the majority of whom are in New Jersey.

And even though rain and maybe snow are forecasted for the Northeast in the near future, power companies have said restoring electricity might take two weeks in some areas.

It's taking so long because of the extent of damage from Sandy, which far exceeds the destruction caused by last year’s Hurricane Irene, said Brian Wolff, a senior vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a group that represents publicly traded power companies.

He blamed the hold-up on corrosive saltwater flooding damage and said Sandy is one of the costliest and most damaging storms ever faced by the region’s power industry.

Comcast is letting people in areas hard hit by the hurricane use its Wi- Fi network for free through Wednesday.

The Media

Technology can come in handy during a big storm.

Forbes reports that Time magazine used Instagram to document the effects of Sandy.

As the storm closed in, Time’s director of photography, Kira Pollack, gave five photographers from the region access to the magazine’s Instagram feed.

“We just thought this is going to be the fastest way we can cover this and it’s the most direct route,” she said. “It’s wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is a trend, let’s assign this on Instagram.’ It was about how quickly can we get pictures to our readers.”

The photo collection turned out to be one of the most popular the magazine has ever done.

Speaking of photos, there was a fantastic story in the news on how to spot a fake storm photo such as these here.

The Election

According to, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday declared that registered voters displaced from their homes by Sandy can cast their general election votes by email or fax.

They can vote through 8 p.m. Tuesday and don't have to return home to do it. To address concerns that some ballots will get held up in shuttered post offices, county clerks have also been ordered to accept mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Monday through Nov. 19.

People who want to vote electronically have to apply to their county clerk who will send them a ballot via email or fax.

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