Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Sound of Silence
  2. 'And For Our Next Nano Number'...
  3. International Enrollment Slows
  4. The Body Electric
  5. Calling All Buoys
  6. Checked Out
  7. Author

An increasing number of users are listening to anti-piracy campaigns instead of music, according to survey results from the New York-based research firm, NPD Group. When it first began tracking music deletions last May, NPD found 606,000 U.S. households eliminated music stored on their PCs. Three months later, 1.4 million households deleted all music files saved on their home computers. Moreover, the firm found the number of households acquiring digital music via peer-to-peer file-sharing services declined 11% in a single month. NPD credits the ongoing anti-piracy campaign by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), including its move to sue hundreds of people alleged to have illegally shared music online, claiming publicity about the move led more consumers to delete music files. In a related survey, NPD notes that consumers’ overall opinion of the recording industry is suffering significantly due to the RIAA’s tactics.

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‘And For Our Next Nano Number’…

Cornell University physicists used a laser beam to pluck the strings of an invisibly tiny silicon guitar just 10 millionths of a meter long, as well as built a nanodrum from a crisscross diamond mesh and a nanoxylophone with teeny diamond bars—all in the name of science, not really music. The New York Times reports these nanomechanical resonant systems demonstrate human dexterity pushed to the extreme, attempting to revolutionize manufacturing and medicine with artifacts as miniscule and efficient as the atoms of the universe. Indeed, each string of the nanoguitar is thousands of times thinner than a single human hair. Its high-pitched sounds twanged at 40 million cycles per second, some 17 octaves above what human ears take for music. Scientists contend these early notes are the beginning of implementing "nanothings" for such applications as extremely sensitive detectors of ultra-high frequency waves or as nanocapsules that carry a few molecules of medicine at a time to precise locations within the human body.

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International Enrollment Slows

The number of foreign students attending U.S. colleges increased by less than 1% in 2002–2003, marking the lowest growth rate in seven years. Findings from a new study by the Institute of International Education (IIE) offer the latest piece of evidence that international students are shying away from the U.S. because of tougher immigration policies, particularly the tightening of visa procedures enacted after Sept. 11. "The word of mouth is out in certain countries about the difficulty getting a visa; and the perception (of these policies) is having as much of an impact as the delays," says Judith Blumenthal, IIE VP of educational services. With fewer American students pursuing careers in science and technology, educators point out overseas schools are benefiting from the U.S. visa crackdown. Indeed, the number of Chinese students enrolling in U.K.-based universities rose by almost 40% in 2003, while enrollment by students from India increased 16%. Moreover, the number of Indian students enrolling in Australian colleges jumped 31% last year, while Chinese enrollment there climbed 25%.

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The Body Electric

Researchers in Japan have demonstrated a 10Mbps network using human bodies as portable Ethernet cables. The wireless network, called ElectAura-Net, uses infrared light or microwaves to transmit information using a combination of the electric field from humans and a similar field emanating from special floor tiles. A network that taps the human body’s electric field was first developed at MIT in 1996. Although progress along these lines has been slow, Technology Research News reports the latest network prototype from NTT DoCoMo Multimedia and NTT Microsystem Integration Labs consists of a series of transceivers that can be placed on every square meter under a tile or carpet floor and a transceiver worn on the body or attached to a handheld device. The system could eventually provide high-speed communications among portable electronic devices whose positions are constantly changing.

"It doesn’t matter how effective a security system is at avoiding the threat. If a security system does not make business sense, it’s not going to be installed."—Bruce Schneier, author, founder, and CTO of Counterpane Internet Security, on "cyberinsecurity."

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Calling All Buoys

Mariners in Maine can now use their cells phones to dial up any one of a dozen smart buoys in the Gulf of Maine to get a report on what’s happening on the water at that moment in time. notes the buoys, part of an experimental open source ocean observation system called Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS), are fitted with an array of sensors that record and report wind speed, wave activity, visibility, air and water temperature, and much more. The mission of GoMOOS—a working prototype for a planned national ocean-observation system—is to bring oceanographic data to mariners, scientists, ecologists, meteorologists, search and rescue teams, and health officials. The system is also the first to track Arctic Sea smoke, a particularly dangerous fog that forms very quickly and can cause visibility to suddenly drop to zero. "The idea (of GoMOOS) is to revolutionize the way people share scientific information,"explains Phillip Bogden, CEO of the project. "Everything we do here is totally open source."

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Checked Out

The vast majority of air travelers still steer clear of the chance to check in online, despite the fact the option is available from nearly every major airline. One primary reason is that old habits die hard—many travelers feel "safer" with real boarding passes in their hands, reports the Los Angeles Times. Some of the other challenges the airlines must address is to better educate customers that Web-based options exist and offer benefits. Indeed, experts contend offering incentives to check in online would draw more customers. Ironically, the use of self-service kiosks available at most U.S. airports has skyrocketed in the last two years. By late November, over 14.5 million passengers had used the kiosks in 2003, nearly 13 times the number of fliers who check in online.

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