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The number of North American organizations expected to try Linux open source software for the first time is dwindling, according to a survey from investment banking firm SG Cowen and Co. The findings note that the number of companies planning to become first-time users of the software has fallen by half in the past year. "In terms of penetrating organizations, Linux seems to be hitting a limit," says Cowen analyst Drew Brosseau. The survey suggests some firms that experimented with Linux expecting huge cost savings never saw them, particularly when calculating the often hidden cost of bringing in consultants. BusinessWeek Online reports the survey does not indicate that the overall use of Linux is slowing, rather that Linux will likely not find many new users in the future, as it has already tapped the market of its most likely buyers: Unix users. Not all analysts agree that Linux has hit a plateau. In fact, market researcher IDC found Linux flourishing on a global scale, with Linux server sales growing 35.2% in the first quarter of 2005, the 11th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth.

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Transistor Treasure

Researchers from the University of Alberta have proved that a single molecule can switch electrical currents on and off, thus solving a puzzle that scientists have been trying to decipher for years. The Edmonton Journal reports the finding could revolutionize the field of electronics, powering everything from computers to batteries to medical equipment at a fraction of current energy requirements. "We've made maybe the ultimate tiniest transistor," said Robert Wolkow, a physics professor who headed the research team. "This has been a key goal of researchers in this field for nearly 20 years ... Molecular electronics are indeed possible, no longer a futuristic theory." While a computer using this new technology is at least a decade away, the team's discovery could eventually mean computers will run much faster on only one-millionth the power of conventional computers. The Alberta researchers have filed for a U.S. patent on the technology.

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Unions Lose Legion

Labor unions were once a powerful presence in the U.S. communications industry. But years of mergers, deregulation, and technological advancement have reduced unions to a shadow of their former strength. The New York Times reports the number of union workers in telephone and data services have been cut in half over the past two decades, from 625,000 to 275,000. Today, union leaders are struggling to organize cable and wireless companies, with little success. In a rapidly changing industry, the unions can negotiate better benefits, training, and pay for workers and prevent management from changing work conditions, says Larry Cohen, executive VP of the Communications Workers Union. Harry C. Katz, a Cornell University professor who studies collective bargaining, says unions must modify their message to give workers a sense that organized labor can protect them in an era of global business turbulence.

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Monitoring Employees' Computer Conduct

See figure.

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Piracy Pays

Software piracyand its associated loss of revenuecontinues to post staggering numbers worldwide. Indeed, software piracy in the Asia-Pacific region alone cost manufacturers an estimated $8 billion last year. Results of a study by the Business Software Alliance, a global anti-piracy watchdog group, noted a piracy loss increase of approximately $500 million from their 2003 survey. The Associated Press reports Vietnam topped the global BSA hitlist with 92% of all software used coming from pirates. It was followed by Ukraine (91%), China (90%), Zimbabwe (90%), and Indonesia (87%). The report claims the European Union, U.S., and Canada all experience significant dollar losses, yet have relatively low piracy rates. The software industry was worth $90 billion in 2004, the report states, but only $59 billion was actually paid for commercially packaged software.

The vast majority of computer programmers are entitled to overtime pay and are not getting it."
A lawyer representing one of a growing number of overtime-related litigations against U.S. technology companies failing to compensate their employees.

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Pacman Unleashed

A new version of a pioneering arcade game is moving from the world of virtual video to the augmented, roaming city streets and gobbling up cookies as he goes. The Human Pacman, developed by researchers from the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Singapore, merges technologies (such as GPS, Bluetooth, virtual reality, WiFi, infrared, and other sensing mechanisms) to create a world in which a player becomes Pacman. BBC News reports the augmented reality game allows users to play in a digitally enhanced maze-like version of the real world. Equipped with a wearable computer, headset, and goggles, players physically enter a real-world game space by choosing to play the role of Pacman or one of the ghosts. The headset allows a human Pacman to "see" virtual cookies scattered along the street that can be "eaten" by walking through them. The entire system may ultimately cost $10,000 to $20,000, and tracking and operating obstacles remain to iron out. The researchers expect it will be years before the technology is truly affordable to the average gamer.

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UF1Figure. Monitoring Employees' Computer Conduct

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